[This is an expanded version of the article originally published under the title “The Historical Roots of Islamist Terrorism” in The Toronto Sun]
“The moral of the story is that no matter how often Muslims refuse to acknowledge our history, it will not hide the mess we have created that we now refuse to cleanse. Let us own up to it and stop blaming others for it.”
July 6, 2016
The Toronto Sun
Monday’s suicide bombing outside the tomb of Prophet Muhammad in Medina, Saudi Arabia, sent shock waves throughout the Islamic world.
The fact a Muslim carried out this act of terror during the holy month of Ramadan has left many followers of the Islamic faith in disbelief.
Too many Muslims have fallen for the common refrain, trumpeted by Islamists, that no Muslim could carry out such an act and hence neither Islam nor Muslims can be held accountable for it in any way.
These arguments have been used every time Islamist terrorists engage in mass killings, from 9/11 in New York to the massacre in Dhaka, Bangladesh, last week.
But the facts tell us a different story regarding the turbulent history of Islam and the roles played by Muslims within it.
Academics and scholars are reluctant to discuss these historical facts for fear of being accused of bigotry and racism.
Thus ordinary Muslims, to say nothing of non-Muslims, do not commonly know them.
The result is a Muslim community unaware of its own often bloody history, going back centuries, when both our holy cities — Mecca and Medina — were attacked, ransacked and destroyed, not by the “kufaar” (non-Muslims), but by Muslim leaders.
They fought for power, using Islam as a tool to enhance or entrench their political hold on the states they created.
Fanatical, politically motivated and radicalized Muslims have never hesitated to desecrate Islam’s holy sites.
The Kaaba, where Muhammad preached, was destroyed in the fighting. A new one was constructed, but the worst was yet to come.
As schisms increased within the Muslim world based on who was the rightful heir to Islam, in 899 AD a new sect of Islam emerged known as the Qarmatians. It embraced elements of Ismaili Shia Islam with Persian mysticism and was based in what is today Bahrain and Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province.
During the Hajj season of 930 AD, the Qarmatians invaded Mecca, destroyed the Kaaba and stole the pre-historic “Hajarul Aswad,” the Black Stone that was embedded in the eastern corner of the Kaaba itself.
They further desecrated the Zamzam Well by stuffing it with corpses of the defenders. It wasn’t until 22 years later that the Black Stone was brought back and placed back into the Kaaba’s eastern corner.
Skipping over the centuries, we have the 1805 invasion of the Prophet’s city, Medina, by the first Saudi state.
Imbibed with a fierce zealotry, the Wahhabi warriors of Muhammad Ibn Saud overran Medina and started to destroy Islamic shrines. They even tried to destroy the magnificent dome structure over the tomb of Prophet Muhammad, removed all precious objects from his gravesite and looted the treasury of the mosque itself.
After occupying Medina these Muslims, who came from the neighbouring region of Nejd, systematically leveled the “Jannat al-Baqi” cemetery, the vast burial site adjacent to the Prophet’s mosque that housed the remains of many of the members of Muhammad’s family, close companions and central figures of early Islam, including his beloved daughter, Fatima.
These acts of sacrilege were re-enacted by a new generation of Wahabbi zealots led by Abdel-Aziz Ibn Saud during the second Saudi state, a century later.
On April 21, 1925 the rebuilt tombs and domes in Medina were once again bulldozed.
Had it not been for intervention and diplomacy by then Prince Faisal (later King), who was in command of the regular Saudi army, the Wahabbis would have destroyed Prophet Muhammad’s tomb as well.
As recently as November, 1979, radicalized Muslims from around the world, including the U.S., Pakistan and Egypt, led by Saudi fanatic Juhayman al-Otaybi, took over the Holy Kaaba and killed many people during a two-week siege.
The moral of the story is that no matter how often Muslims refuse to acknowledge our history, it will not hide the mess we have created that we now refuse to cleanse.
Let us own up to it and stop blaming others for it.