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Book Review. Mark A. Garbriel’s (2002) Islam

and Terrorism United States: Charisma

Unpublished paper by Amira Sariyati Firdaus (2002)

This paper was written to fulfill course requirements for the course ‘International
Communication’ at the Center for Media and Communication Studies, Universiti
Kebangsaan Malaysia

Islam and terrorism is a book that discusses the linkages between jihad-inspired
terrorism and the religion that presumably extols terrorism. Gabriel details the
domestic political tensions between secular governments and pro-Islamic movements.
These movements begin with the fundamental mission of eradicating un-Islamic
secular governments that allow un-Islamic ideas and practices to flourish.
Subsequently, as a result of shared hard-core beliefs and principles, these movements
join together not only to cooperate in promoting Islamic governments in their
respective countries, but to establish a world Islamic order.

The driving force behind the unrelenting efforts of these groups lies in what
Gabriel distorts as the very teachings of the Prophet; that all un-Islamic practices and
governments must be destroyed and replaced by Islamic law and the belief that this is
the duty of every Muslim.

Gabriel’s perspective
Although Islam and Terrorism is a far cry from a scholarly thesis, Gabriel does a good
enough job of convincing the reader of the purported innate discriminatory extremist
and violent nature of Islam. The layman would undoubtedly have little reason to
question Gabriel’s assertions as he provides factual evidence of Islam’s intolerance by
way of holy citation, historical episodes and word-for-word quotes from extremist
Ulama. The very fact that Gabriel himself is a doctoral graduate of Al-Azhar and
former Imam lends even greater credence to his allegations.

Although Gabriel pityingly describes the 19 men accused of the Sept 11

attacks as “victims” of Islam, his condemnation of Muslim scholars, both radical and
pacifist, exemplifies an extreme bigotry on his part. His genuine hatred of Islam
unmatched by most other critics of Islam, on the other hand, comes with absolutely no
apologies. He has nothing but contempt for both the Prophet and the Quran.

As a Muslim, this critic is unspeakably shocked and overwhelmingly insulted

by Gabriel’s desecration of Islam, mendaciously slandering the Prophet and twisting
God’s words. However, there are lessons to be learned from Gabriel’s explanation of
Muslim terrorists, however ill-defined it may be.

While any serious attempt to read scholarly interpretations of the Quran in its
entirety would easily illuminate the peace that is Islam, observing the deeds of Islam’s
adherents would lead to numerous inconsistent conclusions. Many are the Muslims
who detest any terrorist means of achieving any political end. Many are too the
Muslims who support some aggressive actions in light of certain very desperate
situations, such as in Palestine, Kashmir, and Chechnya. Many are too the self-
righteous Muslims who openly advocate holy violence against anyone who does not
share their view of Islam, Muslim and non Muslim alike.

Gabriel’s assertion that Islam and terrorism are synonymous is based on the
philosophy of the latter group. Taking into consideration the fact that there exist a
rather visible number of groups and personalities of this thinking, it probably
shouldn’t be surprising that many commentators conclude that Islam breeds terrorism.

What is unfortunate is that Muslims who are answering the call of Jihad in
regions where Muslims are persecuted and oppressed are not honored for their
valiance but are dubbed as terrorists. In Islam and Terrorism Gabriel conveniently
disregards the gross violations of human rights of these Muslims. He staunchly posits
that Muslim terrorists exist because Islam preaches violence, while conveniently
dismissing the subjugation that many Muslims are facing today, as well as the
persecution suffered by Muslims all along Islam’s 1400 year history.

Sinister implications of Gabriel’s mindset


Gabriel denounces Islam and Muslims in the very same manner that his “forefathers
of terrorism” (p.103) supposedly denounce Christianity and the rest of the non-
Muslim world. While he passionately illustrates the extremist and self-righteous
mindsets of these Muslims, Gabriel is oblivious to his own extremist and self-
righteous condemnation of everything Islam, from the Quran and the Prophet to
modern day terrorists, to peace-loving Muslims, and even to the five daily prayers. It
is almost comical that Gabriel’s bigoted, narrow mindset is no different from the
mindsets of those he despises.

However, the implicit messages of Gabriel’s perspective are no laughing

matter. The dangers of Gabriel’s notions of Islam are not so much that they present a
distortedly evil picture of Islam and Muslims, but that they plant the seeds for hatred
of the religion and all its adherents, practicing or non-practicing. Gabriel’s lumping of
all Muslim nations as being in one of three stages of Jihad, his allegation that true
Muslims are either terrorist or blanket terrorist supporters can fuel non-Muslim fear
and hatred of Muslims.

It is specifically this mindset that condones ‘defensive aggression’ policies that

have resulted in the bloody persecution of innocent Afghan, Iraqi and Palestinian
civilians in current times. It is also this mindset that legitimizes discrimination and
violence against Muslims and Arabs in the United States after Sept 11 2001.

This is a threat to the security and safety of Muslims all over. The dangers that
Gabriel’s views pose to the Muslim aqidah is no less foreboding. Any layman reading
his book could easily be swayed by his logic; that Islam supposedly preaches violence
and intolerance. A Muslim unschooled in Islam may just as easily believe Gabriel as
any non Muslim person. While a little effort in thoroughly consulting the Quran may
very well expose Gabriel’s inaccuracies of interpretation, surely the majority of his
readers will not take the trouble to confirm his allegations. It is most likely that most
readers will accept everything he says at face value.

In publishing his views on Islam and terrorism, Gabriel’s true achievement is

the promulgation of hatred; a hatred with dire consequences for the world; a world
where non-Muslims despise Islam and a world where the persecution of Muslims is

sanctified; a world where persecuted Muslims may eventually have no other means for
survival but armed defense. Gabriel is fanning the seeds of a destructive cycle of
violence that makes a victim out of everyone, a victor out of no one.