The Challenge of Radical Islam

Islam's New Battle Cry

In April 1991 an unusual meeting was held in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum. For four days, leading Islamic politicians and intellectuals from 55 countries and three continents met to draft a common strategy to establish Muslim states in their respective lands. It was an Islamic star-studded event.

Among the participants were Rashid al-Ghannoushi, the exiled leader and articulate spokesman of al-Nahda, Tunisia's Islamic opposition movement; Ibrahim Shukri, a chief of the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt; Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the radical militant leader of Afghanistan's fundamentalist Hezb-i-Islami faction; Abassi Madani, then one of the two leaders of Algeria's ascendant Islamic Salvation Front (fis); and, of course, a high-ranking delegate from the Islamic Republic of Iran. Also present were prominent Arab leftist and nationalist figures, such as Georges Habash, the Christian head of the radical secular Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The host was Hassan al-Turabi, the spiritual chief and mastermind of Sudan's Islamic military government, who supervised the effort to draft a plan of action for "defying the tyrannical West."

The group ultimately approved a six-point manifesto intended to demonstrate that "whatever the strength of America and the West" in the aftermath of the Gulf War, "God is greater." The manifesto paid lip service to liberalism and democracy, asserting that they were "not incompatible" with shura, or Islamic government through consultation. Political pluralism was fine, provided it was not "unlimited" and was subordinate to the need for "unity and the shura." Cooperation with the West and existing non-Islamic governments was permissible, if such exchanges were based on new and more equitable principles. "Good regimes," the document states, "will benefit from popular will; bad regimes will be fought." Read in its entirety, the manifesto's underlying message was clear: in Islam's war against the West and the struggle to build Islamic states at home, the ends justified the means.

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