This past Sunday, a gunman opened fire outside a Russian Orthodox church in the Russian state of Dagestan, reportedly yelling “Allahu Akbar!” during the attack. According to reports, 22-year-old Khalil Khalilov has been arrested for killing five people in the attack. The Islamic State (ISIS) claimed the attack, but local Muslim leaders declared that he had “nothing to do with the true Islam.”
“The Muftiate of the Republic of Dagestan strongly condemns all manifestations of violence,” the Muslim Administration of Dagestan wrote in a statement. The statement quoted the Quran to argue that the ideology behind a great deal of radical Islamic terrorism is not true Islam.
“It is known that a Muslim ceases to be a Muslim if he has the slightest doubt about the truth of even one of the prophets and messengers and one of the 104 scriptures sent to the Almighty various prophets at different times, and also in reality from the Lord,” the statement read. “Therefore, the Wahhabis, who today hide themselves as pseudo-Islam, have nothing to do with Islam.”
Indeed, a majority of Muslims worldwide denounce Wahhabism, a Sunni attempt to reform Islam that has bred terror groups like Al Qaeda, Al-Shabab, Boko Haram, and ISIS. Tragically, this ideology has become the official doctrine of Islam as practiced in Saudi Arabia. Wahhabism forbids women to drive and mix socially with men, even forbidding them to leave the house without a male relative.
Wahhabism denounces any additions to Islam since shortly after the death of Mohammed. The Dagestan Mufti suggested that this sect does not represent true Islam because it rejects the Bible — “we believe in Ibrahim [Abraham], Isma’il [Ishmael], Ishaq [Isaac], and in what I’kubu [Jacob] and his children were sent to, and what The Torah sent to Musa [Moses], the Gospel sent to ‘Isa [Jesus], and to all the books that were sent down to the other prophets from Allah, the Most High, and all the verses. We do not distinguish between these prophets (believing in some and rejecting others) and obeying Allah.”
This is an interesting argument against Wahhabism, as Muslims claim that the New Testament was twisted by early Christians — particularly Saint Paul — and that Jesus never claimed to be God (an extremely tenuous claim, given the text of the four Gospels).
While most Muslims are not Wahhabis, it is impossible to deny the Islamic — and Sunni — origins of Wahhabism.
The phrase “Allahu Akbar” means “God is great,” and it begins the Adhan, the Muslim call to prayer. The Islamic State does not represent most Muslims, but it claims to embody the Caliphate, the Muslim government on earth first instituted by Mohammed.
Dagestan, the region of Russia where the attack took place, is predominantly Muslim and plagued by an Islamic insurgency dating back to the post-Soviet separatist wars in the neighboring country of Chechnya. Vladimir Vasilyev, the acting head of Dagestan, claimed that the suspect, Khalilov, attempted to divide the multiethnic region, but failed.
“Those who wanted to disunite Dagestan’s multiethnic and multifaith society in Kizlyar achieved the opposite reaction: we are more united than ever,” Vasilyev said.
The Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill denounced the attack as an attempt to foment tension between Christians and Muslims. The attack came on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday — the first day of Lent in the Eastern Orthodox tradition.
“The patriarch considers this heinous crime on the eve of Great Lent to be a provocation aimed at sparking hostilities against Orthodox believers and Muslims who have been living side by side in peace in the Caucasus for centuries,” Kirill’s office said in a statement.
As the Islamic State continues to lose ground in the Middle East, ISIS has claimed responsibility for various terror attacks across the world.
The Islam behind such terror does not represent all Muslims, and it is essential for non-Muslims to understand that. Many Muslims, like M. Zuhdi Jasser, firmly denounce the political enforcement of Sharia (Islamic religious law), and condemn the ideology behind radical Islamist terror — Wahhabi or otherwise. That said, Western media reports suggesting that attacks involving “Allahu Akbar!” cries are somehow not Muslim are absurd.
The Islamic roots behind these attacks are undeniable, even if most Muslims condemn them and even if the form of Islam behind them is truly a corruption.