ABSTRACT

In one of his many books on modern Islam, Yusuf al-Qaradawi observes that people commonly focus on the religious extremism (al-tatarruf al-dini) threatening Muslim societies, while ignoring the irreligious extremism (altatarruf al-ladini) that gives rise to it. 1 His point is that religious extremism occurs, for the most part, in response to the evil, sinful forces dominat ing many Muslim lands and the world at large; that decent, God-fearing M u s - lims sometimes adopt extremist methods to counter the powerful irreligious tide that has eaten away at their ancient heritage. T h o u g h he does not wish to condone the tactics of the militants, al-Qaradawi clearly sympathizes with their concerns and agrees wi th their assessment of the mode rn Musl im condit ion. And he is troubled that, despite some radical elements, the contribution of young Islamists — their piety, their dedication to the Islamic movemen t and their critical insights into the crisis of modern Islam — will be overlooked in a simplistic, short-sighted effort to rid society of violent religious protest. Put differently, he does not want the rhetoric of religious extremism to obfuscate what he takes to be the underlying reality of Islamic decline and the need to address that decline.