definition: par•a•digm (pār'ə-dīm', -dĭm')

3. A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them, especially in an intellectual discipline.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004.

Statement of Purpose

The purpose of this blog is four-fold:
to recognize that every person functions within a basic paradigm, which affects how all information is processed;
(2) to understand the paradigms of others;
(3) to discuss, in particular, paradigms which are related to science, religion, and philosophy.

(4) to reveal the paradigm shifts in my own life, a process that has completely changed the direction and purpose of my existence.

The purpose of this blog is NOT to convince anyone that their paradigms or beliefs are correct or incorrect. I am hoping for an honest dialog, but the discussions must remain respectful of others, even if there is profound disagreement. If any comments are not respectful, they will be removed.
(Revised 1/13/09)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Islam and Islamists--What is the Difference?

If you are like me, raised in a typical American household in the 1950's and 1960's, Muslims weren't talked about much. I remember hearing a little about the Black Muslims and vaguely wondered what that was all about and why they were called Militants. Most of the political arguments were over the Vietnam war in Southeast Asia, or racial tensions in the U.S. Islam, to me, was just something out of a history book. In the 1980's, though, that changed.

Here are excerpts from an article the explains the history of the deadly Beirut bombing of October, 1983. (

"In 1982 many Marines — indeed, many Americans — did not know exactly where Beirut was, let alone what strategic importance it might have held for the United States. In August of that year, Marines of the 32nd MAU stepped ashore to become embroiled in a mission that was new and vaguely defined: peacekeeping....

"The five ships of Mediterranean Amphibious Ready Group (MARG) 2-82 arrived off the coast near Rota, Spain, on June 6, 1982. On board were 1,800 Marines comprising the 32nd MAU.... BLT 2/8 was embarked as the landing force. [The BLT was the nickname for the four-story building that housed nearly 400 members of the Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, and attached Marines, sailors and soldiers.]... There were also air, artillery and logistics support units aboard.

"On the same day, Israel invaded southern Lebanon in an attempt to dislodge Yasser Arafat and his Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) so that, as Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin declared, 'they would never again be able to attack settlements in northern Israel.' ...

"Two weeks later, about 800 Marines of the 32nd helped evacuate nearly 600 civilians from two dozen countries out of Jounieh, a port city about 10 miles north of Beirut....

"In mid-June, Israel had ordered massive air and artillery strikes on West Beirut in an attempt to destroy the main body of the PLO. Hundreds of Lebanese and others were killed or wounded; apartment houses, shopping centers and other structures were destroyed. Still, the PLO remained hunkered down and would not budge....

"In July Israel instituted a military blockade of Beirut, leading to intense diplomatic efforts to avert an all-out battle for the capital. The siege of West Beirut continued, and by late August it was clear to PLO leaders that they could not remain there.

"Finally they agreed to a withdrawal plan drafted by President Ronald Reagan’s special envoy, Philip Habib, and endorsed by Syria and Israel.

"At 5 a.m. on August 25, the first landing craft dropped its ramp and Marines... went ashore, ... part of the multinational force, or MNF, consisting of American, French and Italian military personnel, that would evacuate thousands of armed PLO and Syrian fighters....

"Marines took over the duty, and by September 1 about 15,000 armed PLO and Syrian personnel had been safely evacuated. By September 10, all multinational forces had been withdrawn and the 32nd was headed back to Naples.

"...On September 14, Lebanon’s newly elected President Bashir Gemayel was assassinated by a bomb in East Beirut. The Lebanese Parliament elected Amin Gemayel, his older brother, president. Almost immediately Israeli troops took control of West Beirut and the Palestinian refugee camps on the southern outskirts of the city. On September 16, Phalangist Christian militia entered the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps, where they ruthlessly murdered hundreds of Palestinian men, women and children.

"Amin Gemayel requested that the MNF be called back in to help stabilize the situation until the beleaguered Lebanese Armed Forces could defend the capital. Within 48 hours, the MNF was re-formed and the 32nd was steaming back. In West Beirut the Marines were assigned the International Airport area, the Italians took the middle area, which included Sabra and Chatila, and the French controlled the port and downtown. The multinational forces were positioned between several national armies and factional militia groups, all heavily armed. The rules of engagement (ROE) severely restricted the use of force, not allowing Marines to carry loaded weapons, allowing them to shoot only if they could verify that their lives were in danger and only if they could clearly identify a specific target....

"From the beginning, the Marines were supposed to be a neutral force, providing a buffer between warring sides. And there were many sides: At that time, Lebanon contained 17 officially recognized religious sects, two foreign armies of occupation, four national contingents of a multinational force (Britain joined the MNF later), seven national contributors to a United Nations peacekeeping force and some two dozen extralegal militias.

“ 'Marines are an assault force, trained to bring the fight to the enemy,' said [retired Colonel Tim Geraghty, who served as the commanding officer of the 24th MAU]. 'We hadn’t heard of this sort of mission. The mission was palatable at the time the decision was made for us to go in, but the situation changed, and the mission wasn’t allowed to change with it.'

"One of the first duties Marines undertook was to conduct individual and small unit training for the LAF. That, plus the fact that Marines began manning joint outposts with the LAF, gave the impression that the United States was favoring the established Lebanese government. This did not sit well with many of the warring parties, including Israel.

"In January 1983, the Israelis began testing American lines, and there were at least five attempts in following weeks to penetrate Marine positions.... The 24th MAU, with BLT 1/8 as the landing force, relieved the 22nd on May 30, 1983. For the MAU and many of the Marines in it, this would be the second tour in Beirut, but the situation had changed considerably since their first time around.

"Minor incidents had been occurring since early in 1983, and on March 16 several Marines received minor injuries from a grenade attack on their routine patrol. But on April 18 things got very real when the U.S. Embassy in Beirut was bombed, killing 17 American citizens, including a Marine security guard, and about 40 others....

"Marines returned fire for the first time on August 28 after intense inter-factional fighting became direct fire on Marines, beginning a spiraling departure from neutrality. On the 29th Marines took their first casualties as a result of direct fire....

"Through September the fighting remained intense. Marines who were decorated Vietnam vets declared that they had never been through such intense mortar, artillery and rocket barrages. Marines were forced more and more into escalating weapons duels....

"Then, on the morning of Sunday, October 23, 1983, a Marine sentry tried in vain to flip the magazine into his M-16 and chamber a round so he could fire at a yellow Mercedes truck barreling down on his position. He managed to get a couple rounds off, but too late. His post was just outside what the Marines called the “Beirut Hilton,” the barracks that housed more than 400 sleeping Marines. Seconds later, 241 servicemen, mostly Marines, were dead and hundreds of others injured. It was a day that, for those who were there, would go down in infamy."

[This article was written by Randy Gaddo and originally published in the March 2007 issue of Military History magazine. Randy Gaddo, a retired Marine chief warrant officer who served in Beirut in 1983 and is the president of the Beirut Veterans of America.]

~ ~ ~

The American toll from the October, 1983 attack came to 241 dead. Shiite Muslims, inspired by Ayatollah Khomeini, claimed credit in the name of Islamic Jihad.

So, what is going on? How is it that a religion that is purported to be so peace-loving, has become associated with such violent extremism?

~ ~ ~

"Islam is no more inclined to terrorism than any other monotheistic faith. Like its sisters, Christianity and Judaism, it can be both merciful and stern in practice; like them, it also teaches the love of God and the humanity of all mankind, believers and unbelievers alike.

"In times past, Islam has served as the bedrock of flourishing, tolerant, and peaceful orders.But sociologists will say that a religion, at any point in time, is whatever its adherents understand it to be. If that is so, then Islam, as understood by too many Muslims, is in danger of deteriorating into a manifesto for terror. The reason: Too many Muslims have been silent in the face of horrific deeds committed by an extremist minority.

" 'Islamic terrorism' first entered the lexicon on [that] Beirut morning in 1983, when two suicide bombers destroyed the barracks of American and French peacekeepers. The American toll came to 241 dead; the planners, Shiites inspired by Ayatollah Khomeini, claimed credit in the name of Islamic Jihad. For decades, modernizing Muslim thinkers had worked to demilitarize the concept of jihad — struggle waged 'in the path of God.' Secular revolutionaries had mothballed the term, employing the vocabulary of 'resistance' and 'liberation.' But it was an act of jihad that drove America from Lebanon, with electrifying effect.

"A new era had begun — an era in which Muslim extremists interpreted their faith as a license to kill foreign "enemies of God." Radical Muslim clerics scoured Islam's sacred texts for justifications of violence, and found them. In the years to come, the clerics and the terrorists widened their license. At first, it included only "intruders" in Muslim lands: foreign forces, embassies, and civilians. Later it was extended to include "enemy" installations in third countries, and finally, civilians in the "lands of unbelief." No moral red line could stop the escalation.

Hijacking Islam
A religion in danger of deteriorating into a manifesto for terror.
by Martin Kramer
National Review
September 19, 2001]

~ ~ ~

"In the immediate aftermath of the September 11 tragedy, one commentator noted that the attacks climaxed almost two decades of terrorist acts committed in the name of Islam--a bloody, violent era that began with the suicide bombings against American and French peacekeeping forces in Beirut in 1983. The commentator Martin Kramer, noted: 'Islam is no more inclined to terrorism than any other monotheistic faith. Like its sisters, Christianity and Judaism, it can be both merciful and stern in practice; like them, it also teaches the love of God and the humanity of all mankind, believers and unbelievers alike. In times past, Islam has served as the bedrock of flourishing, tolerant, and peaceful orders.' Having said that, Kramer went on to say: 'But sociologists will say that a religion, at any point in time, is whatever its adherents understand it to be. If that is so, then Islam, as understood by too many Muslims, is in danger of deteriorating into a manifesto for terror. The reason: Too many Muslims have been silent in the face of horrific deeds committed by an extremist minority.' [For the complete article, go to]

[continuing...] "The real "War on Terror," says Middle Eastern expert Jonathan Schanzer *, is the "War on Militant Islam"--the latter "a minority outgrowth of the faith" bitterly antagonistic to such Western concepts as capitalism, individualism, and consumerism. Spurning the West and much it offers--save for weapons, medicines, and additional "useful technologies"--militant Islam's goal is "to implement a strict interpretation of the Koran (Islam's holy book) and shari'a (Islamic law)." The major hindrance to the realization of this objective, in the radical Muslims' view, is the United States.

*[See: At War With Whom? A short history of radical Islam, by Jonathan Schanzer, Doublethink,Spring 2002:]

[Continuing...] "Given all this, what is the difference between Islam and Islamism? Fundamentally, it comes down to a pair of concepts: faith (Islam) and ideology (Islamism)....

"Muslims believe their faith is far superior to Judaism and Christianity; the latter two, to their minds, are merely "defective variants" of God's best religion--Islam. This supreme confidence is bolstered by Islam's glorious early history. Then, Islamic culture was the world's most advanced. Muslims had the best of everything: good health, long life spans, high literacy, scientific and technical achievements After fleeing Mecca as a refugee in A.D. 622, Muhammed returned there a mere eight years later as its ruler. As early as the year 715, Muslim conquerors had erected a vast empire, whose borders reached from Span in the west to India in the east. Naturally, Muslims concluded that all this meant they were God's chosen people, spiritually and materially.

"Yet Islam's "golden age" wouldn't last forever. As early as the 13th century, Islam's weakness and the Christian world's successes were already becoming apparent. Nonetheless, for some five hundred years to come, Muslims were mainly unaware of what was happening in the Christian world.... Such an attitude blinded Muslims to changing circumstances. In July 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte landed in the center of the Muslim world, Egypt, easily subduing it. This was merely the beginning of other assaults that ultimately left the majority of Muslims under European domination, and Muslims wondering why God had apparently forsaken them.

"In response to modern setbacks, some Muslims empbraced a radical ideology known as Islamism. Islamism, according to critics, is akin to fascism and Marxism-Leninism. Like those systems, Islamism opposes capitalism and liberalism and seeks their overthrow.

"Islamists are hostile to numerous countries. They feel that local Muslim rulers in such states as Algeria, Turkey, Egypt, and Malaysia are doing the West's bidding in crushing their movement. In Kashmir, Afghanistan, and Sudan, they see the West "actively suppressing noble Islamist efforts to create a just society." Islamists feel themselves encircled and frustrated by the West. High on their enemies list is the United States, which, Islamists believe, intends to steal Muslims' resources, take advantage of their labor, and subvert their religion. It is widely held that Washington and Hollywood have united to install the 'new world order.'

"Daniel Pipe * noted in 1998 ... that traditional Islam's goal is to show humans how to live in harmony with God's will, whereas Islamism aims to create a new order. Moreover, where traditionalists study Islam at great length, Islamist leaders know more about the sciences than Islam and use the latter as it suits their purposes. In the same way, Islamists embrace the modern world to achieve their goals whereas traditionalists are repelled by the modern world. Traditionalists look with apprehension at the West. Islamists want to challenge it, and take it over. More moderate Islamists intend to convert the non-Islamic countries they live in through non-violence to their cause....

* [For Daniel Pipes' web site, go to]

[Continuing...] "The term Islamism was coined to differentiate Islam as modern ideology from Islam as a faith. It became necessary to make this distinction after the Iranian revolution of 1979, which gave rise to the popular use of the term: 'Islamic fundamentalism.' ... Ironically the more the media embraced Islamic fundamentalism as a term, the more scholars of Islam looked askance at it. Some felt that fundamentalism didn't capture the methodology and style of Iran's revolution and similar Muslim movements. Others, especially those sympathetic to the new Muslin movements, felt the term fundamentalist was unfair to progressive Muslims. Still, there were those academics who defended the use of the term fundamentalism....

" 'Debate over terminology has always surrounded the West's relations with Islam,' Kramer notes, 'and its outcome has been as much a barometer of the West's needs as a description of the actual state of Islam. . . . At various times, Westerners have needed Muslims to be infidels or believers, threatening or peaceable, foreign or familiar. It is impossible to predict which terms will prevail in the West's own struggle to come to terms with change in contemporary Islam.' "

~ ~ ~

When I started writing the Soul-and-Substance blog, I was quite ignorant of anything deeper than the news headlines about Islamic fundamentalism, so I made the naive assumption that "fundamentalism" in the Muslim faith meant the same as a literal, "fundamental" translation of the Qur'an. Therefore, I assumed that Islamic fundamentalism represented the core Muslim beliefs. I apologize to true Muslims for my ignorance. In my quest to educate myself, and to bring others along with me, my next post will continue in this theme, discussing the difference between Shiites and Sunnis.