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The Role of Sharia and Religious Leaders in Influencing Violent Radicalism

The Role of Sharia and Religious Leaders in Influencing Violent Radicalism

Moorthy S. Muthuswamy

Independent scholar, PhD Nuclear Physics



Religious leaders have become influential in many Muslim communities. This is despite these leaders having had less influence about 50 years ago, due to the encroaching of modernity backed by science. Science not only contests religious leaders’ worldview, but it also offers a credible alternative. However, beginning in the 1970s, thanks to Saudi Arabia’s backing, religious leaders began growing in power due to the popularization of a self-serving theme that sharia is all-encompassing divine law and an essential guide to life. A new analysis of the 2013 Pew data shows us that religious leaders’ political and religious influences correlate with sharia’s popularity, and in turn, can correlate with politically motivated violence. In particular, the top three terrorist groups in 2013 responsible for the most killings have had religious leaders in very senior positions. Calling the sharia bluff as a core part of a counterterrorism approach may be central to undermining the influence of religious leaders who espouse violence or undercut the value of modern education, and the ideology of radicals. Not least of all, this approach, as history suggests, has a good chance of reinvigorating modernity in affected Muslim communities.


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Science, Religion and Culture


Vol. 5, Sp. Iss. 1 Pages 1-82


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