Sunni Islam and Sunni Terrorism


There are millions of Sunni Muslims in the world today. They make up the majority of Muslims worldwide. Who are the Sunni? The next largest group within Islam is Shiite Muslims. What is the difference between Sunni and Shiite. This division of Islam into two main groups goes back to the early days of Islam. Mohammed did not appoint a successor and a great dispute arose over who would lead them next. Ali, the son-in-law of Mohammed, wanted to succeed Mohammed but the community, instead, chose a man named Abu Bakr. Abu then became the first caliph (leader). In time, Ali would become the fourth caliph. Disputes over Mohammed’s successor eventually led to the largest rift in Islam, the rift between the Sunnis and the Shiites. Ali’s rise to power was full of controversy. Some believe that he was involved in the murder of the previous successor, Othman. However, there is not solid evidence to confirm this. Nevertheless, there was great unrest and division concerning his leadership and civil war broke out. In 656, Ali defeated his enemies in a battle know as the Battle of the Camel and again at the Battle of Siffin, one year later. However, in this second battle Ali’s opponent appealed for arbitration and Ali agreed. As a result, many of Ali’s followers despised him for not completely obliterating his enemies. His support eroded away and he was assassinated in 661. Following this, leadership was given to Ali’s son, Husayn. Husayn and his men were quickly ambushed and killed. To this day, Shiites support Ali and Husayn as successors of Mohammed and they reject the legitimacy of the first three caliphs. During the reign of the caliphs, Islam would spread through military campaigns. Damascus was conquered in 635, Iraq in 636, Jerusalem in 638 and, in 641, Egypt surrendered. In 642, Persia fell under Islamic rule.

This Islamic rule became known politically as the Ottoman Empire. Muslims regarded their empire as a caliphate. A caliphate is a centralized Muslim empire that exercises religious, political and military authority over its population and seeks to bring the entire world under its control. Sunni Islam became dominant in the empire and in the Muslim world today. The Ottoman empire was a powerful political and military force for hundreds of years. In time, it came apart and fragmented. Its territories were reorganized by European powers and eventually became independent sovereign states.

Many Sunni Muslims have dreamed of reestablishing a caliphate. Numerous terrorist organizations have risen up with this goal and included many sympathizers. Terrorist organizations that have risen out of Sunni Islam include the the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Isis, AlQaeda, the Taliban, Boko Haram, Al Shabaab and others. In this article, I will just comment on three.

The Muslim Brotherhood was founded by the Egyptian school teacher Hassan al-Banna. This movement began in Egypt and has spread throughout the world. It teaches as an ideal that Islamic Sharia law should control all affairs of state and society. They have many slogans and mottos which include “Dying in the way of God is our highest hope.” 1

The Muslim Brotherhood history in Egypt is precarious. There were several bombings and assassination attempts that occurred in 1948 that the government blamed on the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian government consequently arrested thirty-two Muslim Brotherhood leaders and banned the organization. In 1952, some Brotherhood members were accused of participating in the Cairo fire that wiped out seven hundred and fifty buildings. Also in 1952, a group of nationalist military officers overthrew Egypt's monarchy and these officers had formed a cell inside the Brotherhood. However, they too were removed from power and it wasn't until after the death of Nasser in the 1970s that the Brotherhood were allowed back to Egypt and permitted to participate in politics. However, it wasn't until the fall of Hosni Mubarak in 2011 that the Muslim Brotherhood was officially legalized in Egypt. They won a controversial election in 2012 and their political leader, Mohammad Morsi, assumed the presidency. This ushered in a period of tremendous turmoil in Egypt and Morsi is criticized for drafting an Islamic constitution for the country. Grievances under his leadership included the prosecution of journalists, the continuing of military trials, the violent actions of gangs of pro-Brotherhood fighters on non-violent demonstrators and the seeming lack of concern over Islamic attacks on Christians and other minorities. Hundreds of thousands of protestors began calling for the removal of Muslim Brotherhood rule in Egypt. Morsi's government received much support from the United States and perhaps it was only because of the massive demonstrations of thousands of protestors that the Morse's government was ousted from rule in Egypt.

Although the Muslim Brotherhood lost the control of political power in Egypt, this does not mean that they have not been active in other countries seeking control. It was through Muslim Brotherhood affiliated charities that the terrorist organization Hamas was established. Hamas has been very active in trying to destabilize Israeli territories. In the country of Jordan, the Brotherhood formed the Islamic Action Front which in 1989 became the largest group in parliament. This group caused great turmoil by calling for radicalization and the support of Hamas. Eventually in 2016, the Jordanian police raided the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Amman and officially shut it down. The nation of Saudi Arabia is said to have financed the Muslim Brotherhood for over a half a century. However, these two entities became estranged at the time of the Gulf war and their relationship has deteriorated even more since the election of Mohammed Morsi in Egypt. In Syria, the Muslim Brotherhood was involved in opposing the Baath party and this opposition escalated into armed conflict. In 1980, the Syrian government ruled it to be a capital offence to be a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. In Somalia, the Muslim Brotherhood is known as Harakat Al-Islah and has worked hard for the establishment of an Islamic state. In Sudan, the Muslim Brotherhood is notorious for its involvement with the dictatorial regime of Omar al-Bashir. Bashir's government has been under constant criticism for its human rights atrocities, its involvement in terrorism and its war in Southern Sudan and Darfur. The Muslim Brotherhood is in England as well and in 2014 Prime Minister David Cameron launched an investigation into its aledged extremist activities. The Muslim Brotherhood is deeply entrenched in the United States of America as well. Its supporters run hundreds of mosques, businesses and organizations. In 2008, the now-famous Holy Land Foundation trial brought to light incriminating Muslim Brotherhood literature with outlined the Brotherhood strategy for “eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within.” 2

Hamas in another Sunni Terrorist organization. It was founded in 1987 and was financed by Muslim Brotherhood charities. Its purpose is to overthrow Israeli rule over areas such as the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Hamas operatives have conducted many suicide bombings as well as rocket attacks against Israel. They have also been involved in many hijackings, abductions and extortion. In more recent times its funding has come from a variety of organizations and charities in the United States, the European Union, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, England and elsewhere. When speaking to non-Arab audiences, Hamas has claimed that it is not actually fighting the Jews because they are Jews and that they are not fanatical. However, when talking to Arab audiences, they call for the vanishing of Jews and a future Holocaust to come upon the Jews. Hamas publishes a children's magazine called “Al-Fateh” which incites jihad and martyrdom and glorifies terrorism. They also have a television channel Al-Aqfa which promotes the hatred of Jews. As mentioned above, Hamas has been very involved in terrorism and is also criticized for using children as part of a human shield when conducting some attacks.

Another key Sunni terrorist organization is Isis. Isis proclaimed itself a world-wide caliphate in June of 2014. They control a huge territory within both Iraq and Syria. They established official branches in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Libya, Egypt, Algeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria and North Caucasus. The CIA estimates that Isis has 31,000 fighters. In mid-2014, intelligent sources estimated Isis held assets worth two billion dollars U.S. They promote religious violence, capital punishment and the destruction of non-Sunni religious buildings. According to United Nations reports, Isis has killed over a thousand civilians and hundreds of prisoners of war. Their terror has forced over 830 thousand people to flee their homes. They have used death threats, mutilation and torture to compel conversion to Islam and recruit child soldiers, some as young as six years of age, into their training camps. They have used rape as a weapon of war and are involved in trading women and girls as sex slaves. Isis has received financial support from many sources throughout the Muslim world and much accusation has been levelled at Saudi Arabia for its alleged support. However, Saudi Arabia denies this charge.


  1. page 5

  2. Ibid. 21.

References :

Ankerberg, John and Dillon Burroughs. What’s the Big Deal About Other Religions. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Bottner, Loraine. Studies In Theology. U.S.A.: Reformed Publishing Co., 1975.

Braswell Jr. George W. What You Need to Know About Islam and Muslims. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000.

Thiessen, Henry Clarence. Lectures In Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989.

Wikipedia :’_death

Wolff, Richard. The Popular Encyclopedia of World Religions. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.