Radicalism Among Muslim Professionals Worries Many

Posted on July 16, 2007

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Hassan M. Fattah – The New York Times Media Group

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, July 13 — They were some of the best and brightest in the Muslim world who toiled for years to master their knowledge. Now they stand accused of seeking mass murder.

For weeks, commentators and analysts in the Muslim world have been grappling with the implications that a Muslim doctor and engineer, at the pinnacle of their society, may have been behind the failed car bombings in London and Glasgow last month.

The question being asked in many educated and official circles is this: How could such acts be committed by people who have supposedly dedicated their lives to scientific rationalism and to helping others?

The answer, some scientists and analysts say, may lie in the way that a growing movement of fervent Muslims use science as reinforcement of religious belief, rather than as a means for questioning and exploring the foundations of the natural world.

“It’s not that surprising for doctors and engineers to be involved in political Islamist movements — both of the violent and the more moderate sort,” said Taner Edis, associate professor of physics at Truman State University in Missouri and author of “An Illusion of Harmony: Science and Religion in Islam.” […]

“Ninety-nine percent of us don’t go beyond political activism; what is the difference between the 99 percent and the 1 percent who go to violent extremism?” said Hasan Shanawani, a senior member of the Association of Muslim Health Professionals, in Downers Grove, Ill., who said that doctors are normally on the lookout for foul play in medicine and will now have to be just as vigilant about spotting extremism. “How do we find that needle in a haystack? That’s what’s really bothering us.”

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