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Religious Extremism in Islam

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Religious Extremism in Islam: Perception from Bangladeshi Practicing Muslims

Religious Extremism in Islam: Perception from
Bangladeshi Practicing Muslims

Background
I would be doing my research in my home village of Kamdevpur in Jhalakati district of Barisal. The village is not highly populated, and most of the inhabitants are Muslim. The village does not have working electricity except for the village market and school. Families in this village are very large with the average size of a family being four members. In some cases the extended family all live together in one house. Most of the families living here earn a living through farming but the elite class of the village is made up of family members of doctors, teachers, businessmen, and government workers. The literacy rate of the village is very high as there are two big Madrashas and one local public school. It can be said that the village is a very tight knit community as everyone knows everyone. The village market is a very lively place, and is the only place where desktop internet can be accessed.

Research Objectives
Religious extremism is something that we commonly hear and see in today’s world. Religious extremism also known as fundamentalism, means strict adherence to the fundamental principles of any set of beliefs. Religious extremists in Islam are a group of people who favor strict observance of the teachings of the Quran and Islamic law. The purpose of this study is to find out about religious extremism in Islam and the perceptions Bangladeshi practicing Muslims have regarding religious extremism in Islam. I will be focusing on three very important research questions; * Why more men than women believe in religious extremists groups, and join such groups? * Do family life, economic standing, and schooling effect have an effect on a man becoming a religious extremist? * What role does social media play in making a man a religious extremist?
The questions above are very important questions as the answers will help in understanding why religious extremism occurs, and what Bangladeshi practicing Muslims feel about the issue. This issue of religious extremism is very important, thus it is best to find the root cause of why people are joining these groups and how they can be helped to make better decisions.

Literature Review
When it comes to religious extremists, one can find them in every religion. In Christianity, there are the extremists who blow up abortions clinics because they are against abortion. In Hinduism, there are people in India who are burning trains full of Muslims. But, in today’s world this word “religious extremist” is used mostly to describe religious extremists in Islam. Religious extremism in Islam is one of the most growing concerns that we currently face in our world. Numerous wars are currently going ahead around the world to stop and curb the rise of extremist Islam.
America has always been at the center of these wars, and that is one of the main reasons why a lot of Muslims become religious extremists. In the book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy Former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer argues that “terrorist attacks (specifically al-Qaeda attacks on America) are not motivated by a religiously inspired hatred of American culture or religion, but by the belief that U.S. foreign policy has oppressed, killed, or otherwise harmed Muslims in the Middle East condensed in the phrase. They hate us for what we do, not who we are.” Scheuer also that’s that “U.S. foreign policy actions believes are fueling Islamic terror include: the U.S.-led intervention in Afghanistan and invasion of Iraq; Israel–United States relations, namely, financial, military, and political support for Israel” (Mearsheimer, John J. and Walt, Stephen ; 2007).
Education background, family and economy are also very big factors in religious extremism. Education level is a very important variable to why someone might become an extremist. There are greater chances for a person to become an extremist if they don’t have a higher degree. The place one gets their education from is also a factor. For example, a person who studies in an Islamic school like a Madrasha is more likely to become an extremist then a person who studies in a local public or private school. Economic stature is also important as children from low income families are more likely to become extremists then children from high income families. This is because poverty will sometimes make children turn to crime. They also have great chance of being extremists as they probably can’t afford a good education which in turn can cause a person to become a religious extremist.
The family is also a big factor in why someone might become a religious extremist. Involvement of other family members in religious extremist group is also a huge factor, as one is more likely to become an extremist if they have other family members who are in religious extremist groups. This is because people are most often influenced by their close relatives like close family members and also the extended family. Psychological state is also a big factor. Usually people of low mental capacity and people who are easily influenced by others are more likely to become religious extremists.
Recently because of the rise of the internet social media is also a big influence why people might become religious extremists. ISIS uploads a lot of videos on their online pages and uses social media to recruit and train Muslims who want to become religious extremists.
So far there has been a lot of work done on religious extremism in Islam. Daniel Pipes is one such person; on his blog in an article “How Many Islamists” Pipes states that “10-15 percent of Muslims having Islamist views” (Daniel Pipes; Oct 11 2003). He also gives numerous polls which support his data.

Methodology
When it comes to my research the type of methodology I will be using is the Qualitative method. First of all I will do some background research regarding the village dynamics, I will find out which families have a religious upbringing and which families have religious figures as family members. I will also find the Madrasha students to interview. To find all this information, I will use the help of my family members who have been living in the village for over 100 years. They also have a very good understanding of the village dynamics. I will also be aided highly by my family members when I do my research as my uncle is the Moulana of the village, and having his support will aid me greatly when I do my research.
After doing the background research I will use the Qualitative method by doing interviews by using focus groups and also the snowball sampling method. The very first people I will interview are the families with a religious upbringing and the families that have religious figures as family members. I will ask them about their experiences with extremism and if they believe it is right or wrong. Afterwards I will interview Madrasha students asking about if they have been influenced to join extremist groups because of their education background. I will also try to get their opinions about if they believe Islam promotes violence or not. I might also do in-depth interviews with some selected people whom I believe might have more to say regarding the subject and would benefit from a one and one session. Recently there was an arrest made in the village as some Madrasha students were arrested along with a group of men for being part of JMB a religious extremist group in Bangladesh. I would also like to have a focus group with people who have interacted with these men. . A very vital note I must add is that I will be separating the two sexes when I do my focus group interviews as I believe women might feel more comfortable talking in the presence of other women. I will use both video and audio recorders pending I receive the permission from the people I will be studying. Photographs will also be taken which will aid me in completing my study. When selecting candidates I have to be very careful as I don’t want to offend anyone. As our government is trying to curb down on religious extremism and also because of the recent arrests in the village, some villagers may not feel comfortable sharing their thoughts on religious extremism. Some families who indeed have family members who are involved in religious extremism might also not want to share information since it might ruin the reputation of their family name. In such a close and small village everyone knows what is going on. Therefore it will be very important that whatever is shared by the interviewees are kept confidential.
The one huge problem I will face is that the village does not have electricity supply except in the village market and school. Thus, I would have to travel everyday for the duration of my field study from the city of Barisal where there is adequate electricity to the field site. It would take two hours round trip. Another problem I might face is that since electricity and desktop internet is only available in the village market it will be hard to answer the question of how social media is impacting the rise of religious extremism in men. Even though mobile internet is readily available and religious extremist websites may be accessed using mobile internet, I will not be able to get the full data of information as internet is still not openly available in the village.

Rational
The reason I am interested in religious extremism is because currently we live in a world where religion plays a big part every day. Wars are being fought; people are dying, all in the name of religion. Also with the forming of ISIS religious extremism has been in the center of the word news. When I lived in the USA I found out that Islam is a religion that is very badly misinterpreted in the USA. Another reason for picking this topic is because of the fact that I am an aspiring filmmaker. Tareque Masud is one of my favorite directors and his work on The Clay Bird, and Runway was exceptional. One very important factor everyone must understand is that being an extremist does not turn one into a terrorist, but extremism is one of the main reasons why someone might become a terrorist.

Ethical Consideration
When it comes to my research I will have to keep my ethics in very high regard. Since this is a very controversial topic some villagers might not feel comfortable to share their names or stories with me on video or audio and this I have to respect. I will use made up names in my report so that I don’t use the real names of any individual. As I mentioned earlier, I will also separate the sexes during my focus group interviews.

Time Schedule
To complete my research it would take me the total time of three months of which three weeks would be used for my field study. Since I will be travelling from Dhaka it would take two days round trip to go and come back from Barisal. The best time to start my research would be in the first week of November as the weather will be perfect. After my field study I hope to write and finish my proposal by the beginning of February.

Budget
The budget will not be high as the field of study is my home village. Thus room, board, and food will be covered. I also own a HD Camera thus that will also be covered. I will have to spend around 3000 taka for video expenses, and editing panel. The travel is the part that will move up the budget as going to Barisal and back will cost me at least 10,000 taka. Altogether I believe with an added 5 percent contingency plan, I will be able to do my research for the amount of 25,000 taka.

List of References
Daniel, P (2003, December 28). How Many Islamists? [Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://www.danielpipes.org/blog/2005/05/how-many-islamists Daniel, P. (2003, December 16). Are all Muslims extremists [Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://www.danielpipes.org/comments/12669 Mearsheimer, John J. and Walt, Stephen. ( 2007). The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.
Islamic Terrorism. (n.d). In Wikipedia. Retrived November 14, 2014, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_terrorism Koogler, J (2007, February 1). The Extremism Question – Why Do Muslims Become Radicalized?
Retrieved from http://themoderatevoice.com/10625/the-extremism-question-why-do-muslims-become-radicalized/#MSB2T42R6Q7pfk0O.99

THE END…...

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