[FOUNTAIN]Hashishin and the Truth of Islam

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[FOUNTAIN]Hashishin and the Truth of Islam

This is a story about a politically motivated group in the medieval Islamic world that conducted assassinations and terrorist acts. The group was called Hashishin; it existed for 160 years from the end of the 11th century halfway through the 13th.

Hasan-e Sabbah, the founder of the group, wielded huge influence in the Middle East by creating fear through the merciless assassinations of his political enemies.

According to documents, he belonged to the Ismaili sect, and constructed an impenetrable fortress called Alamut in the barren wilderness of northwestern Persia. He filled the castle with all imaginable joys and pleasures, and brought young men to the place after giving them sleeping drugs.

He would let them enjoy the palace's delights for some time, and later take them out of the castle in their sleep. He would brainwash the young men into believing that they would go back to the "paradise allowed by the one and only God Allah" if they died while carrying out Sabbah's orders.

The assassin group considered it a religious duty to murder the enemies of Sabbah and willingly made suicide attacks to attain their "paradise."

The group was finally destroyed in 1256 by Mongol troops led by Hulegu, a grandson of Chingiz Khan. In other words, those who prospered by the sword also collapsed by the sword.

The assassins smoked marijuana before taking action, thus they were called Hashishin - "pot smoker" in Medieval Arabic. They were so notorious that the name Hashishin became known in Europe and furnished the root word of "assassination" in English.

Surprisingly, a common misunderstanding about the Islamic community is attributed to this minor extremist.

The phrase "Koran in one hand, sword in the other," which actually meant that the Saracens in the Middle Ages conquered and propagated the message at the same time, was misinterpreted to suggest that Europeans would be killed if they did not convert to Islam.

Thus, in Western misunderstanding, participation in the sacred war, or jihad, came to be associated with a sacred duty of Islam. However, it was only one extremist sect, which was active in the medieval era, that advocated such a dogma.

In effect, the mass-murder terror attack that took place in the United States had nothing to do with either the Islamic community or the Arabic people. It was only a crime committed by a terrorist group that is trying to revive a similar extremism to that of the eclipsed dogma.

The writer is a deputy international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Chae In-taek

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