For several days now, prof bug has been meaning to write about Islamist terrorism, especially in the aftermath of the recent London transport bombings and those in Egypt; but what with one thing or another --- including another project that keeps bugging at the prof's mind --- he's not had time until today.
Not that it's such a bad thing. By now, he's had a chance to look at the journalistic reports and op-eds in much of the European and US media, and so he has some inkling how he might be able to say a few original and maybe useful things about the causes of the London terrorism, and what it portends for European developments in the years and decades to come as well as for US-European relations. For that matter, maybe even say a useful point or two about how to continue prosecuting the war on terrorism.
FIRST, SOME BACKGROUND COMMENTS
Earlier Buggy Articles
Prof Bug is no specialist on terrorism, far from it --- not that he's a wet-behind-the-ears ingénue on the subject. Consider the ways we've tackled the subject of Islamo-extremist terrorism since 9/11:
(i.) For one thing you might recall that he has written extensively on the growth of alienated and increasingly radicalized young men in the Muslim communities all over West Europe, angry, frustrated, and emotionally adrift --- noticeably at odds with the larger cultural and social currents around them in post-modernist European countries --- until they find a new mental anchor in extremist forms of Islamist fundamentalism. Desperate for an end to their confused, drifting lives --- torn, too, by guilt that derives from their aroused and irrepressible sexual desires amid the fleshpots and temptations of contemporary European life --- they are searching for a new, meaningful identity to end their inner anguish, and they find it in becoming "born-again" Muslim fundamentalists. The anything-goes secular societies into which they've been born has no appeal for them, just the opposite: it repels and leaves them with a sense of raw anger and empty alienation.
(ii.) For another thing, recall too the numerous buggy articles --- several of them --- on the causes behind the swiftly growing appeal of fundamentalist Islam in the Muslim world . . . essentially a reaction to the severe economic and political failures of Muslim countries, some 56 in number, almost all marked by low levels of per capita income; high levels of male unemployment; high levels of illiteracy; general ignorance of modern secular knowledge; scientific and technological backwardness; various degrees of female subjugation; the rule of political autocracy or other dictatorial systems; and the dominance in economic and political life of corrupt elites who are the boss-heads of closed, tightly run patron-client networks hierarchically organized --- sometimes competitive with one another, sometimes collusive, and sometimes with one set on top and the others conspiring in secret to seize control, and usually tribal- or clan-based.
It gets worse. Cronyism and corruption are pervasive features of all Muslim countries, even in the more successful. Promotion in key institutions based on clear performance and achievement --- including the military --- is rare. What counts is who you know and mutual back-scratching services up-and-down the hierarchical chains.
Further Sources of Hurt Pride and Humiliation . . . Grievances Galore
On top of that, it's not just the American superpower that easily defeats Arab and other Muslim militaries as in Iraq or Afghanistan. Tiny Israel, with 5 million Jews --- traditionally regarded as an inferior subject-people (dhimmi) in Muslim countries who had to acknowledge the superiority of Islam by paying poll-taxes yearly to Islamic authorities, standing when a Muslim sat and talked to them, and showing no public signs whatever of their own religion --- has repeatedly defeated massed Arab militaries in numerous wars. (On military backwardness in the Arab world, click here for an earlier buggy article)
That started in the early moments of the new Israeli state, when five Arab armies invaded the country in 1948, and were quickly routed by improvised Jewish military forces, and it continued through a series of wars over the next decades. What could be more humiliating than that? How could Muslims --- conditioned traditionally to regard the expansion, glory, and power of conquering Islam with the truth of their religion, an outlook that extends back to the middle of the 7th century and lasted for a thousand years of Arab, Ottoman, Tatar, and Moghul empire-building --- possibly explain these outrageous collapses of their militaries at the hands of a tiny country of formerly subject, deferential inferiors who amounted to 1/60th of the total number of Arab peoples alone?
Only in one way . . . the two sorts of buggy writings joining together. By paranoid fantasies about a Jew-run conspiracy that rules the world and threatens Muslims and Islam everywhere.
More Concretely Put . . .
there's a sense of pervasive victimization in the Muslim world, conspiratorial in nature, with Islam seen under attack from all its global enemies: the US, international Jewry (which controls the US), the West, Russia, Hindu India, and China. This conspiratorial image has a far wider appeal to the world's 1.2 billion Muslims than to radical Islamist fundamentalists alone, never mind the more dangerous ones actively or likely to engage in terrorism, and it was tapped into explicitly at the Conference of Islamic Countries in late 2003 by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia, who --- to the loud applause of the assembled heads of the 56 Islamic countries --- assured the gathering that they were all under assault by a conspiracy of world-Jewry that ran globalization, the US, and the West, had invented capitalism, democracy, human rights, communism, and socialism to ensure their survival and dominance, and had a clear objective of keeping Muslim countries backward and humiliated:
"I will not enumerate the instances of our humiliation," Mr. Mahathir said. "We are all Muslims. We are all oppressed. We are all being humiliated. . . . Today we, the whole Muslim [community], are treated with contempt and dishonor. . . . There is a feeling of hopelessness among the Muslim countries and their people. They feel that they can do nothing right." He added: "Our only reaction is to become more and more angry. Angry people cannot think properly."
TWO DOMINANT SOLUTIONS TO MUSLIM BACKWARDNESS AND
THE PERVASIVE SENSE OF RAW HUMILIATION
What distinguishes Mahathir's and mainstream Muslim governments from fundamentalist Islamist extremism on how to deal with the Jew-driven threat is easy enough to set out.
- Mahathir and Muslim governments almost everywhere hope that somehow --- without wrenching changes in their local cultures, customs, institutions, and corrupt-laden patron-client networks that dominate their political and economic systems, never mind their own authoritarian rule ---the Muslim countries can modernize, industrialize, and become wealthy and powerful. By a series of such rapid modernizing change --- which seems in the Mahathir version to be a matter of will-power; nothing less --- the 1.2 billion humiliated Muslims around the world would be able to avenge themselves against the current Jewish world-cabal that has been keeping them in a condition of ego-wounding backwardness, frustration, and resentment . . . or so Mahathir told his applauding fellow authoritarians in attendance at the Islamic Summit meeting.
- - Overcoming their scientific, technological, and economic backwardness, however, weren't the end goals in themselves that Mahathir stressed in his speech to the 55 othe heads of Muslim states. Islamic humiliation and the threats that produce it can only be avenged by Muslim states acquiring the means to make modern weapons in order to fight and defeat the Muslim people's numerous enemies . . . led, it seems, by "Jews who rule the world by proxy":
"We need guns and rockets, bombs and war planes, tanks and warships for our defense. But because we are discouraged from learning of science and mathematics as giving us no merit in the afterlife, we have no capacity to produce our own weapons for our own defense. We have to buy our weapons from our detractors and enemies," he said.
-- What could be plainer? Even the goals of overcoming backwardness that pervade the Muslim countries of the world aren't goals in themselves: rather, they have to have a military objective of war-like vengeance and presumably the destruction of Islam's "numerous detractors and enemies" . . . a line of thought, as you will find in this buggy series on terrorism, fully in line with mainstream Islam's Koranic and Hadith-legacies that the world of Islam is locked in deadly battle with the infidel world. And of course it will all be done in defensive ways.
-- Or as two heads of a British Islamic group put it after the 7/7 London bombings --- one of whom had publicly condemned the death of "innocents":
Zachariah --- [a Muslim speaker who said the kuffar (infidels) were trying to "wipe out Muslims from the face of the earth" and urged Muslim martyrs to spread the land with their blood] --- referred to the London passengers: "They're kuffar [infidels]. They're not people who are innocent. The people who are innocent are the people who are with us or those who are living under the Islamic state."
Omar Bakri Mohammed, the sect's leader, who publicly condemned the deaths of "innocents," but at the Selby Centre in Wood Green, north London, on July 22 referred to the 7/7 bombers as the "fantastic four" and explained that his grief for the "innocent" applied only to Muslims. "Yes I condemn killing any innocent people, but not any kuffar."
- - Once these goals are achieved by jihad terrorism, the foreign occupiers will and their Zionist Arab agents will be driven out of the Middle East and an Arab super-state will be erected that controls the world's major oil resources, with a new Islamic caliphate and Sharia law dominant over the regenerated Muslim populations who live lives of true purified Islam. These achievements aren't the end goal of jihadi terrorists and their fundamentalist sympathizers though; far from it. As we'll see later today and in the next articles in this buggy series --- they are only the initial step.
- Radical Fundamentalist Muslims --- starting with bin Laden's Al Qaeda and echoed by hundreds of wider, often less violent Islamist movements supported galore by imams, mullahs, mufti, ayatollahs, and Saudi and Iranian oil money --- have a far different, much more violent and menacing solution: they harp on the theme that Islam has declined in glory and power because contemporary Muslim populations and their rulers have been tempted by westernized and globalizing influences to reject pure Islam and Sharia-law and to compromise their integrity by leading sinful, westernized lives . . . a disastrous decadence and decline that has left them weak and exploited and will have to be reversed by jihad and holy war against not just the Jew-dominated West and globalization but against all the "Zionist Puppet-Regimes" that rule over the bewildered, sin-living Muslim peoples.
-- Soon afterwards, thanks to the new caliphate and its oil riches and purified Muslim populations, the super-state will supposedly acquire nuclear weapons, oversee the further destruction of apostate Islamic governments and their replacement by purified Islamic rulers around the globe, and manage the eventual expansion of true Islam world-wide by various forms . . . not least by continued jihad terrorism, but also by the continued growth of Islamic populations, by immigration to the West (especially West Europe with its declining native populations) and by the manipulation of oil-prices as a major weapon of diplomatic leverage over all non-Islamic countries. With, of course, the ultimate weapon available to the caliph and his subordinate Muslim rulers if those non-Islamic governments balk at any of this: tersely put, the use of suicide terrorists who will, if need be, blow up whole cities in Europe, India, Russia, North America, or Asia with suitcase nuclear weapons.
A Preliminary Assessment
The former Mahathir solution, besides being paranoid and wildly conspiratorial, is extravagantly naive. The latter Islamist view is apocalyptic and extravagantly megalomaniac and fully supportive of jihad terrorism and holy war . . . whether or not any particular fundamentalist clerics or spokesmen and their followers explicitly support and engage in jihad terrorism and holy war. The view isn't just apocalyptic and megalomonical. It is crackpot and nutty to the core --- not that this prevents it from enjoying widespread sympathies in large parts of the Muslim world. Just the opposite. Several months after 9/11's terrorism, to single out a blatant case, a Gallup opinion survey found that over 60% of Arab people in several Arab countries were convinced that Muslims weren't even involved in the terror attacks. It was all stage-managed by the usual suspects --- Jews, Israel, the Mossad, the Jew-directed CIA, the Jew-managed White House . . . what have you.
Note quickly. This widely shared conspiratorial mind-set charged with paranoia continues at work in the Arab Middle East and elsewhere. Just this August, 2005, Abd Al-Sabour Shahin
---a well-known Egyptian professor who lectures at Cario University and heads the Sharia (lslamic Law) faculty at Al-Azhar university, "most prestigious seat of learning in Sunni Islam" --- told the viewers of Saudi TV's Channel One,
"Our enemies weave many lies about us, which we are not necessarily aware of. For example: One day, we awoke to the crime of 9/11, which hit the tallest buildings in New York, the Empire State Building (sic). There is no doubt that not a single Arab or Muslim had anything to do with these events. The incident was fabricated as a pretext to attack Islam and Muslims. The plan was to take over the world's energy sources, and to achieve this control by force and not by agreement or negotiations, by interests, free trade, or anything like that. This is what they wanted.
"So this incident was fabricated - and Allah knows that the Arabs and Muslims are innocent of it - in order to serve as a pretext to attack Islam and the Muslims. . . .
'I believe a dirty Zionist hand carried out this act. Zionism has taken the opportunity to escalate the war in Palestine, killing hundreds of thousands so far, while we watch from the sidelines in astonishment and ask: What's going on?"
Does it get any more lunatic? Well, yes. There's the Saudi state's Committee
for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in Saudi Arabia that prohibited Barbie dolls, claiming they were really clever Jewish dolls and should be banned because . . .
"Jewish Barbie dolls, with their revealing clothes and shameful postures, accessories and tools are a symbol of decadence to the perverted West. Let us beware of her dangers and be careful . . . "
Then there's the imam
at Werribee Islamic College in Australia who recently warned his students not to eat bananas because "the Jews were putting poison in [them]". And there's . . . well, why go on? You get the idea.
ANY ALTERNATIVES TO THESE LUNACIES?
Are there other, more realistic solutions proposed by moderate Muslim groups to Muslim backwardness and the related sense of grievance, hurt-pride, and raw crackling humiliation?
Yes, certain progressive movements in some Arab countries and in Iran and Indonesia and Turkey that look forward to instilling democracy and human-rights and educational reforms where they don't flourish or expanding them where they have taken modest roots as in the latter two countries --- Indonesia with its 220 million inhabitants and Turkey with its 70 million. How influential they will become in the future isn't at all clear. What is going on is a clash of civilizations at the very heart of the Muslim world --- between regressive and jihad-supporting Islamist fundamentalisms and smaller influential democratic and modernizing movements, with the autocratic Arab and other Muslim regimes usually trying to play off both sides while double-dealing with the US and the West: which means cracking down ruthlessly on home-grown terrorist threats while encouraging the more primitive fundamentalists to direct their hurt-pride and paranoid impulses outward toward the fantasized conspiratorial enemies.
Mathathir's conspiratorial ramblings at the Islamic Summit in late 2003 fit this model to a T, as did the jubilant applause of the 55 other heads of Muslim countries who were in attendance.
As Prof Bug Commented At the Time of Mahathir's Outburst
"This demented anti-Semitism is rife in the Muslim world, featured in state-controlled media everywhere, including on TV; is mouthed by ignorant or subservient journalists in newspapers --- open too, both TV and newspapers, to shrill fanatical fundamentalist imams and spokesmen --- in fervent manner; is voiced in countless mosque sermons and gabfests, in school textbooks, and up and down the so-called Arab street, where it's now part of popular culture. The Saudis even officially banned Pokeman, the kid's game, claiming it was part of a Jewish plot to undermine traditional parental control, encourage Muslim children to gamble, and hence further the Jewish plot of world domination. Yes, Pokeman! For wider background analysis on how raging Jew-hatred has become inseparable from state-controlled propaganda and popular Arab culture, see this link. In one of the Arab oil-rich Gulf States, state-controlled . . .
" '. . . Abu Dhabi TV has decided to seek its market share by launching "Plots of Terror." Aired each night of Ramadan as Muslim families gather to break their fast, this family-oriented "satirical comedy" stars a well-known Kuwaiti comedian as Israel's Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon. Between ads for Procter & Gamble shampoo, chocolate and computers for kids, viewers are introduced to an Israeli leader depicted as a vampire who craves the blood of Arab children and markets "Dracu-cola." The "prime minister" is shown personally leading the massacre of helpless prisoners and, in the most horrific scene of all, is shown overseeing the tossing of Arab babies into a bonfire. Sharon tells his money-grubbing, ear-locked assistant how the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin fulfilled his 20th birthday wish by providing the blood of 20 Arab kids. "So we drew their blood and drank it. It was one of my best nights," the fictional Sharon fondly recalls.' "
"Repulsively lunatic as it was, the Nazi propaganda machine never got that far down into the sewer for its own heinous Jew-hating propaganda. Not out of reluctance, mind you; rather, because the more literate German population would have expected more fanatically sophisticated hogwash, such as Jews simultaneously dominating Communist Russia and capitalist America as part of its drive toward world mastery. When you're dealing with the worst literate populations in the world, by contrast, the more crazed the conspiratorial Jew-hating stuff happens to be, apparently the better. And note, this viciously insane hatred of Jews --- depicted in the popular media throughout the Arab world in this wildly preposterous manner --- is not an aberration, confined to Abu Dhabi TV. As a New York Times investigation showed,
". . . Such anti-Semitic imagery is now embedded in the mainstream discourse concerning Jews in much of the Islamic world, in the popular press and in academic journals. The depictions are not limited to countries that are at war with Israel but can be found in general-interest publications in Egypt and Jordan, the two countries that have signed peace agreements with Israel, as well as in independent religious schools in Pakistan and Southeast Asia . . . The use of Nazi imagery, the newspaper caricatures of Jews with fangs and exaggerated hook noses, even the Arab textbooks with their descriptions of Jews as evil world conspirators — all of that, Arab leaders often insist, reflect a dislike for Israelis and Zionism but not for Jews and Judaism. Yet in many Muslim countries the hatred of Jews as Jews, and not only as citizens of Israel, has been nurtured through popular culture for generations."
Remember, That Was Almost Two Years Ago
All these comments and quotes appeared on the buggy site in late autumn of 2003. Since then, the recent Pew Global Attitudes Survey --- which included six Muslim countries (Indonesia, Turkey, Pakistan, Morocco, Lebanon, and Jordan) --- found that
Anti-Jewish sentiment is endemic in the Muslim world. In Lebanon, all Muslims and 99% of Christians say they have a very unfavorable view of Jews. Similarly, 99% of Jordanians have a very unfavorable view of Jews. Large majorities of Moroccans, Indonesians, Pakistanis and six-in-ten Turks also view Jews unfavorably.
Are There Encouraging Changes Afoot in the World of Islam More Recently?
To say much more here is to plunge ahead of our argument, Part One of which sets out some necessary preliminary remarks about terrorism in general. It's only in Part Two today that we begin to focus on what is new and doubly dangerous in the Islamist terrorisms that the whole world now confronts, including more and more Muslims themselves . . . increasingly shocked to see what is happening in the name of their religion. The Pew Global Attitudes survey just cited finds a couple of slightly encouraging trends here: as more and more Muslim countries are themselves subject to jihadi terrorism, support for such terrorism is on the wane in most of the six Islamic countries included in the survey --- most but not all; and the US reputation in Muslim countries has improved somewhat. The survey-researchers attribute the slight improvement to a growing perception that the Bush administration is genuinely pushing for democratic openings in the Arab countries (in Indonesia, the improvement was mainly related to the impressive American role in the Tsunami relief effort last winter). Hence the importance of winning in Iraq and continuing to exert pressure on the Arab dictatorships to move toward democratic systems.
WILL THESE PARTICALLY FAVORABLE TRENDS IN MUSLIM OPINION CONTINUE?
We can only hope so, because until there is near-unanimous condemnation in the Muslim world with no hedging whatsoever of jihadists and their fanatical terrorism will future recruits to Islamist extremism and terrorist activities diminish strongly. Whether that unequivocal condemnation by, say, 95% of the Islamic peoples will happen is another matter. Even if it does, we can't be fully optimistic.
Why Mixed Evidence At Best? The Terrorist Problem
According to the recent testimony of the Director General of European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center, about 5% of the 20 million Muslims there are attracted to such fundamentalist extremism and about a 3% of those 5% lean heavily toward actual jihad terrorism. A British intelligence report put out in May 2004 used a higher estimate, at least for Britain: it said that there were probably 10,000 likely or potential terrorists in that country, roughly three times higher than the 1/33 of 5% estimate used by the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center. Worse, one recent opinion survey in Britain, taken right after the July 7th 2005 bombings, revealed that a quarter of Britain's Muslim population sympathized a lot (13%) or at least a little (11%) with the bombers' murderous motives --- that is, a quarter of the roughly 1.6 to 2.0 million Muslims there (nobody is certain of the exact total: two writers for the Economist magazine refer to 3.0 million British Muslims --- the figure that Muslim spokesmen claim is the case). More worrisome yet, though there are few in-depth studies involving field work in Muslim communities by academics in Europe, some exceptions do exist, and in Germany, according to one study,
"the sociologist Wilhelm Heitmeyer and his colleagues at the University of Bielefeld found that almost one-third of those polled agreed that Islam must become the state religion in every country. Even though they live in Europe, 56 percent declared that they should not adapt too much to Western ways, but should live by Islam. More than a third insisted that if it serves the Islamic community, they are ready to use violence against nonbelievers. Almost 40 percent said that Zionism, the European Union and the United States threaten Islam
But consider. Even if the Director General of the European Intelligence and Security Century is right, we're still talking about a powder-keg of 1 million extremists in West Europe alone, most of whom are young . . . with about 33,000 of them potential terrorists. World-wide it's more worrisome still. World-wide, that would mean 60 million of the 1.2 billion Muslims are extremists of various ages, and 2.0 million of them are potential or likely jihad terrorists.
More generally, the same hesitation to be fully optimistic applies to the far wider conspiratorial outlook that prevails in the Islamic world, marked as it is by all the predictable resentment, sense of humiliation, and raw rippling desire for revenge that such paranoid fantasies invariably entail. The prospects for an alternative to the paranoid outlook aren't dismal, but neither are they markedly encouraging.
The Chief Reason?
The alternative would require sustained introspection and an honest dialogue in Muslim countries as to the deep-rooted cultural and religious reasons for their massive problems, all self-created: high levels of illiteracy (the 21 Arab countries have the highest levels in the world), their resistance to modern knowledge, their economic backwardness, the inferior status of women, and the pervasive corruption and tribal-, clan- or other forms of patron-client networks that prevail in their economic and political systems. It would also require a candid confrontation of the age-old traditions in Islam that justify jihad and holy war and on which, to the clear discomfort of most Muslims, extremists like those in Al Qaeda can draw to justify their terrorism.
On most of the evidence, such introspective candor and honest dialogue would be too painful and provoke massive resistance . . . not least because such self-scrutiny and dialogue would require a major modernizing transformation of Islam itself, so that it came to terms more effectively with the modern world. Even Turkey, the most progressive and Western-oriented of the 56 Muslim countries, fails badly on some of these scores.
Note that the article today is only the first of what will likely be a three-article series on the jihadi terrorists.
We need a good working definition that seems to fit all kinds of terrorism, not just the radical Islamist sort behind the attacks in the US on 9/11 or Spain in March 2004 or in Britain this July . . . to single out just the industrial democratic countries that have been attacked the last four years. Once a general definition is laid out, then we can focus on what seems to be new and particularly menacing about the Islamo-terrorist kind. And so let's offer up this formula:
Terrorism refers the use of violence by non-state groups carried out for political or ideological purposes, particularly against unarmed civilians in the target national society. The initial aim of the terrorist attacks --- which can go on for years, with various levels of civilian casualties --- is always psychological in nature: to frighten the population and disrupt its everyday routines, then --- as the attacks continue --- to generate widespread fear and anxiety and erode the majority's belief that the authorities can successfully protect it from future attacks.
Once that state-of-mind becomes widespread, terrorists expect that the government of the day will have to meet their demands or --- in a democratic system --- face imminent electoral disaster. If the government happens to be an authoritarian dictatorship, then --- so the terrorists apparently hope --- it will be overthrown sooner or later by force and a more compliant government take power.
Simple enough to grasp, no? --- especially with these clarifying remarks and examples thrown in.
To generate maximum psychological impact, the terrorists tend to choose civilian targets --- markets, cafes, sports arenas, buildings, or transport, communications, and energy networks --- that induce repeated shocks in the targeted population.
Once in a while, it's true, terrorists may single out the military and police as targets too --- including Coalition Forces in Iraq today --- but there is no known case of terrorist bombings or shootings of the security forces alone ever achieving the terrorists' long-term political or ideological aims. What's more, in time, the security forces learn how to protect themselves better against attacks. We can be categorical here: only if terrorism were to spark a full-fledged insurrection could attacks on the military have any chance of succeeding, and in that case we're talking about a revolution or a civil war.
Hence the reason terrorists always concentrate on civilian targets. Only their repeated destruction promises to create the maximum psychological shock that leaves the population increasingly anxious and on edge, frightened of going to and from work, shopping, eating in restaurants, attending concerts or cinemas, or performing any of the other workaday routines that make up the lives of national societies these days.
Iraq is a good example of the failure of terrorism to work effectively against well-armed, well-organized military forces. Since last fall, American military casualties have averaged less than two per day. By contrast, the bursting tempo of suicidal bombings against the civilian population has led to a casuality daily rate of 33 Iraqis.
Once public morale and confidence plummet --- a point that might take years of attacks --- the terrorists' political or ideological aims come to the fore. Sooner or later, they hope, the terrified population will force their political leaders to carry out the changes in the state's policies or its political system that they, the terrorists, have demanded.
In a democratic system, stubborn, non-compliant political leaders will --- or so the terrorists seem to expect --- be replaced by more compliant leadership in the next general election.
And if the political system is non-democratic? The terrorist hope is then more problematic.
For a start, a dictatorial state can and will use levels of repression and counter-terrorism against the terrorists that make its overthrow far more difficult. Algeria in the 1990s and into this decade is a case in point, Egypt in the early 1990s another. In both cases, the Islamist terrorists were ruthlessly rooted out, jailed, tortured, and killed off. As the recent attacks in Egypt last week showed, though, new Islamist terrorists continue to expect that they can disrupt the country's economy, frighten off tourism, put the population on edge, and lead eventually to some sort of change in the dictatorial regime. How? Apparently, in one of two ways. Either more accommodating members of the dictatorship --- say, army officers --- will eventually assassinate the discredited leadership in a coup, take control, and be more compliant with the terrorists' political or ideological aims; or if a coup fails to succeed, then the population --- the terrorists apparently hope --- will have no choice but to rise up and overthrow the dictatorial regime in some sort of revolutionary struggle, however brief or long.
Enter the terrorists' political or ideological aims. Needless to add, they vary from one terrorist cause to another, but three general ones can be distinguished according to the terrorists' ambitions.
(i.) The least heady ambition is to force a change in a significant state policy that, if it were to occur, would end the terrorism. That doesn't mean the policy in question is insignificant for the existing state leadership and population, only that it's limited in scope.
The IRA bombed Britain in the 1970s and 1980s to compel British governments to withdraw from Northern Ireland, a goal that in the British view would sunder the territorial integrity and boundaries of their country. Muslim terrorists have had similar objectives in Kashmir, ruled by India --- or they did anyway until Al Qaeda and other Islamist terrorist groups entered the fray, since which time their ambitions seemed to have soared. Ditto the terrorists in Chechnya. Possibly, too, some of the Palestinian terrorist groups initially thought about compelling Israeli forces and civilians to withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza, preparatory to creating a Palestinian state. Possibly. But even Yasser Arafat and many of the other PA leaders seemed to think that an Israeli withdrawal, should it occur, would be only one stage in a long-run campaign --- maybe taking decades to unfold --- to destroy the Israeli state either by isolating it, or overwhelming it demographically, or by some combination plus off-and-on terrorism.
(ii.) A more ambitious political or ideological aim would be to force an overthrow of the existing political system --- say, replacing a pro-Western authoritarian regime as in Pakistan or Egypt now with some sort of Islamist regime.
The success of the Taliban in destroying the pro-Soviet regime in Afghanistan during the 1980s is no doubt the model in mind of the existing Islamist terrorist groups still operating there or in Pakistan or in Saudi Arabia. As the Taliban success in the early 1990s showed, though, the terrorist wing --- Al Qaeda included --- occurred only in the midst of a large, prolonged civil war that involved outside help . . . mainly from Pakistan militarily, from Saudi Arabia economically, and from CIA trainees on the ground.
Otherwise, to repeat, terrorism by itself seems unlikely to overturn all but the most rickety of political systems. Civil war or revolution --- whether involving guerrilla tactics or not --- seems indispensable.
Take two examples, one successful, one not, that involved struggles for national independence.
The successes of the Algerian terrorists against the French colonial government and military in that country in the late 1950s and early 1960s were only part of a long urban and rural guerrilla war that, in time, forced a change in the French political system itself --- Charles de Gaulle coming to power in 1958 when the French army threatened to stage a coup against the French 4th Republic's government --- and a surprise turnabout in de Gaulle's policies toward Algerian independence. Two thousand years earlier, the Zealots --- a small but highly motivated group in a noticeably divided Jewish population, cleaved into various factions and policies --- used terrorist tactics against Roman rule and its military that, once Roman repression increased, then sparked a general uprising and a brutal Roman-Jewish war in the late 60's C.E. and extending into the next decade that led to the destruction of the Jerusalem temple and a severe, mass-murdering suppression of all resistance. (A hundred years later, a similar uprising took place by the Jewish population against Roman rule, the whole of Jerusalem was destroyed, and the Jews forced into exile outside their land.)
(iii.) At the extreme, the terrorists' ideology may be the extinction of the targeted population. So far, however fanatical some terrorist movements have been in the past, they haven't been able to do this, though the efforts of Al Qaeda to acquire WMD --- nuclear or biological --- may change this prospect in the future, all depending.
Generally, the extinction of a national minority or majority has been accomplished only by organized military forces representing some state --- Spanish Conquistadors killing off several million Latin American native Indian populations, especially in the large urban empires of the Incas and Aztecs. Even then, it was mainly disease that proved the main instrument of their destruction. The Soviet regime was able to target certain ethnic minorities like the Volga Germans, force them into Siberian slave-camps, and let them die in the vast Gulag system. Nazi Germany exterminated 6 million Jews in the Holocaust, along with more than a million Gypsies.
Should one talk of state-terrorism then?
The term is muddled, besides being frequently used for ideological purposes. In existing international law, only recognized sovereign states can use force legitimately . . . and even then only under specified circumstances of national or collective defense. States, of course, can terrorize their own populations --- most of them or certain groups. The best quantitative estimates show that about 170 million people were slaughtered by their own brutal dictatorial states during the 20th century, a finding that is far higher than the number of people killed in all that bloody century's wars. But there are plenty of terms used in international law to single them out as systematic human-rights violators, including at the extreme the aim and tactics of genocide.
Terrorists, by contrast, are specifically defined in international law as non-state groups that have no visible uniform, do not carry their weapons openly, are no part of a clear command-structure, and are not explicitly acting on behalf of a state's political leadership, and the laws of war --- including the treatment of prisoners --- do not apply to them. A terrorist network, of course, may need a state-sponsor, particularly if it's operating outside the borders of one country and on a transnational basis. It may need, at least initially, its financial support, camps for training in indoctrination and terrorist activities, and a haven for the leadership to plan terrorist attacks abroad. Again, Taliban Afghanistan seems to be the model of Al Qaeda, not least because Al Qaeda sought with the Taliban, enjoyed a privileged position in the Taliban rule, and was able to train several thousand Islamist extremists in several years during the 1990s.
HOW THE RADICAL ISLAMIST SORTS OF TERRORISM ARE NEW AND FAR MORE DANGEROUS
The existing sort of Jihad terrorism that has launched repeated attacks around the world since the start of the 1980s --- with the recent ones since 2000 in New York, Madrid, London, Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia, Iraq, Israel, India, Russia, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Argentina particularly dramatic--- are new in the long history of terrorism in a variety of startling ways:
1. THE FIRST JIHADIST DIFFERENCE:
MEDIEVAL PRIMITIVENESS MARRIED TO HIGH TECH
The Internet and modern communications and transportation have helped create several globe-spanning networks of Jihad terrorists that are decentralized and dispersed --- a few of the local terrorist cells no doubt tied closely to bin Laden's Al Qaeda command, but with most of the others at best loosely and indirectly entangled with one another or to Al Qaeda. This diffuse, far-flung span of Islamist terrorism --- which operates in North America, Europe, Russia, North Africa, the Middle East, and large parts of Asia (and no doubt of Latin America), yet has no territorial base as it once did in Taliban Afghanistan or still does, in its Shia version, in Iran and southern Lebanon (Hezbollah) --- is something entirely novel, with no precedents in history, and doubly dangerous in the upshot.
Destroy bin Laden and his associates in Pakistan or Zarquawi and his henchmen in Iraq, then, and you still wouldn't bring the menace and reality of contemporary Jihadi Islam to an end.
To clarify briefly: A crude, medieval form of Islamic ideology --- which fantasizes a past Golden Age of alleged Muslim rule in the world from the 7th century on that scarcely existed in history except where it overran weak states in the Levant, North Africa, Iberia, and Persia --- has been able to spawn followers and fanatical jihad terrorists world-wide thanks to the existence of ultra-modern technologies. Al Qaeda and hundreds of global terrorist cells --- maybe even thousands (who knows for sure?) --- are thus the creations of both
a crazed religious ideology of apocalyptic nature and several ultra-modern globalizing technologies: the Internet, Satellite TV, faxes, email, mass immigration movements from Islamic countries into Europe, the Americas, and elsewhere.
Dispersed and decentralized as they are, the terrorist networks and sleeper-cells may have at one time been closely connected to radical madrassas, mosques, and Muslim cultural centers in the countries where they are found, but almost all have gone underground and are scattered among small, informal groups that meet outside mainstream Muslim organizations . . . often in warehouses or basements or what have you. That keeps them far away from the prying eyes of local intelligence agents. Some of these widely strewn conspiratorial groups are operational sleeper-cells preparing future terrorist attacks that contain a few young zealot men who have been trained in terrorist camps abroad. In Britain, for instance, several hundred residents --- mostly citizens --- have apparently had training time in Al Qaeda camps alone. Others --- nobody knows the exact figures --- may have been trained in non-Al Qaeda camps in the Sudan or on Palestinian territory or in Syria or Lebanon or Iran, not to mention Pakistan.
Originally, of course, it was different. Direct state-sponsorship seems to have been essential to launch jihad terrorism and sustain it.
Thus the first Islamist terrorists of a jihad suicidal type began operating in Lebanon in the early 1980s, courtesy of the Khomeini Shi-ite revolution in Iran a few years earlier, with direct financing of Hezbollah, a Shi-ite terrorist movement in Southern Lebanon. The simultaneous struggle against the Soviet-installed regime in Afghanistan allowed the Taliban --- supported by Pakistan, the CIA and oil-rich Arab states --- to take root in that country, providing Al-Qaeda with both funds, territory, and various forms of finance. This was the start of the dominant form of Islamist terrorism today, Sunni in nature. (Sunni Muslims are about 90% of the 1.2 billion Muslims world-wide; most of the rest are Shi-ite, and there are small pacifist Sunni Muslims here and there.) By the 1990s, Pakistan --- whose political system never had full control over the divided population or its intelligence agency, infiltrated by droves of radical fundamentalists --- became a haven for a bevy of radical Islamist schools that churned out Jihad-terrorists by the droves, many ending up fighting with the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan. And as Israel withdrew from almost all the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza under the Oslo accords in 1996, those territories became havens for various Sunni terrorist movements as well.
The destruction of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan ended any territorial sanctuary for the jihad camps, at any rate of the Sunni sort. Parts of Pakistan remain as terrorist sanctuaries, though President Musharraf --- a general who came to power in a coup in the late 1990s and then has been elected the leader of Except for Iran and Syria --- has himself been subject to a couple of terrorist assassination attempts and has promised under US and UK pressure to try cracking down harder on the large numbers of jihadists in his country. A war-torn country like Sudan once offered sanctuary to Al Qaeda too, but that seems to have changed under American pressures.
As for the Palestinian territories, the Israelis have for all intents and purposes broken the back of Hamas's organizational structure, but the terrorist movement remains . . . as do Islamic Jihad and the Al Martyr's Brigade. If the Israelis continue to withdraw from Gaza and a settlement is reached eventually with the new PA leadership headed by Mamhoud Abbas for a Palestinian state, the moderate compromisers in the PA will very likely be assaulted by terrorists themselves --- hence the importance of stepping up US efforts to work with the PA to improve its haphazard, poorly organized and rival security forces.
2. THE SECOND DIFFERENCE:
JIHAD TERRORISM RELIES ON MUSLIM TRADITIONS AND LAWS IN TO LEGITIMIZE ITS GLOBAL STRUGGLES
The Use of Muslim Traditions and Laws As A Motivating Influence in Jihad Violence Is Itself Nothing New in Muslim History
Consider Islam's origins and early militarized expansion. Unlike Christianity or Buddhism or Hinduism or Judaism, all of which existed for hundreds of years before any recognizable state-power made it an official religion, Islam emerged and spread quickly after 650 C.E. as an expanding militarized empire that was ruled by Mohammed and his successors: it first overran the Levant and its weak Christian and Jewish communities, then expanded eastward and conquered the decrepit Persian Empire; it then swept across the weak Christian states of North Africa and in Spain. Only when the formidable Arab cavalry met a more formidable force of Franks --- with disciplined infantry and larger horses --- did the conquests and expansion of the Arabs stop in Europe, with Arab military and political rule pushed back beyond the Pyrenees into Spain. That was in 732. Earlier, in 718, the Byzantine Empire also defeated the Arabs at Constantinople, ending Arab expansion in that part of the Mediterranean.
A little historical survey of what happened afterward will likely help you make sense of all this.
By the mid-8th century, an impressive, far-flung civilization based on the Arabic language and Islam had emerged, loosely organized under a caliphate-rule in Baghdad from 750 to 1258. It stretched from the northern frontier of Spain across North Africa to Persia; purveyed both Persian and Greek learning as well as orthodox Islam to its diverse populations; and was more technologically and economically advanced than northern Europe until the 11th century, after which all of Islam began falling behind European advances.
Not that the eventual decline and eventual breakup of the Arab empire from the 11th century on ended Muslim imperial expansion, far from it.
In 1290, though the Mongols conquered the Middle East and ended the Caliphate, the emerging Ottoman Turkish Empire moved it to their soil and eventually located it in Constantinople (Istanbul) after the conquest of the ramshackle Byzantine empire in the mid-15th century. Soon afterwards, the Turks --- who extended their conquests all over the Middle East and most of North Africa --- established a huge European empire too. At one point, it ruled over Hungary, Bulgaria, Rumania, Greece, and much of what would become Yugoslavia centuries later. As late as 1683, the Turks sought to destroy the Austrian empire, only to fail. Meanwhile, Mongol-Tatar peoples conquered Orthodox Russia in the 13th century, ruling it for the next two centuries and eventually adopting Islam as a unifying religion for their imperial state. By the start of the 15th century, Islam then spread by force into Hindu India and a century later imposed the Mughal Empire there in the early 16th century.
What Follows From This Fast, Top-Skimming Survey?
Essentially, a trio of conclusions that show how extremist Islam of the terror-supporting sort these days can draw on certain established legal traditions and customs in Muslim history to justify their horrifying terrorist attacks these days in dozens of countries around the world . . . however much most Muslims themselves, world-wide, would disagree.
First, though, some clarifying remarks about textual interpretations and disputes in Islam impose themselves here. Read those remarks carefully and keep them in mind as you work your way through the subsequent twists and turns of the buggy argument. .
For a start, remember that Islam is like Protestant Christianity: there is no global hierarchical structure of clerics as in Catholicism or Orthodoxy who can authoritatively resolve theological disputes. For that matter, not all imams and ayatollahs and muftis (legal scholars) or other Muslim clerics or scholars don't have any formal certificates from specific training institutes run by easily recognized authorities. Hence, when you see statements by some Muslim clerics or scholars that cite texts from the Koran or from his sayings (Hadith) or deal with his life (the Sira literature) --- say, that Mohammed explicitly condemned the use of force against civilians --- it is nonetheless easy to point to several other sacred passages in the Koran or Hadith or the Siras that say explicitly the opposite; and since there is no one authoritative head of Islam who can, like the Pope, promulgate a final and conclusive resolution of these theological and textual disputes, the disputes rage on.
For instance," in the Koran Allah orders Muslims to terrorize non-Muslims in His Behalf (click here for the source of the following quotations and comments:
"Strike terror (into the hearts of) the enemies of Allah and your enemies." Surah 8:60
"Fight (kill) them (non Muslims) and Allah will punish (torment) them by your hands, cover them with shame." Surah 9:14
"I will instil terror into the hearts of the unbelievers, smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them. It is not ye who slew them; it was Allah." Surah 8:12-17
"O ye who believe! Fight the unbelievers...let them find firmness (harshness) in you and know that Allah is with those who fear Him." Surah 9:123
"In the Hadith (Mohammed's sayings), Mohammed also urges Muslims to practice Jihad.
Mohammed once was asked: what is the best deed for the Muslim next to believing in Allah and His Apostle? His answer was:
"To participate in Jihad in Allah's cause. Al-Bukhari vol 1:25"
"Mohammed was also quoted as saying:
"I have been ordered to fight with the people till they say, none has the right to be worshipped but Allah." Al-Bukhari vol 4:196
"It is worth noting here that the words "fight" and "kill" have appeared in the Quran more frequently than the word "pray. Islam teaches that people are divided into two different camps; Dar al Harb (The abode of war), and Dar al Islam (The abode of Islam). Those who belong to Dar al Islam are the Muslims who are in a constant state of war with Dar al Harb who are the non-Muslims, until such time the non-Muslims convert to Islam. In other words, Muslims can never peacefully co-exist with non-Muslims."
Note the last sentence, just quoted: "In other words, Muslims can never peacefully co-exist with non-Muslims." Is that accurate when it comes to the historical record?
No, it all depends . . . in particular, on the Muslim countries and specific historical circumstances or --- where Muslims are minorities --- on specific circumstances too.
These days, it's true, there is lots of strife in certain North African or tropical African countries between large Muslim populations and their Christian or pagan neighbors: the Sudan, Northern Nigeria, attacks on Christian churches in Pakistan by Islamist terrorists, conflicts between the Coptic Christianity minority in Egypt (about 6-10% of the Egyptian population) and lots of Muslim Egyptians, and so on. But obviously, few of the Arab states practice jihad or operate in terms of the Muslim teachings about jihad or the world of the infidels, Dar al Harb. But there are exceptions. Iran is clearly one in the Middle East, run by a hard-core of Shi-ite clerics and supporting terrorism abroad; Hezbollah's de facto rule in Southern Lebanon is another case in point; so was Colonel Khadaffi's Libya until recently, just as Taliban Afghanistan was.
What's more, in Bosnia and Kosovo (the latter part of Yugoslavia still), Muslim populations were originally assaulted and victimized by hostile Serbian forces during the 1990s . . . even though, it's true, during WWII a large Muslim SS Nazi division, the Handschar, joined Croation fascists and slaughtered tens of thousands of Serbs and Jews in Bosnia and elsewhere in WWII. (That the US intervened militarily in both wars to stop massacres of Muslims and their ethnic cleansing hardly ever gets credit, observe swiftly, in the Muslim world --- whether in extremist or majority circles) Click here
for a good overview of the Handschar's notorious history, including its blessings by the pro-Nazi Mufti of Jerusalem, who lived in Berlin during WWII, collaborated with Hitler and the Nazi leaders in several ways, and who was condemned after the war by the Nuremberg Trial for war crimes. Note the picture of the Mufti as he reviews the SS Muslim troops in Bosnia.
And now back to the conclusions that follow from the earlier historical survey of Islam's origins and expansion for centuries after:
THE 2ND DIFFRENCE CONTINUED:
THREE UNIQUE LEGAL AND THEOLOGICAL TRADITIONS IN ISLAM THAT JIHAD TERRORISM MAKES USE OF
(i.)Religion and Military Expansion From the Outset
From the start, to put it tersely, Islam was a militarized conquering religion attached to an emerging and expansionist imperial-state. Islamic doctrines quickly endorsed the expansion. The very earliest of Mohammed's peaceful proclamations in Mecca were thus changed when Mohammed moved to Medina in 622 and began espousing the expansion of Islam by the sword against idolators and all other enemies of Islam. For an excellent analysis, see this link
Islam's expansion for a 1000 years after 622 was almost always by means of military force, with traders, clerics, and administrators playing a big role too . . . exactly as they did in various Christian imperialisms out of Europe from the end of the 15th century on. Malaysia and Indonesia are the two most prominent examples of Islam spreading by peaceful means alone. Hardly any others come to mind. That makes Islam's origins and history different from the other world religions. Christianity, to single it out, existed for 300 years without attachment to any state until Constantine made it the official religion of the Roman empire in the early 4th century . . . since which time, it also became attached to various states, militaries, and imperial expansion in various guises that lasted right down to the post-WWII era. Still, what remains unique to Islam is the equation of Islam's truth and validity with its territorial breadth, power, and glory.
(ii.) Jihad Traditions: Legitimizing Violence Against Islam's Enemies
What also remains unique to Islam, in the past and especially present, are the unchallenged traditions of jihad, both personal (Jihad Asghar --- lesser) and collectively or Jihad Akbar (greater). . . the latter justifying the use of force, including suicidal attacks, in defense of the Islamic faith against infidels on the battlefield and elsewhere and in holy war to spread Islam in non-Islamic countries.
Those who died spreading or defending Islam this violent way were and are accorded martyrdom. Jihad (struggle) of the greater sort is, simply said, part and parcel of Islam's military conquests historically and its subsequent defense against infidel efforts to regain conquered Islamic territory. Almost all the different legal schools in Islam, despite their disagreements about certain aspects of Islamic law, agree that the use of force and suicidal attacks is justified and even obligatory in certain circumstances
Consider a prominent, up-to-date example: whether suicide bombings are alien to Islamic laws and traditions. Yes or no, depending on how suicide is defined and the laws and traditions invoked. In particular, as one specialist notes
The internationally renowned and influential Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi has said that such bombers are not suicidal: "It's not suicide, it is martyrdom in the name of God, Islamic theologians and jurisprudents have debated this issue. Referring to it as a form of jihad, under the title of jeopardising the life of the mujahideen. It is allowed to jeopardise your soul and cross the path of the enemy and be killed."
Then, too, in late June 2005 --- just before the first London bombings, followed by a second round in London and more suicidal terrorist slaughter in Egypt --- Time
magazine ran a long cover story interviewing an Islamic terrorist, seeking to probe his mind-set. Robert Spencer
comments on the Time story in these terms:
"Yes, I am a terrorist. Write that down: I admit I am a terrorist. [The Qur'an] says it is the duty of Muslims to bring terror to the enemy, so being a terrorist makes me a good Muslim."
These are the words of Marwan Abu Ubeida, the subject of a Time magazine piece entitled "Inside the Mind of an Iraqi Suicide Bomber." It is gratifying to see Time being willing to take this trip into Marwan's mind, since most mainstream media outlets have been singularly uninterested in the thought processes of jihad terrorists. But even Time doesn't explore the implications of Marwan's words. And this is no trivial omission: jihadists from Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to Marwan Abu Ubeida have consistently made clear that today's jihadists are working from mainstream traditions and numerous Qur'anic exhortations, and that by means of these traditions and teachings they are able to gain recruits among Muslims worldwide — as well as to hold the sympathy of others whom they do not recruit. This explains why there has been no widespread, sustained, and sincere Muslim outcry against the jihad terrorist enterprise in general.
Marwan makes it clear: "The jihadis are more religious people. You ask them anything — anything — and they can instantly quote a relevant section from the Qur'an." He is chillingly forthright: "The only person who matters is Allah — and the only question he will ask me is ‘How many infidels did you kill?'" He invokes Qur'an 8:60: "Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into the enemy of Allah and your enemy." The jihad ideology Marwan reflects is rooted in the Qur'an and Islamic tradition. The longer we postpone confronting that fact, the worse the problem will grow."
You'll note that Robert Spencer has been quoted at least a couple of times in this buggy article, and at length. Who is he? Here is a description at the end of his article from which the previous quoted paragraphs were taken: Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch; author of Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad Still Threatens America and the West (Regnery), and Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World's Fastest Growing Faith (Encounter); and editor of the essay collection The Myth of Islamic Tolerance: Islamic Law and Non-Muslims (Prometheus). He is working on a new book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) (coming August 8 from Regnery).
Another excellent close reading of the various Islamic traditions of jihad and the use of violence to spread Islam against its enemies was mentioned earlier too: click here.
As the analysis there shows, the claims made by many Islamic clerics and scholars that the use of violence must always be defensive has been challenged repeatedly by other clerics and scholars.
(iii.) A Third Legal Tradition The Jihadists Can Draw On:
The State of War Between the House of Islam and the House of Infidels
This legal tradition, going back to the 7th and 8th centuries, divides the entire world sharply into two contrasting zones: the House of Islam (Dar al-Islam) where Islam rules and peace and justice prevail, and the House of War (Dar el Harb) that covers all infidel areas of the world not under Islamic dominance and where strife and war are constant. The two zones are seen as eternally at war with another, and Muslims everywhere, so the tradition dictates, have an obligation to expand Islam's reach until, at long last --- however many wars and other armed struggles it might take --- all the infidel areas are conquered and Dar al-Islam prevails world-wide.
Not only is this two-zone theory a clear part of all Muslim legal traditions and textual interpretations undertaken by diverse Muslim clerics for a 1000 years, it entails a constant struggle --- armed and otherwise --- that involves martyrdom and suicidal attacks against the infidels. Those Muslims who die in the struggle are transported to Paradise. Only after the entire world comes under Islamic rule and strict Muslim law (Sharia) will strife, injustice, and war end and all peoples of the world will live harmoniously in peace and justice with one another.
True, as before, it's worth stressing that most Muslims in the world do not act according to the literal nature of this legal tradition --- with ample applications of it throughout Islamic history --- but as before, not just Al Qaeda but Islamist fundamentalists of all sorts can cite the tradition and passages in the Koran and Hadith that justify their interpretations.
Some Clarifying Remarks
There are, it's true, traditions of just-war in Christianity . . . especially medieval Catholicism, as there were earlier in the Roman empire.
The Roman traditions were intended to rationalize Roman expansion and rule, reassuring the generals and their legions that however bloody their actions might be, they were serving a higher cause. The just-war traditions in medieval Christianity were more complex; and eventually as religion was subjected to state sovereignty in the Treaty of Westphalia (1649) --- the treaty ended the 100 years of bloodshed between Catholics and Protestants in the era of the Reformation --- the secularized version worked out by legal theorists from the 17th century on didn't justify or rationalize one civilization's struggles and conquest of others. There were other traditions, including those invoked in the name of Christianity --- the Spanish conquest of Latin America for instance --- that were used. Above all, the secularized tradition of just-war --- which had its ups and downs over the next centuries --- clearly aimed at distinguishing which recognized sovereign state was in the right if it went to war with another: its leaders had to have a just or righteous cause, they have to sought to settle the conflicts with the rival state by diplomatic means and to have failed, they had to tailor the use of force --- scope, intensity, and the like --- proportionate to the wrongs that the just state was trying to put right, and so on.
The key point here is that the secularized traditions of just-war in international law tried to bring war of any sort under the control of sovereign states and to regulate it legally irrespective of whether one state was Christian and the other not. They never divided the world into Christian zones of peace and non-Christian zones that Christians should assault and martyr themselves for, and for that matter --- though the just-war doctrines in international law were always contested by large numbers of jurists and legal specialists from the 17th century on --- the sovereign states of Europe not only continually fought one another, but diplomatic recognition and the application of international law were extended by those of the Christian religion to the Ottoman empire in the 18th and 19th centuries.
More to the point for our purposes, no secular state in Europe or its offshoots anywhere in the New World have gone to war invoking Christian themes, let alone just-war doctrines, as justification for its use of force for a century or more . . . roughly since the last imperial expansion of Europe and the US in the late 19th century and into the first decade of the 20th. Even then, the rationalizations invoked by the governments of the these imperial states for their colonial wars and acquisitions were secularized: France's "civilizing mission" or Britain's "pax Britannica and British law¨ or American ¨manifest destiny¨ turned outward or --- in the case of Nazi Germany later or militarized Japan in WWII --- outright claims to "racist superiority." And nobody really believes the doctrines of Christian superiority or what have you have had any practical significance in statecraft recently at all . . . anyway, outside of certain extremist Muslim circles and wider true-believing militant Muslim fundamentalists who, in paranoid conspiratorial ways, think that Islam is under assault from a new Crusade, this time orchestrated by world Jewry in control of the US and globalizing forces.
Even then, how would this wildly crackpot Nazi-like thesis pertain to Hindu India or Orthodox Russia, two other huge countries that, it's claimed, are part of the global assault on innocent Islam countries and peoples?
If anything, to bring this discussion of non-Islamic just-war theory to a close, dominant international law as it evolved in the 18th and 19th centuries thrust such theories way into the background: sovereign states, it was now asserted, could use war for any purpose provided --- for the war to be legal --- that the states being attacked were notified in advance and the various laws of belligerence and neutrality were properly applied by the warring state. The laws of warfare by the start of WWI distinguished between civilians and armed combatants, ruled out certain weapons as legal, tried to limit the use of violence against civilians in various ways, and obliged the military of the state to take prisoners of war and treat them humanely, among other things. In short, the emergence of the secular sovereign state and secularization generally in European states and their offshoots in the New World eroded the significance of both Christian conceptions of just war and those worked out by secular legal theorists.
Essentially, to end a complex matter abruptly, these days --- under UN law --- there are all sorts of legal limits on starting wars (they should be defensive) and fighting them, but just-war traditions, let alone those of Christian origins, aren't involved.
By contrast --- the pivotal matter here --- there has been no official secularization of traditional Islamic law by any Muslim cleric of note or any prominent Muslim scholar, and though the existing Muslim countries --- dozens in number --- may not act diplomatically in line with the notions of constant warfare between the Muslim world and the world of infidels, it is hard to see how radical Islamist interpretations by bin Laden or any other Al Qaeda leader --- however evil or perverted most ordinary Muslims see such interpretations these days --- as at odds with dominant Muslim legal traditions. It's one of those theological and textual disputes that have no way of being authoritatively resolved in Islam.
What Follows From These Three Legal and Religious Traditions in Islam?
Given what has just been said, is it much of a stretch, then, for the radical Islamists in Al Qaeda and elsewhere to see their terrorist attacks not just against infidels, but wayward Muslims --- Sunni terrorists, as Zarqawi put it, regard Shi-ites as apostate "monkeys" --- as essential to end the humiliation and decline of Islam . . . a trend that has been going on for centuries in the face of modernizing forces that all Islamic countries have had trouble incorporating into their political, social, and economic systems?
Bin Laden himself has indicated that the climatic point of Islamic decline was the collapse of the Istanbul caliphate in the early 1920s when the Ataturk revolution salvaged the remnants of the corrupt, broken-down Ottoman imperial state and introduced westernizing processes in Turkey. Not surprisingly, his ultimate objective --- as it is of his main deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri in Iraq, and several other Al Qaeda leaders who have publicly proclaimed their ideological end-goal --- is to re-establish a new, glorious Caliphate over all of Islam again . . . though to say anything more at this point is to leap ahead of our argument.
More to the point is that the recent public condemnations by numerous Muslim imams and other clerics or spokesmen of the London and Egyptian suicide bombings --- welcome as it is as a start in the Muslim clerical world at recognizing what a horrendous evil they are --- tend, in numerous instances, to hedge or qualify their criticisms. As a prominent Middle East analyst of Iranian origins, Amir Taheri
, noted just today (July 27th), "a number of
self-styled clerics, including 58 Pakistanis, have issued fatwas (opinions) that, on the surface, look like a rejection of terrorism. A closer look, however, shows that they still have a long way to go before they could be taken seriously.
Some self-styled clerics, including many in the British Muslim community, have used semantic trickery to hedge their bets. They condemn the attacks in Sharm el-Sheikh but when it comes to the attacks in London, all they are prepared to say is that they "do not condone" them. More disturbingly, their statements include the usual litany of Muslim woes about Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the assertion that "our youths" are right to be angry. The more they speak the more unspeakable they become.
In some cases sophistry is at play. For example, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian televangelist based in Qatar, has issued a fatwa pronouncing as "illicit" the murder of people who have "temporary or permanent accords" with an individual Muslim or an Islamic state; such as foreigners invited to work in a Muslim country. As for Muhammad Khatami, Iran's outgoing President, it is "illicit" to murder "innocents". The trouble, however, is that he does not define who is innocent and who is not.
Such people use ambiguities because a blanket condemnation of terrorism would extend to attacks on Israelis and Americans, whom they do not regard as "innocent civilians".
But Muslims everywhere need to get to grips with a phenomenon that threatens all Muslim countries and Islamic communities in the West. This requires Muslim opinion-makers to take a number of steps . . . .
3. THE THIRD JIHADIST DIFFERENCE: APOCALYPTIC GLOBAL STRUGGLE
The apocalyptic nature of the Islamists' armed struggle, terrorism included, is also unique in the annals of terrorism . . . as their ultimate ideological goals make clear: to create a world "dominated by Muslims, Islam, and the Shari'a (Islamic law)" . . . a new, but fully globe-spanning caliphate, whose establishment has been openly and repeatedly declared by the leaders of Al Qaeda and other jihad Islamists to be their end objective.
True, lots of observers of Al Qaeda and related terrorist assassinations and bombings --- whether suicidal or not --- profess to be puzzled by their motives and ideological goals. They're all due to the Iraqi war --- or to the war there and in Afghanistan fought by the US and its western allies --- and suicide bombings in Madrid or London wouldn't have happened if their governments hadn't been so belligerently stupid to send troops to Iraq. Oh? Islamist terrorists tried to blow up the World Trade Center in New York in 1993, eight years before the armed destruction of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The 9/11 attacks in September 2001 preceded the UN-endorsed war in Afghanistan by one --- the war a response to the attack --- and 1.5 years before the war to topple Saddam's brutal system in Iraq.
Then, too, what does Iraq have to do with the bombings in Egypt --- or earlier jihad slaughter in the mid-1990s of dozens of foreign terrorists there? Or in Morocco or Tunisia or in Thailand or Indonesia or India or Turkey or Algeria or Pakistan or Jordan or Saudi Arabia or in France in the mid-1990s?
No Influence of Iraq At All in Jihadist Targets?
To claim that is another matter. Jihadists --- at any rate those who are connected to Al Qaeda and plan the attacks in Europe --- aren't fools. Not only do they plan their bombings carefully in advance, they have so far picked two countries in the EU that have or had troops in Iraq with the Coalition Forces. Is that surprising? Considering that Jihadists, like all terrorists, seek to inflict the maximum of psychological shock on a civilian population, the best way to demoralize it is to divide it into conflicting groups as to the motives of the terrorists and the proper response. Both the Aznar government in Spain before March 2004 and Blair's government in Britain were under attack from a hostile public opinion on the wisdom of joining the Coaliton Forces. The quick reversal of fortunes in the Spanish elections following the Madrid bombings could only have encouraged the British bombers in London that they would engender similar confusion and discord in that country as well. So far, they haven't been proved wrong in their calculation.
That said, the terrorist attacks in the US right down through 9/11 preceded any war with either Taliban Afghanistan or Saddamite Iraq, and none of the Muslim countries that have been repeatedly attacked in the Middle East or North Africa or Asia have been involved in the Coalition Forces in Iraq either. The motives and ultimate aims of the Jihadists are far more ambitious than getting Spain and Britain out of that country.
Instead, Their Main Long-Term Objectives Are Global and Apocalytpic
As Daniel Pipes
sets out crisply,
"In nearly all cases, the jihadi terrorists have a patently self-evident ambition: to establish a world dominated by Muslims, Islam, and the Shari'a (Islamic law). Or, again to cite the Daily Telegraph, their "real project is the extension of the Islamic territory across the globe, and the establishment of a worldwide ‘caliphate' founded on Shari'a law."
Terrorists openly declare this goal. The Islamists who assassinated Anwar el-Sadat in 1981 decorated their holding cages with banners proclaiming "The caliphate or death." A biography of Abdullah Azzam, one of the most influential Islamist thinkers of recent times and an influence on Osama bin Laden, declares that his life "revolved around a single goal, namely the establishment of Allah's Rule on earth" and restoring the caliphate.
Bin Laden himself spoke of ensuring that "the pious Caliphate will start from Afghanistan." His chief deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, also dreamed of re-establishing the caliphate, for then, he wrote, "history would make a new turn, God willing, in the opposite direction against the empire of the United States and the world's Jewish government." Another al-Qaeda leader, Fazlur Rehman Khalil, publishes a magazine that declares, "Due to the blessings of jihad, America's countdown has begun. It will declare defeat soon," to be followed by the creation of a caliphate.
Or, as Mohammed Bouyeri wrote in the note he attached to the corpse of Theo van Gogh, the Dutch filmmaker he had just assassinated, "Islam will be victorious through the blood of martyrs who spread its light in every dark corner of this earth."
Interestingly, Bouyeri was frustrated by the mistaken motives attributed to him, insisting at his trial: "I did what I did purely out of my beliefs. I want you to know that I acted out of conviction and not that I took his life because he was Dutch or because I was Moroccan and felt insulted."
Although terrorists state their jihadi motives loudly and clearly, Westerners and Muslims alike too often avert their eyes. Islamic organizations, Canadian author Irshad Manji observes, pretend that "Islam is an innocent bystander in today's terrorism."
Back To Iraq
Given these grandiose global aims, a flaring conflict like Iraq amounts to little more than an added page of Muslim grievances about the US, the West, Jews, Israel, Russia, India, the Philippines (where a struggle to expand Islam in the south has been waged for years) --- or pro-Western Islamic countries --- that is encyclopedic in its expanse. Islam, as they see it, has lost its glory and power and ability to strike awe and fear in its enemies; the caliphate needs to be restored in some protected Islamic territory; Muslims are locked in an endless holy war with the Muslim-hating infidels; and Muslims must therefore struggle by all means possible to win --- which means the ultimate triumph everywhere of Islam and the global reign of Sharia law.
It may seem preposterous to us, this goal; and in terms of means it is . . . even if, as Al Qaeda's more short-term aims of achieving control of Persian Gulf oil in six or seven Islamic countries, are achieved.
No matter. From from the start, remember --- from 622 on when Mohammed and his followers moved from Mecca to Medina and the early years of peaceful preaching of Islam were succeeded by a 1000 years of continued military expansion of Islam by Arabs, Turks, Tatars, and Moghuls --- Islam's truth and eternal validity have been identified in historical Muslim outlook with the strength and territorial expanse of Islam as political and legal rule. From that viewpoint, jihadist terrorism can draw on the oldest traditions in Islam. From the same angle, the invocation of Iraq in Europe by certain Muslim spokesmen is only the latest rationalized excuse --- believed by lots of gullible Europeans and even Americans --- for suicidal terrorism directed against Islam's enemies, including the sell-out apostates or heretics who rule in Islamic countries. A question for the gullible: how did the July 2005 attacks in Egypt fit in with the Iraqi scenario, or those in Morocco or Tunisia or Jordan or Saudi Arabia or India or Turkey or Russia or hailand or Indonesia or the Philippines in the last three or four years?
FOUR SETS OF CLARIFYING REMARKS ON THE USE OF ISLAMIC RELIGIOUS
TRADITIONS AND LAWS IN THIS BUGGY ARGUMENT UP TO NOW
The First Set of Clarifications: Armed Struggle To Fight Infidels and Spread Islam
You will read plenty of Muslim scholars and clerics who insist that armed struggle to spread Islam is not endorsed by the Koran or Hadith (Mohammed's sacred sayings) or the Sira literature, that suicide is condemned by them, that jihad isn't violent struggle, and that those radical Islamists who interpret the Koran or Hadith in contrary ways are perverting Islam's eternal truths. Again, these clerics and scholars are no doubt sincere, but there are plenty of passages in both the Koran and Hadith that do support a radical or extreme interpretation, and so who is the theological or doctrinal authority in Islam who can resolve these disputes once and for all?
At this web site, you will find a careful reading of original Koran or Hadith texts --- translated into English of course --- that lead to extremist interpretation and can support terrorist movements. What follows is only a few introductory sentences from that site's analysis, though it's enough to give you a flavor of the subsequent argument --- the latter well worth reading in full, including all the quotes from Islam's sacred works.
"In his 1996 Fatwa declaring war on the US, bin Laden quotes a hadith passage (Muhammad's words and deeds outside of the Quran) that has the prophet describing heaven for the martyrs fallen in a holy war. The first moment blood gushes, they are guaranteed Islamic heaven. They receive crowns, jewels, and seventy-two dark-eyed houris or beautiful maidens, for each martyr.
[A] martyr's privileges are guaranteed by Allah; forgiveness with the first gush of his blood, he will be shown his seat in paradise, he will be decorated with the jewels of belief, married off to the beautiful ones, protected from the test in the grave, assured security in the day of judgment, crowned with the crown of dignity, a ruby of which is better than this whole world and its entire content, wedded to seventy-two of the pure Houris (beautiful women of Paradise) and his intercession on the behalf of seventy of his relatives will be accepted.
This hadith source that bin Laden cites puts together different Quranic passages describing Islamic heaven, complete with beautiful virgins (Suras 44:51-56; 52:17-29; 55:46-78), with those describing the immediate reward of heaven for jihadist martyrs (Suras 61:10-12; 4:74; 9:111). (For multiple translations of these "virgin verses" and other sensuous descriptions of Islamic heaven, go to this site, and type in the references: 44:51-56; 52:17-29; 55:46-78.)
Where does this evil doctrine of martyrdom in a battle come from? The answer to the question is that Khamenei and bin Laden are not the deepest sources of inspiration for martyrdom bombers. If they were, we could stop terrorism quickly. Sad to report, these two evil-doers, as well the faceless human bombs, get their inspiration from the Quran itself. Islam at its core is not the religion of peace, but violence sits in the origins of Islam.
Suras 61:10-12, 4:74, and 9:111 guarantee Islamic martyrs heaven in an economic bargain. Indeed, these three references explicitly use words that connote buying and selling and signing a contract of sale, and the currency behind the deals is death by martyrdom.
Deducing claims from these verses and using the logic of evil, suicide-homicide bombers with modern and private weapons accept this bargain and throw themselves into battle against disciples of the Great Satan (the US) and the little Satan (Israel). Derived from these verses, the martyrs' death-acts show their total surrender to Allah; they count their lives as nothing compared with their devotion to him and security in achieving heaven. So Allah is pleased—it is a done deal . . . "
A Second Set of Clarifying Remarks, This Time About the Theological Traditions of
Christiantiy and Islam
Diverse as those theological traditions both are, there is a big difference between them. Start with a quote from from Robert Spencer, a specialist on Islam and a former board member of the Christian-Islam Forum. Reviewing a book on Islam by Karen Armstrong --- Islam: A Short History --- Spencer notes at one point the following similarities and differences in the two religious tradtions:
"Like the Bible," Armstrong says, "the Qur'an has its share of aggressive texts, but like all the great religions, its main thrust is towards kindliness and compassion. Islamic law outlaws war against any country in which Muslims are allowed to practice their religion freely, and forbids the use of fire, the destruction of buildings and the killing of innocent civilians in a military campaign." But the problem within Islam is not that of a few aggressive texts in the Qur'an, parallel to a few in the Bible. In the Bible there are indeed aggressive texts, but there is no open-ended and universal command to all believers to make war against unbelievers, a la Qur'an 9:29. Nor is that an isolated text: Islam, unlike Christianity, has a developed doctrine sanctioning and calling for this warfare. The Shafi'i manual Reliance of the Traveller, which bears the endorsement of Sunni Islam's most respected authority, Al-Azhar University in Cairo, stipulates that jihad is "a communal obligation" to "war against non-Muslims." It teaches that "the caliph makes war upon Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians…until they become Muslim or else pay the non-Muslim poll tax . . . The caliph fights all other peoples until they become Muslim" (o9.0, o9.1, o9.8, and o9.9). This is one reason why jihad terrorists like Osama bin Laden want so badly to restore the caliphate – so that such a jihad can be pursued. There is no doctrine like this in any other major religion."
Even if other clerics and scholars in Islam --- let's hope the large majority --- would interpret the Shafi'i manual Reliance of the Traveler differently, or even dismiss it, it's chilling to find the manual endorsed by Sunni Islam's "most respected authority, al-Azhar University in Cairo". That endorsement, note, is not something that occurred in the medieval age, nor two centuries ago. It is recent, a matter of contemporary history. And it remains chilling even if you consider that, historically, Jews --- like Christianity a protected minority, provided they paid special taxes to Islamic authorities and accepted a subordinate position in the communities where they lived --- were better treated for the most part in Islamic countries than in Christian ones through the ages . . . at any rate, until the emergence of modern secular democratic countries in parts of West Europe and the English-speaking countries outside it with their strong traditions of equal civil rights for all citizens, a relatively new phenomenon in Christian history.
A Third Set of Clarifications: Are Muslism Supposed To Use Violence Only Defensively in Support of Islam?
Though many Islamic clerics and scholars claim this is the legal tradition in Islam, we already noted earlier in this buggy article that this claim has been challenged by many other clerics and scholars: to wit,
"The well known Egyptian scholar, Sayyid Qutb, notes four stages in the development of jihad: 1. While the earliest Muslims remained in Mecca before fleeing to Medina, God did not allow them to fight; 2. Permission is given to Muslims to fight against their oppressors; 3. God commands Muslims to fight those fighting them; 4. God commands
the Muslims to fight against all polytheists. He views each stage to be replaced by the next stage in this order, the fourth stage to remain permanent. To justify the universal and permanent dimensions of jihad he cites the following passages:
They ought to fight in the way of God who have sold the life of this world for the life of the Hereafter; and whoever fights in the way of God and is killed or becomes victorious, to him shall We (God) give a great reward…. (4:74-76)
… and fight them until there is no oppression and the religion is wholly for God…. (8:38-40)
Fight against those among the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) who do not believe in God and the Last Day, who do not forbid what God and His messenger have forbidden, until they are subdued and pay jizyah (tax on non-Muslims) …. (9:29-32)
But, as we sometimes hear, does not Islam teach that jihad as physical warfare is solely defensive? True, a few voices in earlier Islamic history and even more voices from the nineteenth century onwards have held this opinion. No doubt, today also many Muslims in the West espouse this opinion, though one might wonder how familiar some of them are with the source materials and history of Islam. Sayyid Qutb, however, pours scorn upon those who view jihad as solely defensive:
… They are ignorant of the nature of Islam and of its function, and that it has a right to take the initiative for human freedom.
Thus wherever an Islamic community exists which is a concrete example of the Divinely-ordained system of life, it has a God-given right to step forward and take control of the political authority so that it may establish the Divine system on earth, while it leaves the matter of belief to individual conscience.
The author of this commentary then cites, during the early advance of Islam, the Muslim response to the Persian general, Rustum, after Rustum enquired why the Muslim leaders had come to Persia with their army:
God has sent us to bring anyone who wishes from servitude to men into the service of God alone, from the narrowness of this world into the vastness of this world and the Hereafter, and from the tyranny of religions into the justice of Islam. God raised a Messenger for this purpose to teach His
creatures His way. If anyone accepts this way of life, we turn back and give his country back to him, and we fight with those who rebel until we are martyred or become victorious.
Likewise the popular Pakistani Muslim revivalist Abu'l Ala Mawdudi rejects any distinction between offensive and defensive jihad. So also the distinguished contemporary Pakistani scholar, Fazlur Rahman, while recognizing the extensive presence of jihad in the Qur'an, rejects
the stand of those modern Muslim apologists who have tried to explain the jihad of the early (Muslim) Community in purely defensive terms.
According to the Encyclopaedia of Islam, "the fight is obligatory even when the unbelievers have not started it." In the words of Rudolph Peters the "ultimate aim of jihad is ‘the subjection of the unbelievers' and ‘the extirpation of unbelief'". All of these authorities simply echo Islam's fundamental assumption that world sovereignty must be in the hands of Muslims.
Still, others may ask, is there not a possible conflict in the Qur'an between its peaceful and militant passages? Or, at least, cannot Muslims choose, between the two, which to follow? In fact, the Qur'an itself addresses the problem of change or conflict in general:
Such of Our revelations as We (Allah) abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring (in place) one better or the like thereof. Knowest thou not that Allah is Able to do all things? (2:106)
And when We put a revelation in place of (another) revelation, – and Allah knoweth best what He revealeth – they say: Lo! thou art but inventing. Most of them know not. (16:101)
On the basis of these verses there arose within the Muslim community the principle of Quranic interpretation, called naskh ("abrogation") which stipulated that earlier peaceful verses could be abrogated by later militant verses, i.e., in the case of jihad the Meccan verses were abrogated by the Medinan verses. It is well known that many Muslim scholars in the early history of Islam contended that Qur'an 9:5, sometimes called "the verse of the sword", abrogated a host of peaceful passages in earlier portions
of the Qur'an. The nineteenth century Indian Muslim leader, Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan, and a few others have rejected this contention . . . ."
A Fourth Set Of Clarifying Remarks: Apologetics Directed At the "Selective" Use of
The Koran and the Hadith
As one such scholar specialist, Dr Patrick Sookhdeo is Director of the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity, has noted in this connection, Muslims can pick-and-choose among Koranic or Hadith verses or sayings that stress peace and others that favor war and violence . . . including the use of terrorism; just as there are passages and verses that emphasize defensive jihad (holy war) and others that give a clear offensive twist to jihad. In particular,
"You can even find texts which specifically command terrorism, the classic one being Q8:59-60, which urges Muslims to prepare themselves to fight non-Muslims, ‘Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies' (A. Yusuf Ali's translation). Pakistani Brigadier S.K. Malik's book The Quranic Concept of War is widely used by the military of various Muslim countries. Malik explains Koranic teaching on strategy: ‘In war our main objective is the opponent's heart or soul, our main weapon of offence against this objective is the strength of our own souls, and to launch such an attack, we have to keep terror away from our own hearts.... Terror struck into the hearts of the enemies is not only a means, it is the end itself. Once a condition of terror into the opponent's heart is obtained, hardly anything is left to be achieved. It is the point where the means and the end meet and merge. Terror is not a means of imposing decision on the enemy; it is the decision we wish to impose on him.'
"If you permit yourself a little judicious cutting, the range of choice in Koranic teaching is even wider. A verse one often hears quoted as part of the ‘Islam is peace' litany allegedly runs along the lines: ‘If you kill one soul it is as if you have killed all mankind.' But the full and unexpurgated version of Q5:32 states: ‘If anyone slew a person — unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land — it would be as if he slew the whole people.' The very next verse lists a selection of savage punishments for those who fight the Muslims and create ‘mischief' (or in some English translations ‘corruption') in the land, punishments which include execution, crucifixion or amputation. What kind of ‘mischief in the land' could merit such a reaction? Could it be interpreted as secularism, democracy and other non-Islamic values in a land? Could the ‘murder' be the killing of Muslims in Iraq? Just as importantly, do the Muslims who keep quoting this verse realise what a deception they are imposing on their listeners?"
The problem of Koranic interpretation --- also of Hadith and the Sali literature --- is further complicated by more than just the lack of an authoritative source to settle doctrinal disputes. There is also a long tradition of how diverse scholars handle the various contradictory passages and verses within the Koran: it's the rule of abrogation, which obliges scholars and clerics --- faced with contradictory texts --- to see the later one as more authentic. The Hadith --- Mohammed's collected sayings and deeds --- is then referred to as a way of trying to pin down Mohammed's intentions. Unfortunately, as we've already seen, the peaceful assertions and verses in the Koran all virtually appeared in the early part of Mohammed's religious career, when he was in Mecca. As he and his followers then began to fight the tribal infidels, they re-located in Medina, and the stress is more and more --- in the course of war that spread Islam quickly into a huge empire --- on the use of war and violence.
As the same specialist puts it,
" . . . Though jihad has a variety of meanings, including a spiritual struggle against sin, Mohammed's own example shows clearly that he frequently interpreted jihad as literal warfare and himself ordered massacre, assassination and torture. From these sources the Islamic scholars developed a detailed theology dividing the world into two parts, Dar al-Harb and Dar al-Islam, with Muslims required to change Dar al-Harb into Dar al-Islam either through warfare or da'wa (mission).
So the mantra ‘Islam is peace' is almost 1,400 years out of date. It was only for about 13 years that Islam was peace and nothing but peace. From 622 onwards it became increasingly aggressive, albeit with periods of peaceful co-existence, particularly in the colonial period, when the theology of war was not dominant. For today's radical Muslims — just as for the mediaeval jurists who developed classical Islam — it would be truer to say ‘Islam is war'. One of the most radical Islamic groups in Britain, al-Ghurabaa, stated in the wake of the two London bombings, ‘Any Muslim that denies that terror is a part of Islam is kafir.' A kafir is an unbeliever (i.e., a non-Muslim), a term of gross insult.
In the words of Mundir Badr Haloum, a liberal Muslim who lectures at a Syrian university, ‘Ignominious terrorism exists, and one cannot but acknowledge its being Islamic.' While many individual Muslims choose to live their personal lives only by the (now abrogated) peaceable verses of the Koran, it is vain to deny the pro-war and pro-terrorism doctrines within their religion."
THE ARGUMENT WILL CONTINUE IN A 2ND BUGGY ARTICLE, WHICH WILL FOLLOW SOON.
Excellent article in which the Islamic terrorist movement in a historical context. This type of "big picture" analysis is seriously lacking in the media today.
Did not Sun Tzu in the Art of War state something to the effect that to be successful in war, you need to know your enemy better than yourself? Please forward this article to someone who has some "influence".