Response to A GUIDE TO REFUTING JIHADISM – Critiquing radical Islamist claims to theological authenticity

download (69)By Mark Durie:

The Henry Jackson Society had just launched a guide to rejecting jihadi theologies in Islam, A Guide to Refuting Jihadism by Rashad Ali and Hannah Stuart.  There are also forewords by two Sheikhs, including one from Al-Azhar University, and endorsements from other Muslim leaders.

Although the appearance of this guide as a welcome acknowledgement that jihadi violence is theologically motivated, its use of Islamic sources is flawed and unconvincing, and there are risks for secular governments in embracing its arguments.

It is good that the theological motivations for jihadi movements are being acknowledged and engaged with by peaceable Muslims.

This is not a new strategy.  It is necessary and the strategy has long been used by authorities as a counter to jihadi movements.  For example the British empire extracted fatwas from Mecca and Istanbul in the 19th century to declare that British India was not ‘Dar al-Harb’ [House of War], but Dar al-Islam [House of Islam]’, which meant that it was forbidden for Muslims to engage in insurgencies against the British.  Muslim leaders have always asked their scholars to produce such rulings to counter violent rebellions.  This is also a traditional Islamic technique for controlling the undeniable tendency that Islamic theology has to generate violent rebel movements.

This project is also helpful because it acknowledges what is often denied – that the credibility of radical jihadism relies upon religious, theological claims.  It claims Islamic legitimacy and uses this to gain converts.  It is true that to counter this religious legitimacy it is necessary to use theological arguments.

However there are some dangers here for Western governments.  One is that there will be a cost to adopting theological positions on Islam.  Is a secular state really in a position to make an announcement that one particular form of Islam is ‘correct’ over others? This is like saying that catholicism is correct, but the baptist faith is not.  And if the state does canonize a “theologically correct” view on Islam, would it really be persuasive to the minds of young radically inclined Muslims that a secular government is teaching Islam to them, or would it just incite suspicion, and detract from the credibility of voices of moderation within the Muslim community?  Also where does combating radicalism start and promoting Islam start? (The al-Azar Sheikh in his introduction [in Arabic] to the report sees the report as an exercise in spreading Islam, not just in combating radicalism.)

The great weakness in the arguments offered is that they appear to be opportunistic and often ignore conflicting evidence. For example on the subject of suicide bombing, a wide range of modern Muslim scholars have endorsed martyrdom operations against Israel.  It is not just al-Qaradawi or Al-Qaida ideologues who say this: senior respected contemporary jurists such as the Syrian jurist Al-Bouti have endorsed these attacks. To counter this tactic a more whole-hearted acknowledgement of the weightof Islamic voices which have endorsed it.

There is also a tendency to cherry pick texts.  For example Al-Ghazali is cited to support an argument against killing women and children, but his justification of collateral damage against civilians is ignored:

‘[O]ne must go on jihad at least once a year… one may use a catapult against them when they are in a fortress, even if among them are women and children. One may set fire to them and/or drown them.’

Another example is the discussion of ‘perfidy’ or ‘subterfuge’ in warfare.  It is claimed on the basis of a hadith from [hadith collection] Sahih Muslim that Islam forbids the use of deception in warfare, a key point in the theology of the suicide attacks often referred to as ‘martyrdom operations’.  However the hadith is cited from a secondary source, and the translation is not accurate.  The actual Arabic in Sahih Muslim (translated more accurately here) forbids stealing booty and says that a Muslim is not supposed to break his ‘pledge’, so this is not about deception in warfare in general.  The authors also have ignored a very well-known hadith of Muhammad in which he said, ‘War is deceit’.   This approach sets up a straw man – a weakly argued jihadi position – only to knock it down. In Islam, support for deception in warfare is more resistant to re-analysis than this.

In the discussion on citizenship – which is a very important issue in Islamic law: can Muslims be loyal citizens? – the authors overlook important rulings collected by the International Fiqh Academy on this issue, which go against their position.

Furthermore, in discussions on the treatment of non-combatants, the authors ignore Muhammad’s command for several hundred non-combatant Jewish men from the Qurayza tribe to be beheaded after they surrendered to him unconditionally.  For radically inclined Muslims, Muhammad’s example would trump the musings of medieval theologians.

One of the problems with citing arguments from later jurists and commentators, which is the preferred approach of the Guide’s authors, is that most jihadis’ theology is Salafist, and as such it looks to the early sources on Islam – the Qur’an, the example of Muhammad and the testimony of the companions of Muhammad – to construct their war theologies.  Such people will not be persuaded by arguments based on later interpreters, which appears to be the main polemical tactic of this Guide.

Of course, as soon as one raises such objections, one runs the risk of being accused of supporting the jihadis.  Nevertheless, the fact is that the radical jihadis have more support than this document would acknowledge, especially in the canonical sources, and the arguments used against them would convince few.  Would these arguments be convincing to a well-trained Muslim scholar? I think not.

The strongest Islamic argument of all against jihadi theology is the ‘necessity’ argument: that it will harm Islam by causing its reputation to be destroyed among Muslims, and incite infidels to attack Muslims.  We are seeking such arguments being presented these days across the Middle East. General Sisi is being applauded in Egypt for ‘saving’ the reputation of Islam from the Muslim Brotherhood.  This argument is not based upon an appeal to theological legitimacy of specific positions, but pragmatic necessity, and what is in the best interests of the Muslim community.  Of course this argument would not have any traction at all if the militaries of Islamic states had the power to challenge those of non-Muslim countries.  Then it would probably be in the best interests of the Muslim world to pursue war.  The argument only works if it is not in Muslims’ interests to be at war.

What about the Al-Azhar Sheikh’s support?  This is political.  In the current political climate Al-Azhar must support the anti-jihadi cause.  The Brotherhood are being killed and wiped out due to their violent theologies.  The wind is blowing against the jihadi position.  It is significant that the Sheikh does not endorse specific arguments of the book – I suspect he knows better – but only the general intention of the project.

Works like this guide can back-fire.  On the one hand they acknowledge that the problem of jihadi violence is theological.  On the other hand, through the use of weak arguments relying on cherry-picked sources, they run the risk of validating the radicals’ position even more.  Perhaps their real function is to ‘save Islam’ in the eyes of moderately inclined Muslims and theologically illiterate secular people, who have an ideological preference  to embrace the narrative that the jihadis have ‘hijacked’ Islam.

But will this help to defuse Islamic jihadism?  I doubt it.

Revd Dr Mark Durie is an Anglican priest, Fellow of the Australian Academy for the Humanities, and a Shillman-Ginsburg Fellow at the Middle East Forum in the US.  He is the author of The Third Choice: Islam Dhimmitude and Freedom published by Deror Books.

A version of this review appears in Middle East Forum:

That was the polite review. Now read Rassooli’s refreshingly blunt “In a nutshell: BULL CRAP!” response:

Al Qaeda-Aligned Groups in Syria May Have Access to Biological Pathogens

U.S. Soldiers from the 457th Chemical Battalion sponge off their level A protective suits / AP

U.S. Soldiers from the 457th Chemical Battalion sponge off their level A protective suits / AP

BY: :

Al Qaeda-aligned militants operating in Syria could already have access to “biological pathogens or weaponized agents,” according to terrorism and biological warfare experts studying the region.

The possible acquisition by al Qaeda of these highly dangerous toxins has prompted bio-warfare experts to label the threat a “clear and present danger.”

Extremist militants and other fighters tied to the terror group al Qaeda have continued to gain a foothold in key sections of Syria as the country’s civil war rages on.

Lawlessness has taken hold in many areas that are home to Syria’s biological weapons research hubs and mounting evidence indicates that al Qaeda fighters have capitalized on this security gap by looting the facilities.

“The Syrian civil war has left sections of the bio-pharmaceutical infrastructure destroyed and looting of labs has been observed, which could indicate that Assad is losing command and control over one of the most dangerous classes of weapons remaining in his weapons of mass destruction (WMD) arsenal,” bio warfare and terrorism experts Jill Bellamy van Aalst and Olivier Guitta conclude in a new report.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is believed to have ample biological weapons stores in addition to the chemical weapons currently being confiscated by Western nations. These caches likely include various neurotoxins and deadly viruses, according to U.S. intelligence estimates and other experts.

“A very credible source has confirmed he saw, near Aleppo, a looted pharmaceutical laboratory, which was probably a cover for a biological weapons production site,” Guitta and van Aalst revealed in a research brief published by the Henry Jackson Society.

Read more at Free Beacon

 

Keeping Our Heads in the Sand After Boston

IPT News
May 14, 2013

Bin Laden’s Death is a Dangerous Anniversary

Bin Laden DeathBy Alan Caruba:

Thursday, May 2, is a day to be especially watchful. Jihadists are particularly fond of celebrating anniversaries and on that day in 2011 Seal Team Six found and killed Osama bin Laden. September 11. 2001 is now an indelible part of U.S. history and on September 11, 2012, jihadists attacked and killed an American ambassador and three others.

The threat that Islam presents to America in particular and the world in general is beginning to influence what non-Muslims think of this death cult.

In a recent commentary, the Dr. Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum, referred to the process by which opinion in democratic nations turns against Islam as “education by murder.”

Dr. Pipes was sanguine regarding the American response to the Boston Marathon attack. He did not foresee any increase in security measures or a greater preparedness for what he called “sudden jihad syndrome” violence. Even so, he said “High profile terrorism in the West—9/11, Bali, Madrid, Beslan, London—moves opinion more than anything else.”

A new report about the Islamist terrorist threat, “Al Qaeda in the United States”, issued by the Henry Jackson Society, a British-based think tank, noted that, of the 171 al Qaeda related or inspired acts of terrorism from 1997 to 2011, 54% were by American citizens, some naturalized, but more than a third (36%) were born in the U.S., concluding that this statistic dispels the myth that the terrorist threat is primarily external.”

I keep wondering how long it will be before Americans will begin to take seriously the threat that Islam represents. The list of attacks is a long one such as the 1982 attack on the U.S. embassy in Beirut and the 1983 attack on the U.S. Marine Barracks after Reagan sent them there as peacekeepers. The first attack on the World Trade Center was in 1993. In October 2000, the USS Cole was attacked. On September 11, 2001, the second attack killed 3,000 Americans. When George W. Bush came into office, he told his national security advisor, Condoleeza Rice, that he was “tired of swatting flies.”

Yes, the list of attacks is a long one: Terrorist Attacks in the U.S. or Against Americans

Campus Jihad, British Style

azzamtamimi

Azzam Tamimi

By

Ah, college. The memories! Sitting under a shady tree on the quad reading Twelfth Night. Studying in your dorm room for the big test while “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” plays on a stereo down the hall. Going to a Muslim Student Union event at which the guest lecturer urges you and your fellow students “not to be wimps but to be Mojahedeen” who “terrorize the Kaffars” and “look to die in the path of Allah.”

A couple of days ago, Arnold Ahlert wrote here about “Islam Awareness Week 2013,” coming up next week at the University of California, Irvine, thanks to that institution’s Muslim Student Union. Now, while Irvine, a frequent site of high-profile pro-jihadist and anti-Semitic activity, has almost certainly earned the coveted title of America’s MSU Mecca, its MSU is, in fact, as Ahlert quite properly points out, only one of 600 or so North American chapters of the Muslim Student Association, most of which are no pikers either, holding similar events year in and year out, if on a less headline-grabbing scale. Almost universally, these hundreds of MSUs are viewed by university administrators and other observers as harmless, wholesome, benign – no different from any other student group. Indeed, the fact that so many young Muslims in the West, some of them the children or grandchildren of illiterate peasants, are enrolled at universities is routinely held up by starry-eyed left-wing naifs as proof positive of the triumph of Islamic integration.

Yet the evidence, of course, is overwhelming that the MSUs represent the very opposite of real integration – which requires, first and foremost, the total and unapologetic adoption of secular, democratic Western values, even this means openly rejecting sharia, jihad, and sundry Islamic fundamentals. The MSA, as Ahlert makes clear, is a “terror factory” and a Muslim Brotherhood spinoff-cum-subsidiary, and next week’s Irvine event, purportedly dedicated to dialogue and mutual understanding and featuring speeches supposedly about such innocuous topics as “freedom of speech” and “women’s rights in Islam” will, like countless other such campus gatherings, be a veritable parade of poisonous Kaffar haters, jihad enthusiasts, and would-be crushers of Israel. (As it happens, the University of California at Santa Barbara, not to be outdone by its sister campus in Orange County, will be hosting the annual MSA West conference in February, with speakers like Siraj Wahhaj, an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing who calls white people “devils.”)

The unfortunate truth is that all too many Muslim college students in the West are essentially majoring in Mujahideen Studies –  poring over the Koran instead of the Constitution, their dorms, in effect, serving as terrorist cells. Nor, of course, is this just happening in the U.S. and Canada. The jihad-happy student group Islam Net, based at Oslo University College, is probably Norway’s largest Islamic organization, and is unarguably its fastest-growing. In fact, the more closely you look into all of these groups, the harder it is to deny that Muslim collegians, far from being rendered immune by Western higher education to a primitive, bloodthirsty ideology that should, in a more logical world, only appeal to unlettered barbarians, are all too often, if anything, more susceptible to it than their unschooled cousins back in camel country.

That this spreading crisis of campus jihadism is no less acute in the U.K. than in the New World is the urgent message of Challenging Extremists: Practical Frameworks for Our Universities, a new report compiled by Rupert Sutton and Hannah Stuart for the Henry Jackson Society, a think tank, and Student Rights, a group dedicated to exposing extremism at British universities. In large part, Sutton’s and Stuart’s report amounts to a rogues’ gallery of speakers (most of whose names are routinely prefaced by the honorific “Dr.”) who are in demand among the budding red-brick jihadist jet set. Among them: Azzam Tamimi, who has boasted of his closeness to Hamas leaders; Zahir Mahmoud, who insists that Hamas is not a terrorist group; Murtaza Khan, who labels Jews and Christian “filthy”; and Daud Abdullah, who signed a 2009 statement saying that “the Islamic nation” is obliged to regard the Royal Navy’s monitoring of the smuggling of weapons into Gaza as “a declaration of war.”

Read more at Front Page