Hugh Fitzgerald: A Review of Ibn Warraq’s The Islam In Islamic Terrorism

Jihad Watch, by Hugh Fitzgerald, May 12, 2017:

Ibn Warraq, the celebrated apostate, author of Why I Am Not A Muslim and of scholarly works on the Koran, Muhammad, and early Islam, as well as polemical works in defense of the West, has now written The Islam in Islamic Terrorism, showing, in the words of the Islamic fundamentalists (or, more exactly, revivalists) themselves, what really motivates Islamic terrorists today, and what has motivated them since the time of the Kharijites in the first century of Islam: the belief in the need to recover the pristine Islam of the time of Muhammad, by removing all innovations (bid’a), the further belief that it is the duty of Muslims to wage Jihad against all Unbelievers until Islam everywhere dominates, and to bring about the resurrection of the caliphate, and the imposition of Islamic Law, or Sharia, all over the globe.

Ibn Warraq’s The Islam In Islamic Terrorism is a brilliant series of reported echoes down the corridors of Islam, where the same complaints about bid’a, the same insistence on regulating every area of a Believer’s life, the same refusal to allow freedom of religion or thought, the same duties of violent Jihad and Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong, the same demands for a return to the same pristine Islam of Muhammad, the same virulent antisemitism, the same quotes from the Koran and Hadith, the same hatred of Infidels, the same insistence that “we love death more than you love life,” the same call for bloodshed and Muslim martyrdom, the same dreary fanaticism, are thoroughly described and dissected, and above all the various violent manifestations of this revivalism over the centuries are linked to one another, as Ibn Warraq brings to bear the massive research he has been conducting over many years, in primary and secondary sources, and here deploys to splendid effect.

Ibn Warraq has performed a service for all those who are at last ready to look beyond the present platitudes about socioeconomic and other putative “root causes” of Islamic terrorism — Israel, the Crusades, European colonialism, American foreign policy, all held up for dissection and dismissal one after the other. He cites the studies that reveal Muslim terrorists to be both better off economically, and better educated, than the average Muslim. Most of the terrorist leaders have received solid educations in Islam, giving the lie to those apologists who claim that only those “ignorant of the true Islam” become terrorists.

He notes that Jihad against the Infidels started more than 1300 years before Israel came into existence, that the Muslims paid little attention to the Crusades until very recently, and that American foreign policy has often favored the Muslim side, rescuing Arafat from Beirut when he was besieged by the Israelis, supporting Pakistan despite its collusion with terrorists, looking away when Turkey invaded Cyprus, putting troops in Saudi Arabia to protect that kleptocracy from Saddam Hussein, and lavishing hundreds of billions in foreign aid on Muslim countries, and more than four trillion dollars on military interventions and “reconstruction” in Iraq and Afghanistan, in the hope, likely forlorn, that those countries could be made less barbarous than before.

Having dispatched these factitious “root causes,” Ibn Warraq returns us to the o’erweening fact of Islam, and begins commonsensically with the Koran, hadith, sunna, and sira, showing how violent Jihad, including the weapon of terrorism, is deeply rooted in the texts of Islam and the example of the Prophet. Muhammad was the first Islamic terrorist. Ibn Warraq then introduces readers to a course in Islamic history, bringing to bear an enormous amount of research — every vein is mined with ore — on a succession of violent revivalist movements that wished to return Islam to its pristine state, ridding it of any innovations (bida’). He begins this story in the first century of Islam with the Kharijites, with stops in ninth and tenth century Baghdad, sixteenth century Istanbul, and eighteenth-century Arabia, right up to those ideologues and thinkers who inspire the terrorists today, including Mawdudi, Qutb, Azzam, Faraj, and Khomeini. He gives considerable attention to the other duty of Muslims, that of Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong (he tentatively suggests that “Jihad” might be considered as coming under the duty of “Commanding Right”), and what that duty has meant for activists and terrorists. His account of Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong appears to be the most extensive treatment to date of this duty outside of the specialist literature.

He is a Great Debunker. He calls into question the “greater Jihad” of spiritual struggle, so beloved of Muslim apologists, quoting extensively from the modern ideologues who insist it is based at most on a single weak hadith (and some claim even that does not exist), but in any case, the non-spiritual kind of Jihad remains a duty incumbent on all Muslims. He debunks, too, the common perception of Sufis as pacific, showing how, both in Safavid Persia and, later, in India, Sufis eagerly promoted, and participated in, violent Jihad. This matters, because the myth of the “peaceful Sufis” holds out a false hope — a peaceful sect of Muslims! Maybe they can all become Sufis! — that gets in the way of recognizing a much grimmer reality.

His detailed treatment of Haj Amin Al-Husaini is an example of his thoroughness, and his ability to see what others have overlooked. He shows how Al-Husaini’s fanatical antisemitism had nothing to do with the Nazi version, but was rooted in Koran and hadith. He rejects, that is, Matthias Kunzel’s claim that Al-Husaini learned his antisemitism from the Nazis. Ibn Warraq insists that there was no need; Islamic antisemitism predated that of Hitler by 1350 years. He does offer new revelations about Al-Husaini’s role in the Holocaust. It was he who convinced Hitler not to let German Jews leave Germany, because he was afraid they would move to Palestine. Several hundred thousand Jews were thus condemned to die because of Al-Husaini. Furthermore, in order to keep Jews from elsewhere in Europe entering Palestine, Al-Husaini pressed the British to undertake a blockade so that Jewish refugees could not land in Palestine. The British, wanting to curry favor with the Arabs, agreed to this demand. How many Jews from all over Europe, who might have been saved, died as a result of Al-Husaini’s action? Possibly a million might have escaped Europe through the Black Sea port of Costanza, that remained open during the war, but only if they had a place – Palestine – that would take them in. Haj Amin Al-Husaini made sure they would not be allowed to land in Palestine.

The discussion of this is unique to Ibn Warraq. Also unique is his suggestion that it was Al-Husaini who, from 1948 to his death in 1973, kept the Islamic fundamentalist movement alive. He was the key figure linking the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to other Islamist groups. He helped organize the assassination of government officials deemed too secular. He also brought 4000 Nazi war criminals to the Middle East, helping them find jobs in the security and intelligence apparatus of several Arab states, and even converted some to Islam. It is both his role in the Holocaust, cutting off an escape route for Jews, and in his postwar work at the very center of the Islamist movement for 25 years, that only Ibn Warraq has discussed.

The book is well-sourced, with copious citations from Koran, hadith, sunna, and sira. Ibn Warraq allows the terrorist ideologues to speak for themselves, and at length. Everyone will have his own favorite examples of fanaticism: two of mine were the rant of Sayyid Qutb about American decadence, prompted by his 1951 attendance at a distinctly modest church square dance, and Khomeini’s remarkable speech about how he “spit on those” who denied the centrality of bloodshed in Islam. Finally, Ibn Warraq has read, thoroughly assimilated, and fittingly deployed, excerpts from dozens of scholars of Islam, from C. Snouck Hurgronje and Joseph Schacht to Michael Cook and Patricia Crone. The comprehensive bibliography is divided into primary and secondary sources, for those who wish to pursue the subject further.. It will be impossible for Muslim apologists to rebut any part of this incredible work. What they will do is try to have it ignored, or to dismiss a work of solid scholarship as merely an apostate’s “Islamophobia.” We must not let those efforts succeed. Buy and read this book, see that libraries order it, that those in the media and the government who make or influence policy are sent copies. For Ibn Warraq’s sake, and for our own.

Are Islamists Conducting a New Jihad against the West?

Gatestone Institute, by William DiPuccio, May 12, 2017:

  • “But, as regards the reward and blessing, there is one deed which is very great in comparison to all the acts of worship and all the good deed­[s] — and that is Jihad!” — Saudi publisher’s prefatory note, Jihad in the Qu’ran and Sunnah by Sheikh ‘Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Humaid.
  • The rewards of Paradise are also promised to the observant Muslim, but the highest grades of Paradise, of which there are 100, are reserved only for those who perform jihad.
  • Jihad is, by all appearances, first and foremost an act of religious devotion and only secondarily an act of economic and political rebellion.

About four decades have passed since Sheikh ‘Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Humaid (1908-1981), ex-Chief Justice of Saudi Arabia, published his lengthy, impassioned, essay on jihad.[1] This essay, still available on the Internet, is the only one that Saudi religious scholars chose to include with the Noble Quran — a modern, nine volume, English translation of the Quran, which includes ancient commentary.[2]

A cursory reading of Sheikh bin Humaid’s essay should forever silence any fantasies regarding traditional Islam’s peaceful disposition toward the non-Muslim world.[3] As the Saudi publisher says in his prefatory note:

“But, as regards the reward and blessing, there is one deed which is very great in comparison to all the acts of worship and all the good deed­[s] — and that is Jihad!”

The publisher continues:

“Never before such an article was seen, describing Jihad in its true colours­ — so heart evoking and encouraging!… We are publishing this article and recommend every Muslim not only to read it himself but to offer every other Muslim brother within his read.”

To be clear, Sheikh bin Humaid defines “jihad” as “holy fighting in Allah’s Cause.” This is not, in other words, the “lesser jihad,” or “spiritual struggle,” that some Muslim apologists cite, possibly to obfuscate the primary historical usage of the word. Jihad is war fought with “the heart,” “the hand (weapons, etc.),” and “the tongue” (2).

Why Do Muslims Take Up Arms?

According to Sheikh bin Humaid, Allah sent Muhammad to fight against the mushrikun of Mecca — the “polytheists, pagans, idolaters, and disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah and in His Messenger Muhammad” (2). Muhammad patiently invited the Meccans to Islam for 13 years, warning them of Allah’s judgement. But they refused the invitation.

This refusal, by itself, was not the justification for jihad. Allah’s mercy was not yet exhausted. Sheikh bin Humaid tells us, in storied detail, that Muhammad and his followers were oppressed and persecuted by the Meccans. They were “imprisoned, made to suffer from hunger and thirst and by being beaten (in a horrible manner)” (3). Moreover, Muhammad himself was physically accosted more than once.[4]

The portrayal of cruelty on the part of the Meccans is enough to evoke sufficient anger in the reader, setting the stage for retaliation and jihad. At first Allah permitted the Muslims to defend themselves, but jihad was not obligatory. Allah can certainly defend the Muslims without fighting, according to the Sheikh, “but Allah wants from His worshippers obedience with all their efforts” (4). Consequently, he calls them to jihad as an act of obedience and devotion, not simply as an act of self-defense. This appears to be the birth of the Islamic doctrine of war.

Who is the Enemy of Islam?

Bin Humaid views jihad as a perpetual war that is to be waged against the world until submission to Islam is secured. The time for patience is over; the time for judgment has come. He cites the famous “verse of the sword”:

“Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture – [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled.” (Quran 9:29, Sahih International)

Bin Humaid tells us that Allah ordered the Muslims

“to discard (all) the obligations (covenants, etc.) and commanded the Muslims to fight against all the Mushrikun as well as against the people of the Scriptures (Jews and Christians) if they do not embrace Islam, till they pay the Jizya (a tax levied on the non-Muslims who do not embrace Islam and are under the protection of an Islamic government) with willing submission and feel themselves subdued” (4).

Peace with pagans, Jews, and Christians is not an option as long as they resist Muslim rule. And, as long as the Muslims were capable of fighting, says Sheikh bin Humaid, they “were not permitted to abandon ‘the fighting’ against them… and to reconcile with them and to suspend hostilities against them for an unlimited period” (4).

What is the Reward for Jihad?

Muslims, according to the Qur’an, disliked the call to jihad at first, but Allah insisted upon it:

“Jihad (holy fighting in Allah’s Cause) is ordained for you (Muslims) though you dislike it, and it maybe that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know” (2:216): (5).

Jihad, then, was not a fabrication of Muhammad; it was, we are told, a direct command from Allah himself.

According to Bin Humaid, Muslim resistance to jihad soon turned to a love for the fight. The motivation, in this case, is the reward, which far exceeds the hardships of fighting. These warriors (Mujahidin) “fight against the enemies of Allah in order that the worship should be all for Allah… and that the Word of Allah… should be superior” (5).

This alone, he tells us, should be sufficient compensation for the warrior, but Allah goes farther. “He will forgive your sins, and admit you into Gardens under which rivers flow and pleasant dwellings in Gardens of Eternity” (6).

Allah, says the Sheikh, also assists the Muslims in their battles against the enemies to give them victory. Although not specifically mentioned in the essay, Muslims find a celebrated example of this divine intervention in Islam’s first major conflict, the Battle of Badr. In it, a relatively small army of Muslims defeated the well-equipped Meccan army. This was acclaimed as a certain sign of divine favor.

Sheikh bin Humaid spends several pages (6-10) discussing the superiority of the mujahidin (the warriors) over every other ministry and occupation in Islam, including those who maintain the mosque. The “believers who fight in Allah’s Cause (mujahidin) are far superior in grades before Him” (7).

He describes the rewards of Paradise that await them (although he never mentions the fabled virgins). The rewards of Paradise are also promised to observant Muslims, but the highest grades of Paradise, of which there are 100, are reserved only for those who perform jihad (8).

Sheikh bin Humaid places virtually no emphasis on the spoils of war as a reward (see 16). Yet, we know from the many battles chronicled in the hadith, that booty was a major motivation for some of Muhammad’s men.[5] Sheikh bin Humaid’s idealism seems intended to appeal to the “true believer,” and to the purest and most exalted motives to which devout Muslims aspire.

Is Jihad an Act of Worship?

Jihad, according to Sheikh bin Humaid, is spiritual warfare as well as armed conflict. The Quran says (4:76): “Those who believe, fight in the Cause of Allah, and those who disbelieve, fight in the cause of Taghut (Satan etc.).” By battling the friends of Satan, Muslims are, according to him, protecting the weak and rescuing the oppressed from this evil (10). They are fighting to bring mankind “from the darkness into the light,” from idolatry to the worship of Allah alone, and “from the injustices of the religions to the justice of Islam” (17).

Jihad, bin Humaid tells us, is also connected deeply to prayer and fasting — all three of which are ordained by Allah. “All the Muslim religious scholars unanimously agree” that it is superior to non-obligatory prayer, as well as to the Hajj (the required pilgrimage to Mecca) and the Umra (a voluntary pilgrimage to Mecca) (11).

The Prophet Muhammad’s lofty aspiration for Jihad is captured in this hadith from Sahih Al-Bukhari (2797). “I would love to be martyred in Allah’s Cause, and then come back to life, and then be martyred, and then come back to life again, and then be martyred, and then come back to life again, and then be martyred” (11).

“Anyone”, said Muhammad, “whose both feet get covered with dust in Allah’s Cause will not be touched by the Hell-fire” (Sahih Al-Bukhari 2811) (16). This quest for martyrdom was echoed by the Fort Hood killer, Major Nidal Malik Hasan. Two years before he killed 13 people in 2009, he told an audience of his fellow Army doctors, “We love death more than you love life!”[6]

What are the Punishments for Refusing to Participate in Jihad?

If the rewards of jihad are great, then so, it seems, are the punishments for able-bodied Muslim men who refuse to participate, or who withdraw. According to Sheikh bin Humaid:

“Allah (swt) disapproved of those who abandoned Jihad (i.e. they did not go for Jihad) and attributed to them hypocrisy and disease in their hearts, and threatened (all) those who remain behind from Jihad and sit (at home) with horrible punishment” (12).

Punishment, says the Sheikh, is not limited to temporal justice: “whosoever turns his back to the unbelievers on the field of battle…has drawn upon himself the wrath from Allah. And his abode is Hell, worst indeed is that destination!” (Quran 8:16) (16). In the event that the Muslim people “march not forth,” and forsake their duty to jihad, Allah has threatened to replace them with another people (12).

The severity of punishment for those who forsake jihad has been graphically demonstrated by ISIS during the last few years. ISIS cruelly executed dozens of their own soldiers who fled the battlefield. News reports indicate that these fighters were either burned alive, gassed, beheaded, or buried alive. [7]

How is Jihad Carried Out?

The call to jihad requires the support of the entire Muslim Ummah or people. It involves the transformation of a religious community into a military machine. Sheikh bin Humaid states:

“And you will not find any organization past or present, religious or non-religious…(ordering) the whole nation to march forth and mobilize all of them into active military service as a single row for Jihad in Allah’s Cause so as to make superior the Word of Allah…as you will find in the Islamic Religion and its teachings” (13).[8]

The jihad must be fought with “true bravery,” faith, and utter confidence (of which the author cites numerous historical examples). Allah assisted the prophet and his fighters, “with victory” and “helped them with angels and… cast terror into the hearts of their enemies” (16). Against those who disbelieve, jihadists are instructed to “smite at their necks[9] till you have killed and wounded many of them.” If the enemy does not capitulate, captives may be ransomed, or freed without ransom, “according to what benefits Islam” (14).

Mercifully, women, children, and the elderly, should not be killed in battle (Sahih Al-Bukhari 4:52, 257) (16). Although this rule of engagement was generally followed by Muslim armies on the battlefield, it does not prevent Muslims from engaging in mass destruction (such as setting fire to habitations, using catapults or bombs) that may entail the death of innocents.[10] Muhammad, moreover, appears not to have spared his personal enemies, regardless of age or sex, according to the historical traditions.[11]

Why did 20th Century Islam Forsake Jihad?

Having set before his readers the high calling of jihad, Sheikh bin Humaid turns his attention to the plight of 20th century Islam. The success of jihad has always depended on the ability of Muslims to maintain a pure faith. This entails the fear of one’s own sins, and the fear of disobedience to Allah. Muslims are victorious, despite their small numbers, because, according to bin Humaid, their enemies disobeyed Allah. Should the Muslims fail in this one point, they will be overpowered by their enemies (18).

By Allah’s might, bin Humaid continues, the Muslims became “the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind” — enjoining true monotheism and forbidding polytheism. But today they “are leading a life of the one who knows not any Prophet, nor believes in any Divine Message or Divine Revelation,[12] nor expects any reckoning nor is afraid of the Hereafter.” They have, in some ways, he laments, reverted to the pre-Islamic ignorance of Arabian polytheists (19).

In response, Allah has sent them trials through the imposition of Western civilization and Soviet communism (this was written before the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991). “So their land,” says the Sheikh, “became ‘a free wealth’ with no protector.” Fulfilling Muhammad’s prophecy, Allah has removed fear from the hearts of those who hate Islam, while casting a love for this world and a hatred of death into the hearts of Muslims.[13] Allah has covered the Muslims in humiliation for cheating one another, abandoning their nomadic lifestyle to indulge their own comforts,[14] and deserting their call to jihad (19).

Having fallen so far, Muslims, he adds, have added yet another sin to their apostasy: They have asked for help from their enemies, and asked unbelievers to protect them, “begging them; turning towards them, expecting good from them” (19). Sheikh bin Humaid does not link this charge to any specific historical events. He was probably referring to numerous Saudi-American ventures including oil exploration in the 1930s, the permanent establishment of U.S. air bases in Saudi Arabia near the end of the WWII, and the military protection the U.S. has afforded Saudi Arabia since the 1940s.

Despite maintaining an outward appearance of Islamic religion and culture, Muslims, he says, have “become mean, despised before Allah.” They have immersed themselves in luxury, the worship of wealth, and a love for this world. They have succumbed to their enemies without so much as raising a hand. They have abandoned Islamic law (sharia) in favor of man-made laws which are in conflict with Allah’s judgement (19-20).

There is, in the Sheikh’s exhortation, a complete absence of the usual refrains against Western imperialism and economic oppression that we are accustomed to hearing today. With some notable exceptions, Muslims have not suffered economically under Western influence; rather they have thrived, especially those who live in the oil-rich Gulf states. The guilt for abandoning their religion is the result of indulgence rather than want or oppression.

With some notable exceptions, Muslims have not suffered economically under Western influence; rather they have thrived, especially those who live in the oil-rich Gulf states. Pictured above: The skyline of Dubai. (Image by Francois Nel/Getty Images for XCAT)

In his final appeal, Sheikh bin Humaid exclaims that it is “absolutely obligatory” for the Muslim people, and especially for Islamic scholars, to obey Allah, settle their differences, invite Muslims and non-Muslims alike to Islam, “publish its good aspects,” and instruct the people in the laws and wisdom of Islam, “as did Muslim nobles of early days.” Failure to do so is an invitation to Divine judgement (20-21).

The New Jihad

Since Sheikh bin Humaid penned this essay, evidently between 1974 and 1981, we have seen a resurgence of traditional faith in much of the Muslim world. With that renewal has come, predictably, an increase in violence as Muslims subdue unbelievers and seemingly attempt to purify their own ranks by punishing and killing apostates. Whether Sheikh bin Humaid would have approved of the brutality of ISIS and the use of suicide bombers is open for debate. But we can be certain that he would have lauded the willingness of many Muslims to spread the message of Islam and sacrifice their lives for the cause.

The new jihad is not primarily a reaction to Western economic oppression, as if more wealth in the hands of the many would arrest the problem.[15] To view this in neo-Marxist terms as an economic class struggle would be misleading. Muslim countries, as noted above, have largely prospered under Western influence and some have invited the protection of Western powers.[16] Rather, the new jihad evolves naturally from traditional Islamic doctrine which seeks to emulate Muhammad and his historical successors. Jihad is, by all appearances first and foremost an act of religious devotion, and only secondarily an act of economic and political rebellion.

Whereas Western nations generally seek peace and view it as a corollary to prosperity and the development of a high culture, Muslim traditionalists such as Sheikh bin Humaid believe that jihad is indicative of a vigorous and pure Islamic faith. Peace, according to him, can only be achieved when unbelief is subdued or vanquished from the earth. An Islam at perpetual war with the unbelieving world is the highest aspiration of faith and obedience. By contrast, the peace, prosperity, and culture so prized by the West has corrupted traditional Islam from within, posing a threat to its existence. This, evidently, is why the new call to jihad against the West has become more urgent for Islamists than ever.

William DiPuccio holds a Ph.D. in religious studies and has authored numerous articles and essays on both religion and science. He has also worked and taught in both fields. You can find his blog, Science Et Cetera, at http://scienceetcetera.blogspot.com

 

The US Didn’t Create ISIS — Assad and Saddam Did

basharalassadonline-newsit2_1Frontpage, by Daniel Greenfield, Nov. 4, 2015:

The Russia-Iran-Assad axis and its useful idiots in the West claim that the United States created ISIS. Some of the loonier conspiracy sites that gleefully repost Russian propaganda allege that the Caliph of ISIS is a Jewish Mossad agent named Elliot Shimon or a CIA agent named Simon Elliot.

Elliot doesn’t exist, but ISIS’ Deputy Caliph Abu Ali al-Anbari, who was Saddam’s major general and a Baathist member, does. The Caliph’s right hand man, Abu Muslim al Turkmani, was also a Baathist and a lieutenant colonel in Saddam’s military intelligence organization before being killed by a drone strike.

Considering the history between Saddam and the USSR, it is likely that one or both of the Caliph’s deputies received training from Russian intelligence advisers during their careers. Turkmani’s DGMI in particular was closely entangled with the KGB. One of the reasons ISIS is much better than its Sunni Islamist opponents is that its top people had been trained by Soviet experts.

The ISIS blowback doesn’t lead to America, but in a completely different direction.

Before the Islamic State’s current incarnation, it was Al Qaeda in Iraq and its pipeline of suicide bombers ran through Syria with the cooperation of Assad’s government.

Assad and Al Qaeda in Iraq had a common enemy; the United States. Assad had a plan to kill two birds with one stone. Syrian Islamists, who might cause trouble at home, were instead pointed at Iraq. Al Qaeda got manpower and Assad disposed of Sunni Jihadists who might cause him trouble.

Meanwhile Al Qaeda openly operated out of Syria in alliance with the Baathists. While Syria’s regime was Shiite and Iraq’s Sunni, both governments were headed by Baathists.

The Al Nusrah Front, the current incarnation of Al Qaeda in the area ever since the terror group began feuding with ISIS, named one of its training camps, the ‘Abu Ghadiya Camp”. Abu Ghadiya had been chosen by Zarqawi, the former leader of the organization today known as ISIS, to move terroriststhrough Syria. This highway of terror killed more American soldiers than Saddam Hussein had.

The Al Qaeda presence in Syria was backed by Assad’s brother-in-lawAssef Shawkat, who had served as Director of Military Intelligence and Deputy Defense Minister.  His real job though was coordinating Islamic terrorist organizations. During the Iraq War, he added Al Qaeda to his portfolio.

Handling terrorists without being burned is a tricky business though and the blowback kicked in.

In 2008, a US raid into Syria finally took out Abu Ghadiya and some of his top people. A year later, General Petraeus warned that, “In time, these fighters will turn on their Syrian hosts and begin conducting attacks against Bashar al-Asad’s regime itself.”

Shawkat was killed by a suicide bomber three years later. Assad’s support for terrorists had hit home. Those Sunni Islamists he had sent on to Iraq who survived returned with training and skills that made them a grave danger to his regime.

Exactly as Petraeus had predicted.

Anti-American Leftists who claim that the US created ISIS were cheering on its early terror attacks as the work of a Baathist “Resistance”. ISIS these days is accompanied by top Baathists including General al-Douri, a close Saddam ally. The same outlets claiming that we created ISIS celebrated the “Resistance” campaign against NATO “neo-colonialism” when what they were really celebrating was ISIS.

Putin’s regime has claimed that it is fighting ISIS, but it was supporting Assad back when Syria was a conduit for ISIS to attack Americans. The Baathists in Syria and Iraq had both been Soviet clients and it was the USSR which turned international terrorism into a high art.

The United States has gotten plenty of the blame for supporting Mujahedeen in Afghanistan against the USSR, but the USSR had started the practice much earlier and had signed on to the Red-Green alliance. As Primakov, a top Soviet leader and KGB figure closely involved with the Muslim world, had said, the “Islamic movement” has a “radical trend which is strongly charged with anti-imperialism.”

It’s no coincidence that ISIS has thrived best in countries that were former Soviet clients whose governments attempted to fit Primakov’s definition by walking a fine line between Socialism and Islam. Nor is it a coincidence that in addition to its beheadings and sex slavery, ISIS plays up its free medicalcare and price controls. ISIS is still offering Socialism and Islam with a bigger emphasis on Islam.

While Baathism is often described as secular, it actually sought to blend Islam with its politics. It was a leftist Islamism that emphasized Socialism in contrast to the rightist Islamism of the Muslim Brotherhood whose leaders were often businessmen and landowners with a more capitalistic bent.

These distinctions, which led the USSR to build ties with the Baathists while Western countries got involved with the Muslim Brotherhood, were more style than substance. The preference of the Muslim Brotherhood or the Turkish AKP for crony capitalism as the next best thing to a lost former feudalism did not make them friendly to the West. And the Baathists were tribal dictators who cloaked their clannish authoritarianism and familial feuds in a blend of hollow Socialist and Islamic platitudes.

Critics claim that there would be no ISIS if Saddam were still in power, but the Iraqi dictator helped create ISIS through his alliances with Islamists. ISIS did not suddenly rise out of the ruins of his regime. Instead it grew within Saddam’s regime as the dictator responded to his setbacks against Iran and Saudi Arabia, two Islamist states, by reinventing Iraq and Baathism as explicitly Islamist entities.

During the Iran-Iraq War, Saddam had begun building ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, hoping to bridge the old split between Baathists and Brotherhood and meet Shiite Islamism with Sunni Islamism.

After the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein went in a blatantly Islamist direction. The man in charge of his “Return to Faith” campaign was General Al-Douri, who would be the key ally that Al Qaeda used to move its people through Syria and who would live long enough to fight alongside ISIS as it retook Tikrit.

Allah Akbar was added to the Iraqi flag and Islamic education was embedded into the system from elementary schools to Islamic universities. It is likely that the Caliph of ISIS owes his own Islamic education to Saddam’s newfound interest in the Koran.

By the mid 90s, Saddam endorsed a Caliphate and implemented Sharia punishments such as chopping off the hands of thieves.  When ISIS amputates hands, it’s just restoring one of Saddam’s Sharia policies.

Everyone knows about Saddam’s palaces, but fewer know about his campaign to build the world’s biggest mosques. One of the biggest of these had a Koran written in Saddam’s own blood. This mosque would become a major center for ISIS allied operations run by a Muslim Brotherhood organization.

The Caliph of ISIS was recruited into the Muslim Brotherhood by his uncle. And like so many Jihadist leaders, he moved on to Al Qaeda. His own Baathist-Islamist background made him the perfect man to take Saddam’s vision of a Pan-Islamic state with Sharia and Socialism for all to the next level.

Saddam’s outreach to the Muslim Brotherhood helped create ISIS, just as Assad’s backing for Al Qaeda did and much as Gaddafi’s LIFG deal with the Brotherhood paved the way for his own overthrow.

Barzan, Saddam’s brother and the leader of his secret police, had warned him that his alliance with Islamists would lead to the overthrow of his regime. And that is what likely would have happened. American intervention changed the timetable, but not the outcome.

ISIS is a Baathist-Islamist hybrid that devours its creators, turning on Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, and at times even threatening its Baathist allies. Its hybrid of Socialism and an Islam so medieval and brutal that it even frightens Al Qaeda and the Brotherhood has its roots in Saddam’s Iraq. Televising new and more extreme tortures was a tactic that was more Saddam than Osama.

Even ISIS’ most revolutionary step, declaring its leader the Caliph, echoes Saddam’s effort to don the vestiges of the Abbasid Caliphate by linking himself to Caliph Al-Mansur. The difference between Saddam and ISIS is that it is willing to follow through on the symbolism.

For Saddam, Islam was a means. For ISIS it is an end. ISIS is Saddam’s Islamized Iraq without Saddam. It uses Saddam’s tactics and infrastructure for purely Islamic ends.

ISIS is blowback, but not against America. It’s the outcome of two Russian client states that climbed into bed with terrorists only to see the terrorists take over their countries. Saddam and Assad were both warned about the consequences of their alliance with Islamists.

Saddam aided the Muslim Brotherhood in trying to topple Assad’s father, yet learned no lessons from it. Assad aided the Al Qaeda attacks on Americans, but didn’t consider what would happen when Al Qaeda turned its attention to him. Both regimes sowed the Islamist seeds of their own destruction and made inevitable their transformation into Islamic terror states.

Victory Without Soldiers? The futility of soft power in defeating militant jihadists

Weekly Standard, by Reuel Marc Gerecht, Oct. 26, 2015:

With the war in Syria becoming ever more complex and murderous, it’s worthwhile to revisit a guiding principle of Barack Obama: The use of American military power is likely to do more harm than good in the Middle East, and even in the region’s violent struggles, soft power is important, if not decisive, in resolving conflicts. If Islamic militancy is to be defeated, better ideas, advanced by Muslims, backed up if necessary by Muslim soldiers, must be the principal means.

We do not know whether the president sincerely believes in this military-lite, soft-power-heavy, Muslim-versus-Muslim answer to Islamic radicalism; he may well just care about his progressive agenda at home. A non-interventionist foreign policy, and all the intellectualism that surrounds it, may be only an afterthought, a byproduct of his determination to keep his liberal aspirations for America undiminished by arduous and expensive foreign adventures.

But we cannot ignore the fact that terrorist safe havens now cover a large swath of the Middle East and may soon extend once again across southern Afghanistan. Let us assume that the president sincerely believes that Islamic militancy must be defeated by ideas for it to be downed on the battlefield. Let us also assume that this Middle Eastern question will eventually compel some sustained attention from Republican presidential candidates, since one of them may well succeed Obama and confront the Syrian war, which is rattling both Europe and the Near East. A Republican president could choose to ignore the conflict, citing the same arguments Obama does, with a conservative twist. Republicans don’t appear any more eager than Democrats to send American forces again into Muslim lands. Vladimir Putin’s arrival has probably made punting an even more attractive bipartisan option, since changing policy in Syria could well pit the United States militarily, indirectly or directly, against Russia. Barring a massive terrorist strike against America launched from the Islamic State or elsewhere in Syria, even a half-million dead Syrians—double the current accepted number—and millions more made homeless will likely not push Americans to intervene.

But fear of entanglement aside, does the president’s view make sense historically? Have Muslims viewed militant irruptions as preeminently battles of ideas? Or have they seen such struggles as contests of swords and gunpowder? In the past, what have been the winning strategies against “violent extremism” in the Middle East?

Taming the zealots

Historical parallels to the Islamic State are imperfect. Although Islamic history has seen an enormous number of politico-religious rebellions, the vast majority failed to displace the ruling powers, and successful movements seeking explicitly to revive the early caliphate have been rare. The Islamic State in this sense is a product of modernity: It couldn’t have happened without the rise of modern fundamentalism, which zealously ignores—or delegitimizes—the history, the perceived moral compromises, of medieval and modern Muslim empires and states and returns the believer to the most virtuous age, to the community of the prophet Muhammad and the first four caliphs, the Rashidun, the Rightly Guided Ones.

But jihadist revivalism is a not infrequent occurrence. As Princeton’s Michael Cook noted in Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong in Islamic Thought, an important book for understanding historically the moral reflexes and agony of faithful Muslims:

It was the fusion of this egalitarian and activist [Arab] tribal ethos with the monotheist tradition that gave Islam its distinctive political character. In no other civilization was rebellion for conscience sake so widespread as it was in the early centuries of Islamic history; no other major religious tradition has lent itself to revival as a political ideology—and not just a political identity—in the modern world.

Focusing on the more extreme and successful examples of this religio-political zeal offers some insights into how such fervency fades. Islamic history offers no sure strategy for defusing zealotry, but it certainly records the methods that Muslims, and non-Muslims, have used to combat the fanaticism of believers at war with the status quo. And the principal method has always been military.

MUHAMMAD AHMAD BIN ABDALLAH RISCHGITZ / HULTON ARCHIVE / GETTY

MUHAMMAD AHMAD BIN ABDALLAH
RISCHGITZ / HULTON ARCHIVE / GETTY

The closest modern parallel to the Islamic State is the Mahdist movement in Sudan and Egypt in the late 19th century. In 1881 Muhammad Ahmad bin Abdallah declared himself the Mahdi, the Guided One, the messiah in Muslim theology. He and especially his successor, Abdallah ibn Muhammad, who called himself a caliph, created a jihadist state in Sudan that aspired, at a minimum, to the conquest of Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia. Both men gathered to the cause tens of thousands of holy warriors, bedeviling the Christian kingdom of Ethiopia, the Egyptian-Turkish khedivate, and the British administration in Cairo. The renowned British general Charles “Chinese” Gordon fell victim to the Mahdi at the capture of Khartoum in 1885. The Ethiopian emperor Yohannes IV died in battle against the caliph’s army in 1889.

Like the Islamic State today, the Mahdist realm was essentially a war-machine, which evolved into a semi-functioning state that lasted less than 20 years. Mahdist forces’ tendency to slaughter Egyptian and Sudanese administrators in the employ of the khedive complicated their efforts at government. Christians within their reach also fared poorly, though better than Christians have done under the Islamic State, which has ruthlessly ignored the sharia’s command to respect the life and property of Christians, an inferior but protected class under the holy law.

The Turco-Egyptian, Sudanese, and Ethiopian forces proved utterly incapable of containing the Mahdist holy warriors, who called themselves the Ansar, or the Helpers, a term also applied to those who welcomed the prophet Muhammad in Medina after his flight from a hostile Mecca. The British at first wanted to avoid a head-on collision with the Mahdist movement, deeming it too costly, but after the death of Gordon and the continuing advances and depredations of the caliph’s armies, General Horatio Herbert Kitchener was dispatched with a British Army of 8,000 men supported by 17,000 Egyptian and Sudanese troops. Deploying Maxim guns and modern artillery (and Winston Churchill on horseback), the British wiped out a Mahdist army of 60,000 men at the Battle of Omdurman on September 2, 1898. Within a year, the Mahdist movement was irretrievably broken.

As long as they relied on soft power, both the Muslim ruler of Egypt and the British administration proved unable to counter the religious appeal of the Mahdi and his successor in Sudan and southern Egypt. The khedive and the British believed, correctly as it turned out, that military success would destroy what we today would call a popular Islamist challenge.

Wahhabis Run Amok

West of the Indian subcontinent, Wahhabism has been the driving engine of Sunni jihadism since the 1970s. The rise of the Wahhabis in Arabia in the 18th century also offers parallels with the Islamic State. Muhammad ibn Adb al-Wahhab was born in 1703. By the 1740s, his revivalist movement, which arose in one of the most primitive regions of the peninsula, had caught the eye of religious scholars in Mecca, the great cosmopolitan pilgrimage city under the distant control of the Ottoman sultan in Istanbul. The Wahhabi creed, once married to the power of the tribal chieftan Muhammad ibn Saud in 1744, cleansed the Najd, the Saudi and Wahhabi heartland, of more tolerant preachers and scholars. The region became the incubator for a severe interpretation of Islam, at odds with the multicultural, relatively tolerant sentiments of the Ottoman empire. Wahhabi teachings, often skeptical if not dismissive of the great legal scholars of the past, ruthlessly reduce the sources of law to the Koran and the traditions of the prophet, the Hadith, that pass the requisite tests of purity.

An intolerant, often violent fastidiousness that sees lax and worldly Muslim practice as the same as unbelief is the hallmark of this doctrine. Wahhabism has a mania about idolatry, shirk, which makes its followers exceptionally hostile towards Shiites, with their adoration of the imams, the charismatic descendants of the Caliph Ali; of Sufis, who can see God in almost anything; and of Christians, with their obnoxious embrace of anthropomorphism and the Trinity. Wahhab put it clearly by citing a hadith in his declaration of faith, The Book of God’s Unity: “Whoever affirms that there is no god but God and denies all other objects of worship safeguards his blood, property, and fate with God.” In other words, if you don’t do that, you are fair game. The desire to purge Muslim society and subjugate or expel non-Muslims is an inevitable byproduct of this creed. The parallels with the Islamic State are obvious.

Saudi armies had conquered most of Arabia by the end of the 18th century. But the Wahhabi-Saudi thirst for power and pillage brought a reaction. Muhammad Ali Pasha—the great Ottoman Albanian lord of the Nile Valley, who’d modernized his armed forces and gained de facto independence from Istanbul—attacked. By 1819 he had destroyed the Saudi-Wahhabi state.

For a time, Egyptian rule was strong enough to check any Saudi-Wahhabi rebirth. But Egypt, always in a financial mess, lacked the resources to maintain sufficient forces in the Najd, and when the khedive eventually lost control there, a rejuvenated Ottoman empire, which had Westernized its armed forces, reestablished its sovereignty over most of the Arabian Peninsula. The British, the naval guarantor of the Trucial States (today’s small Gulf countries), checked Wahhabi plans to push east. Other Arabian tribal powerhouses, especially the pro-Ottoman Rashidis, who were slightly less hardcore than the Wahhabis, took advantage of Saudi tribal disunity and smashed Saudi forces at the Battle of Mulayda in 1891. Also, importantly, the Ottomans pushed back with soft power, backing clerics who waged an intellectual campaign against Wahhabi intolerance, the forerunner of what we now call takfirism, the practice of declaring “bad” Muslims infidels and thus subject to the sword.

Dark days for the Saudi-Wahhabi alliance continued until the charismatic Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud (1875-1953) rose to power, just as the Ottoman sultanate was ending. With the empire’s collapse after World War I, western Arabia saw a Saudi-Wahhabi advance. Taif and Mecca fell in 1924; Medina and Jeddah, the all-critical seaport of western Arabia, in 1925. Ibn Saud eponymously elevated the Kingdom of the Najd and the Hijaz into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932.

The Saudi-Wahhabi union might have perished several times had it not been for the movement’s lasting success at cleansing the Najd of opposing religious views. Even after the devastating loss at Mulayda, the Wahhabis survived because they’d culturally transformed the landscape of their homeland. As the historian David Commins has noted, “the Rashidi amirs .  .  . had no interest in uprooting Wahhabi influence. There would be no repetition of the Ottoman-Egyptian efforts to stamp out Wahhabism. By the 1880s, generations of Najdi townsmen [including the Rashidis] had lived in a Wahhabi milieu. The strict monotheistic doctrine had been naturalized as the native religious culture.”

Although the Saudis, with their well-financed global Wahhabi missionary activity, have done horrendous damage to Islamic civilization since they came to power in 1925, they also illustrate what is missing today in the fight against the Islamic State and other radical Islamists who are developing emirates throughout the Greater Middle East. When Wahhabi warriors—theIkhwan, or the Brothers—were chomping at the bit to invade Trans-jordan and Iraq in the 1920s, which would have dragged Ibn Saud into a war with Great Britain, and were slaughtering affluent “bad” Muslim subjects of the Saudi monarch, Ibn Saud attacked. He divided the Wahhabi ulama, or clergy, from the Ikhwan and drove those hardcore holy warriors out of Arabia, where they surrendered to the British. The power of the Ikhwan, who were ideologically quite similar to many of the jihadists of the Islamic State, was permanently broken.

Yet there is no Ibn Saud today. There are no conservative Muslims with the prestige and power to put down radical Islamic revivalists. The Saudis have no might that they can project far from their borders even though they have purchased an enormous amount of Western weaponry. The odds are good the Saudis will lose their struggle with the vastly outgunned Shiite Houthis of Yemen. And if that military engagement does go badly, it could traumatize the kingdom and even delegitimize the ruling family. Although the Wahhabi establishment remains loyal to the House of Saud, religious dissent among the ulama has been visible for years. It’s a tossup whether official Saudi religious authorities now have more influence among religious youth than militant dissident clergy. The Saudis’ ability to broadcast an effective, nuanced message abroad—the Wahhabism of the Islamic State is bad, but our Saudi Wahhabism is good—is, to put it politely, questionable. Money can buy only so much.

Meanwhile in Egypt, a kind of charade in the name of religious reform continues. President-for-life Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, an observant Muslim, likes to declaim about the need for a reformation within Islam and parade state-paid clerics from the state-controlled (and Saudi-financed) Al-Azhar seminary. But fundamentalism has become mainstream in Egypt, and violence aimed at an increasingly oppressive state is growing. Sisi is the past: Secular military dictatorship is one of the primary causes of the collapse of civil society and the radicalization of youth throughout the Middle East. The components of his political identity—Nasserite pan-Arabist, corrupt militarist, Egyptian nationalist, faithful Muslim—are a summation of the passions and conflicts attending Egypt’s startling decline since the 1950s. Sisi may have his fans in the United States, especially among House Republicans and conservative columnists, but despite his popular coup, he confronts the same dilemma as his predecessors Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak: How does a poor military regime, dependent upon American arms, stay afloat in an increasingly religious country, deeply uncomfortable with that dependency and with Egypt’s diplomatic relations with Israel? The answer for all three men: Intimidate thefundamentalists, while culturally accepting, if not encouraging, most of the social mores—the “Islamic values”—dear to the religious.

Even before Sisi’s 2014 coup against a democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood president and an Islamist-dominated parliament, Egypt was an internally weak state, incapable of projecting its tired ideals, let alone its armed forces, abroad. Today, Cairo is broken and bankrupt, avoiding an administrative collapse only by means of Saudi cash. At best, Sisi is playing defense inside Egypt. The general’s open and growing sympathy for the Alawite Shiite regime in Syria—which surely puts him at odds with the vast majority of Sunni Arabs, his Saudi funders, and Al-Azhar’s ulama—reveals his concern that the Islamic State, with its narrative of revivalist violence and an increasing flow of arms across the porous Libyan-Egyptian border, is a serious threat to his rule. He’s probably right.

The Frightful Search For Virtue

The Islamic State is essentially a rebirth of the Kharijite schism. The earliest of Islam’s many schismatics, the Kharijites believed that the caliphate belonged to the most virtuous—not to descendants of Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad, or to the prophet’s tribe of Quraysh, which became the Sunni standard for succession. They practiced, or so it seems in the sources written by their enemies, an anarchic egalitarianism. In 661 a Kharijite killed Ali, the last of the Rashidun caliphs. According to the sources, the Kharijites were exceedingly violent. Overlaying Arab tribal customs onto the faith with extreme rigor, Kharijites could lawfully kill or enslave anyone—man, woman, or child—who failed to meet their demanding standards.

When the Wahhabis irrupted in the Arabian Peninsula, the Ottomans called the Saudi-Wahhabi warriors khawarij, or Kharijites. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the caliph of the Islamic State, explicitly claims that by establishing a new jihadist realm in the heart of Iraq and Syria, core lands of classical Arab Islam, he has proven himself most virtuous by the gold standard in Islamic history—military conquest. Like the leader of any society so formed, Baghdadi runs the risk that others will see themselves as equally deserving through battlefield victories or, worse, see him as compromised if he starts losing. Another danger: Power tends to corrupt. Baghdadi and his inner circle may start to sin in the eyes of their followers. The original Kharijite movement was fissiparous: They were as likely to duel with each other as with non-Muslims. Although the arguments of the “secessionists” (the literal meaning of khawarij) have powerfully echoed through Islamic history, Umayyad caliphs had crushed the movement militarily by the early 8th century. Without success in war and unable to gain a sufficient number of new spiritual recruits, Kharijism faded as a serious challenge to the status quo.

We may hope that the Islamic State and other holy-warrior movements that have conquered lands will similarly evanesce—but even faster. Such movements are unlikely to die, however, unless they are defeated militarily. The Assad regime, which provoked the rise of jihadism through its savagery, probably cannot wipe out the Islamic State, even if powerfully reinforced by the Iranians, Lebanese Hezbollah, and Russians. It just doesn’t have enough manpower: The Shiite Alawite community, the backbone of Bashar al-Assad’s power, is only about 10 percent of the Syrian population, and the Russians and Iranians may not want to invest enough to end this fight.

So long as their own casualties remain low, both parties strategically benefit from continuing mayhem. The Russians are now indispensable in Syria; they have checked, if not checkmated, any future American or Turkish intervention against Assad; they have again spooked the Europeans and made themselves a player in a refugee crisis that is fraying the European Union, a Russian strategic goal topped only by the dissolution of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; and, last but not least, Putin has diverted attention from Ukraine, the democratic Achilles’ heel for a despotic Russia, and reminded everyone, again, that he’s aggressive, unpredictable, faithful to his friends, and not easily deterred.

Sectarian strife has only expanded Iranian influence. The mullahs would probably prefer Assad to win outright, but a certain Sunni threat, as in Iraq, keeps the Iranians in a secure avuncular position. The age of Iranian ecumenicalism, when the revolutionary movement tried hard to appeal to Sunni Muslims (Hassan Rouhani and his mentor, Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, were big fans of this approach in the 1980s and 1990s), is over. We will have to see whether the Russians and the Iranians, through better weaponry and planning, can ramp up the lethality of the Alawite war-machine. Assad needs to slaughter on a much larger scale, and drive into exile millions more, before the Alawite future brightens.

Both Democrats and Republicans want to believe that the Islamic militancy developing in Syria will stay localized. Syria’s Islamic militants have a huge war to fight against enemies near at hand. Modern jihadism of the type we see in the Islamic State, however, will surely take aim, with increasing seriousness, at the United States and Europe. The Islamic State’s holy warriors are already far more globalized than the Afghan Taliban, who eagerly lent a hand to Osama bin Laden and have stayed loyal to al Qaeda, as al Qaeda has stayed loyal to them, through the arduous years since 2001. For such severe jihadists, globalization is as basic as the Koran and the magnetic conquest narrative of early Islam. And the Islamic State, unlike al Qaeda, now has thousands of Western Muslims within its ranks. That’s a lot of raw material to sift through and develop. And the European security services—especially the French DCRI and British MI5, the West’s frontline defense—are seriously stressed. We may choose to absorb future terrorist strikes by the Islamic State and respond just with bombs and drones. But if we decide we need to stop them, to deny them caliphates where they can conspire and multiply, we will have to put boots on the ground. We will not be able to leave prematurely, as we did from Iraq. Islamic history suggests we will have no other choice.

Reuel Marc Gerecht, a contributing editor, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. 

Sex Slavery and the Islamic State

By Mark Durie, JULY 3, 2015:

This article appears first in On Line Opinion.

Yehzidi Sex Slave

Jamie Walker, Middle East correspondent for The Australian, asked two critical questions in a recent article which discussed the involvement of two Australian citizens, Mohamed Elomar and Khaled Sharrouf, in Islamic State sex slavery. In 2014 Elomar purchased sex slaves, of whom four, all Yazidis, later escaped to a refugee camp where the ABC caught up with them andinterviewed them.  Elomar had also boasted on Twitter that he had “1 of 7 Yehzidi slave girls for sale” at $2500 each.

Walker’s questions were:

“The uncomfortable questions for the Western world, including Australia, are why this debased appeal seems to be gaining traction with Islamic State’s target audience, which increasingly includes women, and why it’s not challenged more stridently in the public arena.”

The Islamic State has given its own answer to the first question. In the fourth edition of its magazine Dabiq it aggressively promoted sex slavery as an Islamic practice, arguing that the practice conforms to the teaching and example of Muhammad and his companions.

Does this argument have any wider appeal than among Islamic State recruits?

The reality is that many Muslim scholars have upheld the practice of enslaving captives of war. For example Islamic revivalist Abul A‘la Maududi wrote in his influential and widely disseminated tract Islam and Human Rights that for Muslims to enslave their captives was “a more humane and proper way of disposing of them” than Western approaches. Enslavement by Muslims, he argued, is preferable to the provisions of the Geneva Convention because of the value of this policy for fuelling the growth of Islam:

“The result of this humane policy was that most of the men who were captured on foreign battlefields and brought to the Muslim countries as slaves embraced Islam and their descendants produced great scholars, imams, jurists, commentators, statesmen and generals of the army.”

Islamic revivalist movements which look forward to the restoration of an Islamic Caliphate have repeatedly endorsed the practice of slavery in the name of their religious convictions. For example the (now banned) Muhajiroun movement in the UK announced in an article, “How does Islam Classify Lands?” that once a true Islamic State is established, no-one living in other nations (which it calls Dar al Harb ‘house of war’) will have a right to their life or their wealth:

“… hence a Muslim in such circumstances can then go into Dar Al Harb and take the wealth from the people unless there is a treaty with that state. If there is no treaty individual Muslims can even go to Dar Al Harb and take women to keep as slaves.”

It is a problem that the Qur’an itself endorses having sex with captive women (Sura 4:24). According to a secure tradition (hadith) attributed to one of Muhammad’s companions, Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri, this verse of the Qur’an was revealed to Muhammad at a time when Muslims had been ‘refraining’ from having sex with their married female captives. Verse 4:24 relieved them of this restraint by giving them permission to have sex with captive women even if the women were already married.

Abd-al-Hamid Siddiqui, a Fellow of the Islamic Research Academy of Karachi and the translator into English of the Sahih Muslim, commented on this tradition, saying: “When women are taken captive their previous marriages are automatically annulled. It should, however, be remembered that sexual intercourse with these women is lawful with certain conditions.”

There have been many cases reported across the centuries of Islamic armies using captive women for sex slavery, but is this any different from all wars? It is different in one important respect, that the mainstream of Islamic jurisprudence has justified and supported this practice on the basis of Islam’s canonical sources, including Muhammad’s own example and teaching.  Islamic sex slavery is religiously sanctioned ‘guilt-free sex’.

This religious teaching is impacting our world today because the global Islamic community has been deeply affected by a grassroots religious revival, which seeks to purify Islam and restore it to its foundational principles, which include rules for war and the treatment of captives.

This leads us to Walker’s second question: why is the Islamic State’s ‘debased appeal’ not ‘challenged more stridently in the public arena’?

An obstacle which stands in the ways of such a challenge is that it would require a sober evaluation of the Islamic character of sex slavery. However even suggesting a link between Islam and ‘terrorism’ has become taboo to those who are afraid of being judged intolerant. Not only do some impose this taboo upon themselves, but they are quick to stigmatise those who do not partner with them in this ill-considered ‘tolerance’.

The taboo attached to making any link between Islamic State atrocities and the religion of Islam was apparent in comments by Greg Bearup on his interview with South Australian politician Cory Bernardi. During the course of the interview Senator Bernardi linked the Islamic State with Muhammad’s example, to which the interviewer wrote “Kaboom!”, and called the comment a ‘hand grenade’, ‘inflamatory’ and ‘divisive’.

While it is a hopeful sign that some Muslims, such as Anooshe Mushtaq, have been willing to explore the Islamic character of the Islamic State, non-Muslim opinion-makers should show more backbone by engaging with the issue at hand.

It is not a sign of tolerance when free people deliberately silence themselves about the ideological drivers of sex trafficking. The same can also be said of acts of terrorism, such as the world has witnessed over the past week in France, Tunisia and Kuwait.

Until societies are able and willing to have a frank and free discussion of the ideological drivers which motivate acts of terror and abuse, they should not expect to be able to develop effective strategies to contain or wind back such atrocities.

A state of denial is a state of defeat.

Mark Durie is the pastor of an Anglican church,
a Shillman-Ginsburg Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum,
and Founder of the Institute for Spiritual Awareness.

 

Obama Sides With Muslim Brotherhood In Islamic Reform Debate

 

Daily Caller, by Neil Munro, Jan. 12, 2015

The president of the United States has somehow put himself on the opposite side of an Islamic theological debate from the Muslim president of Egypt.

President Obama has aligned himself with revivalist groups — including the Muslim Brotherhood — that are trying to promote traditionalist Islam, while Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has begun championing Islamic modernizers.

Those modernizers want to defang the militant and supremacist Islam that has reigned since Islam emerged in the 700s. In contrast, the revivalists — and their allied jihadis — want to regain the regional power that traditionalist Islam held until roughly 1800.

The Islamic debate was dramatically exposed Jan. 1 when Sisi called a public meeting with the leaders of Islam’s leading seminary, which is based in Cairo.

“Is it possible that 1.6 billion people [Muslims] should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants — that is seven billion — so that they themselves may live? Impossible!” Sisi said in front of the TV cameras and religious leaders at Al Azhar.

Sisi tried to portray Islam’s traditional doctrines as outmoded ideas wrongly attached to the faultless core of Islam. ”That thinking — I am not saying ‘religion’ but ‘thinking’ — that corpus of texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the years, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonizing the entire world. It’s antagonizing the entire world!”

“You need to step outside of yourselves to be able to observe it and reflect on it from a more enlightened perspective. … We are in need of a religious revolution. You, imams, are responsible before Allah. The entire world, I say it again, the entire world is waiting for your next move … because this umma [Muslim community] is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost — and it is being lost by our own hands.”

In contrast, Obama has repeatedly praised Islam as a “religion of peace,” and says that jihadis are violating the established beliefs of Islam.

His attorney general, Eric Holder, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Jan. 11 that “we are at war with terrorists who commit these heinous acts and who use Islam, they use a corrupted version of Islam, to justify their actions.”

When quizzed by ABC’s George Stephanopolous the same day, Holder repeated the same traditionalist message. “We are at war with those who would commit terrorist attacks and who would corrupt the Islamic faith in the way that they do to try to justify their terrorist actions,” Holder said.

Obama’s spokesman, Josh Earnest, repeated Obama’s theological claim Jan. 7, shortly after Muslim revivalists murdered eight journalists, two cops and two other people at the Paris office of a satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. “There are some individuals that are using a peaceful religion and grossly distorting it,” he claimed.

“We have enjoyed significant success in enlisting leaders in the Muslim community, like I said, both in the United States and around the world to condemn that kind of messaging … and we’re going to redouble those efforts in the days and weeks ahead,” Earnest said.

On Jan 11. the White House announced it would hold a Feb. 18 meeting to showcase its efforts to prevent “violent extremism” in the United States. The announcement didn’t mention Islam.

The administration’s current policy recruits Brotherhood-aligned groups in the United States to identify and re-educate potential jihadis living in semi-segregated Muslim communities in the United States.

The White House’s continued support for traditionalist Islam is drawing new criticism. ”The Obama White House is now a propaganda center for what Earnest described as ‘peaceful’ Islam,” said a Jan. 9 statement from Newt Gingrich.

“This is either madness or cowardice,” he added. ”It could be madness because President Obama and his team are so out of touch with reality that they see themselves as the definers of a 1,500-year-old religion.”

“It could be cowardice because our national elite in both parties … is afraid to face the reality that millions of people around the world, many of them motivated by religion, hate the West and want sincerely to destroy it,” he added.

Obama has pushed the same revivalist message since 2009, when he flew to Cairo to give a major speech to Muslims, dubbed, “A New Beginning.”

Obama began the 2009 speech by praising the same seminary that Sisi reprimanded.

“For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning; and for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt’s advancement. And together, you represent the harmony between tradition and progress,” he said.

Prior to the speech, Obama insisted that some members of the then-suppressed group be allowed to attend.

Once the Muslim Brotherhood revivalist movement narrowly won Egypt’s presidency in June 2012, Obama tried to help them reconcile their Islamic worldview with the attitudes needed for stable government.

Since 2009, Obama and his deputies have mostly partnered with the revivalists who are tied to the Muslim Brotherhood, not with the fewer modernizers promoted by Sisi.

In the United States, his deputies have privately and publicly met with the revivalist groups’ allies hundreds of times, and he has invited them to the White House. For example, Obama has met with Haris Tarin, D.C. head of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, who has called for the U.S. government to stigmatize speech critical of Islam.

That’s very different from Sisi, who is trying to suppress the Brotherhood movement and push al-Azhar’s Islamic leaders toward modernity.

Sisi made his demand for modernity in front of TV cameras, and then underlined his modernist approach by joining the head of Egypt’s remaining Christian community of roughly eight million people at a New Year Mass.

“It is very important that the world sees us as Egyptians. … We are setting an example from right here in Egypt. That is why it is not acceptable to say anything except that we are Egyptians. We must be Egyptians only. Yes, Egyptians. Yes, we are one hand. … We will treat each other with respect. And we treat each other with love, a deep and sincere love,” Sisi said.

Sisi’s presence at the Mass was a first for an Egyptian head of state, and it comes only two years after Egypt’s electorate overwhelmingly elected two militantly revivalist parties to run Egypt’s government. In July 2012, Sisi overthrew the revivalists amid huge public protest against their slow-motion, economy-wrecking imposition of totalitarian Islam.

Obama’s distance from Sisi isn’t surprising, Robert Spencer, an expert and critic of Islam, told The Daily Caller. “Obama believes that Islam is a ‘religion of peace,’ he probably doesn’t think it needs any reform, and thus regards Sisi’s recommendations as unnecessary.”

Sisi’s embrace of modernity, and of Egypt’s Christian community, is far more politically dramatic than anything imaginable in the United States.

Al-Azhar isn’t just the Harvard of Islam — it’s the intellectual partner of the Brotherhood and its various jihadi groups, including Hamas in Gaza and the gunmen who killed Sisi’s predecessor, President Anwar Sadat, in 1981.

Unsurprisingly, the Brotherhood’s supporters oppose Sisi’s push.

Pro-Sisi “Egyptians shouldn’t worry about my not supporting his call for ‘religious revolution,’” said a tweet from Mohamed Elibiary, a Texas-based Brotherhood supporter who served as an adviser until late 2014 in the Obama’s Department of Homeland Security.

Abu Bakr al Baghdadi: From Terrorist Commander to Religious Icon

abu-bakr-al-baghdadiBlind Eagle, By Brian Fairchild:

Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s power to motivate and attract tens of thousands of radicalized Muslims is largely based on the fact that he has transcended the role of a terrorist commander and has become an Islamic religious and political icon – the new “Caliph” of the re-established “Caliphate”. 

He doesn’t claim to be a prophet, but he claims nothing less than to be the rightful political and religious heir to the Prophet Muhammad, and he often draws parallels between himself and Muhammad and other prophets, to support these claims and to legitimize his strict religious ideology.

On July 5, 2014, al-Baghdadi made his video debut at the Great Mosque of al-Nouri in Mosul, Iraq wearing Islamic garb and sporting a long beard, and he made a speech that was carefully crafted to draw parallels between himself and Muhammad.  The speech occurred during the Muslim month of Ramadan, and so he began his comments by stating that “Ramadan is a month to wage jihad”, noting that the Prophet Muhammad fought many battles against the “polytheists” during this month.

The implications of this reference sent a particularly potent message to radical Muslims because they know that Muhammad led Islam’s two most important battles during Ramadan – the very first battle, called the Battle of Badr, and the Battle of Mecca.  According to Islamic history, Muhammad faced overwhelming odds in his battle with the powerful Quraysh tribe at the desert oasis of Badr, but was victorious because of Allah’s divine intervention.  At the subsequent Battle of Mecca, he defeated the Quraysh with an Army of 10,000.  The city fell with almost no resistance.  The victory at Mecca consolidated Muhammad’s power and caused the surrounding tribes to join him.  The few remaining opposing tribes were quickly subdued.

The parallels to al-Baghdadi are unmistakable.  As he spoke at the Great Mosque of al-Nouri his total force was estimated to be around 10,000, the same number Muhammad fielded in the Battle of Mecca.  Like Muhammad, he emerged out of the desert and, against all odds, defeated a much larger and better equipped enemy, causing many to flee without firing a shot.  He consolidated his power by creating the “caliphate”, and the surrounding tribes joined him.  Finally, he proclaimed that these victories were only possible because he and his troops “have been bestowed upon by Allah to achieve victory” – divine intervention. 

The comparisons continue.  In the Islamic State’s September 21, 2014 statement, al Baghdadi calls Muslims to emulate the Prophet Muhammad’s historic hijrah (emigration) from Mecca to Medina by emigrating from their homes to defend the new Islamic State.  He proclaims that the coming fight with America is a decisive moment in Islamic history (just as Muhammad’s fight was) – a moment in which the fate of all Muslims hang in the balance, and he exhorts Muslims to rise to their brothers’ defense because:

  • “They are facing a battle which is of the decisive, critical battles in the history of Islam. If the Muslims are defeated, they will be humiliated in such a manner that no humiliation compares to. And if the Muslims are victorious – and this will be the case by Allah’s permission – they will be honored with all honor by which the Muslims will return to being the masters of the world and kings of the earth…”[1]

These comparisons resonate deeply in Salafi-jihadis who believe that there is no higher religious calling than to emulate the Prophet Muhammad’s methodology to establish Allah’s religion on earth, and this is precisely what al Baghdadi calls them to do.  He emphasizes their piousness by stating that he sees “the Quran walking alive amongst” them, and then unambiguously tells them that they are directly following in Muhammad’s footsteps:

  • “O soldiers of the Islamic State and its sons everywhere, listen and comprehend. If the people belie you, reject your state and your call, and mock your caliphate, then know that your Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) was belied. His call was rejected. He was mocked. If your people fight you, accuse you with the worst of accusations, and describe you with the worst of all traits, then know that the people of the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) fought him, expelled him, and accused him with matters worse than those you have been accused with.  If the parties have gathered against you, then know they gathered against your Prophet before (blessings and peace be upon him).”[2]

Muslim traditions tell how the pious Muhammad was able to overcome vastly superior military forces because of Allah’s divine intervention on his behalf, and thus, in the September 21, 2014 statement, al Baghdadi tells his followers that, because of their piousness and strict religious observance, Allah is on their side and that victory against America is assured because Allah wills it:

  • “Allah has given you might and honor after your humiliation. He has made you rich after your poverty. And He has aided you despite your weakness and small numbers. He showed you that victory is from Him, the Glorified.He grants it to whomever He wills and whenever He wills…Therefore Allah will give you victory. Indeed, Allah will give you victory. By Allah, Allah will give you victory…So know that – by Allah – we fear not the swarms of planes, nor ballistic missiles, nor drones, nor satellites, nor battleships, nor weapons of mass destruction. How could we fear them, while Allah the Exalted has said: ‘If Allah should aid you, no one can overcome you; but if He should forsake you, who is there that can aid you after Him? And upon Allah let the believers rely” – Qur’an Chapter 3: Verse 160.

In addition to drawing parallels between himself and the Prophet Muhammad, al Baghdadi also uses the Prophet Noah to legitimize his particularly severe religious rule.  In the second issue of his official publication Dabiq magazine titled The Flood , al Baghdadi uses the story of Noah and the Ark to legitimize his demand that Muslims live according to a strict literal interpretation of Sharia law.  In the article, the Prophet Noah is described as an uncompromising prophet who gave his people a single, but profound, choice:

  • “He didn’t say to them, for example: “I have come to you with the truth, and your leaders are calling you to falsehood, so you are free to choose whether to follow me or to follow your leaders.” In fact, he didn’t even say anything to the effect of: “If you follow me then you would be correct, and if you follow your leaders then you would be mistaken.” Nor did he say anything to the effect of: “If you follow me you will be saved, and if you oppose me and follow your leaders then your reckoning is with Allah, and I have done what is required of me and you are free to choose.” Rather, he told them with full clarity:  “It’s either me or the flood.”[3]  The parallel between Noah and al Baghdadi couldn’t be more obvious, especially given the fact that the Dabiq article was titled:  It’s Either the Islamic State or the Flood.

It is al Baghdadi’s uncompromising religious belief that is the very crux of the jihadi civil war between al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri’s Jahbat al Nusra (also called the Nusra Front), and al Baghdadi’s Islamic State.

Al Baghdadi is much more religiously zealous and demanding than Zawahiri.  Zawahiri is flexible and pragmatic in matters of ideology, preferring to slowly and carefully educate the Muslim community to accept Sharia law, and he is willing to form pragmatic alliances with non-jihadi organizations to further al Qaeda’s interests.

Al Baghdadi, on the other hand, has no such tolerance for coddling the Muslim masses or working with infidels, believing rather that it is his mission to confront Muslims, including Zawahiri and the Nusra Front, on matters of religion:

  • “it’s upon us…to eradicate the principle of “free choice,” and to not deceive the people in an attempt to seek their pleasure…Rather, we must confront them with the fact that they’ve turned away from the religion…and that we’re completely ready to stand in the face of anyone who attempts to divert us from our commitmentto making the religion of Allah triumphant over all other religions, and that we will continue to fight the people of deviation and misguidance until we die trying to make the religion triumphant.”[4]

That al Baghdadi and his followers have drawn this religious line in the sand against al Qaeda is documented by the following developments:

In late April 2014, a group of nine al Qaeda emirs from Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Iran defected from al Qaeda to the Islamic State.  They justified their defection by indirectly accusing Zawahiri and the al-Nusra Front of infidelity and apostasy:

  • “the forces of infidelity and apostasy quickly sowed the seeds of hypocrisy, using new groups under Islamic sounding names to be a rival and an obstacle to the Islamic state…the group did not have any courage to enforce judgments over those who disobey sharia, under the pretext of avoiding a clash with the people or due to their inability and incapacity…”

A few days later, al Baghdadi’s spokesman, Sheikh Muhammad al-Adnani, echoed these sentiments stating:

  • “Al Qaeda, including Jabhat al-Nusra and Khorasan, deviated from the rightful course…It is not a dispute about who to kill or who to give your allegiance. It is a question of religious practices being distorted and an approach veering off the right path.”

In The Flood, al Baghdadi specifically criticized the Nusra Front and Zawahiri for regularly breaking Sharia law in matters of religion and by forging alliances with organizations the Islamic State considers to be infidel, such as the Syrian National Coalition and the Islamic Front, and for justifying this religious laxity as a pragmatic and temporary necessity for “the sake of Jihad”.[5]

Also in The Flood, al Baghdadi quotes Salafi scholar Ibnul Qayyim who said:  “The pillars of kufr (religious infidelity) are four:  arrogance, envy, anger, and desire”, and then al Baghdadi goes on to accuse al Qaeda of all four:

  • “Whoever wants to know how a mujāhid (jihad) group fī sabīlillah (for Allah) becomes a militant group fighting fī sabīlit-tāghūt (for corrupt regimes) then let him review history, and let him know that a man’s love for leadership,wealth, and personal opinion becomes pride. Pride becomes envy. Envy becomes arrogance. Arrogance becomes hatred. Hatred becomes enmity. Enmity becomes contradiction of the rival.[6]

So confident is he in his religious superiority that in March 2014, al Baghdadi challenged the Nusra Front, to Mubahala – an Islamic ritual that implores Allah to choose between two rival factions by showing his favor for one while cursing the other.  In Muslim tradition, the repeated military success of one of the parties can only occur if Allah wills it, and al Baghdadi believes that his series of successes proves that Allah has chosen the Islamic State over the Nusra Front as the winner.

Analysts frequently try to explain why so many radicalized Muslims flock to Iraq and Syria.  The reasons they stipulate often include that these misguided Muslims are simply alienated youth, thrill seekers, or are attracted by “jihad cool”.  In actual fact, Salafi-jihadi fighters are religious zealots, and they are attracted to al Baghdadi as their religious and political leader precisely because he is seen by them to be the active defender of what they consider to be “true” Islam.  Tens of thousands have already performed hijrah to embrace his religious and political leadership, and this number can be expected to grow exponentially as al Baghdadi continues to “defend” Islam.

Brian Fairchild bio.