Break out the flowers and tie-dye t-shirts: the jihad is over — if you want it. Or at least, if you’re listening to the Bush Administration.
Last week the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Counter Terrorism Center issued new guidelines forbidding personnel from using the words “jihad” or “jihadist” in reference to Islamic terrorism and its perpetrators.
A Homeland Security report tellingly entitled “Terminology to Define the Terrorists: Recommendations from American Muslims” explains that this initiative comes from a concern not to offend moderate Muslims. By calling the terrorists “jihadists,” American officials could be “unintentionally portraying terrorists, who lack moral and religious legitimacy, as brave fighters, legitimate soldiers or spokesmen for ordinary Muslims.”
Using the term “jihad” may not be “strategic.” Why not? “Because it glamorizes terrorism, imbues terrorists with religious authority they do not have and damages relations with Muslims around the world.” American officials “should not concede the terrorists’ claim that they are legitimate adherents of Islam.”
Unfortunately, other illegitimate adherents of Islam, at least by Bush Administration standards, include some of the most prominent scholars of religious law in Islamic history — many of whose writings remain influential in the Islamic world today. One Islamic jurist, Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani, declared that “jihad is a precept of Divine institution” — and he didn’t mean the struggle to avoid sin that the State Department envisions. Religious war was the only thing he had in mind: “It is preferable not to begin hostilities with the enemy before having invited the latter to embrace the religion of Allah except where the enemy attacks first. They have the alternative of either converting to Islam or paying the poll tax (jizya), short of which war will be declared against them.”
Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328), a favorite of Osama bin Laden and other modern-day jihadists, said that “lawful warfare is essentially jihad and…its aim is that the religion is God’s entirely and God’s word is uppermost.” Therefore, “according to all Muslims, those who stand in the way of this aim must be fought.”
Nor is this the view of just a few ancient jurists. Majid Khadduri (1909-2007), an internationally renowned Iraqi scholar of Islamic law, explained in his 1955 book War and Peace in the Law of Islam that “the Islamic state, whose principal function was to put God’s law into practice, sought to establish Islam as the dominant reigning ideology over the entire world….The jihad was therefore employed as an instrument for both the universalization of religion and the establishment of an imperial world state.” Revival of the supranational Islamic state is high on the jihadist to-do list today. Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee, Assistant Professor on the Faculty of Shari’ah and Law of the International Islamic University in Islamabad, in a 1994 book on Islamic law says that “the primary goal of the Muslim community, in the eyes of its jurists, is to spread the word of Allah through jihad, and the option of poll-tax [jizya] is to be exercised only after subjugation” of non-Muslims.
As Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini put it: “Islam makes it incumbent on all adult males, provided they are not disabled or incapacitated, to prepare themselves for the conquest of [other] countries so that the writ of Islam is obeyed in every country in the world….But those who study Islamic Holy War will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world….There are hundreds of other [Qur’anic] psalms and Hadiths [sayings of the Prophet] urging Muslims to value war and to fight. Does all this mean that Islam is a religion that prevents men from waging war? I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim.”
In sum, the imperative to wage war against unbelievers in order to establish over them the hegemony of Islamic law wasn’t invented by Al-Qaeda; it is taught by all the Sunni schools of jurisprudence, and by the Shi’ites also. This doesn’t mean that every Muslim takes it seriously. But it does mean that it’s just whistling in the dark to think that Al-Qaeda’s claim to represent Islamic purity can’t draw on genuine elements of Islamic theology that encourage bellicosity. And it’s short-sighted and foolish to refrain from studying those elements of Islamic tradition — a study that can reveal a great deal about the motives and goals of modern-day Islamic jihadists — in order to avoid offending Muslims.
It is also revelatory that these recommendations apparently come from “American Muslims.” Which ones? And who has made sure where they themselves stand — a question made all the more urgent by the shadowy ties that vaunted faux-moderate groups such as the Council on American Islamic Relations have to convicted jihadists and jihadist groups?
Probably no one vetted them at all, because no one knows how, because the questions that would have to be asked have already been ruled out as politically incorrect and “offensive.”
Fantasy-based policymaking is never wise. Yet that is what the Bush Administration has embarked upon – yet again, years after the President proclaimed Islam a “religion of peace” – with these Orwellian new directives. But hey, “moderate” Muslim groups in the U.S. are happy, the politically correct media is happy, so what could be the downside?
The only losers will be the victims of the next jihad terror attack, victims of the impossibility of defeating an enemy we refuse to know and understand — and whom we are afraid even to name.