Jihad Incorporated: An Assessment
by Dr. Robert D. Crane
The current issue of the paleo-conservative journal, National Review, contains an article, entitled “Jihad Incorporated,” by Alex Alexiev of the Hudson Institute, at which for three years I once was Director for Third World Policy. This article is basically on target and makes a good case, but it suffers from at least five shortcomings:
1) It uses the term Islamic (referring to a religion) rather than Muslim (referring to anyone, terrorist or otherwise), who claims to represent Islam as a religion, even though this article does clearly distinguish between Islam and its Muslim perverters. This is merely a semantic point, but it is important in the Fourth World War against extremism.
2) This article exaggerates the radicalization among the Islamists, who once revered Syed Qutb, but over the decades have increasing abandoned political domination as an allegedly Islamic goal. The most radical of the Islamists split off to form terrorist groups and left the “moderates” behind. These “moderates” increasingly came to oppose Syed Qutb as the originator and most radical champion of the paradigm known as “a clash of civilizations.” Instead, like Tariq Ramadhan, whose father, Sa’id Ramadhan, married the daughter of Hassan al Banna, these moderates adopted Hassan al Banna (Qutb’s predecessor) as their mentor, who was a Sufi and preached peaceful moral change through education as the only lasting solution to political injustices.
3) This article by Alexiev represents what has come to be known as “essentialism” in condemning a movement without recognizing the diversity and dynamics of change in all political movements. A small minority of Muslims, albeit the only well-organized group of Muslims in America, are Islamists and they are “moderate” Islamists. These may be defined as those who want to remake the world by improving its existing institutions democratically rather than by imposing the inherently totalitarian concept of the Caliphate. The majority of Muslims, at least in America but probably not in Europe, merely want to bring the spiritual wisdom of all the great religions, including Islam, as the Islamic contribution to America and as the ultimate goal of their integration into the process of preserving the agenda of America’s Founders.
4) Alexiev’s article makes the same “essentialist” error in reference to what he calls “shari’ah rule,” by which he means the totalitarian concept of Islamic law that recently has become a codeword among both extremist Muslims and their extremist opponents for every perversion of classical Islamic thought. The revival of classical Islamic thought from the 3rd through 6th centuries, A. H., has taken place within the framework of the maqasid al shari’ah or universal purposes and principles of Islamic jurisprudence, which form the only viable means to marginalize and destroy the political extremists. Some of the Muslim institutions independent of those mentioned by Alexiev, especially the International Institute of Islam Thought, have taken the lead worldwide in developing the maqasid as a code of human rights to counter the Muslim extremists and any other extremists who threaten civilization.
5) The ultimate terrorist, Major Hasan of Fort Hood infamy, is an inevitable product of the extremism that has been increasing in its virulence at the same time that it has lost support among the overwhelming majority of the world’s Muslims. Even if only one percent of Muslims are true terrorists, this still means that there are a million Muslim terrorists in the world, and they are everywhere, not merely in the “caves of Afghanistan.” There are probably more than a million non-Muslim terrorists, but these are more localized in purpose. The Muslim terrorists, both active and potential, are mainly local in action but united globally in purpose, namely, to destroy everyone who dares to oppose them in their common mission to attack America as the ultimate source of all evil.
6) The essentialism of “Islamophobia” undermines the task of policy advisers and policy makers to distinguish between those Muslims who merely want to be left alone, such as probably 99% of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and Al Qa’ida, which hopes to mastermind a global attack on America and the rest of the world. The Taliban represent the worst of any society in its rejection of elementary human rights, but it has made an alliance with Al Qa’ida as a matter of pragmatic policy. At the first favorable opportunity the Taliban leaders would turn on the Al Qa’ida foreigners, who, like all foreigners, they consider to be a major cause of all their problems.
The challenge to American foreign policy in Central Asia is to leverage the Taliban as the only force powerful enough to eliminate Al Qa’ida as a global threat. Failure to do so would further radicalize the Taliban and gain them recruits in a common effort to capture Pakistan and create the first rogue state armed with nuclear weapons.
Alex Alexiev’s article in the current National Review is a good summary of the terrorist threat among Muslims, but its exaggeration undermines its value as guidance for an American policy designed to promote peace, prosperity, and freedom through justice. This fundamental guidance, at least in theory if not yet fully in practice, was presented by President Obama in his policy speech at Westpoint on December 1st, as follows:
“We must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights and tend for the light of freedom and justice and opportunity and respect for the dignity of all peoples. That is who we are; that is the source, the moral source of America’s authority. ...
“America, we are passing through a time of great trial. And the message that we send in the midst of these storms must be clear: that our cause is just, our resolve unwavering. We will go forward with the confidence that right makes might and with the commitment to forge an America that is safer, a world that is more secure, and a future that represents not the deepest of fears but the highest of hopes.”
In my article as Associate Editor of the ezine, http://www.theamericanmuslim.org on De,cember 3, 2009, I conclude with the following warning:
“This is an advance over the NeoCons for whom the very word “justice” was subversive of “freedom” and who therefore carefully eliminated the natural law of peace, prosperity, and freedom through compassionate justice from all discussion. When paradigms change, policy changes usually follow, but often only after a pragmatic time-lag that can be politically self-destructive.”
Jihad Incorporated: A Follow-Up
The Hudson Institute’s latest policy paper on radicalism among Muslims in light of the Fort Hood massacre and within the context of the militarization of American policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan has prompted strong reactions. Perhaps a typical one was voiced by one of America’s longest serving and most courageous voices of conscience. She portrays the all too common Muslim reaction to the growing gap between what President Obama proclaimed in his bid for office and the apparent divergence of results.
She is only human when she writes: “I’ve figured out that there is very little that I can do to change the world, and to be honest with you, I don’t even care if it changes anymore. I’ve decided that these idiots and those who follow and support them deserve what they will eventually reap, because they are persistent in sin, and refuse to be admonished. My prayers daily and nightly are for God to smite these hypocritical self righteous murderers and thieves and that He will do so in a way that they can only blame themselves, and not Muslims, or so called Islamists. It will be by their own hands. In the meantime, I wait, and I pray for the innocent, and the children, that God will spare them and protect them. As Moses and those who believed said as they walked into the parted sea, ‘In God we put our trust’.”
This perhaps increasingly common reaction derives from the basic Islamic teaching and challenge that peace comes from justice and not the other way around, which summarizes the very soul of the American Revolution. This reaction in giving up on the effort to promote peace, prosperity, and freedom through compassionate justice is un-Islamic, because no person can know what difference even the smallest effort can make. The challenge to justice-oriented Americans is not directly to change existing policy, but more fundamentally to change ourselves and the entire paradigm of thought that governs society and shapes its political agenda, which, in turn, controls policy.
Many or most activist Muslims never learn this, so, after years of butting their heads against stone walls, they give up. The alternative, which an equal number of Muslims choose, is in desperation to become suicide bombers, but the vast majority of these also fortunately give up before they have a chance actually to mouth their final desperate and primordial scream of Allahu akbar. The reason both of these groups give up is that they rely on themselves rather than Allah, which means that they deny Allah as the source of power and instead worship themselves, which is the ultimate act of self-destruction. In this, unknowingly, they join the evildoers, the dhalimun.
In my reading of the Qur’an this morning, Surah al ‘Isra 17:81-100, I was struck by the verses 81-86, in which Allah gives us the message found throughout the Qur’an that arrogance is the root of all human evil. Verse 81, as explained in Muhammad Asad’s footnote 98, explains that arrogance rejects divine guidance, which leads to rejection of all absolute moral values, which, in turn, leads to spiritual nihilism. This is the essence and definition of the dhalimin, the evildoers. Divine inspiration or ruh, which is used here for divine guidance through both revelation and inspiration, is the only source of ethics in the absolute sense. Therefore one should be grateful, because we humans have been granted very little of real knowledge. Verses 85-86.
My book, Shaping the Future: Challenge and Response, written fifteen years ago and published in 1997, emphasized the paradigmatic challenge required in rehabilitating the role of religion in the world based on the universal purposes and principles developed over many centuries and now being revived in the maqasid al shari’ah. The challenge is nothing more than our responsibility to integrate ourselves in cooperation with like-minded Christians, Jews, and ethical humanists into our common mission to Islamize America in the universal sense of Islam projected throughout the Qur’an as the primordial religion of humankind and as the very basis of the Great American Experiment boldly launched by our Founders in actualizing peace, prosperity, and freedom through justice, in accordance with the Preamble to the American Constitution.
The conclusion of this book reads as follows:
“Certainly it is humanly impossible for Muslims to Islamize America in the sense of awakening the awareness of tens of millions of Americans to the love of Allah, or in the sense of infusing shari’ah thought so that America will become functionally Islamic, yet without this any political lobbying will amount to little more than tilting at windmills. Throughout the Qur’an, Allah makes abundantly clear that one can carry out His will only by reliance on Him:
Say: “Oh Allah! Lord of Power, You give power to whom You please, and You strip off power from whom You please. You endow with honor whom You please, and You bring low whom You please. In Your hand is all Good. Verily, over all things you have power”. Surah Al-i Imran 3:26
Allah creates what He wills. When He has decreed a plan, He but says, “be,” and it is. Surah Al-i Imran 3:47. See also Surah al Nahl 16:40 and Miryam 19:35, “Kun fa yakun.”
And [the unbelievers] plotted and planned, and Allah too planned, and the best of planners is Allah. Surah Al-i Imran 3:54. Also Surah al Anfal 8:30 and Al Ra’d 13:42. Those whom Allah in His plan wants to guide, He opens their breast to Ialam. (Surah al An’am 6:125)
“The power of Allah may not be visible, but it is real and there is no help from the power of Allah unless we rely upon it:
Remember you implored the assistance of your Lord [at the Battle of Badr], and He answered you, “I will assist you with a thousand of the angels, ranks on ranks.” Allah made it but a message of hope, and an assurance to your hearts: there is no help except from Allah, and Allah is exalted in power and wise. (Surah al Anfal 8:9-10)
It was not you who slew them. It was Aallah. When you threw [a handful of dust as a symbol of the enemy rushing blindly to their fate] it was not your act, but Allah’s, so that He might test the believers by a gracious trial from Himself, for Allah is the One who hears and knows all things. And Allah is the One Who makes feeble the plans and stratagems of the unbelievers. (Surah al Anfal, 8:17-18)
O you who believe! When you meet a force, be firm, and call Allah in remembrance much and often, so that you may prosper. And obey Allah and His apostle, and fall into no disputes, lest you lose heart and your power depart. And be patient and persevering, for Allah is with those who patiently persevere. ... O Apostle! Rouse the believers to the fight. If there are twenty among you who are patient and persevering, they will vanquish two hundred; if a hundred, they will vanquish a thousand of the unbelievers, for these are a people without understanding. (Surah al Anfal 8:45-46, 65)
Did you not turn by vision to those who abandoned their homes for fear of death, though they numbered in the thousands? Allah said to them, “Die!” ... But those who were convinced that they must meet Allah said, “How often, by Allah’s will, has a small force vanquished a big one? Allah is with those who steadfastly persevere.” ... And if Allah did not check one group of people by means of another, the earth would indeed be full of mischief, but Allah is full of bounty to all the worlds. Surah al Baqarah 2:243, 249, and 251)
Unless you go forth, He will punish you with a grievous penalty and put others in your place. ... When the unbelievers drove him out [the Prophet Muhammad from Makkah], he had no more than one companion, for there were only two in the cave, and he said to his companion, “Have no fear, for Allah is with us.” Then Allah sent down his Peace [sakinah] upon him, and strengthened him with forces which you did not see, and humbled to the depths the word of the unbelievers. But the word of Allah is exalted to the heights, for Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise. Go forth, whether equipped lightly or heavily, and strive and struggle with your goods and your persons in the cause of Allah. This is best if only you knew. (Surah al Tauba 9:40-41)