Dr. Robert Dickson Crane

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by Dr. Robert Dickson Crane, President
Islamic Institute for Strategic Studies

Challenges of Islam: 
Rethinking Americas Mission

I.    The Political Challenge to America

      In response to the terrorist attack on the symbols of AmericaҒs material power in our Black September only a month ago, Americans began to ask, What have we done?  Why would anybody want to do this to us?Ӕ  The shock grew as Americans became aware that the spectacular attacks might be merely one incremental step in a larger terrorist strategy that will define the twenty-first century, an era when, for the first time, America is vulnerable to asymmetric warfare.

The Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz, as the number-one reactionary conservative in the Bush Administration, immediately lashed out with a call for all-out war to eliminate evil by eliminating entire states.  His boss, Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, as the leading principled or traditionalist conservative, eventually sided with the Administrations leading liberal, Secretary of State Colin Powell, in daring to declare that victory against terrorism can come only from attacking poverty, illiteracy, and hunger as the breeding ground for tolerance of terrorism.  Neither one suggested that the root of terrorism could be U.S. foreign policies, in other words that the crisis is political.

The professional pundits or ғtalking heads tried to be more profound.  Some patriotic philosophers suggested that the root of the problem is an inevitable clash of civilizations, and that therefore America must abandon all traditional guidelines for moral action and pulverize every person, movement, and government that threatens the ԓAmerican way.  Some self-styled sociologists asserted that the root cause is the process of globalization and the inevitability of American global dominance.  Some would be psychologists blamed the phenomenon of terrorism on sheer envy by those who through their own fault are not as rich and prosperous as Americans.

The more morally sensitive blamed AmericaԒs cultural imperialism, especially its films and TV that affront the sensibilities of moral people everywhere.  They equate this media blitz with blatant and craven worship of idols, especially the false gods of power, prestige, pleasure, and plutocracy.  Such decadence, they believe, is one reason why the fanatics are convinced that even Armageddon is preferable to continuation of the status quo.

Every possible cause for terrorism was invoked other than deliberate American foreign policies.

What foreign policies?  Every informed Muslim would point to Americas bizarre complicity in the genocidal destruction of Chechnya, its tacit support of IndiaҒs incredibly brutal occupation of Kashmir, its passivity in the ethnic cleansing of Bosnia, and even Americas insistence on zero casualties in stopping the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo.  All of these foreign policies have contributed to the terrorist mentality that is growing all over the world. 

Most serious, however, is the support given to the Zionist enterprise in the Holy Land.  Anti-American movements are motivated primarily by active U.S. support of secularized and xenophobic Zionism, which has abandoned the spiritual essence of the Judaic religion revealed anew by Prophet Isa (  ), Jesus the Christ.  This is compounded by the knee-jerk reactions of American policy-makers against opponents of Zionism, the so-called rogue states, and by American efforts to control countries in the Middle East that in the future might give tacit or active support to a coalition against Israel.

The greatest challenge to AmericansҒ commitment, courage and creativity lies not in enforcing stability through military might, which can never succeed in the long run, but in building security through foreign policies that address the political roots of terrorism.  Since the modern era of global terrorism is a long-term phenomenon, the policies to undercut or eliminate its causes must be long-term.  Americas success will come only from a commitment to promote justice as the root of stability, and from the courage to change any policies that may have political support in Congress but nevertheless may increasingly threaten the American people with mass destruction.

II.  The Challenge of Ultra-Wahhabism

American foreign policy is only a proximate cause of Osama bin LadenҒs campaign of hatred against America.  Two causes lie deeper. 

The first such cause is the heresy of Ultra-Wahhabism, which has infected Muslim societies from time to time since the days of the Kharjites or Mukharijun, who killed Ali (  ) 1,400 years ago.  As in all utopian movements, like Nazism, Communism, and secular Zionism, its leaders claim exclusive possession of all truth.  This justifies the imposition of their will not only on their followers but on everyone else, because everyone who refuses to accept their version of truth is an enemy, an enemy of the master race, or of the Party, or of the Land of Israel, or of God.

Osama bin Laden seeks power by appealing to the frustration and desperation of those who suffer from the arrogance, greed, and corruption of Americaђs allies, and by blaming all such evil on a single scape-goat, America.  All ultra-Wahhabi movements, such as Nazism, Communism, and secular Zionism, have exploited a scape-goat to justify their resort to violence.  A primary source of Osama bin Ladens extremism is not America but the inherent evil of his false religion.

III.  AmericaҒs Loss of Mission

An equally deep-seated cause of the alienation that breeds indiscriminate violence has been the forty-year war since the 1960s of the post-modernists against the traditionalist thought of AmericaҒs founders.  America is the only country that was founded deliberately as a model for the world.  If America loses its sense of moral mission, it inevitably will become a national security state, with a foreign policy designed only to maintain or extend its power without any higher purpose. 

The greatest cynics about America have not been Muslims, but American liberal intellectuals, the vanguard of post-modernism.  These disenchanted Americans have denied that there are any ultimate and universal sources and standards of truth.  They claim to represent American enlightenment by attacking the sincerity of Americas founders and by asserting that the entire basis of the great American experiment in governance based on divine revelation and natural law is a sham. 

It is now politically correct to support the myth that Thomas Jefferson was an atheist.  Indeed, he was so accused during his campaign for the American presidency, but only because he insisted that ultimate truth and divine guidance cannot be captured or possessed by any formal religion.  He taught that freedom in any society can survive only if the people are educated, that education consists primarily in teaching virtue, and that virtue can have meaning and motivation only if rooted in recognition of a higher authority than any individual person or human collectivity.  He spent his life enlivening the message of all the prophets that human happiness can come only from reliance on the divine mercy and guidance that surpass human understanding.  Yet the iconoclasts in American academia, and their puppets in the media, discount the authenticity of JeffersonҒs message because his practice of what he preached was imperfect.

The malevolent American skeptics claim that the enormous good and good-will that America has offered to those in need is merely part of Americas hidden agenda of global conquest.  The Marshall Plan in 1947 was instrumental in rebuilding Europe, yet the skeptics insist that its only purpose was to combat Communism.  The Point Four program was inaugurated to promote economic prosperity in the Third World, and the Peace Corps was launched by President Kennedy to provide an outlet for AmericaҒs idealistic youth, yet skeptics assert that American foreign aid has never been humanitarian and the Peace Corps has always been a front for the CIA.

Both apathetic and radical nihilism, no less than arrogant hypocrisy, are contagious diseases.  Much of the pandemic of these two evils, now spreading throughout the world, originated in America from Americans.  They spread to their victims and back again to their originators.  Eventually one cannot distinguish between cause and effect.  On a global scale this is the dynamic that led up to the attack on the symbols of American power on

September 11th, 2001, and, in a vicious circle, may lead to more of the same.

IV.  The Challenge of Islam

The good news is that the American people, as inheritors and stewards of the deeply spiritual movement that created their country, have now stared diabolical evil face to face.  Never again will they tolerate the post-modernist nonsense that there is no objective basis for distinguishing right from wrong. 

For the first time, millions of Americans are taking seriously the role of all the world religions, not just Christianity, as allies in the battle against global evil.  Americans generally share the essential teaching of all religions that no-one can be guilty of the sins of others, and that, by definition, extremists in any religion do not speak for those who base their lives on the spiritual wisdom that comes universally from divine revelation and natural law. 

Now is the best opportunity ever afforded Muslims to take the lead in promoting the shared concepts of order, justice, and liberty that animated the leaders of classical America and the scholars of classical Islam.  They come from the same roots and they provide the only sure guidance for peace in the coming century.

The challenge for Muslims is to provide spiritual and intellectual guidance for interfaith efforts to redirect America from its mission of global dominance.  The task of Muslim leaders, especially the intellectuals, is to help America rethink and recover its original mission, which is to be a moral model for the world.

Intellectual and Spiritual Jihad:
The Ultimate Power Against Terrorism

I.  Intellectual Jihad

Response to the intellectual threat and to the emotional blindness of those who think America can do no good is the responsibility primarily of the worlds intellectual and spiritual leaders.  Muslims, especially, must put their own house in order before they can credibly criticize others.  They must denounce ultra-Wahhabism as un-Islamic and as the inevitable breeding ground of global terrorism. 

It is not enough simply to define terrorism to exclude self-defense against brutal occupation forces and include the state-terrorism of the occupiers.  Muslim scholars and spiritual leaders must provide an objective basis for judgement rooted in the wisdom of all religions in order to provide wisdom for the world.  Those who provide vision shape political agendas, and whoever shapes the agenda controls policies.

The vision of Islam was fully articulated during the Islamic classical period and culminated in the writings of Al Shatibi six centuries ago in direct reliance on thematic analysis of the QurҒan and on the diplomacy of the Prophet Muhammad (  ).  The great scholars of Islam, every one of whom was imprisoned at least once for refusing to corrupt Islamic tradition, developed guidelines for developing and applying Islamic law (shariah) in the form of a set of Islamic universal principles (kulliyat), essentials (dururiyat), or purposes (maqasid).  Al Shatibi explained that the number and inner tectonics of these maqasid are flexible according to time and place. 

For purposes of agenda formation, the universal principles of Islamic thought are seven responsibilities.  When observed, they produce corresponding human rights.  The first, haqq al din, is the duty to respect and maintain the purity of divine revelation, without which human reason is unreliable.  The next three, which promote human survival, are haqq al haya, the duty to respect human life and the human person; haqq al nasl, the duty to respect the human family and group rights at every level of human association; and haqq al mal, the duty to respect private property and the universal human right to individual ownership of the means of production.

The second set of three maqasid promotes quality of life.  These are haqq al hurriya, the duty to respect group self-determination through political freedom, including the second-order principles of governmental responsiveness (shura), representative government (ijma), and an independent judiciary; haqq al karama, the duty to respect human dignity, including freedom of religion and gender equity; and haqq al ґilm, which is the duty to respect knowledge, including freedom of thought, speech, and association, subject to the other six universal principles.  These universal principles of Islamic law constitute a definition of justice, which, in turn, is the Islamic definition of human rights.

Some of the opinion leaders in the Muslim umma talk glibly about founding think-tanks, but without any idea of why, what, or how, other than to vent their frustration with American foreign policies.  They are narcissistic to the extent of conceiving that a Muslim think-tank should address only issues that directly concern Muslims.  They treat Islam as a special-interest group rather than as a universal religion divinely revealed to bring balance in our stewardship of the earth, mercy to the poor, wisdom to the powerful, and justice to all. 

The function of a Muslim think-tank is not only to provide vision for a network of like-minded think-tanks in the non-Muslim policy community.  Such a think-tank should explore and evaluate different options for action by Muslims.

        In Islam there are three kinds of jihad.  The first two are found in the hadith or history of the sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad (  ).  These are the jihad al akbar or greatest jihad, which is the struggle to overcome ones unruly self.  The second is the lesser jihad, the jihad al saghrir or asghrar, which is the armed battle to defend the human rights of oneҒs own people and of people everywhere.  The third jihad, mentioned only by the word of God in the Quran, Surah al Furqan 25:52, is the jihad al kabir or great jihad.  This jihad is called for in the exhortation wa jihidhum bihi jihadan kabiran, which means ғstruggle with it [divine revelation] in a great struggle.  This is the intellectual jihad, which normally follows the first two.

In the modern era, when the instinct to defend oneself with armed force can be self-defeating, the call to a great jihad requires Muslim intellectuals to counter the impending clash of civilizations by providing the intellectual basis for cooperation among civilizations in the articulation of common principles and the pursuit of common goals.

      The scholars of Islam have a four-fold task, which is to: 1) develop a framework of thought consistent with the universal principles of classical AmericaԒs founders and of the classical scholars of Islam; 2) address the major issues of conscience in the world within the framework of these principles, known to Muslims as the maqasid al shariah; 3) enlist the leaders of interfaith dialogue, without which there can be no real civilizational cooperation and renewal; and 4) from this position of strength, engage the deep but destructive thinkers, who otherwise will develop a counter-culture on their own, cut off from the perennial wisdom that produces civilization.  The challenge to the Muslim umma or community worldwide is nothing less than to mount a movement of global civilizational renewal at a time when the barbarians are not only at the gates of civilization but entrenching themselves inside.

II.  The Role of Spiritual Power

Spiritual jihad applies not only to the individual person in harnessing oneҒs nafs or ego to the will of God, but to entire nations in the course of battle.  Islamic strategy is not limited to orchestrating the visible elements of power, or even in shaping intellectual thought, because the best planner is not man but Allah.

Spiritually aware people, which Muslims generally claim to be, should consider satyagraha and the man who made it respectable.  The would-be financiers of Muslim think-tanks have never heard of the man who probably is the twentieth centurys greatest Muslim mujahid or warrior, the Badshah Khan of the Northwest Frontier Province located at the pivot of Asia in what is now Pakistan.  His life as a leader of the war-like Pathans is recounted in Eknath EaswaranҒs book, A Man to Match His Mountains: Badshah Khan, Nonviolent Soldier of Islam, Nilgiri Press, 1984, 240 pages. 
Mahatma Gandhi stated that without Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the Badshah, his own liberation mission against British occupation of India could never have succeeded.  The Mahatma taught that passive resistance by the weak is weakness, but non-violent resistance by those who have proven themselves through armed combat in reliance on spiritual power can be stronger than any opposing force, because this force, which Gandhi called satyagraha, is not passive and can be irresistible.

In the spring of 1930, the inhabitants of Peshawar protested the arrest of some of the Badshahs lieutenants by declaring a general strike and massing in the town center, the Kissa Khani Bazaar.  The British troops fired at the crowd, which refused to leave.  More volleys ensued, but the BadshahҒs followers, who had been trained in his army of spiritual power, the Khudai Khidmatgars, stood their ground as one front row fell to the bullets only to be followed by another front row of people who moved up to replace them.  According to the account of this decisive battle by Gene Sharp of Harvard, When those in the front fell down wounded by the shots, those behind came forward with their breasts bared and exposed themselves to the fire, so much so that some people got as many as 21 bullet wounds in their bodies.Ӕ  According to the official view, this state of things continued from 11 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon.Ӕ  When some of the elite Indian troops in the British army refused to fire any more, they were hand-cuffed, and imprisoned, and one was sentenced to banishment in an overseas penal colony for life. 

The impact of this daring battle of non-violence was so great in Britain that some historians say it spelled the death-knell of the entire British Empire.  Could such a strategy produce the same affect on Americans today?  Unfortunately, almost no Muslims nowadays remember the Badshah Khan, and, even if they did, how many would take his satyagraha or spiritual power seriously?

Why do Muslims let the American government take the initiative in shaping the future of the world?  We share with all people the same access to a power that has transcended every person, every nation, and every empire since the beginning of history.  God has the ultimate sovereignty, but He exercises this through the individual person, who has the free will to respond.  Each individual exercises the true sovereignty in America, not the government.  It is our responsibility as Muslims in America to participate in the nations governance through our political, intellectual, and spiritual activism, recognizing that the best Planner is Allah.


Selected Policy Papers by Dr. Robert Dickson Crane
Islamic Institute for Strategic Studies .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

The Role of Religion in America: A Call for Justice in the Holy Land, 24 pp.