Monday, July 02, 2007

The roots of jihad

A former British Islamic extremist talks about what drives militants to attack civilians. The core of the article:

Though many British extremists are angered by the deaths of fellow Muslim across the world, what drove me and many others to plot acts of extreme terror within Britain and abroad was a sense that we were fighting for the creation of a revolutionary worldwide Islamic state that would dispense Islamic justice.

If we were interested in justice, you may ask, how did this continuing violence come to be the means of promoting such a (flawed) Utopian goal?

How do Islamic radicals justify such terror in the name of their religion?

There isn't enough room to outline everything here, but the foundation of extremist reasoning rests upon a model of the world in which you are either a believer or an infidel.

Formal Islamic theology, unlike Christian theology, does not allow for the separation of state and religion: they are considered to be one and the same.

For centuries, the reasoning of Islamic jurists has set down rules of interaction between Dar ul-Islam (the Land of Islam) and Dar ul-Kufr (the Land of Unbelief) to cover almost every matter of trade, peace and war.

But what radicals and extremists do is to take this two steps further. Their first step has been to argue that, since there is no pure Islamic state, the whole world must be Dar ul-Kufr (The Land of Unbelief).

Step two: since Islam must declare war on unbelief, they have declared war upon the whole world.

Along with many of my former peers, I was taught by Pakistani and British radical preachers that this reclassification of the globe as a Land of War (Dar ul-Harb) allows any Muslim to destroy the sanctity of the five rights that every human is granted under Islam: life, wealth, land, mind and belief.

He goes on to say that mainstream, moderate Muslims respond to extremists by trying to ignore them, which is a mistake: they must be confronted, and have the religious rug underpinning their actions yanked out from beneath them.

He even suggests one way to do so:

A handful of scholars from the Middle East have tried to put radicalism back in the box by saying that the rules of war devised so long ago by Islamic jurists were always conceived with the existence of an Islamic state in mind, a state which would supposedly regulate jihad in a responsible Islamic fashion.

In other words, individual Muslims don't have the authority to go around declaring global war in the name of Islam.

It's a start, but it will run into problems because someone will point out that such an interpretation essentially prohibits jihad entirely. But through unsatisfying sleight-of-legal-hand, not straightforward reasoning.

So rather than draw torturous limitations on jihad, how about simply renouncing the whole idea of "external" jihad? Or rather, renounce its violent expression. External jihad could be pacified into missionary work, where battles are fought in the marketplace of ideas, not with guns and bombs. And "internal" jihad -- the quest to better oneself as a Muslim -- could remain intact.

In any event, what you have here is a former militant calling for -- and suggesting a path for -- an Islamic Reformation. In passing, he also admits that violent extremists are a small minority of Muslims.

All in all, an interesting read that gives some good insight into the extremist mindset.

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