What's to be done? Some Thoughts on FIghting Radical Islamism/Jihadism

Following the 9-11 attack, it was that with their element of surprise gone, al qaeda would be laid low by a big, international antiterrorist crackdown.

`....The terrorist army was thought to be no bigger than a pirate ship, and the newly vigilant police forces of the entire world were going to sink the ship with swift arrests and dark maneuvers. ... Yet Al Qaeda has seemed unfazed. Its popularity, which was hard to imagine at first, has turned out to be large and genuine in more than a few countries.... Al Qaeda is not only popular; it is also institutionally solid, with a worldwide network of clandestine resources. .... And at the heart of that single school of thought stood, until his execution in 1966, a philosopher named Sayyid Qutb -- the intellectual hero of every one of the groups that eventually went into Al Qaeda, their Karl Marx (to put it that way), their guide. ....

`It would be nice to think that, in the war against terror, our side, too, speaks of deep philosophical ideas -- it would be nice to think that someone is arguing with the terrorists and with the readers of Sayyid Qutb. But here I have my worries. The followers of Qutb speak, in their wild fashion, of enormous human problems, and they urge one another to death and to murder. But the enemies of these people speak of what? The political leaders speak of United Nations resolutions, of unilateralism, of multilateralism, of weapons inspectors, of coercion and noncoercion. This is no answer to the terrorists. The terrorists speak insanely of deep things. The antiterrorists had better speak sanely of equally deep things. Presidents will not do this. Presidents will dispatch armies, or decline to dispatch armies, for better and for worse.

`But who will speak of the sacred and the secular, of the physical world and the spiritual world? Who will defend liberal ideas against the enemies of liberal ideas? Who will defend liberal principles in spite of liberal society's every failure? President George W. Bush, in his speech to Congress a few days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, announced that he was going to wage a war of ideas. He has done no such thing. He is not the man for that.

`Philosophers and religious leaders will have to do this on their own. Are they doing so? Armies are in motion, but are the philosophers and religious leaders, the liberal thinkers, likewise in motion? There is something to worry about here, an aspect of the war that liberal society seems to have trouble understanding -- one more worry, on top of all the others, and possibly the greatest worry of all.`
[from: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/23/magazine/23GURU.html?ex=1049605200&en=bc4d1e9401cce6a8&ei=5070

Reading some of the most influential Islamist tracts it has to asked if GET HIS NAME YOU DOPE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ______________ writing in the New York Times is on the right track. Is there really a "there there"? A posession of "deep philosophical ideas," or true interest in "enormous human problems"? Or is the Islamist ideology based on something much simpler. A feeling: Islam good, kuffar bad. Islam is good because it is ours and ours is best. Kuffar is bad because its great power (armies, technology job growth, etc) elbows aside the Islam that should dominate our lives, (in fact, everyone's lives) and brings confusion.

Like the jihadis in the movie United 93 who mumble ritualistically about the "the merciful, the compasionate" in their salat fajr as they prepare to kill as many total strangers as they can for the crime of being in America, the tracts on this site are oblivious to their wild contradictions therein. Sayyid Qutb smug pontificates smugly on the beautiful racial equality of Islam while showing breathtaking racist contempt for Africans. Khomeini promises "the country would move forward with the speed of lighting" with his fundamentalist shari'at-following Islam, but brought bloodshed, stagnation and corruption. His certain and unchanging Islam went from trict traditional Shari'a with clerics in the back seat to clerics overruling strict no ruling and certain and eternal Muhammad Qutb in particular

Can you kill an idea?

Can you kill an idea?
Well, wasn't fascism killed?

Why Al Qaeda is formidable.

They have...

  • Willingness, an eagerness to kill

  • Willingness to be killed in order to kill

  • Their commitment is singleminded, undistracted by life's pleasures. They don't practice yoga and eat vegan one week and decide they're into hackysack or recumbent bicycles the next.
    They know... "Islam is the solution."
    They know there is "war against Islam."
    They know they will be wed to 72 dark eyed virgins if they dye trying to kill those kuffar "waging war against Islam."

  • Their commitment is undistracted by doubt. Failures, contradictions, hypocrisy -- any problem -- is a not cause for handwringing, worry, or second guessing. They are met with "peace in the heart" (in the words of bin Laden). Problems have a simple and ready explanation - the conspiracy against Islam.

  • Their willingness to die to kill. This is seen as sick and fanatical by us, but Jihadi's often note the unwillingness of Americans, especially American soldiers, to risk their lives. They see their own willingness as evidence of the superiority of their faith Islam. [1]
    Understandably so. What stronger evidence can anyone give of sincere religious belief and of belief that their virtuous deed(s) will merit them entrance to heaven, than eagerness to speed up that admittance by dying?
    Isn't the central story of the Christian religion about the sacrifice of a life (Jesus's) for the sake of others? Doesn't the bible say: `Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends`" (John 16:13) (Sageman, p.83)

    And yet the common understanding of mainstream Muslims that

    Shahid will be married to 72 black-eyed virgins in paradise; That they will

    experience no pain after the first drop of their blood has been shed; that they will escape the tortures of the grave and judgment day, going straight to heaven; that relatives and friends of their choosing will surround them forevermore. (from: "All Suicide Bombers Are Not Alike" by Joseph Lelyveld New York Times Magazine, October 28. 2001)
    IOW afterlife is not the abstract bliss of Christianity and other religions, but very specific rewards that pretty much remove every conceivable disadvantage of death -- pain, lonesomeness, uncertainty, lack of physical pleasure (in addition to beautiful young virgins, shahid mythology also promises its heros will live in magnificent fountain-flled gardens and drink supernatural wine that gives no hangover), that makes suicide-homicide bombing seem more like the ultimate career move rather than a courageous sacrifice.

    Combined with careful minders and a fairly elaborate pre-shahid program (shahids-to-be are designated "walking martyrs," etc.) the shaheed phenomenum no longer seems something mysterious and spiritual that the life-loving decadent West can't understand. It seems all too understandable. A mass hysteria of killing and death.

  • What do WE have that they don't....

  • Absence of fatalism. Roy reports "one of the most frequently employed slogans in jihad propaganda is tawfiq min Allah, `success comes from God.`" (Failure of Political Islam, Roy, p.66)
    Obviously this hasn't led to all Islamists sitting around waiting for God to grant them sucess, but that tendency is there.

  • Willingness to find out about the world even when it tells us stuff we don't want to hear. In the short run, taking the easy way out of blowing off bad news as "lies and fabrications" of the conspiracy against Islam will give you an advantage by keeping distractions away. In the long run it will prevent you from dealing with unavoidable problems.

  • Willingness to "go back to the drawing board" when solutions though worked on long and hard don't work.

  • Willingness to find out about the enemy, to try to understand them. In contrast look at Muhammad Qutb's fantasy and ignorance filled description of America. As Bernard Lewis says, Islamists see Shaytan not just as the enemy but as a tempter (and a trickster). Sayyid Qutb warns against "speculation," -- apparently defined as thinking about and examining anything regarding religion. Thus Islamists see only danger in examination of politics, society, philosophy.

  • Less tendency towards infighting. Fanatics have a tendency to eat their own, while open-minded moderate sorts seldom suffer from "the enmity of small differences." Can error be tolerated in a struggle to abolish corruption, evil, sin and replace it with Godly perfection? The stakes are too high and so you see takfir activity not just against the modernist and westernized, but against average Muslims (Algeria) and fellow Islamists (Egypt (higra wa takfir)), between Wahhabi and Shia (Pakistan, Iraq, and elsewhere) even though the Shia maybe fundamentalists also.

  • The Silent but almost unstoppable force of Western Culture. While Islamists may grab the headlines make a lot of noise, working below the radar, silently, inexorably is the move of women's into the outside world. Khomeini seemed to have won a great victory in Iran but in almost unnoticed ways he lost. His stand is against any change innovation, corruption of Islam. But The movement of women to get educated, to work outside the home, to vote is completely accepted in Iran. Khomeini didn't even TRY to fight it.


    So to in Egypt, in some ways ground central for the Islamic revival is powerful. At first glance the ubiqousness of the hijab (maybe 2/3 of all women in Cairo wore it circa 2003 when I was there) reflects the triumph of the revival. But wait! Why are they even out walking around where we can see them?? Aren't they supposed to be at home like Mawdudi says?
    And look below the neck? On pious, hijabed Turkish and Egyptian women you can see some pretty nice shapes! Not that these women would adimently denounce Western "decadence and promiscuity" of sex before marriage, but don't tell us Islam is not changing! that it's held the line against innovation and western trends!
  • Dilema: Danish Cartoons, Theo Van Gogh's films

    To stand up for freedom of expression of films, newspaper cartoons, novels that depict Islam in some way is a critical or unfavorable light (e.g. Danish cartoons) stirs up the hornets nest of islamism and salafism. Muslim Moderates in the heart of Islamist strongholds moan and beg the West to "please not do this ... it takes all the focus away from reform, modernization, development. ... It energizes the fundamentalists ... It makes us look like collaborators."
    [example: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5255733 "Middle East Reform of Saudi Government and Society a Slow Process by Peter Kenyon
    Morning Edition, March 10, 2006 King Abdullah is inching toward reform in Saudi Arabia. He is allowing women to run for certain boards, and is holding the country's first-ever municipal elections. Many Saudis say they'd like to see more. But the process is slow."

    And they're right. The publication of Satanic Verses by Salaman Rushdie was a cause celebe for islamists. It provided Ayatoillah Khomeini with what he called a `godsend` to turn his country away from a `naive foreign policy` (NOTE: In the Name of God : The Khomeini Decade by Robin Wright c1989 "New Yorker reporter's examination of Iranian revolution" p.201), i.e. the uproar allowed him to distract the Iranian and militant Muslim attention away from his ignomious truce with Iraq and from the triumphant Afghan mujahideen's forcing of the Soviets from their country (a major success for Afghan mujahideen-backers and Khomeini archenemies the U.S. and Saudi Arabia). Khomeini's political attenna knew what would arouse grassroots Islamic rage [link to my piece]

    But to go along with them and ignore, downplay attacks on artistic, intellectual, expression factual reporting, discourage that expression and reporting, is doing the work of Islamism, giving in to them. In effect it defeats the whole purpose of what we are fighting for -- freedom of thought, expression, speech, critical thinking. So does Islamism/Salfiism win either way?

    What Will Work in the Fight Against Them?

    Sharing our wealth with the needy so that their rage against us does not lead them to terrorism.

    This has limited potential -- Islamist radicals tend to come from middle and upper classes. 9-11 bombers were middle class. bin Laden is or was wealthy. The stereotypical Islamist rank and file person is an engineer or doctor. Islamist radicals may use poor, remote or ungoverned places like Afghanistan, Northwest Pakistan, Yemen, Indonesia to train and live, but their rank and file are not the impoverished and ignorant tribesmen of these places.

    opening our arms to angry Muslims, providing welcoming immigration policies and lots of support services for Muslims who live in the West

    This will Prove to Islamists and potential Islamists that the West is not waging war against them. Tension between the Western and Islamic civilizations will wane as grateful and contented immigrants and visitors tell their friends and family back home of their experiences.

    Again this has limited potential. The lead 9-11 bombers - Muhammad Atta et al. - were radicalized after they came to Europe not before. A New York Times reporter talking to Islamists after 9-11 ["All Suicide Bombers Are Not Alike" by Joseph Lelyveld, New York Times Magazine, October 28. 2001] was struck by the contrast between the Islamists in Egypt -- tense, serious, eager to deny any association with Al Qeida -- and the relaxed, mocking militant Muslims he met in Germany some of whom literally laughed in his face with glee over 9/11.

    "If we were talking about preventing further attacks, the field of battle had moved to Europe and America. A looming question. I was coming to believe as I walked around Hamburg, was how you smash terrorist networks in conditions of an open society, which allow them to operate on our gound far more confidetly than they ever could on their own.

    Egypt's security service, uninhibited by constitutional restraints or finickiness, faces no language or cultural barriers when it seeks to penetrate an underground network. For the security services of the West, everything is reversed: they have legal restraints, few if any Arabic speakers and no cultural feel. If I had tried looking at the scene outside the last mosque through the eyes of a German investigator, I'd have been full of suspicious and full of doubt that I could ever know what was going on. "

    Germany had outdone itself in extending benefits to 3 rd world immigrants and was home to the leaders of 9-11 attack (the muscle came from Saudi).

    More sensitivity and humility towards Muslims, for example in US foreign policy.

    This may help warm up rank and file Muslims but bin Laden and Qutb have made it clear what they want - not sensativity, but submission. Traditional Islamic Shariah around the globe.

    Exploiting the chinks in their internal logic

    Not as an intellectual game, but as a way to develope psychological warfare.

    INASHAHID
    Or Self-martyrdom, is a recent, not ancient, idea, more or less invented by Khomeini
    "For some 14 centuries the Iranians had mourned the death of Imam Hussein at Karbala as a great tragedy. To them Hussein's martydom symbolized a rejection of death and affirmation of life. Now Khomeini was trying to tell them that it was, in fact, death that was to be coveted and life that had to be shunned. Death offered purification and the exalted status of the martyr, while life was pregnant with all manner of corruption and sin, the smallest of which would surely lead to hell. Hussein had been chosen by Allah and given the supreme honour of dying for Islam; he could therefore not be mourned as a mere victim of injustice. `You should pray to Allah to grant you the honor of becoming martyrs,` Khomeini began telling the sparse crowds that heard his lectures.

    "It was in thoses days that Khomeini launched one of the famous slogans of his revolution some 17 years later. The slogan addressed to the forces of order was `Oh please do kill us, for we, too, are going to kill you!` A man who not only ready to die but passionately sought death [makes] the monster of the state ... a harmless circus lion." (The Spirit of Allah : Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution by Amir Taheri. p.122-3)

    This technique plays to the aforementioned Islamist belief in superiority of their religion/ideology -- "We're willing to die, you aren't" -- at the same time it helps take away the West's military technological advanage. It's record is mixed. It was used to devistating (and victorious) effect in South Lebanon, but didn't win the war for Iran against Iraq, and doesn't appeared to have worked in Israel in the Al-Aqsa Intifada. In Iraq it's currently uncertain if it will win, and it may even end up alienating mainstream Muslims (as the 11-9-05 Amman hotel bombings did in Jordan).

    But the crucial point of INASHAHID is it depends on having it both ways - that the jihadis' deaths are both the highest goal to achieve ... and a monstrous outrage, i.e.:

    1. We cannot be stopped because we have no fear. We are fearless because to us being killed by the enemy is good.
    2. We will not stop because we are too full of outrage. Our brothers have become martyrs and must be avenged!! i.e being killed by the enemy is bad. (Khomeini exemplied this contradiction in his statements. Though he told his followers to pray for the "honor of becoming martyrs," on another occasion he admonished supporters who were celebrating his recent release from the slammer by wearing colorful grab: `Our color shall remain black until we have avenged our martyrs.` (Taheri, p.146))

    But why wouldn't/shouldn't the "forces of authority" respond to, `Oh please do kill us ...`, with `No Problem!!`
    This is what happened in 1982 in Hama (after the Iranian revolution!). Hafaz al-Assad's state just raised the ante on the al-Ikhwan al-Muslimeen and their movement all but evaporated. And yet I've never heard of any mention of Hama, the monstrous slaughter that must be avenged, in tracts by bin Laden and his ilk. Maybe they have but it seems pretty rare.

    The Inshahideen themselves may not comprehend this when it is pointed out to them -- Compartmentalizing, not logic being their strong suit. But I think they depend on people who will respond to it -- to a counter-slogan "These people can long to be killed, or be outraged by it, but they can't be both!!" Without the crowds in awe of their "courage," troops scared to pull the trigger, their power will be greatly diminished.

    WORLD CONQUEST

    There is always a general level of anger and indignation of how taghut or kaffir are picking on them. CAIR for example seems in an almost constant state of indignation. Muslims are always being insulted or harassed for no reason. Yet tracts and books by fundies almost always include some mention of world conquest by Islam.

    Again it seems they want it both ways. It's not enough to say "Islam is for the whole world. Oh, we know you think you won't like it, but ready or not were taking over." There has to be a chip on the shoulder. In reading Qutb I couldn't help but wonder if he had an almost subconscious awareness of Kuffar's resistance that made him finess the issue, and constantly talk about "freedom" of Islam. An awareness that his indignation didn't really completely make sense. That even if you sincerely believe you are carrying out "God's plan," a people fighting back to stop conquerors is not exactly an outrage.

    Example: 9/11 Operation - Mohammed Atta Testament

    "It has been called `Mohammed Atta Testament` in reference to the group's presumed leader, the Egyptian student of urban planning, based in Hamburg, though it was written by another hijacker, Saudi high school graduage Abdelaziz al-Omari, who was imbued with salafist conceptions. The FBI published a few fragments, and on its website posted four pages scanned from a school boy's notebook, in cramped Arabic script with words crossed out and revised." (p.98)

    At the moment of hand-to-hand battle, strike like brave men who want none of this despicable world, and shout `Allahu Akbar` - this frightens the infidels ... Know that the gardens of paradise are decked out for you with their most beautiful ornaments, and that the houris are calling you: `Come, O friend of Allah,` and they are wearing their finest clothes. And if Allah grants one of you a victim's throat to slit, then carry out this sacrifice ... Don't argue; just listen and obey. If you slit someone's throat, plunder his possessions, because that is the custom according to the Elected one [the Prophet] - Allah bless and save him - but on one condition: don't let yourselves be distracted by the spoils and forget what is more important. Watch out for the enemy, his betrayals, his attacks. [The War for Muslim Minds, .106]

    COMMENT: You're on a suicide "operation," you're going to be dead in a few minutes, but be sure to steal your victims' stuff! And while your slitting the throats of unarmed pilots be sure to watch out for their "betrayals," those diabolically crafty, unarmed kuffar will stoop to any trick you know!
    Is this a reflection of
    a) the mindlessness of salafist jihadism and
    b) a contradiction in jihadism? On the one hand their ideology calls for conquest, attack, invasion. On the other they seldom can bring themselves to be upfront about it - so much do they love the roll of the downtroden and oppressed, and hide behind that language.

    Is a "Liberal" Approach to Islamism Foolish?

    WHAT ISN"T

    The idea that you should learn about, understand and appreciate Islam. That it is important to put your best foot forward to calm Muslim fears of "a war against Islam." That Muslims might have legitimate beefs about corruption in US-protected Saudi, growth of settlements in occupied territories of US-aided Israeli.
    All these are wise, not foolish ideas.

    WHAT IS

    That if you are angry, and "the other" you are righteous. That you are telling the truth. That it is in poor taste to talk about ANY connection between radical Islamism and terrorism.

    There is a big difference between outreach and understanding, and assuming whatever the muslims say is true. Playing the role of the trusting friend. Of Islam's valiant defender against the alleged predatory imperialism of the defender's society. One particular pitfall such defenders risk falling into is taking at face value claims by Islamists to Westerners intended to alternately shame or pacify us. When we are told "nothing could be farther from the truth" than to claim Islamist such as Qutb are "fundamentalist ... fanatic ... anti-Western," or that true followers of Islamists like Qutb have no intention of implementing Shari'ah law against anyone who has not "agreed to live under Allah's laws," we are NOT being told the truth.

    A polite way of saying that barefaced lies are to be expected. Islamist followers of Sayyid Qutb are upset about imperialism. To suggest that bin Laden is upset over growth of settlements on the west bank is like saying Stalin was distrubed by a failure to raise the minimum wage in Europe and the United States.

    But the idea that there are two sides; that Muslims have legitimate beefs (corruption in US protected Saudi, growth of settlements in Israeli occupied territories) is not foolish.

    CONCLUSION

    What you Americans don't realize is that we'll win because we're not afraid to sacrifice everything for winning. ... we will win, because, if you don't mind my saying so, America is decadent. I'm not saying this because I've been taught to; I'm speaking from my own perceptions. Your dollar is low, your reputation is low, you don't seem to believe in anything any more. You're soft. And so we'll win ... [2]

    This 25+ year-old prediction was made by a Soviet Russian, not an Islamist. Now just an historical curiousity, his vision -- of a tough, determined Marxist-Leninist socialism replacing capitalism -- didn't seem absurd at the time. Belief in the "withering away" of the state, money made obsolete, and a economy where everyone naturally produced according to their abilities and consumed according to their needs -- was shared by millions.

    Will current predictions of demographic trends and religious faith transforming Europe into "Eurabia;" of a slow, steady, but inevitable Islamic supremacy, seem just as off the mark decades hense? Will we look back and marvel that anyone could have believed in the slogan "Islam is the solution"? That the world would become perfect by cutting off the hand of the thief, lashing the drinker, and stoning the adulterer?


    REFERENCES

    NOTE: EXAMPLE OF DEFENCE OF SUICIDE TERROR BOMBING

    [1]Statement by `Hassan`, an "intelligent and well-educated" civil engineer Hezbollah fighter from Hezbollah : Born with a vengeance by Hala Jaber, p.92-93)

    `You look at it with a Western mentality. You regard it as barbaric and unjustified. We, on the other hand, see it as another means of war, but one which is also harmonious with our religion and beliefs. Take for example, an Israeli warplane or, better still, the American and British air power in the Gulf War. They dropped tons of bombs on their targets. The goal of their mission and the outcome of their deeds was to kill and damage enemy positions just like us, except our enemy is Israel. The only difference is that they had at their disposal state-of-the-art and top-of-the-range means and weaponry to achieve their aims. We have the minimum basics, but that does not bother us because we know that if and when required we also have ourselves to sacrifice. They get medals and titles for their feats of bravery and victories. We, on the other hand do not seek material rewards, but heavenly one in the hereafter.

    But in truth there is no difference between their attacks and ours. Both of us have one thing in common - to annihilate the enemy. The rest is mere logistics and differences in techniques. Whether one attacks by planes or by car bombs the objective is the same. Who is to say that they are better or more civilised just because they use 20th century equipment? Who decides that it is more right or correct or even more acceptable to kill one's enemy by warplanes rather than by car bomb?`

    [2] From Russian Journal by Andrea Lee. Vintage Books 1984. p.160-2


    REFERENCES

    NOTE: EXAMPLE OF DEFENCE OF SUICIDE TERROR BOMBING

    Statement by `Hassan`, an "intelligent and well-educated" civil engineer Hezbollah fighter from Hezbollah : Born with a vengeance by Hala Jaber, p.92-93)

    `You look at it with a Western mentality. You regard it as barbaric and unjustified. We, on the other hand, see it as another means of war, but one which is also harmonious with our religion and beliefs. Take for example, an Israeli warplane or, better still, the American and British air power in the Gulf War. They dropped tons of bombs on their targets. The goal of their mission and the outcome of their deeds was to kill and damage enemy positions just like us, except our enemy is Israel. The only difference is that they had at their disposal state-of-the-art and top-of-the-range means and weaponry to achieve their aims. We have the minimum basics, but that does not bother us because we know that if and when required we also have ourselves to sacrifice. They get medals and titles for their feats of bravery and victories. We, on the other hand do not seek material rewards, but heavenly one in the hereafter.

    But in truth there is no difference between their attacks and ours. Both of us have one thing in common - to annihilate the enemy. The rest is mere logistics and differences in techniques. Whether one attacks by planes or by car bombs the objective is the same. Who is to say that they are better or more civilised just because they use 20th century equipment? Who decides that it is more right or correct or even more acceptable to kill one's enemy by warplanes rather than by car bomb?`


    OUTTAKES


    Qutb would probably describe study of Islamism as a sethis may come across to Islamists as decadence and way of trying to get out of trying to fight them. But that says more about Islamists then us.