Although I hate the thought of killing innocent people the security of my
family,my countrymen, and my allies is paramount.
So the only solution is to fight fire with fire.
If the indiscriminate killing of Muslims starts don't blame the infidels,
blame Bin Laden and other assorted bastards.
> If the indiscriminate killing of Muslims starts don't blame the infidels,
> blame Bin Laden and other assorted bastards.
Starts? It's been going on for years...
Why do you think we're in the mess we are?
And he would say
The US Government and other Americans condone the indiscriminate killings
Although innocent life must be lost I must protect and fight for the
of Islam, my brothers an sisters, that is paramount.
So the only solution is to fight fire with fire.
Do not blame the indiscriminate killings of infidels upon Islam, blame
the USA and its assorted dollar fuelled allies.
Where do we go now?
The USA and militant Islam are two horns on the same insane beast.
Paul Abeles wrote:
This war is just starting and it was started by peacefull what a laugh Islam
we will have to fight fire with a lot bigger fire till the baboons decide to
act like humans.
Paul Abeles <abe...@atlantis.com> wrote in message
I agree the baboon jews would have to go!
/ begin official SCJ translation of anti-Semitic horseshit
I, Alex the Muslim Moron© purveyor of the finest horseshit available on the
net, will now once again rewrite history. From this day forth, the world
will remember that all the acts of terrorism perpetrated by Arab and Muslim
pig fucking extremists will actually have been committed by peace loving
Now, let me get back to fucking that goat I just admitted I own
/ end translation
Allah be praised.... and killed
Michael Scott Doran
Foreign Affairs, Jan/Feb 2002, v81, n1
MICHAEL SCOTT DORAN taught for three years at the University of Central
Florida and is now Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton
University. He is the author of Pan-Arabism Before Nasser: Egyptian Power
Politics and the Palestine Question. This article is adapted from his
chapter in How Did This Happen ? Terrorism and the New War, published by
Public Affairs and Foreign Affairs with the support of the Council on
Osama bin Laden's attacks on the United States were aimed at another
audience: the entire Muslim world. Hoping that U.S. retaliation would unite
the faithful against the West, bin Laden sought to spark revolutions in Arab
nations and elsewhere. War with America was never his end; it was just a
means to promote radical Islam. The sooner Washington understands this, the
better its chances of winning the wider struggle.
Call it a city on four legs
heading for murder....
New York is a woman
holding, according to history,
a rag called liberty with one hand
and strangling the earth with the other.
-Adonis [Ali Ahmed Said],
"The Funeral of New York," 1971
In the weeks after the attacks of September 11, Americans repeatedly asked,
"Why do they hate us?" To understand what happened, however, another
question may be even more pertinent: "Why do they want to provoke us?"
David Fromkin suggested the answer in Foreign Affairs back in 1975.
"Terrorism," he noted, "is violence used in order to create fear; but it is
aimed at creating fear in order that the fear, in turn, will lead somebody
else -- not the terrorist -- to embark on some quite different program of
action that will accomplish whatever it is that the terrorist really
desires." When a terrorist kills, the goal is not murder itself but
something else -- for example, a police crackdown that will create a rift
between government and society that the terrorist can then exploit for
revolutionary purposes. Osama bin Laden sought -- and has received -- an
international military crackdown, one he wants to exploit for his particular
brand of revolution.
Bin Laden produced a piece of high political theater he hoped would reach
the audience that concerned him the most: the umma, or universal Islamic
community. The script was obvious: America, cast as the villain, was
supposed to use its military might like a cartoon character trying to kill a
fly with a shotgun. The media would see to it that any use of force against
the civilian population of Afghanistan was broadcast around the world, and
the umma would find it shocking how Americans nonchalantly caused Muslims to
suffer and die. The ensuing outrage would open a chasm between state and
society in the Middle East, and the governments allied with the West -- many
of which are repressive, corrupt, and illegitimate would find them selves
adrift. It was to provoke such an outcome that bin Laden broadcast his
statement following the start of the military campaign on October 7,in which
he said, among other things, that the Americans and the British "have
divided the entire world into two regions -- one of faith, where there is no
hypocrisy, and another of infidelity, from which we hope God will protect
Polarizing the Islamic world between the umma and the regimes allied with
the United States would help achieve bin Laden's primary goal: furthering
the cause of Islamic revolution within the Muslim world itself, in the Arab
lands especially and in Saudi Arabia above all. He had no intention of
defeating America. War with the United States was not a goal in and of
itself but rather an instrument designed to help his brand of extremist
Islam survive and flourish among the believers. Americans, in short, have
been drawn into somebody else's civil war.
Washington had no choice but to take up the gauntlet, but it is not
altogether clear that Americans understand fully this war's true dimensions.
The response to bin Laden cannot be left to soldiers and police alone. He
has embroiled the United States in an intra-Muslim ideological battle, a
struggle for hearts and minds in which al 0aedahad already scored a number
of victories -- as the reluctance of America's Middle Eastern allies to
offer public support for the campaign against it demonstrated. The first
step toward weakening the hold of bin Laden's ideology, therefore, must be
to comprehend the symbolic universe into which he has dragged us.
AMERICA, THE HUBAL OF THE AGE
Ladenıs October 7 statement offers a crucial window onto his conceptual
world and repays careful attention. In it he states, "Hypocrisy stood behind
the leader of global idolatry, behind the Hubal of the age namely, America
and its supporters." Because the symbolism is obscure to most Americans,
this sentence was widely mistranslated in the press, but bin Laden's Muslim
audience understood it immediately.
In the early seventh century, when the Prophet Muhammad began to preach
Islam to the pagan Arab tribes in Mecca, Hubal was a stone idol that stood
in the Kaaba -- a structure that Abraham, according to Islamic tradition,
originally built on orders from God as a sanctuary of Islam. In the years
between Abraham and Muhammad, the tradition runs, the Arabs fell away from
true belief and began to worship idols, with Hubal the most powerful of
many. When bin Laden calls America "the Hubal of the age," he suggests that
it is the primary focus of idol worship and that it is polluting the Kaaba,
a symbol of Islamic purity. His imagery has a double resonance: it portrays
American culture as a font of idolatry while rejecting the American military
presence on the Arabian peninsula (which is, by his definition, the holy
land of Islam, a place barred to infidels).
Muhammad's prophecy called the Arabs of Mecca back to their monotheistic
birthright. The return to true belief, however, was not an easy one, because
the reigning Meccan oligarchy persecuted the early Muslims. By calling for
the destruction of Hubal, the Prophet's message threatened to undermine the
special position that Mecca enjoyed in Arabia as a pagan shrine city. With
much of their livelihood at stake, the oligarchs punished Muhammad's
followers and conspired to kill him. The Muslims therefore fled from Mecca
to Medina, where they established the umma as a political and religious
community. They went on to fight and win a war against Mecca that ended with
the destruction of Hubal and the spread of true Islam around the world.
Before the Prophet could achieve this success, however, he encountered the
Munafiqun, the Hypocrites of Medina. Muhammad's acceptance of leadership
over the Medinese reduced the power of a number of local tribal leaders.
These men outwardly accepted Islam in order to protect their worldly status,
but in their hearts they bore malice toward both the Prophet and his
message. Among other misdeeds, the treacherous Munafiqun abandoned Muhammad
on the battlefield at a moment when he was already woefully outnumbered. The
Hypocrites were apostates who accepted true belief but then rejected it, and
as such they were regarded as worse than the infidels who had never embraced
Islam to begin with. Islam can understand just how difficult it is for a
pagan to leave behind all the beliefs and personal connections that he or
she once held dear; it is less forgiving of those who accept the truth and
then subvert it.
In bin Laden's imagery, the leaders of the Arab and Islamic worlds today are
Hypocrites, idol worshippers cowering behind America, the Hubal of the age.
His sword jabs simultaneously at the United States and the governments
allied with it. His attack was designed to force those governments to
choose: You are either with the idol-worshiping enemies of God or you are
with the true believers.
The al Qaeda organization grew out of an Islamic religious movement called
the Salafiyya -- a name derived from al-Salaf al-Salih, "the venerable
forefathers," which refers to the generation of the Prophet Muhammad and his
companions. Salafis regard the Islam that most Muslims practice today as
polluted by idolatry; they seek to reform the religion by emulating the
first generation of Muslims, whose pristine society they consider to have
best reflected God's wishes for humans. The Salafiyya is not a unified
movement, and it expresses itself in many forms, most of which do not
approach the extremism of Osama bin Laden or the Taliban. The Wahhabi
ideology of the Saudi state, for example, and the religious doctrines of the
Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and a host of voluntary religious organizations
around the Islamic world are all Salafi. These diverse movements share the
belief that Muslims have deviated from God's plan and that matters can be
returned to their proper state by emulating the Prophet.
Like any other major religious figure, Muhammad left behind a legacy that
his followers have channeled in different directions. An extremist current
in the Salafiyya places great emphasis on jihad, or holy war. Among other
things, the Prophet Muhammad fought in mortal combat against idolatry, and
some of his followers today choose to accord this aspect of his career
primary importance. The devoted members of al Qaeda display an unsettling
willingness to martyr themselves because they feel that, like the Prophet,
they are locked in a life-or-death struggle with the forces of unbelief that
threaten from all sides. They consider themselves an island of true
believers surrounded by a sea of iniquity and think the future of religion
itself, and therefore the world, depends on them and their battle against
In almost every Sunni Muslim country the Salafiyya has spawned Islamist
political movements working to compel the state to apply the shari`a -- that
is, Islamic law. Extremist Salafis believe that strict application of the
shari`a is necessary to ensure that Muslims walk on the path of the Prophet.
The more extremist the party, the more insistent and violent the demand that
the state must apply the shari`a exclusively. In the view of extremist
Salafis, the shari`a is God's thunderous commandment to Muslims, and failure
to adopt it constitutes idolatry. By removing God from the realm of law, a
domain that He has clearly claimed for Himself alone, human legislation
amounts to worshiping a pagan deity. Thus it was on the basis of failure to
apply the shari`a that extremists branded Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat
an apostate and then killed him. His assassins came from a group often known
as Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the remnants of which have in recent years merged
with al Qaeda. In fact, investigators believe that Egyptian Islamic Jihad's
leaders, Ayman al-Zawahiriand Muhammad Atef (who was killed in the U.S. air
campaign), masterminded the attacks of September 11. In his 1996
"Declaration of War against the Americans," bin Laden showed that he and his
Egyptian associates are cut from the same cloth. Just as Zawahiriand Atef
considered the current regime of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt to be a nest of
apostates, so bin Laden considered the Saudi monarchy(its Wahhabi doctrines
notwithstanding) to have renounced Islam.
According to bin Laden, his king adopted "polytheism," which bin Laden
defined as the acceptance of "laws fabricated by men ... permitting that
which God has forbidden." It is the height of human arrogance and irreligion
to "share with God in His sole right of sovereignty and making the law."
Extremist Salafis, therefore, regard modern Western civilization as a font
of evil, spreading idolatry around the globe in the form of secularism.
Since the United States is the strongest Western nation, the main purveyor
of pop culture, and the power most involved in the political and economic
affairs of the Islamic world, it receives particularly harsh criticism. Only
the apostate Middle Eastern regimes themselves fall under harsher
It is worth remembering, in this regard, that the rise of Islam represents a
miraculous case of the triumph of human will. With little more than their
beliefs to gird them, the Prophet Muhammad and a small number of devoted
followers started a movement that brought the most powerful empires of their
day crashing to the ground. On September 11, the attackers undoubtedly
imagined themselves to be retracing the Prophet's steps. As they boarded the
planes with the intention of destroying the Pentagon and the World Trade
Center, they recited battle prayers that contained the line "All of their
equipment, and gates, and technology will not prevent [you from achieving
your aim], nor harm [you] except by God's will." The hijackers' imaginations
certainly needed nothing more than this sparse line to remind them that, as
they attacked America, they rode right behind Muhammad, who in his day had
unleashed forces that, shortly after his death, destroyed the Persian Empire
and crippled Byzantium -- the two superpowers of the age.
Somebody Else's Civil War (2/4)
Michael Scott Doran
AMERICA, LAND OF THE CRUSADERS
When thinking about the world today and their place in it, the extremist
Salafis do not reflect only on the story of the foundation of Islam. They
also scour more than a millennium of Islamic history in search of parallels
to the present predicament. In his "Declaration of War," for instance, bin
Laden states that the stationing of American forces on the soil of the
Arabian peninsula constitutes the greatest aggression committed against the
Muslims since the death of the Prophet in AD 632.
To put this claim in perspective, it is worth remembering that in the last
1,300 years Muslims have suffered a number of significant defeats, including
but not limited to the destruction of the Abbasid caliphate by the Mongols,
an episode of which bin Laden is well aware. In 1258 the ruthless Mongol
leader Hulegu sacked Baghdad, killed the caliph, and massacred hundreds of
thousands of inhabitants, stacking their skulls, as legend has it, in a
pyramid outside the city walls. Whatever one thinks about U.S. policy toward
Iraq, few in America would argue that the use of Saudi bases to enforce the
sanctions against Saddam Hussein's regime constitutes a world-historical
event on a par with the Mongol invasion of the Middle East. Before September
11, one might have been tempted to pass off as nationalist hyperbole bin
Laden's assumption that U.S. policy represents the pinnacle of human evil.
Now we know he is deadly serious.
The magnitude of the attacks on New York and Washington make it clear that
al Qaeda does indeed believe itself to be fighting a war to save the umma
from Satan, represented by secular Western culture. Extreme though they
maybe, these views extend far beyond al Qaeda's immediate followers in
Afghanistan. Even a quick glance at the Islamist press in Arabic
demonstrates that many Muslims who do not belong to bin Laden's terrorist
network consider the United States to be on amoral par with Genghis Khan.
Take, for instance, Muhammad Abbas, an Egyptian Islamist who wrote the
following in the newspaper Al Shaab on September 21:
Look! There is the master of democracy whom they have so often sanctified
but who causes criminal, barbaric, bloody oppression that abandons the moral
standards of even the most savage empires in history. In my last column I
listed for readers the five million killed(may God receive them as martyrs)
because of the crimes committed by this American civilization that America
leads. These five million were killed in the last few decades alone.
Similar feelings led another Al Shaab columnist that day, Khalid al Sharif,
to describe the shock and delight that he felt while watching the World
Trade Center crumbling:
Look at that! America, master of the world, is crashing down. Look at that!
The Satan who rules the world, east and west, is burning. Look at that! The
sponsor of terrorism is itself seared by its fire.
The fanatics of al Qaeda see the world in black and white and advance a
particularly narrow view of Islam. This makes them a tiny minority among
Muslims. But the basic categories of their thought flow directly from the
mainstream of the Salafiyya, a perspective that has enjoyed a wide hearing
over the last 50 years. Familiarity thus ensures bin Laden's ideas a
sympathetic reception in many quarters.
In Salafi writings, the United States emerges as the senior member of a
"Zionist-Crusader alliance" dedicated to subjugating Muslims, killing them,
and, most important, destroying Islam. A careful reading reveals that this
alliance represents more than just close relations between the United States
and Israel today. The international cooperation between Washington and
Jerusalem is but one nefarious manifestation of a greater evil of almost
cosmic proportions. Thus in his "Declaration of War" bin Laden lists lo or
12 world hot spots where Muslims have recently died (including Bosnia,
Chechnya, and Lebanon) and attributes all of these deaths to a conspiracy
led by the United States, even though Americans actually played no role in
pulling the trigger. And thus, in another document, "Jihad Against Jews and
Crusaders," bin Laden describes U.S. policies toward the Middle East as "a
clear declaration of war on God, His messenger, and Muslims."
As strange as it may sound to an American audience, the idea that the United
States has taken an oath of enmity toward God has deep roots in the Salafi
tradition. It has been around for more than 50 years and has reached a wide
public through the works of, among others, Sayyid Qutb, the most important
Salafi thinker of the last half century and a popular author in the Muslim
world even today, nearly4o years after his death. A sample passage taken
from his writings in the early 1950S illustrates the point. Addressing the
reasons why the Western powers had failed to support Muslims against their
enemies in Pakistan, Palestine, and elsewhere, Qutb canvassed a number of
common explanations such as Jewish financial influence and British imperial
trickery but concluded,
All of these opinions overlook one vital element in the question . . . the
Crusader spirit that runs in the blood of all Occidentals. It is this that
colors all their thinking, which is responsible for their imperialistic fear
of the spirit of Islam and for their efforts to crush the strength of Islam.
For the instincts and the interests of all Occidentals are bound up together
in the crushing of that strength. This is the common factor that links
together communist Russia and capitalist America. We do not forget the role
of international Zionism in plotting against Islam and in pooling the forces
of the Crusader imperialists and communist materialists alike. This is
nothing other than a continuation of the role played by the Jews since the
migration of the Prophet to Medina and the rise of the Islamic state.
Sayyid Qutb, Osama bin Laden, and the entire extremist Salafiyya see Western
civilization, in all periods and in all guises, as innately hostile to
Muslims and to Islam itself. The West and Islam are locked in a prolonged
conflict. Islam will eventually triumph, of course, but only after enduring
great hardship. Contemporary history, defined as it is by Western
domination, constitutes the darkest era in the entire history of Islam.
Somebody Else's Civil War (3/4)
Michael Scott Doran
AMERICA AND THE MONGOL THREAT
WHEN ATTEMPTING to come to grips with the nature of the threat the modern
West poses, extremist Salafis fall back on the writings of Ibn Taymiyya for
guidance. A towering figure in the history of Islamic thought, he was born
in Damascus in the thirteenth century, when Syria stood under the threat of
invasion from the Mongols. Modern radicals find him attractive because he
too faced the threat of a rival civilization. Ibn Taymiyya the firebrand
exhorted his fellow Muslims to fight the Mongol foe, while Ibn Taymiyya the
intellectual guided his community through the problems Muslims face when
their social order falls under the shadow of non-Muslim power. It is only
natural that bin Laden himself looks to such a master in order to legitimate
his policies. Using Ibn Taymiyya to target America, however, marks an
interesting turning point in the history of the radical Salafiyya.
Bin Laden's "Declaration of War" uses the logic of Ibn Taymiyya to persuade
others in the Salafiyya to abandon old tactics for new ones. The first
reference to him arises in connection with a discussion of the
"Zionist-Crusader alliance," which according to bin Laden has been jailing
and killing radical preachers -- men such as Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, in
prison for plotting a series of bombings in New York City following the 1993
bombing of the World Trade Center. Bin Laden argues that the "iniquitous
Crusader movement under the leadership of the U.S.A." fears these preachers
because they will successfully rally the Islamic community against the West,
just as IbnTaymiyya did against the Mongols in his day. Having identified
the United States as a threat to Islam equivalent to the Mongols, bin Laden
then discusses what to do about it. Ibn Taymiyya provides the answer: "To
fight in the defense of religion and belief is a collective duty; there is
no other duty after belief than fighting the enemy who is corrupting the
life and the religion." The next most important thing after accepting the
word of God, in other words, is fighting for it.
By calling on the umma to fight the Americans as if they were the Mongols,
bin Laden and his Egyptian lieutenants have taken the extremist Salafiyya
down a radically new path. Militants have long identified the West as a
pernicious evil on a par with the Mongols, but they have traditionally
targeted the internal enemy, the Hypocrites and apostates, rather than Hubal
itself. Aware that he is shifting the focus considerably, bin Laden quotes
Ibn Taymiyya at length to establish the basic point that "people of Islam
should join forces and support each other to get rid of the main infidel,"
even if that means that the true believers will be forced to fight alongside
Muslims of dubious piety. In the grand scheme of things, he argues, God
often uses the base motives of impious Muslims as a means of advancing the
cause of religion. In effect, bin Laden calls upon his fellow Islamist
radicals to postpone the Islamic revolution, to stop fighting Hypocrites and
apostates: "An internal war is a great mistake, no matter what reasons there
are for it,² because discord among Muslims will only serve the United States
and its goal of destroying Islam.
The shift of focus from the domestic enemy to the foreign power is all the
more striking given the merger of al Qaeda and Egyptian Islamic Jihad. The
latter's decision to kill Sadat in 1981 arose directly from the principle
that the cause of Islam would be served by targeting lax Muslim leaders
rather than by fighting foreigners, and here, too, Ibn Taymiyya provided the
key doctrine. In his day Muslims often found themselves living under Mongol
rulers who had absorbed Islam in one form or another. Ibn Taymiyya argued
that such rulers -- who outwardly pretended to be Muslims but who secretly
followed non-Islamic, Mongol practices -- must be considered infidels.
Moreover, he claimed, by having accepted Islam but having also failed to
observe key precepts of the religion, they had in effect committed apostasy
and thereby written their own death sentences. In general, Islam prohibits
fighting fellow Muslims and strongly restricts the right to rebel against
the ruler; Ibn Taymiyya's doctrines, there fore, were crucial in the
development of a modern Sunni Islamic revolutionary theory.
Egyptian Islamic Jihad views leaders such as Sadat as apostates. Although
they may outwardly display signs of piety, they do not actually have Islam
in their hearts, as their failure to enforce the shari`a proves. This
non-Islamic behavior demonstrates that such leaders actually serve the
secular West, precisely as an earlier generation of outwardly Muslim rulers
had served the Mongols, and as the Hypocrites had served idolatry. Islamic
Jihad explained itself back in themid-lg80s in a long, lucid statement
titled "The Neglected Duty. "Not a political manifesto like bin Laden's
tracts, it is a sustained and learned argument that targets the serious
believer rather than the angry, malleable crowd. Unlike bin Laden's holy
war, moreover, Islamic Jihad's doctrine, though violent, fits clearly in the
mainstream of Salafi consciousness, which historically has been concerned
much more with the state of the Muslims themselves than with relations
between Islam and the outside world. The decision to target America,
therefore, raises the question of whether, during the 1990S, Egyptian
Islamic Jihad changed its ideology entirely. Did its leaders decide that the
foreign enemy was in fact the real enemy? Or was the 1993 bombing in New
York tactical rather than strategic?
The answer would seem to be the latter. Bin Laden's "Declaration of War"
itself testifies to the tactical nature of his campaign against America.
Unlike "The Neglected Duty," which presents a focused argument, the
"Declaration of War" meanders from topic to topic, contradicting itself
along the way. On the one hand, it calls for unity in the face of external
aggression and demands an end to internecine warfare; on the other, it calls
in essence for revolution in Saudi Arabia. By presenting a litany of claims
against the Saudi ruling family and by discussing the politics of Saudi
Arabia at length and in minute detail, bin Laden protests too much: he
reveals that he has not, in fact, set aside the internal war among the
believers. Moreover, he also reveals that the ideological basis for that
internal war has not changed. The members of the Saudi elite, like Sadat,
have committed apostasy. Like the Hypocrites of Medina, they serve the
forces of irreligion in order to harm the devotees of the Prophet and his
You know more than anybody else about the size, intention, and the danger of
the presence of the U.S. military bases in the area. The[Saudi] regime
betrayed the umma and joined the infidels, assisting them . .. against the
Muslims. It is well known that this is one of the ten "voiders" of Islam,
deeds of de-Islamization. By opening the Arabian Peninsula to the crusaders,
the regime disobeyed and acted against what has been enjoined by the
messenger of God.
Osama bin Laden undoubtedly believes that Americans are Crusader-Zionists,
that they threaten his people even more than did the Mongols -- in short,
that they are the enemies of God Himself But he also sees them as obstacles
to his plans for his native land. The "Declaration of War" provides yet more
testimony to the old saw that ultimately all politics is local.
THE FAILURE OF POLITICAL ISLAM
IF THE ATTACKS on the United States represented a change in radical Salafi
tactics, then one must wonder what prompted bin Laden and Zawahiri to make
that change. The answer is that the attacks were a response to the failure
of extremist movements in the Muslim world in recent years, which have
generally proved incapable of taking power(Sudan and Afghanistan being the
major exceptions). In the last two decades, several violent groups have
challenged regimes such as those in Egypt, Syria, and Algeria, but in every
case the government has managed to crush, co-opt, or marginalize the
radicals. In the words of the "Declaration of War,"
the Zionist-Crusader alliance moves quickly to contain and abort any
"corrective movement" appearing in Islamic countries. Different means and
methods are used to achieve their target. Sometimes officials from the
Ministry of the Interior, who are also graduates of the colleges of the
shari`a, are [unleashed] to mislead and confuse the nation and the umma . .
.and to circulate false information about the movement, wasting the energy
of the nation in discussing minor issues and ignoring the main one that is
the unification of people under the divine law of Allah.
Given that in Egypt, Algeria, and elsewhere regimes have resorted to extreme
violence to protect themselves, it is striking that bin Laden emphasizes
here not the brutality but rather the counter propaganda designed to divide
and rule. Consciously or not, he has put his finger on a serious problem for
the extremist Salafis: the limitations of their political and economic
Apart from insisting on the implementation of the shari`a, demanding social
justice, and turning the umma into the only legitimate political community,
radical Salafis have precious little to offer in response to the mundane
problems that people and governments face in the modern world. Extremist
Islam is profoundly effective in mounting a protest movement: it can produce
a cadre of activists whose devotion to the cause knows no bounds, it can
galvanize people to fight against oppression. But it has serious
difficulties when it comes to producing institutions and programs that can
command the attention of diverse groups in society over the long haul. Its
success relies mainly on the support of true believers, but they tend to
fragment in disputes over doctrine, leadership, and agenda.
The limitations of extremist Salafi political theory and its divisive
tendencies come to light clearly if one compares the goals of al Qaeda with
those of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, whose suicide bombers have
also been in the headlines recently. The ideology of Hamas also evolved out
of the Egyptian extremist Salafiyya milieu, and it shares with al Qaeda a
paranoid view of the world: the umma and true Islam are threatened with
extinction by the spread of Western secularism, the policies of the
Crusading West, and oppression by the Zionists. Both Hamas and al Qaeda
believe that the faithful must obliterate Israel. But looking more closely
at Hamas and its agenda, one can see that it parts company with al Qaeda in
many significant ways. This is because Hamas operates in the midst of
nationalistic Palestinians, a majority of whom fervently desire, among other
things, an end to the Israeli occupation and the establishment of a
Palestinian state in part of historic Palestine.
The nationalist outlook of Hamas' public presents the organization with a
number of thorny problems. Nationalism, according to the extremist
Salafiyya, constitutes shirk -- that is, polytheism or idolatry. If politics
and religion are not distinct categories, as extremist Salafis argue, then
political life must be centered around God and God's law. Sovereignty
belongs not to the nation but to God alone, and the only legitimate
political community is the umma. Pride in one's ethnic group is tolerable
only so long as it does not divide the community of believers, who form an
indivisible unit thanks to the sovereignty of the shari`a. One day,
extremist Salafis believe, political boundaries will be erased and all
Muslims will live in one polity devoted to God's will. At the moment,
however, the priority is not to erase boundaries but to raise up the shari`a
and abolish secular law. Nationalism is idolatry because it divides the umma
and replaces a shari`a-centered consciousness with ethnic pride.
If Hamas were actually to denounce secular Palestinian nationalists as
apostates, however, it would immediately consign itself to political
irrelevance. To skirt this problem, the organization has developed an
elaborate view of Islamic history that in effect elevates the Palestinian
national struggle to a position of paramount importance for the umma as a
whole. This allows Hamas activists to function in the day-to-day political
world as fellow travelers with the nationalists. Thus one of the fascinating
aspects of Palestinian extremist Salafiyya is a dog that hasn't barked: in
contrast to its sibling movements in neighboring countries, Hamas has
refrained from labeling the secular leaders in the Palestinian Authority as
apostates. Even at the height of Yasir Arafat's crackdown against Hamas, the
movement never openly branded him as an idolater.
Like al Qaeda, Hamas argues that a conspiracy between Zionism and the West
has dedicated itself to destroying Islam, but for obvious reasons it
magnifies the role of Zionism in the alliance. The Hamas Covenant, for
example, sees Zionism as, among other things, a force determining many of
the greatest historical developments of the modern period:
[Zionists] were behind the French Revolution, the communist revolution....
They were behind World War I, when they were able to destroy the Islamic
caliphate [i.e., the Ottoman Empire].... They obtained the Balfour
Declaration [favoring establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine],
[and] formed the League of Nations, through which they could rule the world.
They were behind World War II, through which they made huge financial gains
by trading in armaments, and paved the way for the establishment of their
state. It was they who instigated the replacement of the League of Nations
with the United Nations and the Security Council.... There is no war going
on anywhere, without [them] having their finger in it.
Do a number of intelligent and educated people actually believe this? Yes,
because they must; their self-understanding hinges on it. Since their
political struggle must be for the greater good of the umma and of Islam as
a whole, their enemy must be much more than just one part of the Jewish
people with designs on one sliver of Muslim territory. The enemy must be the
embodiment of an evil that transcends time and place.
Although the sanctity of Jerusalem works in Hamas' favor, in Islam Jerusalem
does not enjoy the status of Mecca and Medina and is only a city, not an
entire country. To reconcile its political and religious concerns,
therefore, Hamas must inflate the significance of Palestine in Islamic
history: "The present Zionist onslaught," the covenant says, "has also been
preceded by Crusading raids from the West and other Tatar [Mongol] raids
from the East." The references here are to Saladin, the Muslim leader who
defeated the Crusaders in Palestine at the battle of Hattin in 1187, and to
the Muslim armies that defeated the Mongols at another Palestinian site
called Ayn Jalut in 1260. On this basis Hamas argues that Palestine has
always been the bulwark against the enemies of Islam; the umma, therefore,
must rally behind the Palestinians to destroy Israel, which represents the
third massive onslaught against the true religion since the death of the
Despite the similarities in their perspectives, therefore, al Qaeda and
Hamas have quite different agendas. Al Qaeda justifies its political goals
on the basis of the holiness of Mecca and Medina and on the claim that the
presence of U.S. forces in Arabia constitutes the greatest aggression that
the Muslims have ever endured. Hamas sees its own struggle against Israel as
the first duty of the umma. The two organizations undoubtedly share enough
in common to facilitate political cooperation on many issues, but at some
point their agendas diverge radically, a divergence that stems from the
different priorities inherent in their respective Saudi and Palestinian
The differences between al Qaeda and Hamas demonstrate how local conditions
can mold the universal components of Salafi consciousness into distinct
world views. They display the creativity of radical Islamists in addressing
a practical problem similar to that faced by communists in the early
twentieth century: how to build a universal political movement that can
nevertheless function effectively at the local level. This explains why,
when one looks at the political map of the extremist Salafiyya, one finds a
large number of organizations all of which insist that they stand for the
same principles. They do, in fact, all insist on the implementation of the
shari`a, but the specific social and political forces fueling that
insistence differ greatly from place to place. They all march to the beat of
God's drummer, but the marchers tend to wander off indifferent directions.
The new tactic of targeting America is designed to over come precisely this
weakness of political Islam. Bin Laden succeeded in attacking Hubal, the
universal enemy: he identified the only target that all of the Salafiyya
submovements around the world can claim equally as their own, thereby
reflecting and reinforcing the collective belief that the umma actually is
the political community. He and his colleagues adopted this strategy not
from choice but from desperation, a desperation born of the fact that in
recent years the extremist Salafis had been defeated politically almost
everywhere in the Arab and Muslim world. The new tactic, by tapping into the
deepest emotions of the political community, smacks of brilliance, and --
much to America's chagrin -- will undoubtedly give political Islam a renewed
burst of energy.
Somebody Else's Civil War (4/4)
Michael Scott Doran
EXPLAINING THE ECHO
The decision to target the United States allows al Qaeda to play the role of
a radical "Salafi International." It resonates beyond the small community of
committed extremists, however, reaching not just moderate Salafis but, in
addition, a broad range of disaffected citizens experiencing poverty,
oppression, and powerlessness across the Muslim world. This broader
resonance of what appears to us as such a wild and hateful message is the
dimension of the problem that Americans find most difficult to understand.
One reason for the welcoming echo is the extent to which Salafi political
movements, while failing to capture state power, have nevertheless succeeded
in capturing much cultural ground in Muslim countries. Many authoritarian
regimes (such as Mubarak's Egypt) have cut a deal with the extremists: in
return for an end to assassinations, the regime acquiesces in some of the
demands regarding implementation of the shari`a. In addition, it permits the
extremist groups to run networks of social welfare organizations that often
deliver services more efficiently than does a state sector riddled with
corruption and marred by decay. This powerful cultural presence of the
Salafis across the Islamic world means not only that their direct ranks have
grown but also that their symbolism is more familiar than ever among a wider
But the attack on America also resonates deeply among secular groups in many
countries. The immediate response in the secular Arab press, for example,
fell broadly into three categories. A minority denounced the attacks
forcefully and unconditionally, another minority attributed them to the
Israelis or to American extremists like Timothy McVeigh, and a significant
majority responded with a version of "Yes, but" -- yes, the terrorist
attacks against you were wrong, but you must understand that your own
policies in the Middle East have for years sown the seeds of this kind of
This rationalization amounts to a political protest against the perceived
role of the United States in the Middle East. Arab and Islamic commentators,
and a number of prominent analysts of the Middle East in this country, point
in particular to U.S. enforcement of the sanctions on Iraq and U.S. support
for Israel in its struggle against Palestinian nationalism. Both of these
issues certainly cause outrage, and if the United States were to effect the
removal of Israeli settlements from the West Bank and alleviate the
suffering of the Iraqi people, some of that outrage would certainly subside.
But although a change in those policies would dampen some of bin Laden's
appeal, it would not solve the problem of the broader anger and despair that
he taps, because the sources of those feelings lie beyond the realm of
Indeed, secular political discourse in the Islamic world in general and the
Arab world in particular bears a striking resemblance to the Salafi
interpretation of international affairs, especially insofar as both speak in
terms of Western conspiracies. The secular press does not make reference to
Crusaders and Mongols but rather to a string of "broken promises" dating
back to World War I, when the European powers divided up the Ottoman Empire
to suit their own interests. They planted Israel in the midst of the Middle
East, so the analysis goes, in order to drive a wedge between Arab states,
and the United States continues to support Israel for the same purpose. Bin
Laden played to this sentiment in his October 7 statement when he said,
What the United States tastes today is a very small thing compared to what
we have tasted for tens of years. Our nation has been tasting this
humiliation and contempt for more than eighty years. Its sons are being
killed, its blood is being shed, its holy places are being attacked, and it
is not being ruled according to what God has decreed.
For 80 years -- that is, since the destruction of the Ottoman Empire -- the
Arabs and the Muslims have been humiliated. Although they do not share bin
Laden's millenarian agenda, when secular commentators point to Palestine and
Iraq today they do not see just two difficult political problems; they see
what they consider the true intentions of the West unmasked.
Arab commentators often explain, for instance, that Saddam Hussein and
Washington are actually allies. They ridicule the notion that the United
States tried to depose the dictator. After all, it is said, the first Bush
administration had the forces in place to remove the Baath Party and had
called on the Iraqi populace to rise up against the tyrant. When the people
actually rose, however, the Americans watched from the sidelines as the
regime brutally suppressed them. Clearly, therefore, what the United States
really wanted was to divide and rule the Arabs in order to secure easy
access to Persian Gulf oil -- a task that also involves propping up corrupt
monarchies in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Keeping Saddam on a leash was the
easiest way to ensure that Iran could not block the project.
Needless to say, this world view is problematic. Since World War I, Arab
societies have been deeply divided among themselves along ethnic, social,
religious, and political lines. Regardless of what the dominant Arab
discourse regarding broken promises has to say, most of these divisions were
not created by the West. The European powers and the United States have
sometimes worked to divide the Arabs, sometimes to unify them. Mostly they
have pursued their own interests, as have all the other actors involved. Bin
Laden is a participant in a profoundly serious civil war over Arab and
Muslim identity in the modern world. The United States is also a participant
in that war, because whether it realizes it or not, its policies affect the
fortunes of the various belligerents. But Washington is not a primary actor,
because it is an outsider in cultural affairs and has only a limited ability
to define for believers the role of Islam in public life.
The war between extremist Salafis and the broader populations around them is
only the tip of the iceberg. The fight over religion among Muslims is but
one of a number of deep and enduring regional struggles that originally had
nothing to do with the United States and even today involve it only
indirectly. Nonetheless, U.S. policies can influence the balance of power
among the protagonists in these struggles, sometimes to a considerable
Until the Arab and Muslim worlds create political orders that do not
disenfranchise huge segments of their own populations, the civil war will
continue and will continue to touch the United States. Washington can play
an important role in fostering authentic and inclusive polities, but
ultimately Arabs and Muslims more generally must learn to live in peace with
one another so as to live comfortably with outsiders. Whether they will do
so is anybody's guess.
It is a stark political fact that in the Arab and Muslim worlds today
economic globalization and the international balance of power both come with
an American face, and neither gives much reason for optimism. Osama bin
Laden's rhetoric, dividing the world into two camps -- the umma versus the
United States and puppet regimes -- has a deep resonance because on some
levels it conforms, if not to reality, then at least to its appearances.
This is why, for the first time in modern history, the extremist Salafis
have managed to mobilize mass popular opinion.
This development is troubling, but the United States still has some cards to
play. Its policies, for instance, on both West Bank settlements and Iraq,
are sorely in need of review -- but only after bin Laden has been
vanquished. These policy changes might help, but the root problem lies
deeper. Once al Qaeda has been annihilated without sparking anti-American
revolutions in the Islamic world, the United States should adopt a set of
policies that ensure that significant numbers of Muslims -- not Muslim
regimes but Muslims -- identify their own interests with those of the United
States, so that demagogues like bin Laden cannot aspire to speak in the name
of the entire umma. In 1991, millions of Iraqis constituted just such a
reservoir of potential supporters, yet America turned its back on them.
Washington had its reasons, but they were not the kind that can be justified
in terms of the American values that we trumpet to the world. Today we are
paying a price for that hypocrisy. This is not to say that we caused or
deserved the attacks of September 11 in any way. It is to say, however, that
we are to some extent responsible for the fact that so few in the Arab and
Muslim worlds express vocal and unequivocal support for our cause, even when
that cause is often their cause as well.
Since the events of September 11, innumerable articles have appeared in the
press discussing America's loss of innocence. To foreigners, this view of
Americans as naive bumpkins, a band of Forrest Gumps who just arrived in
town, is difficult to fathom. Whether the MTV generation knows it or not,
the United States has been deeply involved in other peoples' civil wars for
a long time. A generation ago, for example, we supposedly lost our innocence
in Vietnam. Back then, Adonis, the poet laureate of the Arab world,
meditated on the ambivalence Arabs feel toward America. In the aftermath of
the September attacks, his poem seems prophetic:
New York, you will find in my land.
. . the stone of Mecca and the waters of the Tigris.
In spite of all this,
you pant in Palestine and Hanoi.
East and west you contend with people
whose only history is fire.
These tormented people knew us before we were virgins.
Stuff moral equivalence. On one side you have Islamic countries such as
( a moderate Islamic country ) where it is illegal to hold a church service,
conduct a bible class or be buried with a cross on your grave, In the USA
there are mosques aplenty.
Stuff moral equivalence. Islamic countries are dictatorships which generally
condone stoning, amputation and whipping for minor offences. The USA
Islamic countries ( in the middle east ) are economically inefficient, have
away their oil money and require armies of contract workers from South East
Asia because its own citizens seem incapable of working. The USA is the
world's biggest economy and has voluntarily donated billions of dollars
to help poor nations.
If you see yourself as the objective voice of reason you are mistaken. If
not for the USA you wouldn't have the freedoms you now enjoy.
> Tommy Gun
Osama Bin laden is a selfish stupid scum and every muslim on Earth should
reject the maniacal ideas of his clan?
You gotta be a fake poster please be fake you actually said something i agree
with you gotta be a fake.
/ begin official SCJ translation of anti-Semitic horseshit
Hey mommy, look at me, I switched directions again. BTW mommy, what's a
/ end translation
/ begin official SCJ translation of anti-Semitic horseshit
I, Alex the Arab, do hereby decree that although 15 of the 19 swine that
crashed planes from on Sept. 11 in an attack I cheered were Saudis, I can
now state that their brand of Islam is incompatible with mine, and no one
here will understand what pure bullshit it is. SO I HAVE SPOKEN, SO IT
SHALL BE WRITTEN.
/ end translation
As I remember it was the Israeli agents that cheered and videotaped the
As you remember it, eh? So tell us, how long have you been on these
anti-psychotics? They using thorozine, or some new medication on you?
There are no truly Islamic countries anywhere, mainly because muslims are
compatible with Christianity, Judaism and other religions. But if you want
to take an example look ate the largest muslim country Indonesia, Malayasia,
Saudi Arabia carries the name of its owner Saud. It is an imposed monarchy
incompatible with Islam, and is definitely not Islam!
Taliban had strange ways admitedly, but it certainly treated the American
prisoners better than Americans treat theirs!
If you're in any of these places in the near future, you're likely to get
all too warm. Mushroom clouds are a bitch.
/ begin official SCJ translation of anti-Semitic horseshit
WE HATE ALL NON MUSLIMS JUST THE SAME. IF WE COULD EVER GET RID OF THE JEWS,
YOU FUCKING INFIDEL CHRISTIANS ARE NEXT.
/ end translation
The taliban had no prisoners they tortured and murdered anyone they didn't like
shit for brains.
> As I remember it was the Israeli agents that cheered and videotaped the
> whole thing
More proof that one only remembers what he wants too ....
The Malaysian Prime Minister who referred to some boat people as scum
and made them move on. Where freedom of assembly and speech is denied.
Is it 3 or 5 people who are permitted to assemble under Malaysian law? A
state controlled media, a system that actively discriminates against
such as the Chinese in terms of university positions and government
What needs to be said? East Timor. Ambon. Do you have any idea how many
Christian teachers have been murdered there in the last few years. A rough
figure is about 100.
Persecution of Coptic Christians. State aid directed to Islamic but not
Christian groups. 70 tourists murdered.
Where if you aren't chinese or white you can forget about a good job.
Where ethnic cleansing is still fashionable. Deporting people of Malay
blood to be exact.
If you like I'll scan in a few pages from amnesty international. It makes
USA, Britain and Australia look angelic compared to the examples
of progressive Islamic states that you offer. By the way, why did you