The Westminster Institute (Virginia): Educating the Public and Government About the Ideology of the Terrorists, and Ways to Counter It
by Ibn Warraq
The Westminster Institute was founded in March, 2009 in order to, according to its own mission statement, promote “individual dignity and freedom for people throughout the world by sponsoring high-quality independent research with a particular focus on the threats from extremism and radical ideologies.” One should not be put off by the vagueness of its aims (“promoting individual dignity and freedom”), which are, in fact, better expressed elsewhere on their website (under the section “Donate”), viz., “The Westminster Institute is playing a critical role in educating counter-terrorism and law enforcement professionals, policy makers, and the general public on the threat from radical ideologies, as well as conducting cutting–edge research on how best to defeat this threat”.
I first stumbled onto the organisation when I was advised by my colleagues at Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, Washington D.C. [FDD], to attend a lecture on 5th October, 2010 at The Westminster Institute headquarters in McLean, Virginia, given by the Dr. Sebastian Gorka. Dr Gorka gave what I consider to be the most lucid presentation I have ever heard on “Jihadist Ideology -- The Core Texts”. Dr. Gorka is Military Affairs Fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and member of the Strategic Advisers Group of the U.S. Atlantic Council. Since 9/11 he has trained over 800 counter-terrorism officers from more than 50 nations, including Iraq and Afghanistan. He has lectured frequently on counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency at such institutions as West Point, Fort Leavenworth’s School of Advanced Military Studies, U.S. Special Operations Command and the National Counter Terrorism Center. Dr. Gorka is co-editor of the newly released Toward a Grand Strategy Against Terrorism (McGraw Hill, 2010).
Both Sebastian Gorka and the Westminster Institute’s recent one-day conference, “Fighting the Ideological War: Strategies For Defeating Al Qaeda” (May 25, 2011 in Arlington, VA), emphasized the ideological nature of the struggle, something that the West (intellectuals, the public, and successive governments) have neglected so far. Dr Gorka and the W.I. Conference were refreshingly candid about the Islamic roots of terrorism. We must be able to place al-Qaeda in its ideological context; al Qaeda [AQ] was not created on the foundations of the Arab Mujahedeen movement, but was the product of, in the short term, decades of ideological evolution that started with the Muslim Brotherhood, and, in the long term, was a natural and logical outcome of fundamental doctrines and institutions theologically constructed and developed out of the founding texts of Islam itself.
I shall give a brief account of Dr. Gorka’s talk of October, 2010, and then a full report of the equally important one-day conference, Fighting the Ideological War: Strategies For Defeating Al Qaeda, that was attended by defence specialists, officials from the State Department and even by members of the FBI.
We must, of course, defend ourselves against violent jihad, argues Dr.Gorka, but we must be equally wary of al Qaeda’s soft jihadist colleagues, who will not necessarily use violence but rather legal and economic tools to undermine our constitutional order. Our national security establishment is not capable, at present, of dealing with this indirect sort of warfare -- we have not even woken up to the seriousness of this threat. The Muslim Brotherhood, the Organization of the Islamic Conference [OIC] and AQ all have the same objective, they are on the same team: they wish to impose their rival totalitarian ideology on the West, they wish to replace the US Constitution with the Sharia [Islamic Law], and revive a global Caliphate.
Dr Gorka leads us, with exemplary clarity, through four core texts of the jihadists: Sayyid Qutb’s Milestones; Abdullah Azzam’s The Defense of Muslim Lands; Ayman al-Zawahiri’s Knights Under the Prophet’s Banner; and Brigadier S.K.Malik’s The Quranic Concept of Power.
1. SAYYID QUTB: MILESTONES .
Qutb’s Milestones is considered the philosophical and theological inspiration for acts such as the attacks on September 11, 2001. Qutb [1906-1966] argues that despite the genius of Western creativity that has given mankind its material comforts, it has failed to answer the basic spiritual needs of man. The West is sunk in jahiliyyah, a state of ignorance of the Divine guidance; thus jahiliyyah is “based on rebellion against God’s sovereignty on earth. It transfers to man one of the greatest attributes of God, namely sovereignty, and makes some men lords over others. [Jahiliyyah] takes the form of claiming that the right to create values, to legislate rules of collective behavior, and choose any way of life rests with men, without regard to what God has prescribed.” [Sayyid Qutb, Milestones, [English translation] Dar al-Ilm, Damascus, Syria, [N.D.] p.11] It is the moral duty of every Muslim to bring the world out of the moral chaos, and to cleanse it of this state of ignorance or jahiliyyah, to free men “from servitude to other human beings so that they may devote themselves to the One True God, to deliver them from the clutches of human lordship and man-made laws, value systems and traditions so that they will acknowledge the sovereignty and authority of the One True God and follow His Law in all spheres of life”. [Milestones, p.45] Even those contemporary societies that are labeled “Muslim”, are also, in reality, jahili societies [p.82] -- and Qutb does not fail to draw the logical conclusion from this fact, namely, “all the societies existing in the world today are jahili” [p.80].
Given that Qutb borrows many concepts such as “vanguard” from Communism, and the fact that Qutb’s ideology is religiously framed, Dr Gorka dubs Qutb’s system “a hybrid totalitarianism.” Islam has a universal mission to replace the man-made laws of liberal democracies of the West with God’s law as found in the Quran. Islam is not a theoretical construct, is not an abstract theory, but has practical consequences. Islam’s “main program is in the practical sphere of life; it does not remain circumscribed in theoretical discussions and the speculations of theology.” [Milestones, p.37] “Islam’s function is to change people’s beliefs and actions as well as their outlook and way of thinking. Its method is Divinely-ordained and is entirely different from all the valueless methods of short-sighted human beings.” [Milestones, p.40]
Qutb has a totally uncritical and romanticized attitude to Islamic history, particularly the Golden Era of Muhammad, His Companions and the Rightly Guided Caliphs. “At one time,” enthuses Qutb, “this Message [ the call to Islam] created a generation -- the generation of the Companions of the Prophet, may God be pleased with them -- without comparison in the history of Islam, even in the entire history of man”. [Milestones, p.15]. Jihad, in the military sense, or in Arabic Jihad Bis Saif -- Jihad of the Sword, [p.61] is central to his ideology. Qutb has nothing but contempt for those apologetic and embarrassed Muslims who argue that “Islam has prescribed only defensive war”. Whereas Islam in reality “tries to annihilate all those political and material powers which stand between people and Islam, which force one people to bow before another people and prevent them from accepting the sovereignty of God”. [Milestones, p.57] Islam cannot be established by preaching alone [p.59], and Islam has no choice but to remove the obstacles in the way of freeing mankind, and establishing God’s sovereignty “by force”. [p.63].
The Koran is central to Islam since it was the only source from which the First Generation quenched their thirst. It is the only source to guidance. Next comes total obedience to the Shariah, in following which man comes into harmony with his own nature. The totalitarian nature of Islam is nowhere more apparent than in the concept of Shariah. For Qutb, Shariah is “also a part of that universal law which governs the entire universe, including the physical and biological aspects of man”. [p.88] “In Islam the meaning of Shariah is not limited to mere legal injunctions, but includes the principles of administration, its system and its modes….By the Shariah of God is meant everything legislated by God for ordering man’s life; it includes the principles of belief, principles of administration and justice, principles of morality and human relationships, and principles of knowledge….It includes political, social and economic affairs and their principles, with the intent that they reflect complete submission to God alone….It deals with the morals, manners, values and standards of the society….” [p.107] You cannot get more totalitarian than that.
A Muslim has no obligations to any nation state; he does not owe any allegiance to a particular country [p.124]. Hence Muslims living in the West, where jahiliyyah prevails, cannot possibly wish to assimilate to Western societies -- they have no desire to integrate.