Ambassador Edward Walker, President of the Middle-East Institute and former Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs and Ambassador to Israel, says in Haaretz (thanks to France) that it is “important for any government or people who are targeted by terrorism…to understand the enemy.”
That is certainly true. That is what I have been trying to get across for the last few years.
But he also says: “So when you speak of Jihad or attitudes toward non-believers and apostates, you have to define which version you are talking about. Not many in the Muslim world accept the definitions laid down by al-Qaida, for example.”
Fair enough. Perhaps Ambassador Walker would now be good enough to produce evidence of a school of jurisprudence within Islam, or an orthodox Sunni or Shi’ite sect, that actually does not teach that it is the responsibility of the Muslim community to wage war against unbelievers in order ultimately to establish the Islamic social order throughout the world. Perhaps also he could produce a school or sect that does not teach that male apostates from Islam should be killed.
It doesn’t have to be Ambassador Walker. If anyone reading this has such evidence of such a school or sect, please send it to me here at firstname.lastname@example.org. But note that I am asking for a school or sect. I know that there are individual reformers, and I applaud them. But Walker, like so many others, is suggesting that there are whole traditions within Islam that reject violent jihad and death for apostasy. I don’t know of any such traditions.
Dear Mr. Ambassador
Would you not say that the Islamic concepts of jihad, Islam’s attitudes towards the infidel, and Islam’s attitudes towards its own apostates (a case in point is Abdul Rahman in Afghanistan) have a lot to do with the way Hamas, Iran, Hezbollah and al-Qaida relate to Israel? Why were these questions not discussed during the Israeli election campaign and how can the new Israeli government effectively counter the threats from organizations that follow these Islamic tenets when their prime motivation has never been taken into account?
Dear Mladen Andrijasevic,
Islam, like Christianity and Judaism, is a big tent that incorporates many different versions, some formally such as the Shiia, Sunnis, Ibadis, Suffis [sic], Salafis, and others and various versions within each of these sects depending on the interpretation of the individual and of diverse religious scholars. So when you speak of Jihad or attitudes toward non-believers and apostates, you have to define which version you are talking about. Not many in the Muslim world accept the definitions laid down by al-Qaida, for example. As for Hamas and Hezbollah, they come from different roots and while they have broader appeal in the Islamic world than al-Qaida, they are still minorities. You don’t mention the Muslim Brotherhood, which has strength in Egypt, Syria and Jordan and is a parent of Hamas.
Certainly, it is in our interest to examine the basis for the extreme views of some organizations and the motivation that leads people to embrace these views with the hope that we can find antidotes and prevent new adherents. But this is not a task that is unique to Israel. It is just as important for any government or people who are targeted by terrorism, including the United States, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Algeria and virtually every civilized country in the world, to understand the enemy. Having said that, I am not convinced an election campaign is the best place for a serious investigation of these issues. I am sure such a serious question would not profit from being reviewed during a U.S. political campaign.