The Hamilton Spectator has published an excerpt from The al-Qaeda Reader, translated by Raymond Ibrahim and with an introduction by Victor Davis Hanson. The book will be published in early 2007 by Doubleday. The paper, meanwhile, assures us: “Radical Muslims claim to be acting out the words of God, Moderate Muslims have competing interpretations.” Unfortunately, like so many hundreds of other articles that casually invoke the presence of a significant non-jihadist vision of Islam that is competing with jihadism within the Islamic world, they give no example of those “competing interpretations,” or any indication of how successfully they are competing. Thus the moderates’ competing interpretation of Islam remains the great unicorn, the wonderful kingdom of Prester John, the thing that everyone knows is there but no one can quite find.
Raymond Ibrahim is a bit more realistic in his introductory remarks in the Spectator:
While the West battles al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, the Taliban and other radical organizations and individuals, its more challenging task will be to marginalize the underlying ideology of radical Islam.
Right. And this is not being done today, not least because so many analysts dogmatically assume that it has already been done, and thus no more work remains to be done in this area.
Long dormant, but always alive, this ideology, based on literalist readings of Islam’s texts, is history’s latest and perhaps greatest incarnation of anti-Westernism.
Ibrahim doesn’t point out, however, that “literalist readings of Islam’s texts” have always been mainstream in the Islamic world, and consistently triumphed in Islam’s early centuries over competing understandings.
Radicals claim to be acting out the words of God. Moderate Muslims may have their competing interpretations of their Islamic texts, but whether their version will win out over that of the radicals is an unanswered question.
It would be nice if someone could point to even one place in the world where moderates are successfully competing with jihadists on Islamic grounds.
Then the Hamilton Spectator quotes from Ibrahim’s translation of “The World Islamic Front’s Declaration to Wage Jihad against the Jews and Crusaders,” which first appeared in al-Quds al-‘Arabi on February 23, 1998. Note the strong religious appeal. A few excerpts:
Praise be to Allah, who revealed the Book (Koran), controls the clouds, defeats factionalism and says in His Book: “Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever you find them — seize them, besiege them and be ready to ambush them” (9:5). And prayers and peace be upon our Prophet, Muhammad bin ‘Abdullah, who said: “I have been sent with the sword between my hands to ensure that no one but Allah is worshipped — Allah who put my livelihood under the shadow of my spear and who inflicts humiliation and scorn on those who disobey my commandments.”
Never since Allah made the Arabian Peninsula flat, created its desert and encircled it with seas has it been stormed by any force like the Crusader hordes which have spread in it like locusts, consuming its wealth and polluting its fertility. All this is happening at a time in which nations are attacking Muslims in unison — as if fighting over a plate of food! In face of this critical situation and lack of support, we are all obliged to discuss current events, as well as reach an agreement on how (best) to settle the matter.
All these crimes and sins committed by the Americans are a clear declaration of war on Allah, His Messenger and the Muslims.
Ulema throughout Islamic history are unanimously agreed that the Jihad is an individual duty whenever the enemy tears into the lands of the Muslims. This was related by Imam bin Qudama in al-Mughni; Imam al-Kisa’i in al-Bada’i; al-Qurtubi in his commentary; and the Sheik of Islam (Ibn Taymiyya) in his chronicles, where he states: “As for defensive warfare, this is the greatest way to defend sanctity and religion. This is an obligation consensually agreed to (by the Ulema). After faith, there is nothing more sacred than repulsing the enemy who attacks religion and life.”
On that basis, and in compliance with Allah’s order, we hereby issue the following decree to all Muslims:
The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies — civilians and military — is an individual obligation incumbent upon every Muslim who can do it and in any country — this until the Aqsa Mosque (Jerusalem) and the Holy Mosque (Mecca) are liberated from their grip, and until their armies withdraw from all the lands of Islam, defeated, shattered and unable to threaten any Muslim. This is in accordance with the Word of the Most High — “(F)ight the pagans all together as they fight you all together” (9:36) and the Word of the Most High, “Fight them until there is no more tumult or oppression, and (all) religion belongs to Allah” (8:39).
And the Most High said: “And why should you not fight in the cause of Allah and on behalf of those oppressed men, women and children who cry out, Lord! Rescue us from this town and its oppressors. Give us from Your Presence some protecting friend! Give us from Your Presence some defender!” (4:75).
By Allah’s leave we call upon every Muslim who believes in Allah and wishes to be rewarded to comply with Allah’s order to kill the Americans and seize their money wherever and whenever they find them.
We also call on Muslim Ulema, leaders, youths and soldiers to launch the raid on the Devil’s army — the Americans — and whoever allies with them from the supporters of Satan, to rout those behind them so that they may learn (a lesson).
Allah Most High said: “O you who have believed! Respond to Allah and the Messenger whenever He calls you to that which gives you life. And know that Allah comes between a man and his heart, and that it is He to whom you shall (all) be gathered” (8:24).
Allah Most High said: “O you who have believed! What is the matter with you? When you are asked to go forth in the cause of Allah, you cling so heavily to the earth! Do you prefer the life of this world to the Hereafter? But little is the comfort of this life, in comparison to the Hereafter. Unless you go forth (and fight), He will punish you with a grievous torment, and put others in your place. But He you cannot harm in the least; for Allah has power over all things” (9: 38-39).
Allah Most High said: “So do not lose heart, nor fall into despair. Have faith and you shall triumph” (3:139).