During the question period after my notorious YAF talk last Thursday, it came up again: one of the students asked if we weren’t conferring legitimacy on Osama and Co. by calling them jihadists instead of something like mufsidoon: evildoers. That is just one small indication of how influential this idea has become — and of course it enjoys great influence in the State Department.
Now one of its foremost proponents, a man named Jim Guirard, who called me up a few years ago and spent a great length of time trying to convince me to get on board with this idea, writes in its defense in Accuracy In Media. He’s responding to this excellent column by Walid Phares, about which I commented at some length here.
Guirard affects a cutesy, folksy writing style, beginning with the three question marks and hapax legoumenon he uses in his title, “Is AQ-style Terrorism ‘Jihadi Martyrdom’ or ‘Irhabi Murderdom’ ???” Perhaps it is unsporting or invincibly crabbed of me to note such a thing, but I must say I found it incongruous that a man who has the Pentagon’s ear and confers with the highest American military officials writes like a lovestruck teenage girl. With all his cuteness and misspellings, Guirard seems practically to be begging not to be taken seriously. But since he is taken seriously, and his ideas are taken seriously, they are worth dealing with again.
In a recent article in the Family Security Matters website — innocently re-printed by AIM.org on July 18 — Lebanese expatriot [sic!] Dr. Walid Phares quite sharply, and by name, attacked me and three like-minded anti-terrorism strategists (Dr. Michael Waller of the Institute for World Politics, Dr. Doug Streussand [sic!] of the Marine Corps Staff and Command College and Col. Harry Tunnell of the National Defense University).
That’s “expatriate” and “Streusand.”
That angry writer’s complaint was that the four of us are refusing to follow his (and so many other’s) current addiction to Osama bin Laden’s self-sanctifying language of so-called “Jihadi Martyrdom” — namely, the five-word al Qaeda narrative of so-called Jihad (holy war) by purported mujahideen (holy warriors) and alleged shuhada (martyrs) who are supposedly destined for Jennah (Paradise) as a reward for killing all of us kuffr (infidels) and in due course disposing of al-Shaitan al-Kabir (the Great Satan). Dr. Phares insists that this is the one and only valid framework within which to properly and sufficiently attack al Qaeda-style Terrorism.
Phares doesn’t say that at all, of course. He says that the concept of hiraba, unlawful warfare, which Guirard says we should use to label contemporary jihadist activity, “implies that a ‘genuine’ war against a real enemy does exist and that these hotheaded soldiers have simply acted without orders. Hence this cunning explanation puts ‘spin’ on Jihad but leaves the core idea of Jihadism completely intact.” Thus obligingly calling jihadism hiraba could leave us open to having to confront in the near future a jihad deemed genuine by those so anxious for us to relabel Osama’s efforts. In other words, it doesn’t get to the heart of the matter: the persistence of religious violence arising within an Islamic context. It leaves that wide open as a possibility for the future.
But Guirard doesn’t deal with this point. Instead, he contents himself, like Dinesh D’Souza and so many others, with the manipulative little slur of charging that his opponent agrees with bin Laden — with all the unsavory associations that brings: they’re both hotheads, hardliners, fascists at heart, doncha know?
But this sidesteps the questions of why the version of Islam purveyed by Osama and the other jihadists has gained such traction within the Islamic world, and why the jihadist claim to represent “true” or “pure” Islam has so much resonance. And since Guirard and his ilk refuse to acknowledge that that is even happening, they can’t formulate any worthwhile response to it.
In sharp contrast, Marine Corps LtG James Mattis has recently condemned this sort of AQ narrative as “tyranny in false religious garb.” But when we, the four accused, recommend a new counter narrative which attacks the Salafi-Wahhabi-UBL conspiracy’s deceitful self-labeling, Dr. Phares berates us (as he might now General Mattis, as well?) as somehow “representing the views of classical Wahhabis and the Muslim Brotherhood” ( !!! )
Not quite. Phares actually said: “When researched, it turns out that this theory was produced by clerics of the Wahhabi regime in Saudi Arabia and the Muslim Brotherhood, as a plan to prevent Jihad and Jihadism from being depicted by the West and the international community as an illegal and therefore sanctioned activity.” It is, again, a shame that Guirard did not see fit to address that except with a sneer.
But, of course, it is Walid Phares himself, not us, who is so insistently parroting al Qaeda’s patently false description of itself and its suicide mass murders as “Jihadi” (Holy Guys) defenders of Allah and the Qur’an.
See, Guirard’s fundamental assumption, behind the cutesy language (“‘Jihadi’ (Holy Guys)” indeed), is that jihad is a good thing, a holy thing, and that the jihadists have appropriated it in defiance of Islamic theology and law. And that therefore, if we start using the terms that actually apply to them and their activities — criminals, unlawful warfare, rather than jihadists and jihad — the moderate Muslim majority will feel empowered to rise up against them, and take back Islam.
It would be great if it were true. But unfortunately it’s just a fantasy. The imperative to wage war against unbelievers in order to establish over them the hegemony of Islamic law wasn’t invented by Al-Qaeda; it is taught by all the Sunni schools of jurisprudence, and by the Shi’ites also. This doesn’t mean that every Muslim takes it seriously. But it does mean that it’s just whistling in the dark to think that Al-Qaeda’s claim to represent Islamic purity can’t draw on genuine elements of Islamic theology that encourage bellicosity. Fantasy-based policymaking is never wise.
In sharp and everlasting contrast to this de facto embrace of the enemy’s self-serving description of political, cultural and religious reality, this writer’s proposed counter narrative condemns the al Qaeda, al Sadr, Hizballah, Hamas and other “Death to America” terrorists as waging Hirabah (unholy war, forbidden “war against society”) by mufsiduun (evildoers, sinners and corrupters) and munafiquun (hypocrites) destined for Jahannam (Eternal Hellfire) as punishment for having become al Murtadd al Qaeda (the al Qaeda Apostasy) against Qur’anic Islam — namely, for having tried to drag all Muslims into a most unholy war against Abrahamic America and the West.
“This writer’s proposed counter narrative…” (emphasis added). But do Muslims worldwide, whether jihadists or not, really listen to Jim Guirard’s version of Islam? If there were major Islamic sects or leaders teaching this sort of thing and representing it as “Qur’anic Islam,” that would be one thing. But there aren’t.
Likewise Kilcullen’s new lexicon, in Guirard’s reprinted article below, is based not on reality but on what we really wish jihad were all about:
In further explanation of this “Know Thine Enemy” frame of reference for understanding who the Terrorists actually are, as opposed to who they falsely claim to be, the following is a “war of words” essay of mine which appeared in the June 29, 2007 issue of the Marine Corps–oriented SmallWarsJournal.com website — entitled “Petraeus Aide’s Call for a New Lexicon.” Rather than my trying to paraphrase that carefully constructed truth-in-language thesis, here it is verbatim:
In his multi-faceted article, “New Paradigms For 21st Century Conflict,” David Kilcullen of General David Petraeus’ senior staff in Baghdad recommends five major initiatives to be taken in developing truly effective counterterrorism (COIN) strategies, operations and tactics against al Qaeda-style Terrorism (AQST).
In briefest of terms, these are to (1) Develop a New Lexicon, (2) Get the Grand Strategy Right, (3) Remedy the Imbalance in Government Capability, (4) Identify New Strategic Services, and (5) Develop Capacity For Strategic Information Warfare. While others will comment in learned fashion on all five of these topics in due course, this commentary will concern only the first — the proposed New Lexicon.
To make a medical analogy, this is an enemy which is not in the nature of a state-based, clearly definable tumor to be neatly cut out by a scalpel but is, instead, an ideology-based cancer which been metastasizing for several decades (particularly the last one) and is attacking far-flung elements of Western Civilization ’round the clock and seeking a “death by a thousand cuts” result.
The first of Kilcullen’s five steps toward an effective antidote — a worldwide chemotherapy-type counterattack — on the raging AQST cancer is his call for “a new lexicon based on the actual, observed characteristics of [our] real enemies …”
In so doing, he clearly recognizes that in order to meet Tsun-Tzu’s ancient admonition that we must “Know The Enemy,” we absolutely must have a truthful common language by which to achieve that end and then to communicate such knowledge effectively to multiple audiences.
Although he does not list particulars of this proposed new lexicon, here are more than a dozen of the Arabic and Islamic words of which he would almost surely approve. They are the words, the semantic tools and weapons, we will need to break out of the habit-of-language box (largely invented by Osama bin Laden himself) which currently depicts us as us the bad guys, the “infidels” and even “the Great Satan” — and which sanctifies suicide mass murderers as so-called jihadis and mujahideen (“holy guys”) and “martyrs” on their heroic way to Paradise.
Importantly, the ubiquitous (It’s everywhere! It’s everywhere!!) word Jihad is entered four times, in order to more clearly define its several confusing and often conflicting meanings.
irhab (eer-HAB) — Arabic for terrorism, thus enabling us to call the al Qaeda-style killers irhabis, irhabists and irhabiyoun rather than the so-called “jihadis” and “jihadists” and “mujahideen” and “shahids” (martyrs) they badly want to be called. (Author’s lament: Here we are, almost six years into a life-and-death War on Terrorism, and most of us do not even know this basic Arabic for terrorism.)
Hirabah (hee-RAH-bah) — Unholy War and forbidden “war against society” or what we would today call crimes against humanity. Among the many al Qaeda-style crimes and sins which constitute this most “unholy war” are such willful, and unrepented transgressions as those enumerated in the next section of this proposed glossary of terms.
Jihad al Akbar (gee-HAHD ahl AHK-bar) — this “Greater Jihad” is a personal and spiritual struggle or striving to become closer and more faithful to Allah and his teachings as set forth in the Qur’an.
Here is the problem with this whole endeavor in microcosm: Hassan Al-Banna (founder of the Muslim Brotherhood), Abdullah Azzam (cofounder of Al-Qaeda) and others argued that the idea of jihad as a spiritual struggle as based on a weak hadith — a tradition of Muhammad that couldn’t be taken as authentic. They gained many recruits by arguing this successfully among Muslims. And so now here come Kilcullen and Guirard, reminding Muslims that jihad is primarily an inner spiritual struggle. How will the Muslims who have bought the argument that all that is based on a weak hadith react? Will they lay down their arms? Or chuckle at the ignorant infidels?
Jihad al Saghir (gee-HAHD ahl Sahg-HEER) — “Lesser Jihad” can be a physical — and even a military — struggle to protect or to free Muslims and non-Muslims from oppression, but only in strict accordance with reasonable and non-terroristic standards set forth in the Qur’an, which provides that only the Caliph (or head-of-state?) can legally declare such a Jihad. Osama bin Laden is neither….
Fine. Until you realize that many Muslim authorities identify as “oppression” anything except a Sharia state. The implications of that for the above statement are clear. And only the state authority can declare a jihad? Unfortunately, there is a difference of opinion on this question among contemporary Islamic scholars. Some argue that Muslims may wage war in order to establish that Islamic state, and then continue to wage war against unbelievers under its aegis. Others contend that the Islamic state must be established by peaceful means, and only then may Muslims wage jihad warfare. The latter position was held by Syed Abul Ala Maududi, the influential Pakistani jihad theorist who died in 1979, Sheikh Muhammad Said Ramadan Al-Buti, and Sheikh Muhammad Naasir ud-Din Al-Albani. The former view is held by Islamic scholars such as Muhammad Amarah and Khair Haykel, as well as by Azzam and, of course, other mujahedin today.
It is important to note, however, that Maududi and Al-Buti, as well as others who hold this view, don’t reject the idea of jihad against unbelievers in order to establish the hegemony of Islamic law. Maududi, after all, wrote that non-Muslims have “absolutely no right to seize the reins of power in any part of God’s earth nor to direct the collective affairs of human beings according to their own misconceived doctrines.” If they do, “the believers would be under an obligation to do their utmost to dislodge them from political power and to make them live in subservience to the Islamic way of life.”
So in other words, this is just a disagreement about means, not about ends.
…Just for starters, imagine the khawarij (outside the religion) al Qaeda’s great difficulty in winning the approval of any truly devout and faithful Muslims whatever once these genocidal irhabis (terrorists) come to be viewed by the Umma (the Muslim World) as mufsiduun (evildoers) engaged in Hirabah (unholy war) and in murtadd (apostasy) against the Qur’an’s God of Abraham — and as almost surely on their way to Jahannam (Eternal Hellfire) for their Satanic ways….
Yes, that would be great. But pretending that truly devout and faithful Muslims will follow the lead of non-Muslims in defining these things is naive in the extreme.
Of course, to sustain the validity of such condemnatory labels, there must be a true-to-the-Quran basis for their application to the al Qaeda, al Sadr, Hizballah, Hamas and assorted other Terrorists.
This is readily available in the fact that at the heart of AQST’s own false labels and equally false promises of a sex-orgy Paradise is a pattern of plainly satanic and cultic violation of many of the fundamental precepts of authentic Islam — including such sinful transgressions and such de facto desecrations of the Qur’an as:
o Wanton killing of innocents and noncombatants, including many peaceful Muslims
Here we go again. Define “innocent” and “noncombatant.” British jihadist Anjem Chaudary says no non-Muslims are innocent. How will this stop him?
o Decapitating the live and desecrating the dead bodies of perceived enemies
o Committing and enticing others to commit suicide for reasons of intimidation
Qur’an 9:111 guarantees Paradise to those who “kill and are killed” for Allah. And that’s not suicide, in the jihadist view. How will Guirard’s lexicon overcome that idea?
o Fomenting hatred among communities, nations, religions and civilizations
o Ruthless warring against nations in which Islam is freely practiced
o Issuing and inspiring unauthorized and un-Islamic fatwas (religious edicts)
o Using some mosques as weapons depots and battle stations, while destroying others
o Forcing extremist and absolutist versions (and perversions) of Islam on fellow Muslims, when the Qur’an clearly says that there shall be “no compulsion in religion”
Qutb and others argue that the “no compulsion” verse does not rule out fighting until “religion is for Allah.” Will Guirard’s use of this verse change any jihadist minds?
o Distorting the word “infidels” to include all Christians, all Jews and many Muslims, as well — when the Qur’an calls them all “Children of the Book” (the Old Testament) and “Sons of Abraham,” and calls Jesus one of Islam’s five main Prophets
People of the Book, not Children of the Book. Anyway, fine, don’t call them infidels. They still must be fought and subjugated, per Qur’an 9:29.
o Deliberate misreading, ignoring and perverting of passages of the Qur’an, the Hadith and the Islamic Jurisprudence (the Fiqh)
Such as? The jihadists claim that the peaceful Muslims do this. Guirard claims that the jihadists do it. The real challenge is to refute the jihadist use of Islamic texts and teachings in a way that blunts the force of jihadist recruitment. Peaceful Muslims haven’t done it yet.
One final note. Guirard argues that what he is doing here was done effectively during the Cold War:
A look-back lesson from the Cold War argues strongly that we should have done a far better “war of words” job of challenging — rather than all too often parroting — the Soviets’ and Fascist Fidel Castro’s false narrative of so-called “Liberation by purported Progressive Movements and alleged Popular Fronts who were destined for heaven-on-earth People’s Democracies as a reward for killing us Reaganite Fascists and disposing of American Imperialism.”
Recognize the remarkable parallels? Both then and today, the deadly dangerous problem is that of “semantic infiltration,” which the late, great Senator Pat Moynihan and Dr. Fred Charles Ikle — Ronald Reagan’s Under Secertary of Defense for Policy, who is today still active at the Center for Strategic and International Studies — carefully defined in the early 1980s as follows:
“Simply put, semantic infiltration is the process whereby we come to adopt the language of our adversaries in describing political reality. The most totalitarian regimes in the world would call themselves ‘liberation movements.’ It is perfectly predictable that they should misuse words to conceal their real nature. But must we aid them in that effort by repeating those words? Worse, do we begin to influence our own perceptions by using them?”
Back then, it was a case of Leninist, Maoist and Castroite tyranny wrapped up in false “Liberationist” lingo. Today, it is the neo-Leninist, fascist-Left and pseudo-Quranic narrative of “Jihadi Martyrdom” which General Jim Mattis so correctly condemns as “tyranny in false religious garb” — while all too many of us continue the “useful idiocy” parroting.
(Le plus ca change, le plus c’est la meme chose !!. N’est-ce pas ??)
Sure. We should challenge the jihadist idea that Sharia equals justice. And we should call it tyranny. But that is not the same thing as formulating some genuine way to counter jihadist claims to represent true Islam. Inventing our own benign little Islam and hoping that Muslims will buy it won’t do that.