Here is an excerpt from Fred Kagan’s recent My Weekly Standard article:
The takfiris insist that anyone who obeys a human government is a polytheist and therefore violates the first premise of Islam, the shahada (the assertion that “There is no god but God”), even though Muslims have lived in states with temporal rulers for most of their history. The chief reason al Qaeda has limited support in the Muslim world is that the global Muslim community overwhelmingly rejects the premise that anyone obeying a temporal ruler is ipso facto an unbeliever.
Today’s takfiris carry Qutb’s basic principles further. Some pious Muslims believe that human governments should support or enforce sharia law. This is why Saudi Arabia has no law but sharia. But to Osama bin Laden and his senior lieutenant, Ayman al Zawahiri, it is not enough for a state to rule according to sharia. To be legitimate in the eyes of these revolutionaries, a state must also work actively to spread “righteous rule” across the earth. This demand means that only states aligned with the takfiris and supporting the spread of takfirism–such as the Taliban when it was in power–are legitimate, whereas states aligned with unbelievers, like Saudi Arabia, are illegitimate even if they strictly enforce sharia law. Some takfiris, particularly in Iraq as we shall see, argue in addition that all Shia are polytheists, and therefore apostates, because they “worship” Ali and Hussein and their successor imams. This distorted view of Shiism reflects the continual movement of takfiri thought toward extremes.
The entire article is a demonstration of severe mental confusion. Fred Kagan appears to believe that Al Qaeda, because it preaches obedience to the Holy Law of Islam, argues that “anyone who obeys a human (!) government is a polytheist” — that is, guilty of shirk. But this is not what preaching against rulers who are deemed to be bad Muslims means. Rulers, ideally a single Caliph who is true to Islam, head a “human” government that can and must be obeyed. Indeed, the duty of a good Muslim is to obey any ruler who is himself a good Muslim, however cruel and despotic he might seem to be to our eyes.
Furthermore, when Fred Kagan writes in the same My Weekly Standard piece that “Muslims have lived in states with temporal rulers for most of their history,” what should one make of it? The observation is banal, and means less than it appears to mean, or that Fred Kagan apparently thinks it means. We all know that ayatollahs have not ruled over Iran, nor muftis in Egypt and Arabia. So what? The distinction between “temporal” and “spiritual” that is made in Christianity is not made in Islam. It is misleading to call the rulers of Muslim lands “temporal rulers,” for it sets up a temporal-spiritual opposition that does not exist in Islam, but that Kagan apparently believes does exist and means something. It doesn’t. Since the Muslim ruler of a Muslim land is always more than merely a “temporal ruler,” the only requirement he must fulfill is to be a good Muslim. Furthermore, Fred Kagan’s use of the word “states” also worries, for it evokes misleading thoughts of the non-Muslim nation-state — “lands” is better at keeping out such notions.
Kagan needs to spend six months reading. But he doesn’t have time. He’s too busy advising Senator McCain and writing his articles for My Weekly Standard and The Wall Street Journal, on why and how America, if it only stays the course, is surely “winning in Iraq.” That he never feels the obligation — never — to describe exactly what constitutes “winning in Iraq” and how it would help with efforts to stem the worldwide Jihad and its many instruments, shows the frivolousness and ignorance that nowadays is so widespread, not least in official or semi-official Washington, as to serve as a universal protection against the kind of criticism that matters — the unanswerable kind that appears here at Jihad Watch and in very few other places.
It’s disheartening. And frightening. It is as if Jay Leno’s Jaywalkers had all acquired Ph.D.s and were now installed in think-tanks all over Washington. Which has, indeed, happened.