In FrontPage this morning I examine the common comparison:
“To continue to use McVeigh as an example of the stereotypical “˜disgruntled military veteran” is as unfair as using Osama bin Laden as the sole example of Islam.”
So said the commander of the American Legion, David Rehbein, in his recent letter to Janet Napolitano protesting the characterization of veterans in the DHS report about “right-wing extremists.” (By the way, we”re all still waiting for the DHS report on the global jihad threat.)
Rehbein, of course, is expressing a commonplace assumption: that Osama is some kind of deviant, a psychopath, who is no more representative of Islam than Timothy McVeigh is of veterans because he has transgressed against the core principles of Islam just as McVeigh trampled upon the principles of the U.S. military.
The comparison dissolves, however, upon close examination. All the orthodox sects and schools of Islamic jurisprudence teach that the Islamic community has the responsibility to wage war against unbelievers and subjugate them under the rule of Islamic law. All four principal schools of Sunni Muslim jurisprudence agree on the importance of jihad warfare against non-Muslims. Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani (d. 996), a Maliki jurist, declared: “Jihad is a precept of Divine institution. Its performance by certain individuals may dispense others from it. We Malikis maintain that it is preferable not to begin hostilities with the enemy before having invited the latter to embrace the religion of Allah except where the enemy attacks first. They have the alternative of either converting to Islam or paying the poll tax (jizya), short of which war will be declared against them.”
Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328), a Hanbali jurist who is a favorite of Osama bin Laden and other modern-day jihadists, agreed: “Since lawful warfare is essentially jihad and since its aim is that the religion is God’s entirely and God’s word is uppermost, therefore according to all Muslims, those who stand in the way of this aim must be fought.”
The Hanafi school sounds the same notes in The Hedaya: “If the infidels, upon receiving the call [to convert to Islam], neither consent to it nor agree to pay capitation tax, it is then incumbent on the Muslims to call upon God for assistance, and to make war upon them”¦”
And so does the Shafi”i scholar Abu”l Hasan al-Mawardi (d. 1058): “It is forbidden to”¦begin an attack before explaining the invitation to Islam to [unbelievers], informing them of the miracles of the Prophet and making plain the proofs so as to encourage acceptance on their part; if they still refuse to accept after this, war is waged against them and they are treated as those whom the call has reached”¦”
All these jurisprudential schools also teach that when a Muslim land is attacked by non-Muslims, every individual Muslim has the responsibility to wage defensive jihad. All this is in accord with Muhammad’s command to Muslims invite non-Muslims to Islam and then go to war with them if they refused both conversion and second-class dhimmi status: “When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withhold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to accept Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them”¦. If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya [a special tax on non-Muslims; cf. Qur’an 9:29]. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah’s help and fight them.” (Sahih Muslim 4294)
These are all extremely old authorities — such that one might reasonably assume that whatever they say couldn’t possibly still be the consensus of the Islamic mainstream. The laws of the United States have evolved considerably since the adoption of the Constitution, which itself has been amended. So why shouldn’t this be true of Islamic law as well? Many observers assume that it must be, and that Al-Qaeda’s departure from mainstream Islam must be located in its preference for the writings of ancient jurists rather than modern ones. But no Islamic sect or school has ever reformed or rejected these teachings. The doctrines of jihad enunciated by those ancient jurists remain unchanged. Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee, Assistant Professor on the Faculty of Shari”ah and Law of the International Islamic University in Islamabad, in a 1994 book on Islamic law quotes the twelfth century Maliki jurist Ibn Rushd: “Muslim jurists agreed that the purpose of fighting with the People of the Book”¦is one of two things: it is either their conversion to Islam or the payment of jizyah.”
Nyazee concludes: “This leaves no doubt that the primary goal of the Muslim community, in the eyes of its jurists, is to spread the word of Allah through jihad, and the option of poll-tax [jizya] is to be exercised only after subjugation” of non-Muslims.
But if this is so, why hasn’t the worldwide Islamic community been waging jihad on a large scale up until relatively recently? Nyazee says it is only because they have not been able to do so: “the Muslim community may be considered to be passing through a period of truce. In its present state of weakness, there is nothing much it can do about it.”
These are the Islamic principles upon which Osama based his actions, and by which jihadist movements have gained recruits among peaceful Muslims worldwide.
By contrast, there is no McVeighite movement among veterans. Nor was he by any stretch of the imagination acting upon principles taught by the military (or by any sect of Christianity, for that matter, since McVeigh is also often invoked as a “Christian terrorist”).
The implications of the breakdown of the comparison are many. One notable one is that Osama is not a lone nut or member of a tiny group like McVeigh, but represents a broad movement within Islam — one that will continue to grow as long as it is not confronted, and its very existence is denied on pain of charges of “Islamophobia.”
How can anyone formulate a strategy to counter a movement that one won’t admit even exists, or else continually minimizes in terms of its size, influence, and staying power?