The Westminster Institute (Virginia): Educating the Public and Government About the Ideology of the Terrorists, and Ways to Counter It
by Ibn Warraq
The Westminster Institute was founded in March, 2009 in order to, according to its own mission statement, promote “individual dignity and freedom for people throughout the world by sponsoring high-quality independent research with a particular focus on the threats from extremism and radical ideologies.” One should not be put off by the vagueness of its aims (“promoting individual dignity and freedom”), which are, in fact, better expressed elsewhere on their website (under the section “Donate”), viz., “The Westminster Institute is playing a critical role in educating counter-terrorism and law enforcement professionals, policy makers, and the general public on the threat from radical ideologies, as well as conducting cutting–edge research on how best to defeat this threat”.
I first stumbled onto the organisation when I was advised by my colleagues at Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, Washington D.C. [FDD], to attend a lecture on 5th October, 2010 at The Westminster Institute headquarters in McLean, Virginia, given by the Dr. Sebastian Gorka. Dr Gorka gave what I consider to be the most lucid presentation I have ever heard on “Jihadist Ideology — The Core Texts”. Dr. Gorka is Military Affairs Fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and member of the Strategic Advisers Group of the U.S. Atlantic Council. Since 9/11 he has trained over 800 counter-terrorism officers from more than 50 nations, including Iraq and Afghanistan. He has lectured frequently on counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency at such institutions as West Point, Fort Leavenworth’s School of Advanced Military Studies, U.S. Special Operations Command and the National Counter Terrorism Center. Dr. Gorka is co-editor of the newly released Toward a Grand Strategy Against Terrorism (McGraw Hill, 2010).
Both Sebastian Gorka and the Westminster Institute’s recent one-day conference, “Fighting the Ideological War: Strategies For Defeating Al Qaeda” (May 25, 2011 in Arlington, VA), emphasized the ideological nature of the struggle, something that the West (intellectuals, the public, and successive governments) have neglected so far. Dr Gorka and the W.I. Conference were refreshingly candid about the Islamic roots of terrorism. We must be able to place al-Qaeda in its ideological context; al Qaeda [AQ] was not created on the foundations of the Arab Mujahedeen movement, but was the product of, in the short term, decades of ideological evolution that started with the Muslim Brotherhood, and, in the long term, was a natural and logical outcome of fundamental doctrines and institutions theologically constructed and developed out of the founding texts of Islam itself.
I shall give a brief account of Dr. Gorka’s talk of October, 2010, and then a full report of the equally important one-day conference, Fighting the Ideological War: Strategies For Defeating Al Qaeda, that was attended by defence specialists, officials from the State Department and even by members of the FBI.
We must, of course, defend ourselves against violent jihad, argues Dr.Gorka, but we must be equally wary of al Qaeda’s soft jihadist colleagues, who will not necessarily use violence but rather legal and economic tools to undermine our constitutional order. Our national security establishment is not capable, at present, of dealing with this indirect sort of warfare — we have not even woken up to the seriousness of this threat. The Muslim Brotherhood, the Organization of the Islamic Conference [OIC] and AQ all have the same objective, they are on the same team: they wish to impose their rival totalitarian ideology on the West, they wish to replace the US Constitution with the Sharia [Islamic Law], and revive a global Caliphate.
Dr Gorka leads us, with exemplary clarity, through four core texts of the jihadists: Sayyid Qutb’s Milestones; Abdullah Azzam’s The Defense of Muslim Lands; Ayman al-Zawahiri’s Knights Under the Prophet’s Banner; and Brigadier S.K.Malik’s The Quranic Concept of Power.
1. SAYYID QUTB: MILESTONES .
Qutb’s Milestones is considered the philosophical and theological inspiration for acts such as the attacks on September 11, 2001. Qutb [1906-1966] argues that despite the genius of Western creativity that has given mankind its material comforts, it has failed to answer the basic spiritual needs of man. The West is sunk in jahiliyyah, a state of ignorance of the Divine guidance; thus jahiliyyah is “based on rebellion against God’s sovereignty on earth. It transfers to man one of the greatest attributes of God, namely sovereignty, and makes some men lords over others. [Jahiliyyah] takes the form of claiming that the right to create values, to legislate rules of collective behavior, and choose any way of life rests with men, without regard to what God has prescribed.” [Sayyid Qutb, Milestones, [English translation] Dar al-Ilm, Damascus, Syria, [N.D.] p.11] It is the moral duty of every Muslim to bring the world out of the moral chaos, and to cleanse it of this state of ignorance or jahiliyyah, to free men “from servitude to other human beings so that they may devote themselves to the One True God, to deliver them from the clutches of human lordship and man-made laws, value systems and traditions so that they will acknowledge the sovereignty and authority of the One True God and follow His Law in all spheres of life”. [Milestones, p.45] Even those contemporary societies that are labeled “Muslim”, are also, in reality, jahili societies [p.82] — and Qutb does not fail to draw the logical conclusion from this fact, namely, “all the societies existing in the world today are jahili” [p.80].
Given that Qutb borrows many concepts such as “vanguard” from Communism, and the fact that Qutb’s ideology is religiously framed, Dr Gorka dubs Qutb’s system “a hybrid totalitarianism.” Islam has a universal mission to replace the man-made laws of liberal democracies of the West with God’s law as found in the Quran. Islam is not a theoretical construct, is not an abstract theory, but has practical consequences. Islam’s “main program is in the practical sphere of life; it does not remain circumscribed in theoretical discussions and the speculations of theology.” [Milestones, p.37] “Islam’s function is to change people’s beliefs and actions as well as their outlook and way of thinking. Its method is Divinely-ordained and is entirely different from all the valueless methods of short-sighted human beings.” [Milestones, p.40]
Qutb has a totally uncritical and romanticized attitude to Islamic history, particularly the Golden Era of Muhammad, His Companions and the Rightly Guided Caliphs. “At one time,” enthuses Qutb, “this Message [ the call to Islam] created a generation — the generation of the Companions of the Prophet, may God be pleased with them — without comparison in the history of Islam, even in the entire history of man”. [Milestones, p.15]. Jihad, in the military sense, or in Arabic Jihad Bis Saif — Jihad of the Sword, [p.61] is central to his ideology. Qutb has nothing but contempt for those apologetic and embarrassed Muslims who argue that “Islam has prescribed only defensive war”. Whereas Islam in reality “tries to annihilate all those political and material powers which stand between people and Islam, which force one people to bow before another people and prevent them from accepting the sovereignty of God”. [Milestones, p.57] Islam cannot be established by preaching alone [p.59], and Islam has no choice but to remove the obstacles in the way of freeing mankind, and establishing God’s sovereignty “by force”. [p.63].
The Koran is central to Islam since it was the only source from which the First Generation quenched their thirst. It is the only source to guidance. Next comes total obedience to the Shariah, in following which man comes into harmony with his own nature. The totalitarian nature of Islam is nowhere more apparent than in the concept of Shariah. For Qutb, Shariah is “also a part of that universal law which governs the entire universe, including the physical and biological aspects of man”. [p.88] “In Islam the meaning of Shariah is not limited to mere legal injunctions, but includes the principles of administration, its system and its modes”¦.By the Shariah of God is meant everything legislated by God for ordering man’s life; it includes the principles of belief, principles of administration and justice, principles of morality and human relationships, and principles of knowledge”¦.It includes political, social and economic affairs and their principles, with the intent that they reflect complete submission to God alone”¦.It deals with the morals, manners, values and standards of the society”¦.” [p.107] You cannot get more totalitarian than that.
A Muslim has no obligations to any nation state; he does not owe any allegiance to a particular country [p.124]. Hence Muslims living in the West, where jahiliyyah prevails, cannot possibly wish to assimilate to Western societies — they have no desire to integrate.
2. ABDULLAH AZZAM: THE DEFENSE OF THE MUSLIM LANDS
Abdullah Azzam [1941-1989], who created an organisation that would later become al-Qaeda, was the mentor of Osama bin Laden. Azzam was born in 1941 in a village not far from Jenin in Jenin Sanjak District, which was then administered as the British Mandate of Palestine. He acquired a Ph.D from al Azhar University in 1973 on The Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence. During his sojourn in Egypt, Azzam met various followers of Sayyid Qutb, such as Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri. As radicals were not welcome in Jordan, where he had gone to teach at the University of Jordan, Azzam ended up in Saudi Arabia, where he was lecturer at the King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He was to stay there until 1979. Osama bin Laden had grown up in Jeddah and was enrolled at the University between 1976 and 1981. Osama probably first came into contact with Azzam during those years.
After the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviets in 1979, Azzam managed, to quote Dr Gorka, to “rally Muslims of all nationalities to Afghanistan to fight with the Afghan Mujahedeen.”
Azzam’s most important contribution to the Jihadist ideology was his fatwa, almost a short monograph, The Defense of the Muslim Lands , which was given an official stamp of approval by Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bin Bazz, who was to become the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, in the 1990s.
The main arguments are few, since more than fifty percent of the text of The Defense
of the Muslim Lands is taken up by justifactory quotations from the Koran, from scholars such as Ibn Taymiyya, from the Hadith, from Koranic Commentators such as Ibn Kathir, and from the four main Sunni schools of Law.
Azzam makes it clear from the start that Jihad as saif, Jihad by the Sword, had been God’s plan for Muhammad from the beginning: “Allah has chosen this religion [Islam] to be a mercy for the worlds. He sent the most blessed of the messengers to be the last Prophet for this religion. To bring it victory by the sword and the spear, after He had clearly expounded it with evidences and arguments.” [Chapter 1]. Jihad against the infidels is of two kinds: offensive and defensive jihad.
Offensive Jihad (where the enemy is attacked in his own territory). Where the Kuffar [infidels] are not gathering to fight the Muslims. The fighting becomes Fard Kifaya [obligatory on the community but not necessarily on the individual] with the minimum requirement of appointing believers to guard borders, and the sending of an army at least once a year to terrorise the enemies of Allah. It is a duty of the Imam to assemble and send out an army unit into the land of war once or twice every year. Moreover, it is the responsibility of the Muslim population to assist him, and if he does not send an army he is in sin. And the Ulama [religious scholars] have mentioned that this type of jihad is for maintaining the payment of Jizya [ poll tax on
non-Muslims]. The scholars of the principles of religion have also said: “˜Jihad is Daw’ah [the preaching of Islam] with a force, and is obligatory to perform with all available capabilities, until there remains only Muslims or people who submit to Islam.”
This is expelling the Kuffar from our land, and it is Fard Ayn, a compulsory duty upon all [i.e. compulsory for all individuals]. It is the most important of all the compulsory duties and arises in the following conditions:
1) If the Kuffar enter a land of the Muslims [eg. Afghanistan by the Soviets].
2) If the rows meet in battle and they begin to approach each other.
3) If the Imam calls a person or a people to march forward then they must march.
4) If the Kuffar capture and imprison a group of Muslims.
In the case of fard ayn, “permission is not required. There is no permission for anyone from the other, even the child goes out without the permission of his parents, the wife without the permission of her husband, and the debtor without the permission of his creditor.” It is a sin not to defend Muslim lands that have been invaded, as in “Afghanistan, Palestine, the Philippines, Kashmir, Lebanon, Chad, Eritrea”. The present generation has failed in not following their obligatory duties. “Jihad by your wealth is Fard Ayn and it is Haram [forbidden and immoral] to make savings while the jihad is in need of the Muslim’s money. Neglecting the jihad is like abandoning fasting and praying, more than that, neglecting the jihad is worse in these days. We quote from Ibn Rushd: “˜It is agreed that when jihad becomes Fard Ayn it takes precedence over the Fard of Hajj. [pilgrimage]–.
Azzam, with a doctorate from al Azhar University, was well aware of the contradictions to be found in the Koran, but was able to avail himself of the doctrine of abrogation, which depended on knowing the chronological order of revelation. The earlier verses — verses putatively revealed early in Muhammad’s ministry, were cancelled by verses revealed later. Verses preaching peace and tolerance were abrogated by later verses preaching jihad, the Sword Verses.
3. AYMAN AL-ZAWAHIRI. KNIGHTS UNDER THE PROPHET”S BANNER. 
Ayman al-Zawahiri [born 1951] was born into an upper middle class family living in the suburbs of Cairo, Egypt. His father was a medical professor at Cairo University; his mother came from a wealthy family. At the age of 14 Zawahiri joined the Muslim Brotherhood, and seems to have been much influenced by Sayyid Qutb, whose vision Zawahiri was determined to put into action. Zawahiri’s underground cell, inspired by Qutb’s writings, eventually merged with others to form the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. He studied at Cairo University, and by 1978 had earned a master’s degree in surgery.
Ayman al-Zawahiri clearly planned to overthrow the existing order in Egypt, and his organisation the Egyptian Islamic Jihad was behind the assassination of the President of Egypt, Anwar Sadat, in October, 1981. Zawahiri was arrested along with a hundreds of others, imprisoned, and probably tortured. In 1985, he left for Saudi Arabia, where he practiced medicine in Jeddah. It is likely he met Osama bin Laden there. Over the next few years, Zawahiri travelled widely in Russia, Western Europe, the United States, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, using various names and passports, and was involved in acts of terrorism before the infamous September 11, 2001 attacks in New York. By 2009, Zawahiri had emerged as the operational and strategic commander of al-Qaeda.The US Department of State is offering a reward of up to $25 million for any information about his location. At present, Zawahiri is probably somewhere in NW Pakistan or the Afghani border.
Ayman al-Zawahiri, like all jihadist theorists and activists, sees democracy as the chief enemy, and argues for jihad as a means to achieving an Islamic State. Violence is advocated at every level in the fight against the Near Enemy [Arab Governments] and the Far Enemy [The United States]. As Dr. Gorka explains, “Key concepts of his seminal work begin with the statement that human beings cannot be sovereign. Sovereignty is Allah’s alone, therefore democracy must be destroyed as it posits man’s sovereignty over man. Democracy is nothing more than a pagan religion. It is a form of jahiliyyah. Secondly, the line between internal and external enemies is an illusion. The near enemy is a tool of the far enemy. For example, the King of Jordan is not an internal enemy, he is not a near enemy, but just a puppet of America. There is no distinction between the two, they must be understood as a whole: the enemy is everywhere. Thirdly, the battle for Islam must go global. All Muslims must engage. The message is clear from the very title of Zawahiri’s book: Knights Under the Prophet’s Banner. Muslims must all unite
under one flag, and not the flag of one nation, but the flag of the last true prophet. Rulers who defy Islam must be exposed, and all Muslims must be held responsible for defending Islam. It does not matter if you are living comfortably in London, Berlin, or Minnesota — as a Muslim you are responsible too. Without a Caliphate or Muslim super-state, there cannot be victory. At the end of his book Zawahiri states, “In our means, methods, and resources we must combine patience with infliction of mass casualties and the best method to do this is suicide attacks.” “¦.. “This confrontation with Islam’s enemies must be to the last drop of blood.”
4. BRIGADIER S. K. MALIK, THE QURANIC CONCEPT OF POWER .
The book The Quranic Concept of Power by S.K. Malik, about whose life I was unable to discover anything substantial, has been enormously influential in providing the ideological foundations of the internationalist jihadist movement. It offers an unapologetic Islamic rationale for the use of terrorism to accomplish political and religious ends. As Patrick Poole and Mark Hanna, in their introduction to the online pdf edition of the book, inform us, we have startling evidence of the book’s importance and continuing relevance in the discovery by US military officials of summaries of it in various languages on captured and killed jihadist insurgents in Afghanistan. “This is hardly a surprising development,” continue Poole and Hanna, “as Malik finds within the Quran a doctrine of aggressive, escalating and constant jihad against non-Muslims and the religious justification of terrorism as a means to achieving the dominance of Islam around the world — dogmas that square with the Islamist ideology driving terrorism worldwide”.
It is of the utmost significance that the book’s Foreword was written by Muhammad Zia ul-Haq [1924-1988], the then-President of Pakistan and Army Chief of Staff, and the Preface by Allah Bukhsh K. Brohi [” 1987], the Advocate-General of Pakistan, and one-time Pakistani Ambassador to India. As Poole and Hanna emphasize, “Their respective endorsements of the book established Malik’s views on jihad as national policy and gave his interpretation official state sanction. General Zia embraces Malik’s expansive understanding of jihad as a duty extending to individual citizens as well as soldiers; and Brohi, drawing an explicit distinction between Dar-al-Islam [The House of Islam] and Dar al-Harb [the House of War, i.e. non-Muslims], accepts the redefinition of defensive jihad to include the removal of any obstacles and countering any resistance to the spread of the message of Islam and the institutionalization and governance according to shari”˜a. In this view, even passive resistance to the advance of Islam is legitimate grounds for attack.”
Malik argues that “As a complete Code of Life, the Holy Quran gives us a philosophy of war as well. . . .This divine philosophy is an integral part of the total Quranic ideology.” Malik tries “to distill God’s doctrine for war through the examples of the Prophet”.  Central to Malik’s thesis is his advocacy of terror as a weapon willed by God. We must target the very soul of the enemies of Islam; the best way to destroy the enemy”s faith is through terror. If peaceful means to advance the cause and the spread of Islam are not available, if someone hinders the advance of Islam, then force is necessary, and perfectly legitimate. As Malik says, “The Holy Quran lays the highest emphasis on the preparation for war. It wants us to prepare ourselves for war to the utmost. The test . . . lies in our capability to instill terror into the hearts of our enemies.”
Brohi tells us in his Foreword, “It is the duty of a believer to carry forward the Message of God and to bring it to notice of his fellow-men in handsome ways. But if someone attempts to obstruct him from doing so he is entitled as a matter of defense, to retaliate.”
Brohi puts forward the familiar notion of the ummah and the international system. “The idea of Ummah of Mohammad, the Prophet of Islam, is incapable of being realized within the framework of territorial states.” As analyst Joseph C. Myers summarises, “The ummah is a transcendent religious and cultural society united and reflecting the unity (tawhid) of Islam; the idea of one God, indivisible, one community, one belief, and one duty to live and become godly”. Brohi expounds what he takes to be the Prophet’s ideas, “Ummah participates in this heritage by a set pattern of thought, belief and practice. . . and supplies the spiritual principle of integration of mankind””a principle which is supra-national, supra-racial, supra-linguistic and supra-territorial.”
Here are the key quotes from Malik’s book:
Terror struck into the hearts of the enemies is not only a means, it is the end in itself. Once a condition of terror into the opponent’s heart is obtained, hardly anything is left to be achieved. It is the point where the means and the end meet and merge. Terror is not a means of imposing decision upon the enemy (sic); it is the decision we wish to impose upon him…
“Jehad,” the Quranic concept of total strategy. Demands the preparation and application of
total national power and military instrument is one of its elements. As a component of the total strategy, the military strategy aims at striking terror into the hearts of the enemy from the preparatory stage of war…Under ideal conditions, Jehad can produce a direct decision and force its will upon the enemy. Where that does not happen, military strategy should take over and aim at producing the decision from the military stage. Should that chance be missed, terror should be struck into the enemy during the actual fighting.
…the Book [Quran] does not visualize war being waged with “kid gloves.” It gives us a distinctive concept of total war. It wants both, the nation and the individual, to be at war “in toto,” that is, with all their spiritual, moral, and physical resources. The Holy Quran lays the highest emphasis on the preparation for war. It wants us to prepare ourselves for war to the utmost. The test of utmost preparation lies in our capability to instill terror into the hearts of the enemies.
It is worth highlighting the fact that for Malik, that war has nothing to do with the interests of the nation-state (which is the Western understanding), but serves solely to impose Allah’s sovereignty on all of humanity.
Al-Qaeda is only a part of a much larger and older movement which has plans to destroy our Western systems by all means possible, including but not only violence. This conflict is more dangerous than the Cold War, because our enemy believes that God is on their side, and is not afraid to bring about mass destruction including its own.
All the four thinkers draw heavily from the Koran, and other founding documents of Islam, such as the Hadith, the Sira, that is, the life and military campaigns of their Prophet, Muhammad, and even Koranic Commentators. They were not motivated by a desire to alleviate poverty as such but by a desire to establish the reign of Islam, societies ruled by Sharia; they were educated, and well-versed in their religion; some came from wealthy and influential families; they were not from the fringes of Islamic societies.
What is the present situation? As Dr. Sebastian Gorka himself concluded,
“The sad truth is that we seem to be going backwards. Take just these three quotes from the 9/11 Commission report:
— Our enemy “is sophisticated, patient, disciplined and lethal.”
— “[T]he institutions charged with protecting our national security did not understand how grave this threat could be, and did not adjust their policies, plans, and practices to deter or defeat it.”
— “In short, the United States has to help defeat an ideology, not just a group of people.”
” I am told,” continues Dr.Gorka, “that the U.S. Government’s policy now is to see our salvation in negotiations with people like Qaradawi, to engage the Soft Jihadists. If that is the Intelligence Community”s strategy and White House’s answer, then we have already lost. If people who are the seminal clerical advocates for Jihad for the Muslim Brotherhood and the lead clerics for Al-Jazeera are going to be our saviors, then we have surrendered. If you do not want to give up, remember this. This is what we have to understand. There are violent Jihadists and there are non-kinetic Soft Jihadists. There is AQ and there is the OIC and the Muslim Brotherhood. They are taking different pathways to the same destination: the imposition of sharia law wherever they can make it happen and to the creation of a Caliphate. Both groups believe in Jihad. Both groups are driven by the objectives Qutb, Azzam, Zawahiri and Malik espoused. They simply represent two faces of the same foe, an enemy whose doctrines and strategies we must begin studying in earnest.”
 Joseph C. Myers. The Quranic Concept of War, in Winter 2006-2007 issue of Parameters: the US Army War College Quarterly.