Max Fisher, now of the New York Times, here spends 1,764 words purportedly to explain what the phrase “radical Islam” means and why it is controversial, and devotes nary a single one of them to exploring the Qur’an, or the teachings and example of Muhammad, or the doctrines of the various schools of Islamic jurisprudence in order to elucidate the phrase. Instead, we get obfuscation from the likes of the puerile and silly Qatar-funded establishment counterterror analyst Will McCants, who claims that the phrase itself is meaningless: “Every bit of that phrase is analytically unhelpful…Is this the wine-drinking Islam of the poets? The court Islam of the caliph? What kind of Islam are you even talking about?”
Well, Will, you may think me “crazy pants” for saying so, but how about the Islam of the Qur’an and Sunnah? Max Fisher intones that the words “radical Islam,” “absent political context, could be read as trying to distinguish fringe interpretations of Islam, including justifications for violence, from the mainstream majority view, which is peaceful.” Fisher doesn’t apparently see any need to substantiate that claim, and for good reason: he can’t. The authoritative sources in Sunni Islam, the schools of Sunni jurisprudence (madhahib), make it very clear that the “mainstream majority view” of Islam is not peaceful, but sanctions violence:
Shafi’i school: A Shafi’i manual of Islamic law that was certified in 1991 by the clerics at Al-Azhar University, one of the leading authorities in the Islamic world, as a reliable guide to Sunni orthodoxy, stipulates about jihad that “the caliph makes war upon Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians…until they become Muslim or pay the non-Muslim poll tax.” It adds a comment by Sheikh Nuh Ali Salman, a Jordanian expert on Islamic jurisprudence: the caliph wages this war only “provided that he has first invited [Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians] to enter Islam in faith and practice, and if they will not, then invited them to enter the social order of Islam by paying the non-Muslim poll tax (jizya)…while remaining in their ancestral religions.” (‘Umdat al-Salik, o9.8).
Of course, there is no caliph today, unless one believes the claims of the Islamic State, and hence the oft-repeated claim that Osama et al are waging jihad illegitimately, as no state authority has authorized their jihad. But they explain their actions in terms of defensive jihad, which needs no state authority to call it, and becomes “obligatory for everyone” (‘Umdat al-Salik, o9.3) if a Muslim land is attacked. The end of the defensive jihad, however, is not peaceful coexistence with non-Muslims as equals: ‘Umdat al-Salik specifies that the warfare against non-Muslims must continue until “the final descent of Jesus.” After that, “nothing but Islam will be accepted from them, for taking the poll tax is only effective until Jesus’ descent” (o9.8).
Hanafi school: A Hanafi manual of Islamic law repeats the same injunctions. It insists that people must be called to embrace Islam before being fought, “because the Prophet so instructed his commanders, directing them to call the infidels to the faith.” It emphasizes that jihad must not be waged for economic gain, but solely for religious reasons: from the call to Islam “the people will hence perceive that they are attacked for the sake of religion, and not for the sake of taking their property, or making slaves of their children, and on this consideration it is possible that they may be induced to agree to the call, in order to save themselves from the troubles of war.”
However, “if the infidels, upon receiving the call, neither consent to it nor agree to pay capitation tax [jizya], it is then incumbent on the Muslims to call upon God for assistance, and to make war upon them, because God is the assistant of those who serve Him, and the destroyer of His enemies, the infidels, and it is necessary to implore His aid upon every occasion; the Prophet, moreover, commands us so to do.” (Al-Hidayah, II.140)
Maliki school: Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), a pioneering historian and philosopher, was also a Maliki legal theorist. In his renowned Muqaddimah, the first work of historical theory, he notes that “in the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the Muslim mission and (the obligation to) convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force.” In Islam, the person in charge of religious affairs is concerned with “power politics,” because Islam is “under obligation to gain power over other nations.”
Hanbali school: The great medieval theorist of what is commonly known today as radical or fundamentalist Islam, Ibn Taymiyya (Taqi al-Din Ahmad Ibn Taymiyya, 1263-1328), was a Hanbali jurist. He directed that “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.”
This is also taught by modern-day scholars of Islam. Majid Khadduri was an Iraqi scholar of Islamic law of international renown. In his book War and Peace in the Law of Islam, which was published in 1955 and remains one of the most lucid and illuminating works on the subject, Khadduri says this about jihad:
The state which is regarded as the instrument for universalizing a certain religion must perforce be an ever expanding state. The Islamic state, whose principal function was to put God’s law into practice, sought to establish Islam as the dominant reigning ideology over the entire world….The jihad was therefore employed as an instrument for both the universalization of religion and the establishment of an imperial world state. (P. 51)
Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee, Assistant Professor on the Faculty of Shari’ah and Law of the International Islamic University in Islamabad. In his 1994 book The Methodology of Ijtihad, he 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.
All this makes it clear that Fisher is flatly wrong that only “fringe interpretations of Islam” include justifications for violence, while “the mainstream majority view” is “peaceful.” But neither Fisher, nor the Times, deem it necessary to consult Islam’s authoritative interpreters to determine whether it calls for violence or not. In fact, violence in Islamic teaching is not “radical,” but mainstream. For Fisher and McCants and other establishment analysts, that idea is “crazy pants,” the facts be damned.
“When a Phrase Takes On New Meaning: ‘Radical Islam,’ Explained,” by Max Fisher, New York Times, June 16, 2016:
It was nearly 18 months ago, shortly after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, when a reporter for National Public Radio, Mara Liasson, observed at a White House press briefing that President Obama and his aides had “bent over backwards” to avoid using the phrase “radical Islam.” The press secretary, Josh Earnest, said this was because “these terrorists are individuals who would like to cloak themselves in the veil of a particular religion,” opening a debate over the phrase that has taken on new rancor amid the massacre in Orlando.
“In his remarks today, President Obama disgracefully refused to even say the words ‘Radical Islam,’ ” Donald J. Trump said in a statement within hours of when Omar Mateen killed 49 people at a gay nightclub and invoked the Islamic State in a 911 call. “For that reason alone, he should step down.”
The next day, Mr. Obama called the focus on phrasing “a political distraction.”
“What exactly would using this label accomplish?” the president asked. “Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away.”
What does “radical Islam” even mean and why has it become so controversial? Is this argument just semantics, or does it go deeper?
What does the phrase mean?
Let’s start with the words. “Islam” is a 1,500-year-old religion whose 1.6 billion followers worldwide observe a spectrum of customs and traditions. “Radical” can mean something very different or against tradition, or be defined as extreme views, practices and policies.
The words, absent political context, could be read as trying to distinguish fringe interpretations of Islam, including justifications for violence, from the mainstream majority view, which is peaceful. But that context — including who shouts the phrase and who studiously avoids uttering it — has ladened it with pernicious meaning in particular quarters.
Shadi Hamid, a scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said that before the controversy began, he did not use the phrase “radical Islam” much, but neither did he find it overly objectionable. After two years of politicization, though, Mr. Hamid and other analysts say the phrase has worrisome connotations, potentially maligning all Muslims or Islam itself.
“Why would you feel such a need to use this particular combination of words, when the vast majority of us agree that this is terrorism and that it should be stopped or countered?” he asked. “These terms are being used as dog whistles.”
Will McCants, another Brookings scholar, told The Washington Post in December 2015 that “every bit of that phrase is analytically unhelpful” because of its lack of specificity. “Is this the wine-drinking Islam of the poets?” he asked. “The court Islam of the caliph? What kind of Islam are you even talking about?”
Republicans who invoke “radical Islam” seem to be trying to telegraph certain arguments about Muslims, political correctness, and the United States’ failure to stop the march of extremist groups across the Middle East. At the same time, Democrats who reject it are also making a political statement, one touching on Islamophobia and inclusiveness….