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Excellent piece; and No, Paul Christopher is not right

Reader comment on item: Jihad and the Professors

Submitted by Averroes (Egypt), Nov 5, 2002 at 06:33

First, I'd like to express my admiration for this thorough, objective and credible article. Although I first heard about Mr. Pipes in some unfriendly report prepared by fellow Muslims in CAIR, I have this exhaustive article today as an evidence rather of Pipes' objectivity and credibility. Again although I personally have some reservations about his conclusions, his introductions go so deep and so honest this piece is worthy in the end of my respect and appreciation.

Some comments submitted on this article, however, I find not as deep or objective. They instead seem influenced by the same common preconceptions, mired in the same stereotypes against Islam and Muslims. When we for instance hastily reach a conclusion as immature as "now-we-know-our-enemy," we no longer read then or listen or search, nor do we try anymore to better understand what could be a much deeper crisis. With such an illusion, or a fact, of an enemy lying in ambush, one is only keen on having the gun not the idea, now troubled by rather hatred than ignorance, and led by more fears than morals.

However, for this isn't a Yahoo board of adrenaline-fueled adolescents, rather a forum of educated, rational and insightful commentators, writers and scholars with Ph.D. degrees, I find it a chance, perhaps a duty, to send you now my comment too, from the other side. And I'm in advance grateful for your time and consideration.

First, as for Jihad, I won't argue now about this concept in Islam, nor will I defend the original, authentic definition of Jihad as clearly set in our classics. To keep brief, also objective, I'd humbly agree and state, for now at least, that the primary meaning of Jihad involves military action and is never restricted to self-discipline or self-improvement. Now, I'd instead discuss the *presence* of the whole concept and ruling in today's Islam and in Muslims' everyday life, the world over.

In the wake of the dramatic assassination of Egypt's Sadat in 1981, two details were revealed, and both were quite significant in this regard.

The first detail was the secret book that one of the prominent leaders in that terrorist organization had written before they finally planned for their operation. This book, since prohibited of course, was significantly titled "The Absent Ruling," or in more accurate translation, "The Absent Duty." And that was simply the duty of Jihad in Islam.

With this in mind, I first claim that Jihad in fact, no matter what this word means, is a totally *absent* commitment when it comes to the mainstream, to the hundreds of millions of Muslims everywhere. Jihad may grab the world's attention though, but just like a Bin Laden does. CNN for instance has nothing to say about millions of Muslim professors, physicians, scientists, thinkers, writers, poets and musicians worldwide, while it has a lot to say and to say again about a single psychopathic Bin Laden. When a Bin Laden finally explains his motives, or rather his troubles, as Jihad, Jihad then becomes the hot topic, the primetime show and the bestseller title. Islam, consequently, is soon flattened, briefed and encapsulated to present only one of its so many dimensions and duties—ironically the *absent* one in particular. And Muslims finally, from the Nobel laureate to the cave inhabitant, are soon the terrorist "enemy."

That's why Muslims in general are simply silent. Those peoples, most of whom literally striving to merely survive, understand neither Ibn Taymiah's ruling nor Ibn Pipes' jargon—nor do they care to understand either. The word Jihad may however echo in their life or media, but when, and only when, Saddam Hussein's generals, for example, find them reluctant before Bush's Phantoms, or when Arafat's kids before Sharon's roaring tanks are so desperate they only want an excuse to die.

This leads me directly to the second significant detail in the assassination of Sadat. It was simply the word the chief assassin uttered directly before tearing the target body with more than 70 bullets. "We want only Pharaoh," Khalid al-Islambolli whispered.

The word ‘Pharaoh' in this context, in this culture, literally means "tyrant." They therefore didn't hurt or touch anyone else, seriously meant it and wanted only the tyrant.

Later in the Supreme Court, their educated lawyers would simply use every ruling of Jihad as a valid excuse for what they had done. Ibn Taymiah and al-Mawdoudi, the two Islamic jurists most Muslims today know nothing about, were the major names brought up from history to defend the heinous crime. Still, that earlier spontaneous word ‘Pharaoh' was enough for us today to expose it all and to clearly realize the real trouble behind that ironical act of ‘Jihad'. In one word, Sadat wasn't an infidel, but a tyrant; and it's all about politics, all about oppression and injustice.

Similarly, when Bin Laden strikes today, this in fact has nothing to do with Islam, no matter what he has to say and regardless of the primary meaning of Jihad and whether or not it necessarily involves military action. It's all about politics, all about oppression and injustice. If it were the call of Jihad, Bin Laden would simply choose much easier targets and humbler nations. Speaking of infidels, the pagans in Africa for example would certainly be the first target according to the original definition of Jihad, while the Christians of America would be the last ever, whose religion, Muslims believe, came from heaven as their Islam did, and whose Jesus, they do believe, is undeniably God's prophet.

Yet Bin Laden chose particularly America just like his brother 20 years earlier chose particularly Sadat. The United States to Bin Laden, actually to millions worldwide, is the Pharaoh, the tyrant who must fall. Bin Laden's case, therefore, is more political, social, cultural and psychological than religious. And as Americans have their misconceptions about Islam, Muslims too, and non-Muslims alike, have their misconceptions about America in particular and the west in general. This however isn't the point of my comment, by now, I beg your pardon, too long.

In conclusion, I first claim that Jihad as a ruling in Islam may be best investigated in this excellent article by Daniel Pipes, but as a German proverb says, "What's the point, what is the use of running if we are not on the right road?" This article is perfect for a historical study, but not at all if you mean to understand our reality, let alone deal with it.

Secondly, I claim that Bin Laden and all fellow fundamentalists in the Muslim world, who in total don't exceed 10% of the Muslim population according to a relatively recent study, may successfully justify their crimes as acts of Jihad, yet that's quite untrue. They are either rebels with their political agendas, or utopians whose reasons, no matter how worthy, have nothing to do with Islam. The least to say is that even if Jihad were a commitment present in Muslims' religion and life, no where in the entire religion of Islam would you find that murdering civilians is an act of Jihad—let alone occupying theaters or taking hostages.

I finally claim that the real danger in our world is rather this direct and indirect, present and implied ‘insistence' that Muslims are the enemy. An innocent question may rise in response to expose how meaningless, even paranoiac, this claim is: So what? World War III? Total genocide? Mass conversion? So what?

Sometimes it seems like it's not clear enough yet for everyone. We're not dealing today with a modern sect of bloody, disordered adolescents. We're not dealing with an occult, magical circle around which some tattooed teens are feverishly dancing. Fortunately or unfortunately, we're dealing with an international, major, fastest growing and richest 1400-year-old religion, culture and heritage, built by generations of awesome scholars and deepest jurists, believed by more than 1,200,000,000 people worldwide, 22% of the world's population, to be the perfect and final message from God to the world, no matter how you or I, or Daniel Pipes, define one of its terms.

After 911 attacks, Muslims in the States put the American flag in their cars, windows and shirts, directly and indirectly apologized, over and over again, for what they neither did nor even fully understood. Now if you insist those Muslims are the enemy, you in fact only insist on more and more Bin Ladens to be born. If you now insist this is but ‘Taqiyya' and deception, you simply leave no room for any Muslim to prove otherwise. And you only force them all to regard you as an enemy too, step back to their own identity, culture and heritage, then go adopt every Bin Laden's explanation why you should be killed really.

In other words, if you mean a better world for everyone, I'm sorry this isn't the way at all. Perhaps quite the opposite. It's first values and morals like Jefferson's that built this civilization and kept it despite every danger, and it's Jefferson's values and morals, not this general's plan or this businessman's insight, that we need most before every Bin Laden. "Not in my day, but at no distant one, we may shake a rod over the heads of all which may make the stoutest of them tremble. But I hope our wisdom will grow with our power and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be."

But if you only mean to burn the bad one we have, so keep up, God bless; nothing could be better than a new word on Jihad, reminding the poor and the desperate of their old duties.
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Mark my comment as a response to Excellent piece; and No, Paul Christopher is not right by Averroes

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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