Thursday, October 04, 2007


In the aftermath of the September Eleventh Atrocities, Harvard University in June, 2002, featured a graduation address by student Zayed Yasin which he called "My American Jihad." In his speech, Yasin claimed:
Jihad, in its truest and purest form, the form to which all Muslims aspire, is the determination to do right, to do justice even against your own interests. It is an individual struggle for personal moral behavior.
Does he really think so? Maybe. But many Muslims don't share that view. They think jihad means a military struggle against infidels.

Latest example? Hizb Ut Tahir, not-yet-banned in Britain, is exhorting British Muslims to fight in the worldwide Islamist war:

Hizb ut Tahrir, which wants to overthrow democracy and establish a worldwide Islamic theocracy, distributed leaflets to young Muslims inciting them to resist the occupation of Islamic lands, according to a TV documentary by a former group member.

One leaflet read: "Your forefathers destroyed the first crusader campaigns. Should you not proceed like them and destroy the new crusaders?

"Let the armies move to help the Muslims in Iraq, for they seek your help." Another leaflet, handed out last August, pours scorn on the UN and tells followers to embark on a Jihad, or "holy war".

Nor do they intend to fight only in the Middle East:

Maher, a former friend of the bombers who tried to blow up Glasgow Airport in June and the organisation's north-east 'director' until he left in 2005, claims its aims are the same the world over.

He says its British disciples believe they will eventually fight on these shores.

"Hizb ut Tahrir despises democracy and believes Shariah law must be imposed over the whole world, by force if necessary," he said.

"I think unless we challenge this we are sleepwalking into a very dangerous future."

Sleepwalking over a cliff.

Years before the September Eleventh Atrocities, in 1997, Douglas Streusand published an article discussing the meaning of the word "jihad." It is well worth reading in its entirety. He concludes:

Muslims today can mean many things by jihad-the jurists' warfare bounded by specific conditions, Ibn Taymiya's revolt against an impious ruler, the Sufi's moral self-improvement, or the modernist's notion of political and social reform. The disagreement among Muslims over the interpretation of jihad is genuine and deeply rooted in the diversity of Islamic thought. The unmistakable predominance of jihad as warfare in Shari'a writing does not mean that Muslims today must view jihad as the jurists did a millenium ago. Classical texts speak only to, not for, contemporary Muslims. A non-Muslim cannot assert that jihad always means violence or that all Muslims believe in jihad as warfare.

Conversely, the discord over the meaning of jihad permits deliberate deception, such as the CAIR statement cited above. A Muslim can honestly dismiss jihad as warfare, but he cannot deny the existence of this concept. As the editor of the "Diary of a Mujahid" writes, "some deny it, while others explain it away, yet others frown on it to hide their own weakness."

The term jihad should cause little confusion, for context almost always indicates what a speaker intends. The variant interpretations are so deeply embedded in Islamic intellectual traditions that the usage of jihad is unlikely to be ambiguous. An advocate of jihad as warfare indicates so through his goals. A Sufi uses the term mujahada or specifies the greater jihad. Bourguiba clearly did not advocate violence to improve education and development in Tunisia. When ambiguity does exist, it may well be deliberate. In the case of Arafat's statement about a "jihad for Jerusalem," he intended his Muslim audience to hear a call to arms while falling back on the peaceful definition to allay concerns in Israel and the West. Only his later actions reveal whether he was co-opting Islamists by adopting their rhetoric or duping Israelis by hiding his violent intentions.


When you've got pipe-bombs, remote-controlled model boats, and videos you made showing would-be jihadis how to make remote controlled terror bombs, the jihad you're talking about probably isn't moral self improvement.

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