Nearly two months have passed since the Manchester attacks. On that night, the lives of twenty-two innocent people were taken by a Muslim suicide bomber. Without question, the root of this atrocity was the conviction held by Salman Abedi that acts of violence against “those who reject faith” are mandated by God: for as a man believes, so he will act. The indiscriminate killing of young women and children betrays the evil of such supernatural belief systems, which propose that only a chosen few have earned the approval of the Almighty, and that everyone else is living in sin – an annihilatory judgement, as far as insecure faith-heads are concerned.
For the jihadist, it is held that martyrs for Islam will be given a special place in heaven. This belief is firmly rooted in scripture. In Surah Muhammad, for example, it is stated that those “who are killed in the cause of Allah” will be rewarded in Paradise. These rewards are specified in the hadith literature, and cater to the lowest common denominator. Indeed, in reading through the hadith, one is compelled to agree with Richard Dawkins, in that “testosterone-sodden young men too unattractive to get a woman in this world might be desperate enough to go for 72 private virgins in the next.” To quote from Sunan Ibn Majah, Book 37, hadith 4337:
There is no one whom Allah will admit to Paradise but Allah will marry him to seventy-two wives, two from houris and seventy from his inheritance from the people of Hell, all of whom will have desirable front passages and he will have a male member that never becomes flaccid (i.e., soft and limp).
This particularly militant aspect of Islam was encapsulated by the firebrand theologian and jurist Ibn Taymiyyah (1263–1328 AD), revered by Sunni Muslims today as “the great Islamic revivalist”. Indeed, for those seeking to understand the Charlie Hebdo murders, The Drawn Sword against the Reviler of the Messenger – written by Ibn Taymiyyah while incarcerated for demanding the execution of Assaf al-Nasrani, a Christian cleric accused of insulting Muhammad – makes for a sobering read. For this puritanical demagogue, suicidal actions were perfectly legitimate as a means of warfare against non-Muslims. To quote from Majmu ‘al-Fatawa (28/540):
Muslim has narrated in his Sahih the story of the people of the trenches, in which the boy ordered his own killing for the benefit of the religion, and hence the four imams have allowed a Muslim to immerse himself in the enemy ranks, even if he is reasonably certain that they will kill him, provided there is benefit in that for the Muslims.
Ibn Taymiyyah was no less belligerent towards Muslims who didn’t embrace his teachings. He participated in expeditions against the Alawites in 1300 and 1305 AD, whom he regarded as “greater disbelievers than the Jews and Christians”. In Ibn Taymiyyah’s judgement, if someone becomes a Muslim and acts like a Muslim, but there are some legal issues which they take issue with, then that person must be fought until he either submits or is killed for his disbelief. To quote the man from Taysir al-Aziz al-Hamid (English translation provided in ISIS magazine Dabiq, issue 10, page 56):
Every party that resists the manifest and definite laws of Islam from these people [Tatars] or others, then it is obligatory to fight them until they comply with its laws even if they pronounce the shahada and follow some of its laws, just as Abu Bakr and the Sahabah fought those who resisted the zakat… So any resistant party that resists some of the obligatory prayers, fasting, hajj, or resists abiding by the prohibition of spilling blood, looting wealth, alcohol, gambling, incest, or resists adherence to jihad against the kuffar or the enforcement of jizyah upon Ahlul-Kitab, or abiding by anything else of the obligations and prohibitions of the religion, those rulings which no one has an excuse for being ignorant of or abandoning and which the individual commits kufr by denying, then the resistant party is fought over these rulings even if it acknowledges them. This is something of which I know no difference between the scholars.
The Qur’anic exegesis (tafsir) of Ibn Taymiyyah was revived at the end of the 19th century by the Najdi preacher Muhammad ibn Abdul-Wahhab. This has resulted in the destructive cult of Wahhabi-Salafism, whose acolytes divide the world between the House of Islam (Dar al-Islam) and the House of War (Dar al-Harb) – the latter comprising all those who have not embraced Islam – with the explicit goal of extending the frontiers of the Muslim world such that it resembles the Caliphate of old. This binary, imperial mindset informs any and all opposition to Western foreign policy by Muslim fanatics, however victimised they may claim to be.
Indeed, for the jihadist, it is not enough for the Americans or the British to get out of Afghanistan or Iraq: rather, he sees the conflict as a holy war between Muslims and non-Muslims, between the forces of absolute good and absolute evil. It is, therefore, the height of naiveté to suggest that Islamic terror wouldn’t exist without Western interference. This is a violent, supremacist ideology which has existed for over fourteen-hundred years; American imperialism has barely been around for a hundred years. In the words of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, known as the ‘Emir of Al-Qaeda in the Country of Two Rivers’ prior to his belated assassination in June 2006:
We do not perform jihad here for a fistful of dirt or an illusory border drawn up by Sykes and Picot. Similarly, we do not perform jihad for a Western taghut to take the place of an Arab taghut. Rather our jihad is loftier and more superior. We perform jihad so that Allah’s word becomes supreme and that the religion becomes completely for Allah.
Through violence against the secular materialistic West, the likes of Al-Qaeda want to establish an Islamic utopia on earth, which will be ruled under one leader – the Caliph. He will be the Commander of the Faithful, whose words will influence Muslims worldwide and help propagate the faith, so that all of humanity will eventually submit to God’s perfected religion. The official Al-Qaeda training manual, which is available on the website of the US Department of Justice, calls for “the dialogue of bullets, the ideals of assassination, bombing and destruction, and the diplomacy of the cannon and machine gun”. The religious nature of the mission is made clear:
Our main mission is the overthrow of the godless regimes and to force their replacement with an Islamic regime… [The Al-Qaeda member] has to be willing to do the work and undergo martyrdom for the purpose of establishing the religion of majestic Allah on earth.
These are the words of Osama bin Laden, who has been portrayed as both a saviour and a demon in the online world. Indeed, the internet is resplendent with Evangelical Christian websites that identify bin Laden as the anti-Christ prophesised in the Book of Revelation: search ‘Osama bin Laden anti-Christ’ on Google, and you’ll get over 12 million listings. In direct contrast to this is the London-based Islamic website www.muhajiroun.com, where the 9/11 attacks are celebrated as an act of divinely inspired violence. In this apocalyptic Muslim view, Osama bin Laden is taking the battle to the infidel West and using its superior technology to destroy it.
For his supporters, bin Laden is a hero, reminiscent of Salahuddin Ayyubi (Saladin) who repelled the evil Western Crusaders in the 12th century. Others cast him as the Mahdi (Messiah), who is predicted to appear near the end of time and bring about the Day of Judgement. This apocalyptic tone was dominant from the moment that Western journalists began interviewing bin Laden. In May 1998, two months before the bombings in Tanzania and Kenya, bin Laden gave an interview to ABC’s John Miller in which he revealed the Armageddon-style conflict he envisaged with the West:
We are certain that we shall – with the grace of Allah – prevail over the Americans and over the Jews, as the Messenger of Allah promised us in an authentic prophetic tradition when he said that the Hour of Resurrection shall not come before Muslims fight Jews and before Jews hide behind trees and rocks… We anticipate a black future for America. Instead of remaining United States, it shall end up as separated states and shall have to carry the bodies of its sons back to America.
A little over three years later, bin Laden fulfilled his dire threat to the United States, killing 3,000 unarmed civilians. The iconography of 9/11 was precisely calculated for maximum propaganda effect. For Mohamed Atta, who piloted the first plane into the towers, modernist architecture symbolised a Satanic world order presided over by Uncle Sam. The source of this encroaching Western control was New York, a centre of godless decadence and heartland of a global Jewish conspiracy against Islam. Bin Laden had similar views: three months after 9/11, he referred to the attacks as “the blessed strikes against world infidelity and the head of infidelity, namely America.”
The apocalyptic mentality of “let’s do away with it all” appeals to resentful young Muslims, raised to believe that their religion is supreme, but who don’t see anything like it in reality. From this perspective, acts of violence against the West are a means of restoring Islam to its rightful position over the kuffar. Thus, in order for the world to be rid of Islamic terror, the responsibility falls on Muslims to reconsider their devotion to the supremacist ideas of Muhammad. They must entertain the possibility that desert nomads from 1,400 years ago might not have been divinely inspired. It is not the responsibility of the West to keep Muslims from acting upon their beliefs.
In attributing socio-economic motives to Islamic terror, the Regressive Left only serve to compound the problem. Were they to examine the 7/7 attacks, they would find that the perpetrators were college-educated middle-class people, who had no discernible experience of poverty or political oppression. They did, however, spend a remarkable amount of time at their local mosque, talking about the wickedness of infidels and the pleasures awaiting martyrs in paradise – just as it is with the engineers and medical students who preponderate among the ranks of ISIS. To finish with a brilliant quote from Sam Harris in this regard:
Anyone who imagines that terrestrial concerns account for Muslim terrorism must answer questions of the following sort: Why are there no Tibetan Buddhist suicide bombers? The Tibetans have suffered an occupation far more brutal, and far more cynical, than any that Britain, the United States, or Israel have ever imposed upon the Muslim world. Where are the throngs of Tibetans ready to perpetrate suicidal atrocities against Chinese non-combatants? They do not exist.
The difference lies in the specific tenets of Islam. This is not to say that Buddhism could not help inspire suicidal violence. It can, and it has (Japan, World War II). But this concedes absolutely nothing to the apologists for Islam. As a Buddhist, one has to work extremely hard to justify such barbarism. One need not work nearly so hard as a Muslim. The truth that we must finally confront is that Islam contains specific notions of martyrdom and jihad that fully explain the character of Muslim violence.