Understanding Islamic Terror

Allah’s Messenger said: “I have been sent with the shortest expressions bearing the widest meanings, and I have been made victorious with terror.”


Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 56, Hadith 186

Nearly two months have passed since the Manchester Arena attacks. On that night, the lives of twenty-two innocent people were taken by a jihadist suicide bomber. To those who recognise the imperial nature of Islam, it is clear that Salman Abedi was motivated by the twin conviction that acts of violence against non-Muslims (kuffar) are mandated by Allah, and that those who die in the cause of Islam will be rewarded in paradise. The dehumanization of non-Muslims in Islam is what allows for the indiscriminate killing of young women and children; the glorification of martyrdom is what leads Muslims to take their own lives in the process.

Let us begin with the latter belief, i.e. that martyrs for Islam will be given a special place in heaven. This is firmly rooted in the Qur’an and the hadith literature. In Surat al-Imran, for example, it is stated that “those who are killed in the way of Allah” are not dead, but rather “they are alive, with their Lord, and they have provision. They rejoice in what Allah has bestowed upon them of His bounty.” In Sahih Muslim, Anas ibn Malik relates a narration from Muhammad, stating that while most of those who reside in paradise would never want to return to the material world, the glory of a martyr is such that he would love to return in order to be killed again:

Nobody who dies and has something good for him with Allah will (ever like to) return to this world even though he were offered the whole world and all that is in its (as an inducement), except the martyr who desires to return and be killed in the world for the (great) merit of martyrdom that he has seen.

Sticking with the hadith, it is here that the rewards for martyrs are spelled out. Naturally, being promises made by a desert warlord to his soldiers, these rewards cater to the lowest common denominator. In The Maidens of Jannat, a collection of hadiths of this nature, we learn that martyrs for Islam can expect women whose breasts “will be round like pomegranates” and to have sex with 100 virgins every morning. We are thus 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:

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).

In terms of violence against non-Muslims, we return to the Qur’an. In reading through the text, we quickly discover that Islamic terror is not the result of taking particular verses “out of context”, but rather a logical inference from the incessant demonization of non-Muslims which so defines it. There are dozens of verses in the Qur’an which vilify “those who disbelieve”, and at least two dozen which order Muslims to kill the unbelievers. In some of these verses, Allah himself plays the role of the terrorist. The cumulative effect of this is an annihilatory mindset which no amount of sanitary interpretations can undo. Here are just a few examples:

Lo! Those who disbelieve, among the People of the Book and the idolaters, will abide in fire of hell. They are the worst of created beings. [98:6]

We shall cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve because they ascribe unto Allah partners, for which no warrant hath been revealed. Their habitation is the Fire, and hapless the abode of the wrong-doers. [3:151]

When thy Lord inspired the angels, (saying): “I am with you. So make those who believe stand firm. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Then smite their necks and smite of them each finger.” [8:12]

Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. [9:5]

And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter. [2:191]

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:

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 austere 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 accepts the shari’ah in its entirety or is killed for his disbelief. To quote the man from Taysir al-Aziz al-Hamid, whose English translation has been provided by ISIS in their 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 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, Osama 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 U.S. Embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya which killed over 200 people, 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 threat to the U.S., 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 examine the beliefs and practices of their forebears with a critical eye, and entertain the possibility that desert nomads from 1,400 years ago might not have been divinely inspired.

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: Where are the 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 noncombatants? They do not exist. What is the difference that makes the difference? 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. If you doubt whether the comparison is valid, ask yourself where the Palestinian Christian suicide bombers are. Palestinian Christians also suffer the indignity of the Israeli occupation. This is practically a science experiment: take the same people, speaking the same language, put them in the same horrendous circumstance, but give them slightly different religious beliefs–and then watch what happens. What happens is, they behave differently.

While the other major world religions have been fertile sources of intolerance, it is clear that the doctrine of Islam poses unique problems for the emergence of a global civilization. The world, from the point of view of Islam, is divided into the “House of Islam” and the “House of War,” and this latter designation should indicate how Muslims believe their differences with those who do not share their faith will be ultimately resolved. While there are undoubtedly some moderate Muslims who have decided to overlook the irrescindable militancy of their religion, Islam is undeniably a religion of conquest. The only future devout Muslims can envisage – as Muslims – is one in which all infidels have been converted to Islam, politically subjugated, or killed. The tenets of Islam simply do not admit of anything but a temporary sharing of power with the “enemies of God.” Devout Muslims can have no doubt about the reality of Paradise or about the efficacy of martyrdom as a means of getting there. Nor can they question the wisdom and reasonableness of killing people for what amount to theological grievances. In Islam, it is the moderate who is left to split hairs, because the basic thrust of the doctrine is undeniable: convert, subjugate, or kill unbelievers; kill apostates; and conquer the world.

*****

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Support network for Ex-Muslims in Ireland. Empowering apostates from Islam and raising awareness of the jihadist threat. Affiliate of Atheist Alliance International.

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