by Bruce Thornton
The war against jihadism has been chronically misunderstood because of our failure to acknowledge the religious motives of Muslim jihadists. This failure began in 1979 with the Iranian revolution. Trapped in our Western secularist paradigms, we interpreted the uprising against the Shah as an anti-colonial revolt against a “brutal” autocrat propped up by the West for its own exploitative economic and geostrategic purposes. The aim of the revolution, the argument went, was to create a government more sympathetic to national sovereignty and Western pluralistic government. However, it soon became clear with the political triumph of the Ayatollah Khomeini that the revolution was in the main a religious one, inspired in part by anger at the Shah’s secularization, modernization, and liberalization policies. As Khomeini said in 1962, the Shah’s regime was “fundamentally opposed to Islam itself and the existence of a religious class.”
Despite that lesson, the rise of al Qaeda in the 90s was also explained as anything and everything other than what it was and still is–– a movement with deep religious roots. Under administrations of both parties, the mantra of our leaders has been “nothing to do with Islam.” We created various euphemisms like “Islamism,” “Radical Islam,” “Islamic extremists,” or “Islamofascism,” to explain an ideology that is firmly rooted in traditional Islamic theology and historical practice. We were anxiously assured that Islam was a “religion of peace,” its adherents tolerant and ecumenical. Popular figures like Osama bin Laden were “heretics” who had “highjacked” this wonderful faith, distorting its doctrines to serve their evil lust for power. We looked upon them as “beards from the fringe,” malignant cranks like Jim Jones, Charles Manson, or David Koresh.
This fundamental error continues today, as Muslim violence and anti-Semitism are explained by every factor instead of the essential one––the theology, jurisprudence, and history of Islam.
When one asks for evidence for this detachment of Muslim violence from the tenets of Islam, the best most apologists can do is produce a Westernized nominal Muslim, a propagandist like Tariq Ramadan, or a left-wing academic who reflexively considers any enemy of the colonialist, imperialist, capitalist West to be a friend of the left. Jihad is not, they assure us, the theological imperative to “fight all men until they say there is no god but Allah,” as Mohammed himself commanded. Jihad is merely a form of self-improvement and community service. “Allahu Akbar” is not the traditional Muslim battle cry, but merely a way of saying “Thank God.” Revered Muslim scholars like the Ayatollah Khomeini––educated in Qom, the “Oxford and Harvard of Iranian Shi’ism,” as Barry Rubin put it, and honored as a “grand sign of Allah” for his theological knowledge––was simply wrong when he said, “Islam says: Kill all the unbelievers just as they would kill you,” and “Islam is a religion of blood for the infidels.”
Despite being consistent with such statements, dismissed as racist ignorance are the centuries of Western observation and bloody experience showing that, as Tocqueville wrote in 1838, “Jihad, Holy war, is an obligation for all believers. … The state of war is the natural state with regard to infidels … These doctrines of which the practical outcome is obvious are found on every page and in almost every word of the Koran … The violent tendencies of the Koran are so striking that I cannot understand how any man with good sense could miss them.” Likewise Samuel Huntington’s phrase “Islam’s bloody borders” is called a racist lie, used to justify neo-colonial incursions into Muslim lands. Meanwhile, of the 7 global conflicts costing more than a 1000 lives a year, 6 involve Islam….