Category Archives: Islamic

How Al Qaeda Was Born

Although the Muslim Brotherhood is officially opposed to Al Qaeda and tends to take a legalist and democratic approach to obtaining power, the organization is nevertheless very radical and many radical Muslims gravitate to the MB as the only game in town. In turn, as they radicalize in the MB, the more radicalized people spin off  to Al Qaeda, ISIS and other radical jihadi groups.  Then some of the Al Qaeda people spin back into the Brotherhood, this time hiding their radical views.

It is not well known, but Hamas is nothing less than the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood. The MB is illegal in Saudi Arabia, Syria and Qatar. They led an uprising in 1982 in Syria where 30,000 people were killed. The survivors went to Europe and also to Saudi Arabia where they met up with Egyptian MB members who were working and teaching in the Kingdom. These MB religious folk were then in turn influenced by the allegedly quietist Wahhabism, the official doctrine of Saudi Arabia. The MB religious teachers then supercharged Wahhabism while Wahhabism itself radicalized the MB teachers in terms of Islamic doctrine. It was this mixture of the Ikhwan and Wahhabism that eventually morphed into bin Laden’s Al Qaeda. From and around Al Qaeda all sorts of other radical jihadi groups emerged, especially in Iraq and Syria. Most of the groups in Syria are either Al Qaeda linked or inspired or if not, are not a great deal different from Syrian Al Qaeda, now called Al Nusra.

Another origin of Al Qaeda was in Egypt where as above, the MB served as a nursery of sorts for Islamic radicals. Radicals kept spinning off the MB and forming more radicalized splits. Sayed Qutb was one of the first, and Al Qaeda is simply Qutbism writ large. He was executed by Nasser in the 1950’s.

Another split occurred in the late 1970’s, when another radical group spun off of the MB and evolved into various factions. One of these factions developed the Qutbist notion that the entire Muslim world was now living in a state of jahaliyya or pre-Islamic ignorance. The entire society of Muslim Egypt was tainted by infidel and anti-Islamic influences. Some of these people dropped out of society and went to live like hermits in caves in the desert. They saw the entire society as corrupt and evil, so they had no alternative but to completely drop out of it and live in isolated hermitage like early Christians.

It was here that Zayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian eye surgeon and bin Laden’s 2nd in command, got his start. He developed some followers in the city he lived in and he eventually dropped out of society and went to live in caves with the rest of the radicals.

Around this time, a lot of these radicals got wrapped up in plot to assassinate Anwar Sadat, mostly for the crime of making peace with Israel. The assassins, of which there were several, were ex-MB members who had spun off from the group. About 1,000 radicals were rounded up after the assassination. Al-Zawahiri was one of them. There is footage of a wild-eyed Zawahiri in a crowded jail cell with ~40 other men. He is gripping the cell bars and shouting along with many others.

After his release, Zawahiri went on to form the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. This and several other very radical jihadi groups waged war on the Egyptian state in the early 80’s. Zawahiri’s movement, which had ~1,500 members, was crushed by the state. Jihadis were taken out into the Egyptian desert, tied to a pole and left there. It didn’t take long for them to perish from lack of food or water. In this way, the movement was crushed. Zawahiri fled Egypt and may have taken up with bin Laden in Sudan for a while.

The remains of Islamic Jihad combined with the nascent Al Qaeda forming in the Kingdom via the mixture of Egyptian and Syrian MB and Saudi Wahhabis to form the nucleus of the early Al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda got increasingly radicalized during bin Laden’s stay there. Finally both men went to Afghanistan for the Afghan jihad which radicalized huge numbers of Muslims all over the world, mostly in the Arab World. As they fought in Afghanistan, they become increasingly radicalized. Zawahiri had always argued for fighting the “near enemy” first – the secular Arab regimes, but bin Laden’s radical theory was to switch from a war only against the near enemy to a war against the “far enemy,” which bin Laden called the US for its support for Israel and the secular Arab dictatorships.

The MB is hated and outlawed in Qatar and Saudi Arabia more on the grounds of rivalry than anything else. Qatar and the Saudis see the Ikhwan as a threat to royal power. After a military coup overthrew the elected MB government in Egypt, the new leader Sisi has formed a major alliance with the Saudis and the Qataris. The Saudis have responded by flooding Sisi’s government with oil money.

In Jordan, most of the Parliament is made of the MB members, which is one reason why the powers of the Parliament have been severely limited by the King.

The MB is quite active in north Lebanon near Tripoli where Lebanon’s 20% Sunnis live. These people have become increasingly radicalized and are now engaged in open warfare with Alawis living in some of these cities. Some of these Sunnis also seem to have gone to Syria to join up with the jihadi groups. The MB in this part of Lebanon is known for its dislike of Lebanon’s Shia and Hezbollah.

The MB was formed by Hassan Al-Banna, an Egyptian schoolteacher, in 1922. It is one of the oldest radical Muslim groups in the world.

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Turkey – The Sick Man of Europe, a 100 Year Running Joke

The Turks make up a single race – Turkic-Armenian-Kurdish-Ashkenazi Jewish. The Turks tried to turn most of these people into Turks by eliminating their ethnic identity via abandoning their religion and language. The Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians refused to give up their languages but most importantly their religion, so the Turks killed over 2 million of them for that sin. The Kurds continue to see themselves as a distinct ethnic, cultural and linguistic group from the Turks. The Turks wish to eliminate the Kurdish language, culture and even ethnicity. and that is why the Kurds are slaughtered like flies over there.

Turks are a profoundly backwards people, and they like it that way just fine. In fact, it infuriates them that anyone demands that they act civilized. Turks don’t exactly have European Enlightenment values – in fact, they have exactly the opposite. Erdogan is an Ottoman imperial Sultan and Caliph combined with a murderous Young Turk mixed with an Ataturkist ethnic ultranationalist. He’s literally one of the worst human beings on Earth, and the Turks worship this man like a God.

The Turks are enraged that Europe sees Turkey for the Sick Man it is. Hence they refuse to let them into the EU.

Letting Turkey into the EU would be catastrophic.

First of all, Turkey is incapable of abiding by the EU’s European White Christian Enlightenment values which now verge on Culture Left parody. The Turks don’t even believe in the Renaissance. Why would they believe in the PC SJW Left? Get real.

In order to join the EU, one must do a minimum number of things, including have a minimal base of European civilized Enlightenment values. These include basic human rights, limits on corruption, basic rights for minority groups and their languages, religions and cultures, etc. Turkey fails as miserably on all of those counts as they did a century ago when the Young Turks unleashed their Shoah/Islamic Jihad.

Turkey is a land frozen in time or worse where clocks actually run backwards instead of forwards like they do everywhere else. An example of this is how Erdogan has recreated 19th Century Turkey as the new imperial Sultan/Caliph.

A good guess of how backwards a nation is is whether or not the Left has been driven to such desperation and exasperated rage that they have take up arms. Nowadays, the Left only takes up arms in the most reactionary of holes. The Turkish Left has been so abused that they have been armed for decades. They carry out regular bombings and assassinations. Turkey is the Colombia of Europe, the India of the Near East.

The only way to let Turkey in would be to so weaken these EU ultra-liberal laws to the extent that they barely existed anymore. Further, poorer Turks would flood all through Christian Europe, further Islamicizing an already badly Islamicizing Europe. Even with only a few Muslims, they are causing havoc and chaos all through Europe. Imagine 10’s of millions of Turks given free reign to move to any part of Europe that they wish.

Turks have moved to Germany in large numbers and they have assimilated very poorly. Many of them hate Christian Germans, both their culture and their religion. They stage regular riots calling for the death of Jews, etc. Many are sympathetic to radical Islam. In Germany, many Turks have turned to street crime. Honor killings continue.

There are already far too many Turks in Christian Europe. Let’s not let 10’s of millions more in please.

There is of course a minority of more or less progressive Turks often working in and around academia, the opposition parties and the media. There are good people in the opposition, even in Parliament and there are many fine journalists, including some of the bravest and most daring investigative journalists. I work with a lot of Turks like this now. They bear no resemblance to what I just wrote above other than perhaps denial of their land’s backwardness. These are finest sons and daughters of the land.

Sadly the more forward-looking Turks have long been a minority, though they may make up 20-30% of the population. That’s enough to cause a lot of rowdy (and often violent) street protests, but it’s not enough to win an election.

Like the Colombians, every four years, the Turks march off to the polls to vote for another reactionary ultranationalist nut.

I would say that Turkey is hopeless. 20-30% is not enough to turn a land around, and Turkey has hurdled horribly backwards since Sultan Erdogan assumed the throne and crowned himself Caliph. He has emboldened all of the worst aspect of the Turkish soul in the same way that Trump is doing in the US. Perhaps Turkey can move forwards, but I will not see it in my lifetime.

There is nothing a Turk hates more than a mirror. It’s like a cross to a vampire. Turks refuse to look in a reflection and see what its really there. Instead they wrap themselves up in Rube Goldbergian fortresses of psychological defense because the truth is too ugly to bear. You can’t begin to cure an illness until you diagnose it, and until Turkey looks deeply into the illness of its body politic, it will remain, as always, the Sick Man of Europe, first as harsh truth a century ago, now as pitiful caricature and running twisted joke a century later.

He who is not busy growing is busy dying.

– Bob Dylan

To thine own self be true.

First of all, know yourself.

– famous aphorisms

 

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Letter from a Shia Muslim

Yahya writes:

You are spot on about the lack of Offensive Jihad in Shia Islam. While conquest began under Muhammad, primarily in the Levant, much of the territorial acquisition occurred under the Rashidun and Umayyads. Ali was too caught up in suppressing the Kharwaji to engage in conquest, and apparently (in a Shia Hadith) criticized the previous three caliphs for their oppression of Dhimmis.

It is also worth noting that Shia have a much more nuanced view of traditions and narrations. They don’t assign near the weight to narrations that Sunnis do, believing that with the passage of time comes alterations or downright fabrications (they accuse the Umayyads of issuing fabricated Hadiths to diminish or insult Ali). In Sunni Islam, most of the barbarism is to found in the books of Hadith, and by taking up a cynical view of these books, one can circumvent a great deal of stupidity, which may or may not have been authentic.

There are two further principles which make Shia Islam more capable of conforming to modernity:

Firstly, Shia are encouraged to refrain from that which gives Islam a bad image. This is generally agreed to include prescriptions found in Hadith but not in the Quran. For example, the punishment of stoning adulterers is only found in narrations, and thus Iran has found it within their liberty to temporarily suspend the use of such punishments.

Secondly, the Usuli (the mainstream school of Shia Islam) are much like Jews in that they stress that while the laws remain the same, their interpretation and circumstances surrounding them change.

However in some ways, Shia Islam undoubtedly more extreme. For example in the case of apostasy, the Sunni schools believe that only the state can try and execute apostates, but in Shia Islam, the duty can fall upon civilians as well (the same is true of blasphemy ). This causes a great many problems for obvious reasons.

And whereas in Sunni Islam, no differentiation is made between those apostates born to a Muslim father (Murtad Fitri) and one who converts and then apostasizes (Murtad Milli): both are asked to rejoin Islam, with a potential waiting period. In Shia Islam the former is killed regardless of their repentance, and the latter is given one opportunity and no waiting period.

The predictions in the post are fairly accurate, although I wouldn’t call Syria a failed state. I am certainly committed to the idea that the future of Islam is interred in the West.

– An agnostic Shia

Interesting comment.

Ali was too caught up in suppressing the Kharwaji to engage in conquest…

The Kwarwaji were like today’s takfiris and to a lesser extent the Wahhabis.

…and apparently (in a Shia Hadith), Ali criticized the previous three caliphs for their oppression of Dhimmis.

This is interesting. I wonder how exactly he criticized their treatment. I know that Iran does treat most religious minorities fairly well compared to how they are treated in a lot of Sunni states with the except of the Bahai, whom they view as heretics.

The predictions in the post are fairly accurate, although I wouldn’t call Syria a failed state.

I fretted about that myself. I suppose the state is still quite powerful in Syria.  The state might even be stronger in Syria than it is in Iraq.This despite the fact that Syria has lost a lot of territory. The USSR lost a lot of territory in WW2, but it never became a failed state. It did become a warzone though. Syria is more like a warzone.

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“Understanding ISIS,” by Muhammad ibn Kateb Al Ashari

This document was available for download on Academia.edu so I assume the author has no plans to make money off of it as he is offering it int the public domain like that. I did a heavy edit on it and I think I made it a lot better. Nice short overview on Wahhabism, Ibn Taymiyyah, Saudi Arabia and ISIS. Good for people who don’t know a lot about the subject and not bad even for those of us who do. Hope you enjoy. We need more pieces like this.

In the name of Allah Most Gracious Most Merciful

To understand ISIS you must understand Wahhabism

Muhammad ibn Kateb Al Ashari

The dramatic arrival of Da’ish (ISIS) on the stage of Iraq has shocked many in the West. Many have been perplexed and horrified by its violence and evident magnetism for Sunni youth.

To understand ISIS, you need to understand Saudi Arabia. The dominant strand of Saudi identity derives directly from Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab (the founder of Wahhabism) and the use to which his radical, exclusionist puritanism was put by Ibn Saud. The latter was then no more than a minor leader amongst many continually sparring and raiding Bedouin tribes in the baking and desperately poor deserts of the Nejd.

The alliance between Ibn Abdul Wahhab and Al-Saud helped secure Saud’s power grab and instituted Ibn Abdul Wahhab’s monopoly on traditional Islamic scholarship.

Wahhab’s theology was something new. It was a revolution based on Abd al-Wahhab’s Jacobin-like hatred for the putrescence and deviationism that he perceived in his shallow understanding of Islamic sciences – hence his call to purge Islam of all heresies and idolatries.

The American author and journalist Steven Coll described how this austere and censorious disciple of the 14th century scholar Ibn Taymiyyah, Abd al-Wahhab, despised “the decorous, arty, tobacco smoking, hashish imbibing, drum pounding Egyptian and Ottoman nobility who traveled across Arabia to pray at Mecca.”

But the history of Wahhabism is even older than that. If you want to understand Wahhabism, you need to understand that Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab was only the Lenin or Wahhabism, whereas his ideological mentor, the Marx of Wahhabism, existed long before in Ibn Taymiyyah.

Before, I proceed in to Wahhabism, I will touch on Ibn Taymiyyah first.

The controversy surrounding Ibn Taymiyyah is not new or modern. Islamic scholars of his time were divided. Those who first met him often praised him, while others who learned of him through his writings and views scorned him. But he remains more of a despised icon than a revered one, and numerous classical writings show that his influence was short lived until the rise of Wahhabism.

Ibn Taymiyyah’s extreme fatwas have been used by ISIS and Al Qaeda today.

The most important fatwa upon which ISIS bases its holy war or jihad is the “Mardin” fatwa. This fatwa illustrates the extremism which marked all of Ibn Taymiyyah’s fatwas. He was born in Mardin on the border between present-day Syria and Turkey in 1263. When he was 7 years old, the Mongols attacked and overran his town. Ibn Taymiyyah moved to Damascus to live with his grandmother.

Jihadists believe that when he became an Islamic jurist, Ibn Taymiyyah issued a fatwa encouraging the fight against Mardin and its people, although the fatwa has been a source of disagreement among Muslim scholars for a long time. Many hardliners and advocates of Salafist jihadi ideology perceive this fatwa as permission to wage war to impose Sharia even within Islamic countries.

Ibn Taymiyyah had another fatwa on “collateral damage,” which stipulated that the mujahedeen who intended to target infidels were allowed to kill other Muslims who might stand in the way of reaching the mujahedeen’s goal. Al-Qaeda used this fatwa to justify the killing of large numbers of Iraqis with car bombs and improvised explosive devices after the US invasion in 2003.

You can say that Ibn Taymiyyah was misunderstood, but the fact remains that Ibn Taymiyyah has been a much loved and inspirational icon of Wahhabism, and fatwas like these are very disturbing. A lot is at stake here if you accept criticism of ibn Taymiyyah. The whole Salafi theology is based on his views and opinions, so it is common to see people defending him and his fatwas. Even many non-Salafist Sunnis will defend him.

Fast forward 500 years to the deserts of central Saudi Arabia. Here Wahhabism was birthed from Taymiyyah’s seeds.

One of the main tenets of Abd al-Wahhab’s doctrine is the key idea of takfir. Under the takfiri doctrine, Abd al-Wahhab and his followers could deem fellow Muslims infidels should they engage in activities that in any way could be said to encroach on the sovereignty of the absolute Authority in the Wahhabis’ understanding of the religion.

Abd al-Wahhab denounced all Muslims who honored the dead, saints, or angels. He held that such sentiments detracted from the complete subservience one must feel towards God and only God. Wahhabi Islam thus bans any veneration of the pious and prophets, pilgrimages to tombs and even faraway mosques, religious festivals celebrating prophets including celebrating Prophet Muhammad’s birthday and prohibits the use of gravestones when burying the dead.

In traditional Islam, engaging in these acts could be no more than disliked or not recommended, but disbelief or heresy by which the blood of a Muslim and their properties become lawful was not a possibility.

Understanding the Wahhabi movement is essential to understand the wars in the Middle East and the Wahhabi vs Shia conflict and the struggle of traditional mainstream Islamic theology to survive in the face of billions of Petro-Wahhabi dollars of Saudi Arabia.

This conflict is actually about who controls Middle East: Shias or Wahhabis. Sunnis have been the main players in the region for centuries due to numbers but also as a continuation of the message of Prophet and His companions. Sunni scholars have traditionally felt that they remained duty-bound to preserve Islamic orthodoxy in Islamic lands, hence their dominance over the Middle East and Arabia in particular makes sense..

Islamic theologians during ibn Taymiyyah’s time successfully silenced his views, and for centuries he were nearly forgotten until the British used support for Taymiyyah-influenced Wahhabism as a cynical tool against the Ottomans who were at the time more or less representative of traditional Islam. The British succeeded in defeating Ottomans politically 100 years ago, but now, a century later, they now have had to deal with their own Frankenstein monster, the Wahhabi ISIS.

The question is, Will ISIS be used by West as a pretext to launch global war against Islamic countries? If this happens, one of two things may happen. First, we will discover that Wahhabism has very foolishly succeeded yet again in assisting the demise of Islamic lands. If however ISIS succeeds, the demise of Islamic lands and Islam itself as well as West is a highly likely possibility unless a third option is activated – empowering traditional Islam and subduing both Wahhabism and Western imperialism. This third path may be the only way to avoid global annihilation.

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Salafi Jihadism: Part 1

Original here. This essay is very well-done, the best I have ever read on the subject.

This is the first of a two-part post on Salafi jihadism. Part 1 is intended to provide a definition of jihad, a look at the history of Salafism/Wahhabism, their similarities and differences and how they spread in the end of the 20th century.

Also before anyone thinks I’m targeting Salafis for an agenda, I intend to cover jihadism in each segment of Islam. I simply chose to begin with Salafi jihadism due to its greater relevance and attention in the world today.

Definition of Jihad: The Arabic word Jihad is derived from the verb Jahada – meaning to strive or struggle. In Islamic terminology it means to make an effort, to endeavor and to strive for a noble cause. The word is generally used to describe any type of striving in the cause of Allah (God). According to Islamic teachings there are three main types of Jihad as explained below:

i) Jihad-e-Akbar, i.e jihad of the highest order. This is the jihad (struggle) for self-reformation. The struggle is against our own temptations such as greed, lust and other worldly temptations. This type of jihad is obligatory on every Muslim throughout his life.

ii) Jihad-e-Kabir, i.e major jihad. This is the jihad of propagation of the truth, the message of Qur’an. The Qur’an also instructs us to spread this message with wisdom, tolerance and respect to others and their beliefs and prohibits the use of any coercion or force. According to the Qur’an anyone who devotes his time, effort, wealth or knowledge to the cause of righteousness is practicing Jihad-e-Kabir. This is also obligatory on all Muslims.

iii) Jihad-e-Asghar, i.e jihad of the lower order. This is the jihad of a defensive battle. The Qur’an has clearly restricted this type of jihad to certain conditions while forbidding transgression of any sort. The conflict must of a defensive nature for the Muslim community, Muslims must have been prevented from freely practicing their religion and beliefs, and they must have been driven from their homes.

Another requirement for the declaration of this type of jihad is the existence of an Islamic State and a Muslim leader to declare it; without this condition, Muslims are allowed to defend themselves in case of being attacked or persecuted but not to declare and prosecute an official jihad. Once a jihad has been declared, the Muslim army is bound by a set of regulations to observe while on campaign, some of which are listed here.[1][2]

It is critical to understand that the aim of jihad is not the conversion of non-Muslim populations. Most scholars agree upon the concept of jihad being a defensive measure; some modern Islamic revivalists such as Sayyid Qutb and Abdullah Azzam argued for the use of jihad as an offensive measure but for the expansion of Muslim territory and Islamic ideals rather than the religious conversion of the local peoples, forced or otherwise, to Islam. As a result, jihad is similar to the Christian concept of a crusade but differs in this critical matter among others. However, jihad is a hotly debated topic in jurisprudence, and a look at the opinions of various scholars can be found here.[3]

History of Salafism/Wahhabism: Salafism is a conservative, orthodox movement within Sunni Islam that seeks to return the practice of Islam to its fundamentals. As such, it emphasizes emulation of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and the Salaf as Saliheen (Pious Predecessors) which comprise the first three generations of Muslims (Companions, Successors and Successors of the Successors), and it rejects any rituals or beliefs not practiced by them; as a result, they are against any innovations, or bidah.

In legal jurisprudence, Salafis are divided among those that remain faithful to the four Sunni maddhabs (schools of law) and those that reject them in favour of ijtihad (independent legal judgement).

In terms of politics, Salafis are generally divided into three categories.

The largest category consists of the quietists, those who believe in remaining indifferent to politics and repression in favour of being closer to God.

The next largest category is the activists, that comprises those who participate in politics to advocate for Islamist agendas and religious legislation.

The smallest category by far is the jihadists, which are the most well known category worldwide but are a tiny minority.

The central tenets of Salafism have existed since the earlier days of Islam, with scholars such as Ibn Taymiyyah referring to and emphasizing adherence to the model of the Salaf. However, Salafism did not spread widely until the 18th century when Muhammad Abdul Wahhab started preaching in the Najd area of Arabia. Abdul Wahhab believed that the practices of the society around him, including venerating the tombs of the Companions, or making invocations to holy men, were similar to the practices during the pre-Islamic Jahiliya (Age of Ignorance).

Thus, he wished to return to a more puritan and conservative form of Islam free of any supposed innovations or bidah and similar to how he believed Islam was practiced in its earliest days. He also believed that those who professed themselves to be Muslim but participated in bidah were beyond the pale of Islam. He began preaching in the town of Unayna, but his actions and ideals were unpopular with the nobility of the era, with Abdul Wahhab being expelled from his town due to pressure applied by a powerful chief, Sulaiman ibn Muhammad ibn Ghurayr.

However, he managed to find refuge with the ruler of the town of Diriyah, Muhammad ibn Saud. In 1744, they formed a pact whereby ibn Saud would protect and propagate the doctrines espoused by Abdul Wahhab by military action, while the latter would religiously legitimize the former’s military conquests and allow the imposition of Islamic taxation, which would net the Al Sauds more income than at the current rates.

Hence began a period of conquest over multiple generations that expanded the Al Sauds’ holdings to much of Arabia, created the First Saudi State and the propagation of Abdul Wahhab’s teachings, pejoratively termed Wahhabism by its critics, outside of Najd. This is also where Abdul Wahhab broke with traditional Salafist thinking; unlike traditional Salafists, Abdul Wahhab was willing to use force and coercion to spread his teachings and was willing to participate in politics and political agreements to achieve that goal.

Scholars are disputed over the degree of brutality sanctioned by Abdul Wahhab, but it is clear that in successive generations, the Wahhabis have become more and more radical, ultimately adopting ibn Taymiyyah’s ideas of takfir (excommunication); this allowed them to brand Muslims living in violation of Islamic law to be non-Muslims and thus justified their fighting against other Muslims. They also adopted a ‘convert or die’ approach to their enemies.

This increasing ruthlessness was the cause of the Al Saud’s downfall. In 1802, the Wahhabis attacked Karbala, slaughtering much of the population and desecrating the shrine of Imam Hussain, and launched a similar assault on Taif in 1803, slaughtering the male population and enslaving women and children.

Ultimately, the Ottoman Empire, which controlled Arabia at the time, had enough and dispatched an army in 1818 that destroyed the First Saudi State, killing the Al Saud ruler, razing Diriyah and doing their best to stamp out both the House of Saud and the Wahhabi movement. However, the remoteness of the Najd prevented either from happening, and a Second Saudi State resulted in that region; consequently, by the end of the 19th century, most of the townspeople in the area were Wahhabis.

Many of the new members were former Bedouins who abandoned nomadic life for settlements on the insistence of Wahhabi religious scholars who declared that a nomadic lifestyle was incompatible with Islam. The newly settled Bedouins served well as soldiers for the Wahhabi religious leaders.

Although alive, Wahhabism remained mostly confined to the Najd till the end of the First World War. During the war, the reigning head of the Al Saud family, Abdulaziz ibn Saud, aided the Allies by revolting against the Ottomans. Although his campaign to rule Arabia had begun in 1901, he was unable to assert his authority over Hijaz until 1923, when the British removed their support for the Sharifs of Makkah.

In 1927, Abdulaziz signed a treaty with the British, who recognized his independence from the former Ottoman territories in exchange for letting go of Transjordan, Iraq, Kuwait and other British protectorates. However, Abdulaziz faced an internal rebellion among his troops. During his campaigns, he made use of the Ikhwan, a militia of radical Wahhabi Bedouin warriors. When he signed the treaty with the British, the Ikhwan refused to obey and raided Transjordan.

Unwilling to risk British ire, Abdulaziz fought the Ikhwan and defeated them in 1929 with British support. The survivors of the Ikhwan were then organized in various militias which would later form the core of the Saudi Arabian National Guard. Although defeated, the Ikhwan left their mark on Arabian society by uprooting the old cultural norms and supplanting them with radical Wahhabi ideology as part of their campaign on behalf of the Al Sauds.

In addition, Wahhabi ideology spread to the cities of Makkah and Madinah and gained control of the religious apparatus in the land. Although the Wahhabi religious establishment was given much latitude with respect to religious observance and teaching, in many cases Abdulaziz overruled the ulema, allowing the driving of automobiles and the attendance of Shia pilgrims at the annual Hajj. In addition, most of Abdulaziz’s consolidation of power and dealings with Western powers kept him at odds with the ulema.

Although Salafism/Wahhabism inspired offshoots such as the Ahl-e-Hadith and Deoband movements in South Asia, the reach of these two ideologies was quite low during most of the 20th century. Even within Saudi Arabia, the implementation of Islamic law was relatively relaxed compared to today.

This changed in 1979, when two things happened. First the Iranian Revolution occurred, toppling the Shah there and sending shockwaves through the monarchies in the region. Second, the Grand Mosque in Makkah was taken over by Islamic extremists who called for the stricter implementation of Islamic doctrines and the fall of the Al Saud family.

In the aftermath of these events, the Saudi government became stricter in religious matters. Due to the huge increase in oil income since the 1973 oil crisis, the government had lavished funding on religious literature, scholarships and hundreds of new Islamic schools, universities and mosques. In order to counter any threat of an Iranian-style revolution by the Shia population of the country and to satisfy disgruntled conservative clerics, this funding was further increased.

The beginning of the Afghan War provided an opportunity to export troublesome clerics to Pakistan, Afghanistan and other countries. This achieved two aims; first, it allowed the Sauds to embed a Wahhabi religious establishment of their choice, and secondly, the export of Wahhabi ideology served as a bulwark against the revolutionary doctrines that Iran was beginning to propagate in the Middle East. Since the Afghan War attracted volunteers from all over the Muslim world, almost all of whom spent time in the Saudi-sponsored religious schools, the spread of Salafism was assured.[4]

Due to the financial support that Salafism/Wahhabism enjoys from the Gulf, it has received attention and commands influence disproportionate to its size. There are roughly 50 million Salafists in the world, a tiny fraction of the total Muslim population.[5] Yet, Salafi scholars such as Zakir Naik from India are some of the most recognizable in the Muslim world, having instant name recognition even amongst many non-Salafis.

The Salafi movement is described as the fastest growing Islamic movement in the world, according to a report by the BND, the German domestic intelligence service.[6] This is especially true for regions such as Europe and North America, which have no native Islamic traditions of their own and thus are more susceptible to supplanting than historically Muslim areas.

Although Salafis have historically been peaceful and apolitical, believing in using persuasion rather than force, modern Salafism is often considered indistinguishable from Wahhabism and in many cases, conflict has arisen when Salafis have tried to propagate their doctrines. For instance in Pakistan, there is much animosity between followers of the Deoband movement, inspired by Salafism, and the Barelvi movement, inspired by the Sufi traditions of the subcontinent.

Moreover, in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, more and more Salafists are becoming part of the activist category, joining politics to propagate their beliefs. One example of such a movement is the Nour Party in Egypt, which gained a quarter of the seats in the 2011-12 elections.

In normal circumstances, one might consider the engagement of conservative Islamists in democratic politics to be a positive sign; however, the failure of the Arab Spring to bring meaningful change to the lives of people in most of the affected countries has disillusioned many democratic Salafis, many of whom have shifted to the jihadist category of Salafism, thinking military action to be the last feasible route.[7]

Sources:

1 http://islamicfaq.org/jihad/

2 http://www.islamhelpline.net/node/441

3 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jihad#Current_usage

4 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wahhabism

5 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salafi_movement#cite_note-123

6 http://www.aina.org/news/20120416150547.htm

7 http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21656189-islams-most-conservative-adherents-are-finding-politics-hard-it-beats

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Slavery in the Muslim World: The Tradition Is Not Yet Dead

From here.

Bottom line is, yes, slavery has been present in the Islamic World from Day One. In fact, one can make a case that slavery was an inherent and even emblematic aspect of Islam since its inception. It only left the Muslim World due to pressure from the West when the West emancipated its own slaves in the late 1800’s. Officially, most of the Muslim World dumped theirs. Yet the practice continued. Saudi Arabia only outlawed slavery in 1962. An advertisement for a castrated Black slave for sale recently appeared in a Saudi publication. Mauritania only outlawed slavery a few years ago, and the ban is hardly enforced.

As societies collapsed, the peculiar institution experienced a recrudescence. Libyan ports now export many slaves destined for Europe. Syrian teenage girls in Jordanian refugee camps are trafficked to brothels in Amman and sold to visiting Gulf men for $140-175 for a “temporary marriage.” In Northern Nigeria, even before Boko Haram kidnapped scores of teenage Christian girls, Muslim men had been importing concubine slave girls from the north to serve as “fifth wives.” The abuse and rape of female domestics in the Gulf who are little more than slaves of their owners has been documented for years.

Worst of all is the migrant labor scam that the Gulf states have been running for decades involving workers from South Asia, especially Pakistan and India,  and Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines. For all intents and purposes, work which is tied to contracts with the employer is little more than slavery, let’s face it. Gulf employers of these men have referred to them as slaves. They are housed in the most miserable conditions in a very wealthy country and worked to exhaustion and sometimes to death in ferocious heat with little protection or rest. A number of deaths have occurred to poor working conditions. Some poor countries to the east have forbidden their workers from going to the Gulf to work. There has been a bit of a crackdown, but it was mostly fake. Kuwait gave its “slaves” rights recently, but the Emir has not yet signed the bill. Qatar is worried about its reputation as the Olympics are coming soon, but its response instead of cleaning up its act has been to cover the whole mess up and beat up and detain the protesters. Any progress elsewhere in the Gulf has been frozen in recent years. Instead we get the predictable fake backlash whereby the Gulf states say that critics of their Slave System are “Islamophobes.”

The progress for serious progressive change for alleviating remaining vestiges of slavery in the Arab World seem dim at the moment as the region undergoes a retrenchment, a backlash and a hardening of reaction.

The link between Islam and slavery goes back from the start, so ISIS is not doing anything new. The fact that the formal Muslim states of the world continue to refuse to clean up their mess is most discouraging, but it too may be blamed on tradition.

“Spoils of war,” snaps Dabiq, the English-language journal of Islamic State (IS). The reference is to thousands of Yazidi women the group forced into sex slavery after taking their mountain, Sinjar, in August last year. Far from being a perversion, it claims that forced concubinage is a religious practice sanctified by the Koran.

In a chapter called Women, the Koran sanctions the marriage of up to four wives, or “those that your right hands possess”. Literalists, like those behind the Dabiq article, have interpreted these words as meaning “captured in battle”.

Its purported female author, Umm Sumayyah, celebrated the revival of Islam’s slave-markets and even proffered the hope that Michelle Obama, the wife of America’s president, might soon be sold there. “I and those with me at home prostrated to Allah in gratitude on the day the first slave-girl entered our home,” she wrote. Sympathizers have done the same, most notably the allied Nigerian militant group, Boko Haram, which last year kidnapped an entire girls’ school in Chibok.

Religious preachers have responded with a chorus of protests. “The re-introduction of slavery is forbidden in Islam. It was abolished by universal consensus,” declared an open letter sent by 140 Muslim scholars to IS’s “caliph”, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, earlier this year. “You have taken women as concubines and thus revived…corruption and lewdness on the earth.”

But while IS’s embrace of outright slavery has been singled out for censure, religious and political leaders have been more circumspect about other “slave-like” conditions prevalent across the region. IS’s targeting of an entire sect for kidnapping, killing and sex trafficking, and its bragging, are exceptional; forced labor for sexual and other forms of exploitation is not.

From Morocco, where thousands of children work as petites bonnes, or maids, to the Syrian refugee camps in Jordan where girls are forced into prostitution, to the unsanctioned rape and abuse of domestics in the Gulf, aid workers say servitude is rife.

Scholars are sharply divided over how much cultural mores are to blame. Apologists say that, in a concession to the age, the Prophet Muhammad tolerated slavery, but—according to a prominent American theologian trained in Salafi seminaries, Yasir Qadhi—he did so grudgingly and advocated abolition.

Repeatedly in the Koran the Prophet calls for the manumission of slaves and release of captives, seeking to alleviate the slave systems run by the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Jewish Himyarite kings of Yemen. He freed one slave, a chief’s daughter, by marrying her, and chose Bilal, another slave he had freed, to recite the first call to prayer after his conquest of Mecca. His message was liberation from worldly oppression, says Mr Qadhi  – enslavement to God, not man.

Other scholars insist, however, that IS’s treatment of Yazidis adheres to Islamic tradition. “They are in full compliance with Koranic understanding in its early stages,” says Professor Ehud Toledano, a leading authority on Islamic slavery at Tel Aviv University. Moreover, “what the Prophet has permitted, Muslims cannot forbid.”

The Prophet’s calls to release slaves only spurred a search for fresh stock as the new empire spread, driven by commerce, from sub-Saharan Africa to the Persian Gulf.

To quash a black revolt in the salt mines of southern Iraq, the Abbasid caliphs in Baghdad conscripted Turkish slaves into their army. Within a few generations these formed a power base, and from 1250 to 1517 an entire slave caste, the Mamluks (Arabic for “chattel”), ruled Egypt.

A path to power

Their successors, the Ottoman Turks, perfected the system. After conquering south-eastern Europe in the late 14th century, they imposed the devshirme, or tribute, enslaving the children of the rural poor, on the basis that they were more pagan than Christian, and therefore not subject to the protections Islam gave to People of the Book. Far from resisting this, many parents were happy to deliver their offspring into the white slave elite that ran the empire.

Under this system, enslaved boys climbed the ranks of the army and civil service. Girls entered the harem as concubines to bear sultans. All anticipated, and often earned, power and wealth. Unlike the feudal system of Christian Europe, this one was meritocratic and generated a diverse gene pool. Mehmet II, perhaps the greatest of the Ottoman sultans, who ruled in the 15th century, had the fair skin of his mother, a slave girl from the empire’s north-western reaches.

All this ended because of abolition in the West. After severing the trans-Atlantic slave trade in the 19th century, Western abolitionists turned on the Islamic world’s, and within decades had brought down a system that had administered not just the Ottoman empire but the Sherifian empire of Morocco, the Sultanate of Oman with its colonies on the Swahili-speaking coast and West Africa’s Sokoto Caliphate.

With Western encouragement, Serb and Greek rebels sloughed off devshirme. Fearful of French ambitions, the mufti of Tunis wooed the British by closing his slave-markets in 1846. A few years later, the sultan in Istanbul followed suit.

Some tried to resist, including Morocco’s sultan and the cotton merchants of Egypt, who had imported African slaves to make up the shortages left by the ravages of America’s civil war. But colonial pressure proved unstoppable. Under Britain’s consul-general, Evelyn Baring, Earl of Cromer, Egypt’s legislative assembly dutifully abolished slavery at the end of the 19th century. The Ottoman register for 1906 still lists 194 eunuchs and 500 women in the imperial harem, but two years later they were gone.

For almost a century the Middle East, on paper at least, was free of slaves. “Human beings are born free, and no one has the right to enslave, humiliate, oppress or exploit them,” proclaimed the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam in 1990. Early jihadist groups followed the trend, characterizing themselves as liberation movements and, as such, rejecting slavery.

But though slavery per se may be condemned, observers point to the persistence of servitude. The Global Slavery Index (GSI), whose estimates are computed by an Australian NGO working with Hull University, claims that of 14 states with over 1% of the population enslaved, more than half are Muslim. Prime offenders range from the region’s poorest state, Mauritania, to its richest per head, Qatar.

The criteria and data used by GSI have been criticized, but evidence supports the thrust of its findings. Many Arab states took far longer to criminalize slavery than to ban it. Mauritania, the world’s leading enslaver, did not do so until 2007. Where bans exist, they are rarely enforced. The year after Qatar abolished slavery in 1952, the emir took his slaves to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Government inspections and prosecutions are rarities. “The security chiefs, the judges and the lawyers all belong to the class that historically owned slaves,” says Sarah Mathewson of London-based Anti-Slavery International. “They are part of the problem.”

No labor practice has drawn more international criticism than the kafala system, which ties migrant workers to their employers. This is not slavery as IS imposes it; migrants come voluntarily, drawn by the huge wealth gap between their own countries and the Gulf. But the system “facilitates slavery”, says Nicholas McGeehan, who reports for Human Rights Watch on conditions in the desert camps where most such workers live.

The Gulf’s 2.4m domestic servants are even more vulnerable. Most do not enjoy the least protection under labor laws. Housed and, in some cases, locked in under their employer’s roof, they are prey to sexual exploitation.

Irons and red-hot bars

Again, these workers have come voluntarily; but disquieting echoes persist. Many Gulf nationals can be heard referring to their domestics as malikat (slaves). Since several Asian governments have suspended or banned their female nationals from domestic work in the Gulf out of concern for their welfare, recruitment agencies are turning to parts of Africa, such as Uganda, which once exported female slaves. Some domestic servants are abused with irons and red-hot bars: resonant, says Mr McGeehan, of slave-branding in the past.

Elsewhere in the region, the collapse of law and order provides further cover for a comeback of old practices. Syrian refugee camps in Jordan provide a supply of girls for both the capital’s brothels and for Gulf men trawling websites, which offer short-term marriages for brokerage fees of $140-270 each. Trafficking has soared in Libya’s Mediterranean ports, which under the Ottomans exported sub-Saharan labor to Europe. Long before Boko Haram kidnapped girls, Anti-Slavery International had warned that Nigerian businessmen were buying “fifth wives”—concubines alongside the four wives permitted by Islam—from neighboring Niger.

Gulf states insist they are dealing with the problem. In June Kuwait’s parliament granted domestic servants labor rights, the first Gulf state to do so. It is also the only Gulf state to have opened a refuge for female migrants. Qatar, fearful that reported abuses might upset its hosting of the World Cup in 2022, has promised to improve migrant housing.

And earlier this year Mauritania’s government ordered preachers at Friday prayers to publicize a fatwa by the country’s leading clerics declaring: “Slavery has no legal foundation in sharia law.” Observers fear, though, that this is window-dressing. And Kuwait’s emir has yet to ratify the new labour-rights law.

Rather than stop the abuse, Gulf officials prefer to round on their critics, accusing them of Islamophobia just as their forebears did. Oman and Saudi Arabia have long been closed to Western human-rights groups investigating the treatment of migrants. Now the UAE and Qatar, under pressure after a wave of fatalities among workers building venues for the 2022 World Cup, are keeping them out, too.

Internal protests are even riskier. Over the past two years hundreds of migrant laborers building Abu Dhabi’s Guggenheim and Louvre Museums have been detained, roughed up and deported, says Human Rights Watch, after strikes over unpaid wages. Aminetou Mint Moctar, a rare Mauritanian Arab on the board of SOS Esclaves, a local association campaigning for the rights of haratin, or descendants of black slaves, has received death threats.

Is it too much to hope that the Islamic clerics denouncing slavery might also condemn other instances of forced and abusive labor? Activists and Gulf migrants are doubtful. Even migrants’ own embassies can be strangely mute, not wanting criticism to curb the vital flow of remittances. When Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, visited the UAE this week, his nationals there complained that migrant rights were last on his list. Western governments generally have other priorities. One is simply to defeat IS, whose extreme revival of slavery owes at least something to the region’s persistent and pervasive tolerance of servitude.

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On Dhimmitude and the Zakat

From here:

squeezethejuice (Muslim): There is nothing wrong or immoral with Jizya, b/c those paying also get benefits that even we Muslims are not entitled to. And should always be comparable in amount to the amount of zakat that Muslims are expected to donate; same order of magnitude. Among the benefits, for example, they are exempt from joining the Muslim army and potentially fighting defensive wars against their own Christian or Jewish brethren, even those who have committed acts of violence against innocent Muslims.

What ISIS and the others don’t understand about Jizya is that we Muslims are bound to offer security & protection to those paying it, i.e. no threats or anything.

And there are more ways to pay Jizya than just money. While the Jews are rich and will never be in this situation, poor Christians can offer their young daughters in marriage to Muslims, and of course we should consider their Jizya paid for the next 5 years if they have done so.

Angemon (non-Muslim): Zakat is 2.5% of the yearly income, jizya has always been crushingly heavy with the intent of humiliating non-Muslims. Those two taxes are not “comparable” or in the “same order of magnitude”, and historically the jizya was collected through force, mafia style – it’s no coincidence that the term “mafia” comes from the Arabic and originated in a region who was once under Islamic rule.

And it’s not that non-Muslims were exempt from joining the Muslim army – the Janissaries were originally non-Muslims abducted from their families – because they had a special status. It’s that Muslims were too afraid of letting non-Muslim owning weapons (for fearing a rebellion) or letting them fight (especially when Muslims were fighting against he native trying to get their land back).

Think about it: if non-Muslims were paying the same amount of tax as Muslims and not being drafted to the army them human nature would cause Muslims to convert out of Islam and not the other way around. When Muslim conquered a new land they were in minority so they couldn’t risk letting the conquered getting their hands on weapons and starting a rebellion.

And can you imagine a Muslim leader, indoctrinated to believe that Jews and Christians are always scheming against Muslims, let’s say, Christians from a land he just conquered to fight against Christians who were trying to drive the Muslims out of their lands? Why would Christians being forced into battle against their own people side with the Muslims? No, non-Muslims were forbidden from owning weapons and fighting because Muslims feared for their safety. Would they need to fear for their safety if they treated non-Muslims fairly?

Even if we were to overlook the jizya, there are plenty of degrading conditions in the pact of Umar that make it quite clear that non-Muslims in a Muslim state don’t have the same rights as Muslims. Heck, let’s let Abu Waleed explain by his own words how “wonderful” life is for non-Muslims in a Muslim state:

Besides the barrage of lies about jizya and the status of non-Muslims in a Muslim state, poor stj makes a remark about Jews that was probably straight out of a deleted scene from Borat. What do you think it would happen to a Jew who couldn’t afford to pay the jizya in the hands of someone who seems to think all Jews are rich?

We know what happened to Kinana when he told Muhammad he had no treasure hidden. He was tortured with fire on his chest and, since he neared death without saying anything, Muhammad had him beheaded. And since Muhammad is the example Muslims are supposed to emulate…

stj also seems to believe that it’s ok for poor Christians to sell their daughters into marriage with Muslim men as payment for the jizya. So much for “security and protection”, non-Muslim women in a Muslim state are to be used as chattel for the enjoyment of Muslim men.

Notice that he said that “There is nothing wrong or immoral with Jizya” because those who pay it, even if they do so by selling their daughters into marriage, are entitled to the “benefits” explained by Abu Waleed in the above video, so he doesn’t see anything wrong or immoral with using non-Muslim women as currency. So remember, if you think it’s immoral to sell a girl into marriage to someone who will regard and treat her as subhuman trash you’re an “Islamophobe”.

Note the Youtube video above. That is exactly what dhimmitude is supposed to be under the Islamic state, and for centuries, non-Muslims probably had to live in dhimmitude. However, state-imposed dhimmitude has been dead since about 1900. Even in Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, it does not exist. I believe some form of dhimmitude was enforced when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan.

It looks like ISIS is trying to impose some sort of dhimmitude on the Christians under its rule. The Shia are faring war worse. ISIS simply kills any Shia they can get their hands on. They do the same thing to any Alawite they can get their hands on in Syria. ISIS also kills Yezidis at random and on sight. Both Yezidis, the Shia and the Alawi are considered to be heretics. When ISIS took over the Druze region of southern Syria recently, a number of Druze villages were ordered to convert to Sunni Islam or die. The villages duly converted. In truth, Druze really isn’t even Islam, although it looks a bit like it. Some Christians have also been given the “convert or die” or the “convert, leave or die” option by ISIS in Syria.

Since dhimmitude for all intents and purposes has not existed for 115 years, it seems a bit silly to rant and rave about how Muslims force all non-Muslims into dhimmitude when they are the majority because it is simply not true.

However, these Al Qaeda radicals do indeed want to bring back dhimmitude is some form or another. Jihadis have raided Christian homes in the Dora region of southern Baghdad and ordered Christians to pay the zakat or be killed. After ISIS took over a town in Syria recently, they ordered all Christians to pay a zakat. The zakat was quite a hefty amount, and most of the Christians did not have it.

As you can see in the video, the purpose of dhimmitude is to make life as a non-Muslim under Muslim rule so awful and humiliating that many non-Muslims simply convert to Islam to get out from under the oppression. All of the arguments for the zakat are false. It’s not a protection tax; instead, it is more like a Mafia protection racket. The non-Muslims are told to pay protection fees to the Muslim Mafia. If they don’t pay up, bad things are going to happen just like if you refuse the pay the Mafia’s protection tax. There is no humanitarian aspect to this tax.

The Muslims have always lied about what happened in the countries they conquered. In most lands it was the same story. Gradually, over time, more and more non-Muslims converted to Islam, although Spain, the Balkans and India were exceptions. The Muslims say that more and more infidels simply embraced Islam over time, apparently because it is so groovy. That’s clearly not what happened. They were terrorized into converting via dhimmitude.

Egypt has a large number of Coptic Christians. However, under Mubarak, they were not allowed to repair their churches when they started to fall down. This is one of the tenets of dhimmitude – Christians are not allowed to repair existing churches nor are they allowed to build new ones.

Also the periodic terror that is inflicted on non-Muslims in many to most Muslim countries can be seen a form of dhimmitude.

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Winston Churchill on Islam

How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries.

Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity.

The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property – either as a child, a wife, or a concubine – must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the faith: all know how to die but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it.

No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith.

It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome. Winston Churchill, The River War: An Historical Account of the Reconquest of the Soudan (1899)

Wow! Powerful stuff. Is he not essentially correct though in his assessment of Islam, at least as it existed in 1899? Keep in mind that the Islam of 2012 is not the same erstwhile Islam of a hundred years ago. If Churchill would have observed the Gulf states of today, he would not have written some of the above. The cities of Saudi Arabia, which look like Phoenix, the towering and ultramodern skyline of Dubai – this is hardly a moribund society.

There are scarcely sluggish methods of commerce in Dubai and the rest of Gulf. I understand that Arab agriculture is well developed and highly productive, except in Yemen, where there is a lot of hunger for some reason.

I actually think that Muslim societies work quite well within the reactionary and backwards system. My Yemeni friends tell me there is almost no crime in the cities of Yemen. You can walk down the street and midnight and not fear a thing. Street crime against females is nearly unknown. A woman I knew went to Saudi Arabia and said she used to walk around at midnight not fearing a thing.

There is little of the chaos, filth, random violence and cruelty and sheer evil that we see in South Asia, Black Africa and even Latin America. The preacher calls to prayer several times a day, and all bow down and pray. Men are men and women are women. There is a rhythm that ties it all together and somehow makes it work.

It’s twisted, backwards and nuts, but it’s more or less functional within that archaic mindset.

The problem is that it looks like the Muslim system is not that stable. It is only stable when a dictator is holding everything down. Cut that loose, and things can fall apart quite rapidly with religious based civil wars. Violence and oppression against non-Muslims is a continuous backdrop in most Muslim societies – it’s only a nice place if you are Muslim.

I have a feeling that if you go along with the rules, you will probably be ok under Islam. But I’m an asshole, and I try to break rules everywhere I go. If I were living under Islam, I would probably try to steal some Muslim’s wife and fuck her. I have a feeling that if you break societal codes like that, the punishment is pretty vicious.

There is a background violence in these cultures, a sort of a seething sense of superiority and fanaticism that threatens to rear up at any time. You mess up and you could easily find your ass kicked, in jail or on a slab.

While Muslim society is functional for the complacent and obedient, it seems terrifying to a guy like me.

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“Why We Are Afraid, A 1400 Year Secret,” by Dr Bill Warner

This is a video by an Islamophobic (he calls himself a counter-jihadist) far rightwing activist in the US. As such, it rubs me the wrong way. I don’t like US reactionary Islamophobia. It’s retarded.

On the other hand, most of what this reactionary scholar says about Islam is true. The Muslims are in a similar situation with US Blacks. Just as the behavior of Blacks gives ammunition to their haters, the same is true with Muslims. If so many Blacks and Muslims didn’t act so bad in the first place, there would be little hatred and discrimination against them.

Hence it’s a sad fact about Islam that much of what Islamophobes accuse it of is actually true. This is especially true if we look at Islam historically as opposed in its moderated essence. The era of the Caliphates when all of Islam lived under Islamic Law shows us the true essence of Islam. The modern secular era and the reactionary Islamist backlash against it is but a distortion.

The scholar points out the obvious: The Golden Age of Islam in Spain and Baghdad was anything but. It was only tolerant and open-minded in comparison to the backwardness and reactionary stupidity that preceded and followed these eras.

To be fair, most religions have been pretty backwards in a historical sense. The Catholic Church committed many outrages against heretics and even the advancement of science.

Traditional Talmudic Judaism in Europe was a miasma of backwardness, superstition and stupidity under a “dictatorship of the rabbis” as Israel Shahak painfully points out. It is this prison of idiocy that the formation of Orthodox Judaism in the late 1800’s sought to return the Jews to, and it is this nightmare of totalitarian nonsense that the Reform and Conservative Jews want to swim away from.

Jews only began to climb out of this hole when Napoleon tore down the walls of the ghettos and welcomed the Jews into secular society. Through the 19th Century, most progressive thinkers regarded the Jews that emerged from centuries in the ghetto as damaged creatures in need of assimilation to society to heal them.

But back to the video.

Warner points out that Islam has always been an expansionist religion.

Those of my mother’s generation, wise and correct about so many things, often said, “Islam was spread by the sword. It was convert or die.” This is not completely true, but there is much fact behind this. Muslims did not always offer that stark choice to the conquered or the dhimmis, but they offered it often enough. In jihadi-stricken areas today, Muslims continue to occasionally make this demand of infidels. We have some recent reports out of Iraq of such demands.

Even after conquest, repression and dhimmitude slowly withered away non-Muslim majorities down to the tiniest of minorities. This constant repression was combined with occasional massacres and even horrific and sometimes genocidal wars.

Once again, let us look to our elders.

Those in my mother’s generation noted about the Armenian genocide and the genocide in East Timor: “Yes, but the Turks were killing the Armenians because they were Christians. And the Indonesians were killing the East Timorese because they were Christians.” I, being PC, protested this forbidden account, but my elders just shook their heads. “No, they killed them because they were Christians. That’s how Islam works.”

We who went through the revolutions of the 1960’s ridicule our elders as old fashioned and bigoted fogeys. We have carved out a new way, a way of liberation, Political Correctness. But it turns out in so many ways that our elders were right, and we revolutionaries were wrong. Among other things, my elders understood the nature of Islam.

Warner points out correctly that not only was Islam spread by sword, it made continuous raids on neighboring non-Muslim regions including Europe. The attempts were to conquer them for the Muslims. He also suggests that the Dark Ages were caused by Islam’s war on Christian Europe. That is certainly a provocative topic in our PC times, but he may be correct. He also points out that the wars of conquest never really ended until the fall of the Caliphate in 1918.

Where I feel he is wrong is in assigning all modern Islamist attacks to jihadi attempts to conquer the infidels. Instead, most such wars are occurring in Muslim lands or in majority Muslim lands in non-Muslim states. Examples are the jihads in Southern Thailand, Southern Philippines and northern Nigeria. In all of these wars, sickening slaughters of non-Muslim civilians have taken place for no other reason than “kill the infidels.”

The horrific bombings in India appear to be some sort of a “war on the infidels.” Most other jihadi attacks are attacks on non-Muslim minorities in Muslim lands (typical Muslim persecution of minorities that tends to go on as background under Muslim rule.)

I disagree with Warner that the attacks in Europe are jihadi attacks aimed at conquering Europe for the infidels. Instead, the attacks seem to be Muslim retaliatory attacks against Western wars in Muslim lands (say Iraq) and against non-Muslims who harshly criticize Islam (Theo Van Gogh killing.)

The 9-11 attacks were not attempt to violently convert us as so many misguided folks think (including my Mother’s generation). Instead, Al Qaeda attacked the US as an enemy state that was killing the Muslims in various parts of the world, propping up the Israeli enemy and occupying the Holy Land of Saudi Arabia.

It’s a sad state of affairs when the only people who are complaining about this backwards, violent and barbaric religion are backwards, violent, barbaric, and often-Christian reactionaries in the West. This ideological war is really a war of reactionaries against reactionaries, one fundamentalist group against another.

Amidst all of this, the secular Left, ostensibly opposed to obscurantist barbarism, has lined up with one set of reactionaries (the Islamists) against the other set (fundamentalist Christians). It makes no sense. A reactionary fundamentalist is a reactionary fundamentalist. The flavors matter little as it all digests the same in the end.

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“Reform and Orthodoxy in Islam: Understanding the Dualism in Islam Through a Historical Narrative,” by Dota

This is a piece written by one of my commenters, Dota. Enjoy.

Reform and Orthodoxy in Islam: Understanding the Dualism in Islam Through a Historical Narrative

by Dota

The purpose of this essay is to explore the dualism inherent within Islamic theology regarding progress and orthodoxy. This essay argues that Islamic theology lends itself to progress/reform but also contains an element that is retards progress. This essay is intended to provide the reader with a basic introduction to Islamic history and the ideologies that have shaped its course. The scope of this essay lies in understanding the dualism within Islam in light of the historical ideological undercurrents that have shaped Muslim societies over the past 1400 years.

Marx defined human history through class struggle, and similarly I believe that Islamic history can be defined through a dialectic of its own: a perpetual conflict that is born with every generation and determines the direction of the faith. Islam is only as liberal as the Muslim who practices it. It can be constructive or destructive, progressive or regressive. Whenever Islam has been in the hands of modernists, it has flourished. When hijacked by conservatives, it regresses and causes untold misery.

This struggle goes right back to Muhammad himself, as he had to engage the society he was trying to reform. Islam was an indigenous attempt at reforming 7th century Arabian society. As Akar Patel points out, cultures must be engaged from within. An external impetus might prove somewhat effective (the West pushing globalization, economic liberalization etc.), but this would come at a cost: the compromising of a culture’s moral integrity. The culture begins to lose its sense of self, its soul, and what makes it unique.

Genuine progress occurs when motivated and reflective individuals engage the culture from within and push it forward. Muhammad was acutely aware of his society’s values and had a keen insight into Arab psychology. Given his lack of formal education, one can easily conclude that Muhammad was a remarkable man who possessed a quiet brilliance. Islam was to reform Arab society by engaging it from within, but how?

Muhammad clearly had some idea of where he wanted his people to go as he had spent much of his youth as a traveling salesman visiting lands as distant as Syria and Jordan. He had seen the Byzantine Empire and its workings firsthand, and despite the empire being in decline, it left a lasting impression on the future prophet. Cultures never evolve within a vacuum and neither did Islam. Karen Armstrong states that Muhammad’s antidote to Mecca’s materialistic malaise was a spiritual one, an observation that isn’t unreasonable by any stretch.

He was faced with one primary decision: How much of the old culture must be retained and how much of it must be excised for the greater good? He decided to retain the old Bedouin values of chivalry and hospitality by absorbing them into his nascent spiritual framework. Values such as elitism (defined through lineage) and egoism (defined through excessive materialism and not individualism as defined by the West) were to be discarded.

This process did not go smoothly and neither was it expected to. There was resistance on several fronts from Meccan society, but most Muslims are only aware of the spiritual schism: polytheism versus monotheism. The Meccans also did not take too kindly to Muhammad’s more humane approach towards women’s interests. Indeed his own companions, Omar and Abu Hurreirah were deeply patriarchal and rejected Muhammad’s softer approach towards women.

But Islam ultimately triumphed. The Umayyad Dynasty of the 7th Century had gotten immensely corrupt, and a similar ideological battle was being waged between the conservative Umayyad government and the newly formed Mutazalite movement.

The Mutazalite thinkers were appalled at the prevailing amorality of the Umayyad regime that insisted that it was not to be held accountable for its corruption since everything was preordained by God. The Mutazalites, who initially constructed their arguments around Islamic theology, challenged this narrow notion of predestination.

As Majid Fakhry points out, this approach proved ineffective since the Quran makes a case for both predestination and free will. Muslim theologians have tried to reconcile this dichotomy for centuries, but their attempts are beyond the scope of this post.

The Mutazalites then shifted their focus to Greek philosophy (namely Plato) and in doing so, sowed the seeds of a civilization that would eventually influence another one in Europe. The Mutazalites introduced the seed of philosophy within mainstream Islam that eventually led to progress in other disciplines such as science and mathematics. Philosophy was instrumental in inculcating an insatiable curiosity within the Arab and Muslim mind.

The Ummayyads were eventually driven out of power and replaced by the more liberal Abbasids who believed that Islam wasn’t Arab property but instead belonged equally to all those who sincerely recited the Shahada (declaration of faith). This was a radical notion too, as classical Islam was always perceived as an Arab religion by Arabs for Arabs.

The liberal Abbasids were keen on patronizing science, art and philosophy. Philosophers such as Al Kindi, Al Razi and Ibn Sina flourished during this period. Scientists such as Omar Khayyam and Ibn Al Haytham pushed forward the boundaries of science.

Caliph Mamun’s Bait Ul Hikma library (the House of Wisdom) drew scholars from the far-flung corners of the world such as India, China and Persia. Eventually a wave of conservatism spread through the Abbasid caliphate just when there was a hint of an awakening in Europe. The Muslims began to turn their backs on what the Europeans had just begun to taste, the nectar of the intellect. The Abbasids spiraled into decline only to be put out of their misery by the Mongols.

But how did it ever come to this? The tug of war was lost to the conservatives once Caliph Al Mamun died. Al Ghazali waged a tireless war on philosophy and science that led to a resurgence of orthodoxy.

By the 12th century, Islam was firmly in the clutches of the conservatives, with scholars like Ibn Taymiyyah openly calling for a return to an “earlier Islam” which excluded science and philosophy. Taymiyyah’s extreme interpretation of the literalist Hanbali school laid the foundation for another extremist ideology: the Wahhabism of the central Arabian Peninsula.

The Ottomans faced a choice of their own – either rely solely on religious traditions or imitate western systems. The Persians were confronted with a similar choice when the Russians soundly beat the Qajar Dynasty. Muslims must make this same choice today.

But can they? Alexis Tocqueville felt that Islam lacked the edge that Christianity possessed:

Muhammad brought down from heaven and put into the Koran not religious doctrines only, but political maxims, criminal and civil laws, and scientific theories. The Gospels, on the other hand, deal only with the general relations between man and God and between man and man.

Beyond that, they teach nothing and do not oblige people to believe anything. That alone, among a thousand reasons, is enough to show that Islam will not be able to hold its power long in ages of enlightenment and democracy, while Christianity is destined to reign in such ages, as in all others.

Indeed it seems that Islam possesses an element within it that retards its own progress. It is easy and indeed very tempting to lapse into orthodoxy by severing one’s connection to reality. You can see this today in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The case of Pakistan is interesting and particularly illuminating. These are essentially Indians who have severed their connection with their Indian heritage. Yet despite this denial, the very same Hindu thinking that they have spurned dominates their worldview – the lack of respect for human life, casteist thinking and dominance of emotion over reason that are characteristic of Hinduism.

Pakistani culture possesses these Hindu traits in abundance, yet in their arrogance, Pakistanis believe that they have transcended their Indian roots. They are deluded fools who have created nothing new and built no lasting legacy for future generations.

But by severing their link to their Indian heritage, Pakistanis are left with no identity save religion. Hence Islam has come to dominate the Pakistani identity and exerts such a stranglehold over their psyche that the condition of Pakistan today clearly fits Tocqueville’s prediction. The Pakistani cannot see beyond Islam. It is the very lens that defines his reality, and he cannot express reality in any other terms.

The Pakistani will choose Islam over common sense. He will choose Islam before economic prosperity, before reason, before the harsh reality that confronts his senses.

And why shouldn’t he? He has no other identity. Without Islam, the Pakistani is no different from a disconnected Borg drone – lost and purposeless. Such is the folly of the idea of Pakistan.

Orthodoxy causes Islamic identity to supersede cultural/ethnic identity. Cultural identity has continuity, and with continuity comes balance, as this is how a society has always interpreted its reality. To discard this equilibrium is to choose suicide over life. This means that unless Islam isn’t in a position of power, it will agitate from within. It will agitate as it struggles to implement its own set of rules against a reality that functions with another set.

The Pakistani struggles in vain against the tide of modernity but chooses to drown instead of learning to swim, if this is what it takes to keep his Islam from being compromised.

So which way forward?

Islam has a built-in survival kit: moderation and reason. The Quran frequently uses phrases like, “Do they not see?” and “Do they not reflect?” It is the only religious scripture that I’m aware of that attempts to rationalize its doctrine. Reason is the divine gift bestowed upon man that makes him God’s most supreme creation. From reason is choice derived. From choice comes free will and the decision to build upon oneself so that man may in time mirror the reflection of God. Thus Islam, like Christianity, celebrates humanity like few other religions in comparison.

It is the Quran’s emphasis on reason that enabled the Arab philosophers to build the foundation of a graceful civilization. Reason begets philosophy, which in turn begets science and art. This brings this essay’s thesis to full circle: The direction of Islam is determined by a struggle between modernists (Reason) and conservatives (Orthodoxy). This conflict is reborn with each generation, and the tug of war goes right back to Muhammad.

So why are the conservatives winning this round? This is largely due to the legacy of colonialism. The drastic reduction of global Muslim power triggered a reactionary response to the ‘humiliation’ inflicted upon them by the West. Conservatives argue that only by reclaiming the pristine religion of the Prophet can Muslims reclaim that which was lost. Does this view sound familiar?

It is no different than the reactionary view held by the Pharisees who believed that only a rigorous observance of Torah would end Jewish humiliation at Roman hands. It was this mindless literalism that Jesus bitterly opposed. Progressive Muslims argue that Muslims must keep pace with current times by improving upon their ailing education institutions and infrastructure.

The battle lines are drawn. In India, the progressives/reformers project their views through the liberal curriculum of the Aligarh Muslim University in the state of Utter Pradesh. Their opponents project their conservative views through the Darul Uloom School. Aligarh was founded in 1875, and Darul Uloom was established a decade earlier, both founded during the height of British power in India. Yet their responses to this adverse reality highlights the bifurcation of Islamic thinking that dates back centuries and spans across several heterogeneous Muslim societies.

Conservatives thrive when ‘Islam is under siege’; at least in post-colonial times. The West’s involvement in the Middle East gives conservatives the upper hand. Islamic countries situated away from the chaos of the Middle East and Central Asia (Indonesia/Malaysia) are generally more modern, progressive and economically prosperous.

To a large degree their success is determined by their Asian values, but also by a peaceful and stable environment where liberals have the upper hand over conservatives. East Asia’s influence on Indonesia and Malaysia has been wholly positive whereas the West’s influence has been fairly negative. The West seeks to challenge and overthrow indigenous ideologies (neoliberalism/neoconservatism), and this approach is myopic, as indigenous nationalism can provoke a relapse.

East Asia on the other hand gently prods its slower Islamic neighbors by setting a good example for them to follow, not unlike a benevolent tutor. This rouses the reformers to engage their cultures from within in order to bring them on par with their neighbors. Confucian Singapore’s success has not gone unnoticed by its neighbors, and nobody embraced Lee Kwan Yew’s ‘Asian Values’ trend more wholeheartedly than Malaysia’s Muhathir Muhammad.

East Asia has created a peaceful and stable environment that fosters trade rather than ideological competition, and it is this softer approach to which Muslims are responding. Ultimately, every indicator tells me that a future rise of Islam is strongly correlated to the rise of East Asia. But it ultimately begins with Muslims making the right choice.

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