One of the defining and a peculiar characteristic of a secular society is the absolute denunciation of any form of relationship between the use of force and religion, no matter how tenuous the link. Yet, organised violence inflicted by secular states, the West in particular is tolerated, justified and often encouraged. A potent example is the needless bombing of the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with nuclear weapons. General Curtis LeMay, then commander of the US Strategic Air Commander, commented: “If we’d lost the war I would have been indicted for war crimes”.
Two of the largest wars in history, centuries of colonisation, slavery and genocide, the use of the lethal nuclear bombs, not to mention the recent fabricated war on Iraq are all products of secular (Western) nations. Simultaneously, these nations are preaching the immorality of associating religion with the use of force! What is the underlying criterion that makes the distinction between religious and secular states using force as a means to achieve their respective objectives?
The negative attitude towards associating religion with the use of force or violence can be attributed to European history where secularism originated. Religious institutions in the pre-secular era inflicted repression and violence, from the medieval crusades, sectarian wars, and suppression of knowledge, witch burnings to the barbaric inquisitions. This is odd considering that the central message of Christianity is one of ‘love’, as the preachers extol ‘love you enemies’ and ‘turn the other cheek’. The traumatic experience, which Christian Europe has suffered, is reflected in its attitude towards religion in general. Islam has had to bear the full brunt of this reactionary emotional response. In sum, ‘religion’ today is judged according to Europe’s trauma at the hands of Popes and Priests.
Consequently, the West redefined religion (Christianity) as being benign, passive and a matter for the individual to accept or reject. Therefore, the use of state apparatus to enforce religion has been portrayed as a contradiction of ‘religion’ itself. This concept is now being used against the tide of rising of Islam.
As for the secular West remaining indifferent towards the violence inflicted, which increased in quantity and qualitative terms, this can be primarily ascribed to the increase in material prosperity and comfort arising from the colonisation and the pillaging of other distant lands. The scramble for Africa and the genocide inflicted upon Latin America by the conquistadors are the most vivid examples. Furthermore, in the absence of electronic mass media, the news of the violence and suffering inflicted never reached the ordinary masses, touching their conscience.
Whilst pursuing colonisation they found the obstacle of the Islamic state. The colonialist nations (West) embarked upon a programme of propaganda to dismantle the association of military force (Jihad) with religion (Islam). Such propaganda was extended to other areas like polygamy; all constructed based on its own historical experiences, their definitions of ethics and inherent prejudices. This eventually developed into a subject of research and study called ‘orientalism’.
The sole purpose was and is to undermine political Islam and Jihad, thus facilitating the process of imperialism. To aid this objective the British even spawned the heretical sect, known as the Qadianis. Not surprisingly, one of its (Qadianism) main pillars is to abrogate Jihad. All the Islamic conquests under the Prophet Mohammed’s (SAW) personal guidance reinterpreted to purely ‘defensive’ operations.
Even a cursory examination of the expansion of Islam from Prophet Muhammad (SAW) rule in Medina until the first thirty years after his demise, shows the unquestionable expansion of the Islamic state to Morocco, Syria, southern Russia and India. If the expansion is to be explained as the result of a series of ‘defensive’ wars, this is not only the apex of intellectual dishonesty but demonstrates utter stupidity, and lacking in common sense. In any case, the distinction between defensive and offensive can also be vague.
Post 9/11, Jihad has once again come under scrutiny. The term has been historically demonised by the Hollywood film industry, the mass media including the filthy gutter tabloid press. It is usually depicted as ‘wild irrational fanatics’ (Mujahideen) firing their Kalashnikovs, killing anyone considered to be an infidel. Note, the usage of the term ‘Jihad’ and ‘Mujahideen’ had favourable exposure during the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. This is no surprise, since it suited the interests of the West. Thus, the usage of the term is not devoid of ulterior political motives.
Similarly, the Afghans battling against the Taliban were described as Mujahideen. This is absurd, considering that, Jihad by definition means battling against the forces of non-Islam (Kufr) rather than against practicing Muslims. It has to be noted, is the Northern Alliances ‘Mujahideen’ are composed of criminals, rapists, homosexuals, and of course drug dealers - the very antithesis of Mujahideen.
The broadcast of the message of Usamah Bin Laden disappointed many of the anti-Islamic fanatics, in their zeal to project an irrational fanatic waving his Kalashnikov and threatening to kill all in site. Coming back to reality from Hollywood fiction, Usamah neither showed anger, nor made stupid and ignorant (unlike President Bush and his cohorts) statements, but appeared calm, humble and serene. The message was clearly understood by the ordinary masses in the Muslim and non-Muslim countries alike. In particular, those who have been the victim of American aggression and hence in places like Latin America he is popular. This is something that CNN, FOX or the BBC dare not broadcast.
People have conveniently forgotten hypocrites like Bush who talk of fighting for ‘freedom’, avoided all military service during the Vietnam War. Prescott Bush, his grandfather made a good deal of money dealing with the Nazis, when young American and British soldiers were dying in Europe. In contrast, Usamah Bin Laden personally engaged in the battlefield and sacrificed his vast wealth, instead of squandering it by building opulent palaces.
Jihad can be both defensive and offensive, preferably by the Islamic state. At times, the distinction between the two modes of operation is blurred, depending on the political and military situation. At present, it may be academic to discuss offensive Jihad, as the Islamic state does not exist in the world today. In addition, the Muslims are facing an onslaught in their own lands, but it is worth examining it briefly to clarify some of the misconceptions.
The Islamic state reserves the right to use military force against foreign states that engage in persecuting Muslims or, preventing the spread of Islam within their lands. Note, in principle there is no concept of forceful conversion of non-Muslims to Islam. Even today, there are non-Muslims in most of the majority Muslim countries after centuries.
There is an enormous amount of scare mongering in the Western media and from the secular Muslim-intelligentsia depicting Jihad as a means to convert non-Muslims to Islam by force. However, one has to consider the fact that Christian Church was involved in forceful conversion e.g. Spanish Inquisition, and centuries of false propaganda has contributed towards some level of knee jerk reaction from the West. Nevertheless, one cannot deny the fact that the advanced ‘scientific’ West is still medieval in its attitude when it comes to assessing Islam.
There is a very significant and sharp distinction between offensive Jihad and colonialist occupational aggression. The sole purpose of Islamic conquests is to implement Islam, not to engage in empire building where the end justifies the means. The motive is not profit, subjugation or any other form of material benefit. This is why conquered nations often took the flag of Islam and continued with the expansion of the Islamic state e.g. Berbers and Mongols.
The above principles, coupled with other textual evidences, confirm that ‘first strike’ using ANY type of weapon upon civilians or non-combatants is prohibited according to Islamic law. Furthermore, it actually defeats the whole purpose of Jihad. Which is to convey (not to convert by force) Islam to non-Muslims, and annihilating them would defeat that central objective.
In contrast the war waged by the US, Europe and the Zionist entity are primarily against defenceless civilian populations. Palestinians have no state or an army. Economic sanctions and the needless massacre of a retreating army and civilians on the road to Basra, during the first Gulf war are clear war crimes. Hiroshima and Nagasaki qualify as the apex of state terrorism, as is the bombing of Dresden and Tokyo. The populations were burnt alive by incendiary bombs.
Further evidence of the war mongering nature of Capitalist West is the recent announcement by Bush to acquire mini-nukes and deploy ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons. Bear in mind, only when these weapons are in non US/US-sponsored hands, do they become WMD! We find the US proclaiming peace and attempting to disarm other nations selectively. In addition, US bases are dotted all over the globe, which is projected as ‘defensive’ measures. This is clearly indicative of American Terrorism will continue and increase in the future.
As for defensive wars, this is the case in places like Palestine, Afghanistan, Chechnya and Iraq. This is a right recognised universally, as well as in Islamic law. Even under such circumstances, the Muslims are not automatically allowed to retaliate against non-combatants (civilians) except in just retribution. If the US is bombing our cities, than the Islamic state or the Muslims reserve the right to hit US cities in just retaliation. The non-combatants (civilians) within the US must move to halt the crimes of its government. Otherwise, they become complicit by their silence and inaction.
If Iraq, ruled by an unelected dictator could be punished collectively then by greater reasoning, any democratic states can also be punished collectively for the crimes of their government.
The Western intelligentsia must move on from its infantile moaning about 9/11. Its claim of being an innocent victim is far from the truth. The eminent journalist, John Pilger referred to this point the day after 9/11. The casualties are insignificant in comparison to those inflicted upon the Islamic world prior and post 9/11. The inherent racist nature of the West and in particular the US causes them exclusively to focus on white American lives. Therefore, the civilian casualties in both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are being totally ignored.
9/11 was clearly a retaliatory response to the crimes committed by the US regimes during the last fifty years. Even at individual levels, soldiers are committing all sorts of brutality and oppression. Only recently, a CNN video showed cheering US soldier shooting a wounded Iraqi man. So much for the bravado of the ‘all American hero’, more like obese cowards prefer to shoot and bomb defenceless people from a distance.
An ongoing war would only harm both parties (Islam and the West). The West has the resources and the ability to examine the current conflict objectively but that can only be achieved by removing the wall of prejudice that it has built up over centuries. In addition, all the racist and moneymaking warmongers posing as neo-cons or hawks should be removed.
The West cannot continue to pretend waging defensive wars whilst its military bases are in the Islamic world. If the US truly seeks an understanding with the Islamic world, surely the removal and closure of these bases should be a start. This is not rocket science, as even a schoolchild knows instinctively not to pick a fight with the strongest boy in the class, unless he is compelled to do so for sheer survival.
Common sense dictates you cannot expect adulterers like Clinton and Major to teach others about morality. Nor can you expect chicken hawks like Bush, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz to demonstrate bravery and courage. In the same light peace cannot be expected from mass murderers like Kissinger, Hitler, and Bush. Will Obama bring about a real change?
Yamin Zakaria (firstname.lastname@example.org)