Jihad, Not Hirabah

by Hugh Fitzgerald (Sept. 2007)

Every promotion of the misunderstanding of Islam, even if the desire to dissemble is prompted by the idea that “if only we evade reality, and use an apologetic escape-word, then we and those ‘good, moderate, trustworthy’ Muslims can appeal to this construct, this pretend-Islam, and convince Muslims everywhere to believe it really is Islam, and to ignore their texts, to ignore the example of Muhammad, uswa hasana, al-insan al-kamil, and to believe that yes, it is really just a matter of a few extremists and misinterpreters of Islam, with their ‘sinful violence’ (hirabah),” will only lead to disaster. Plausible, yes, for about five seconds. But not if one begins to think.

Two analysts at the National Defense University, Dr. Douglas E. Streusand and Army Lt. Col. Harry D. Tunnell IV, and others, most notably James Guirard, have recommended that the West use the word “hirabah” instead of “jihad” to describe the actions of Osama bin Laden and Co. It is not hard to figure out where the word comes from. It comes from certain Muslim regimes and their apologists, eager to protect those regimes that are being attacked by local "truer" Muslims for their corruption and misrule. The obvious example is Saudi Arabia, where a family, the Al-Saud, has for decades been stealing, not merely skimming off the top, large amounts of the nation's oil wealth. Those who dislike this, naturally, cannot raise a revolt against the ruler for mere misappropriation of wealth; in Islam, the despot is owed submission. He (or his family, or his family-and-friends plan) can be opposed, in the moral and mental universe that Islam posits, only if he is not a Muslim, only if he is defined as an "Infidel."

The assorted terrorists or would-be terrorists captured or killed in Saudi Arabia need to be described. They, those enemies of the Al-Saud, think of themselves as engaged in Jihad against the false Muslims, the pretend Muslims, the so-corrupt-and-terrible-they-must-be-called-Infidels Muslims. Their word is "Jihad." This, of course, cannot be permitted; it is a danger to the Al-Saud, a danger to all the corrupt ruling families, a danger to Mubarak in Egypt (with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Ikhwan al-islamiyya, a permanent worry). So the Saudi rulers, and other threatened rulers, now employ the word "hibarah."

And of course, they are quick to suggest, these ever-helpful people, and Muslim apologists of the slyest variety with contacts in the American civilian and military, that the same word should be used by the Americans. And some Americans, not thinking through the matter, apparently agree. They think the avoidance of the word "Jihad" and adoption of the word "hibarah" is just the thing.

But it isn't. The Americans have needs and interests that are quite different from those friendly would-be advisers who are Muslim, whether in the diplomatic corps, or American citizens now possibly employed by the American military, for they want to avoid at all costs the word "Jihad," knowing perfectly well that that word is central to Islam. They want to persuade the American government to think of the worldwide Jihad (that is, the Greater Jihad that is merely the sum of all the Lesser Jihads) not as part of Islam, not a duty of Muslims, but instead wish to see it described as "sinful warfare," the kind that is not permitted, that is not legitimate. The Saudi rulers spend great time and effort trying to de-program, as they see it, captured Saudi terrorists. No doubt they will do the same with Saudi citizens sent back from Guantanamo. They do not object -- why should they? -- to attacks on bona fide Infidels, the Americans, Israelis, Europeans of every kind. But they want to make sure that these people, before being released back into society, have had drummed into their skulls the idea that violence against those hardworking, good Muslims, the Guardians of the Two Noble Sanctuaries, the promoters of Islam all over the world, the Al-Saud, and their hangers-on at court, are opposed only by those who have been led astray, led to commit the crime of "sinful warfare" or "hibarah."

But it is not "sinful warfare" to make war on the real Infidels -- that is, us. The word "hibarah" will not do. Use of the word, as Streusand and Tunnell recommend, would only get in the way of American comprehension. It would merely deepen the misunderstanding of what the origin and scope of the menace of Jihad is, a misunderstanding that largely explains the topsy-turvy farce of tarbaby Iraq, where the stated goals of the Administration (Sunni Arabs and Shi'a Arabs and Kurds all getting along in a nation-state made prosperous by lots of help from America, best of allies to these presumably "moderate" Muslims as they march forward to create that Light Unto the Muslim Nations) will do nothing to weaken the camp of Islam, but instead will be an attempt to prevent the very outcome that ultimately will come to pass (but after how many more American lives and resources are squandered in Tarbaby Iraq?) and that is likely to establish the fault line between Sunni and Shi'a in the Middle East, a line running slightly off-center through Iraq.

The word "hibarah" applies to situations within Muslim-ruled lands, a word used to denounce the fomenters of revolt against the (often cruel and corrupt) rulers. Useful to them. And since the word is applied to Muslim countries, it refers to "warfare" in the classic sense -- qital, or combat, that is violence of all kinds. The word "hibarah" does not include the main instruments of Jihad today -- the use of the "money weapon" (to pay for the spread of Islam through mosque-and-madrasa building and upkeep, propaganda, armies of apologists, including non-Muslim apologists), propaganda and proselytizing “Da'wa” campaigns, legal challenges to infidel laws that impede the spread of Islam, and demographic conquest.

But if the American government, and its military, cannot see that this "war" is far more than mere tanks and guns and bombs, and that in particular, the most dangerous theatre of this war is now Western Europe, where through those largely non-violent means -- Da'wa, demographic conquest, and the money weapon -- then the forces of Islam will become ever stronger at a time when they should be held up to close and critical scrutiny, their moves constrained, their gains reversed, by Infidel peoples and polities intent on defending their own laws, customs, understandings, and civilizational legacy.

Policies in Iraq, and elsewhere, have been made without an understanding of the nature and scope of the menace of the Jihad, and above all of the non-military instruments of Jihad -- which, of course, entirely disappear if one carefully denies the relevance of the word "Jihad" and instead adopts this "hirabah" which focuses attention on combat, qital, and other forms of violence, and prevents our military and our civilian leaders from comprehending the long-term (or, alas, not so long term -- perhaps a matter of two or three decades) danger, above all in the countries of Western Europe, of inexorable islamization (which does not require that the majority be Muslim, merely that a powerful, unified, and self-assured Muslim population be populous enough to impose its will on fragmented, uncertain, fearful, confused, and ready-to-submit Infidels) through Da'wa and demographic conquest.

The word "Jihad" however, is not limited to the instrument of violence. Muslims write all the time about the varied instruments of "Jihad" to spread Islam: "pen, speech" (propaganda, or Da'wa), "wealth" (the money weapon, from boycotts and bribes, to the building of mosques, to the buying of armaments that Muslims cannot produce, to the buying up of Western hirelings to promote the goals of Muslims, both in Dar al-Islam and in Dar al-Harb). And, most recently, over the past 30 years, all the discussion about the weapon of demographic conquest, which was openly mentioned by Houari Boumedienne at the U.N. in 1974 ("we will conquer you through the bellies of our women" or words to that effect).

The word "Jihad" is the correct word, the word that does not hide, but helps reveal, all the instruments being used to spread Islam until it everywhere dominates, and Muslims rule. The word "hibarah" hides this from view. It diminishes, rather than increases, the likelihood of understanding among a still largely ignorant, and confused, Infidel public. Not as ignorant, however, and not as confused, as many of those in the government who are so wedded to earlier constructs that they have difficulty in shedding them, and who, by their very positions, come into contact with the most plausible, clever, smiling representatives of the Muslim world who frame things as artfully as they can, offer their own spin, in order to obtain what they want from people whom, to most of those Arabs and Muslims, seem limitlessly gullible.

All over the world a staple of Muslim apologetics is that surrounding the word "jihad." Again and again we are told by the people who insist that Islam is a "religion" of "peace" and "tolerance" (not one of those words in quotation marks is endowed with the same meaning by Muslims as they are by non-Muslims). And now comes Douglas Streusand, a member of the American military, and Jim Guirard, Washington fixer, and Michael Waller of someplace, and they eagerly echo these apologists. Now these are not people who have for decades been toiling tirelessly in the non-alcoholic vineyards of Muslim apologetics, in the manner of John Esposito, that friend of Hamas-supporter and would-be suicide bomber Azzam Tamimi, and of Al-Farooqi, the sinister figure whom Esposito called his "ustadh." But this misleading may be, in several of the examples mentioned, a result  merely of incomplete study of Islam, the failure either to have read sufficiently the Qur'anic commentators (they would set anyone without parti pris perfectly  straight), and the most distinguished Western scholars of the subject, those who wrote between 1880 and, roughly, 1970, after which time it became almost impossible for truths about Islam to be told, and the Arab money essentially, and academic fashion (Said's"Orientalism" silenced many who lacked the self-assurance to see right through it, and through the rest of the nonsense thrown up by members of MESA Nostra, an academic Mutual Promotion Society and Protection Racket, the consequences of which are still with us).

Policy in Iraq, tarbaby Iraq, went awry because it was based on an initial failure to see that Islam, or synecdochically, Jihad, is the problem. Jihad is the duty, the supreme duty (so much so that some commentators call it the Sixth Pillar of Islam) incumbent on all Muslims, to spread Islam until it covers the globe. They are not always and everywhere required to participate directly, but they must support the effort of those who do. Nor must Jihad always and everywhere take the form only of qital, combat, though the Streusands of this world apparently think so, and would prefer to use a vocabulary ("hirabah") that makes it more difficult to focus Infidel attention on the non-military means of spreading Islam until it everywhere dominates and Muslims rule.

Had this been understood, then the Administration might years ago begun warning about the "varied instruments of Jihad." It might have signaled a rapprochement with the people of Western Europe, a signal that we understood their dangers, their plight, and would work to reduce the Muslim threat to them -- the threat within their countries, and not some "threat" supposedly posed by Saddam Hussein.

The example of profound misunderstanding I like best is not that of Carter (and Brzezinski, and Gary Sick) failing completely to comprehend Khomeini (a "fellow man of faith" for Carter, who felt they therefore must have so much in common). Nor Carter a few years earlier, when he took the side completely of Saint Sadat against homely, sentimental Begin, who insisted "they [Sadat and Carter] really like me" as he gave away the store, day by day by day, during those hideous sessions at Camp David. No, nor is it those successive Treasury Secretaries who through the 1970s and 1980s kept rushing off to Saudi Arabia to obtain the "cooperation" of our "staunch Saudi allies.” Nor the various Presidents who started the tradition of paying the Jizyah of foreign aid to any Arab or Muslim country that forgot to be born rich with oil -- Egypt, Jordan, the PLO as "representative" of the "Palestinian people" in its, and their, various embodiments, Pakistan (that started long ago, with the love affair between American generals and those ramrod-straight Terry-Thomas mustachioed Pakistani generals, so straight-talking, so pukka-sahib, so...so "just like us"). No, nor is it Eisenhower, puppet of John Foster Dulles in foreign policy, the Dulles who believed in CENTO (the curtain came down on that farce in 1958, when Nuri al-Said's mutilated body was dragged through the streets of Baghdad -- "strongman" Nuri al-Said, "pro-Western" Nuri al-Said). No, it is not Carter, not Eisenhower, not Nixon, not any of them who stand out as absolutely the worst in their failure to begin to have a glimmer of what Islam is all about. No, the answer is that they all must share the prize.

Nothing extenuate? No, let's extenuate. Let's make their case. After all, in the midst of the Cold War, who knew about the belief-system of Islam except that it should be called a "religion" and that it was somehow, for some reason we were never offered in detail, a particularly strong "bulwark against Communism" -- even if Nasser and others in the Arab and Muslim world apparently found the Soviet Union far more to their liking than they did any of the liberal democracies of the West.

Those CIA agents, who thought they were doing god's work in Afghanistan during the Soviet period, who proudly remember their deeds of derring-do in helping the local mujahedin, appear not even now to begin to consider the possibility that possibly they were not doing something in the long-term interests of the United States or the rest of the Western world, by supplying money, weapons including thousands of Stinger missiles, and looking on benignly as the Saudis also provided aid, and then just as benignly, looking on as the Taliban were raised up in Pakistani madrasas, and then, again with Pakistani and Saudi support, and then diplomatic recognition, establishing their rule all over Afghanistan. Meanwhile, who was paying attention in Washington, or elsewhere in the West, to the sinister I.S.I. [i.e., Pakistani intelligence services]-supporters of Dr. A. Q. Khan? Who noticed what he was doing in Western nuclear laboratories in Holland? The Soviet Union was within a decade of collapse, whatever happened in Afghanistan. Gdansk workers in Solidarity, decades of programming from Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe, those in Hungary who remained true to Imre Nagy and Pal Demeter, those in Czechoslovakia who remembered Dubcek, those in East Germany who could look over the border and see what goods and services capitalist Germans could produce – all that was leading to its collapse. And of course there was the Russian nomenklatura itself, now having its doubts, and more doubts. Those doubts hardly required the Americans to hand support the mujahedin in Afghanistan to exist.

The Soviet forces might have installed a regime that would necessarily have been antipathetic to Islam, and might have constrained it, or tried to, as Ataturk had done in the 1920s in Turkey. It might have been a start. But surely the aid extended to the Mujahedin, military and financial, was not the unalloyed triumph that the CIA officials involved in it complacently still allow themselves to believe. They, like their civilian bosses then and today, did not know enough about this longer-lasting (1350 years), and much more powerful force. Communism failed on its own terms; Islam can never fail in that way -- but Infidels can make it difficult for Muslims to ignore what should be made clear to them -- that Islamic societies and states have failed politically, economically, socially, intellectually, in this sublunary but real world (not in the dream-world of the Muslim paradise promised to those who march in lockstep on the path of Allah), precisely because of Islam itself.

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Hugh Fitzgerald contributes regularly to The Iconoclast, our Community Blog. Click here to see all his contributions, on which comments are welcome.


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