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Utilizing a recent groundbreaking statistical analysis of Islamic doctrines and an analysis based upon the outlook of Muslims, he discusses the possibility that Islam is less a religion and more an ideology of conquest.
Muthuswamy urges US policymakers to rethink the War on Terror along the lines of the successfully waged Cold War against communism. The nuclear physicist-author makes the following main point:
Like the Cold War, this war is more a contest of ideas than armed conflict. Rather than placing the emphasis on military might and costly wars abroad, the West should invest the bulk of its effort in a science-based ideological war, one that is directed at discrediting the simplistic, conquest-oriented theological roots of Islamist indoctrination and jihadist politics.
Muthuswamy also emphasizes the importance of a largely non-Muslim India in the War on Terror, in view of its location and size. The India-born author gives a fascinating description of modern Islamic conquest in South Asia. His insights into the Islamist siege and subversion of Indian democracy should be revealing for the citizens of western democracies.
The author asserts that the West needs India in dealing with the conundrum that is Pakistan, as they both share language, culture, and more with each other.
This fresh perspective on the ongoing threat from Islamist terrorism offers much to ponder about the future course of US foreign policy initiatives.
Even the most sanguine optimist couldn't deny that the war on terror, as manifested by extensive American and allied military engagements abroad (i.e., in Iraq and Afghanistan), is not proceeding well. With recruitment apparently robust, radical Islam appears to be as strong as ever. This means that the numbers of America-hating Islamic terrorists are continuing to grow. This may point to the reality of the situation: the so-called pro-American regimes in some Islamic nations are not effective in countering jihad. Clearly, America needs a coherent new strategy to win the war on terror.
Six years in, the military expenses associated with the terror war alone may have cost at least as much as the Vietnam War-about $500 billion. There have been extensive other economic costs and internal security expenses as well.
There are also other pressing short-term and long-term challenges. Islamic Iran is relentlessly pushing toward developing nuclear bombs, the nuclear-armed jihad factory called Pakistan has become highly unstable, and a truly strategic and economic challenge to America has emerged from China. This China challenge far exceeds the one posed by the former SovietUnion.
RESURGENT POLITICAL ISLAM
America was the most dominant nation of the past century, especially after the Second World War. Understandably, until the last part of the twentieth century, Western politicians and strategic experts viewed Islamic civilization as a struggling one, not a strategic threat at all.
Until recently many Islamic nations had been under the control of Western colonizers. Due to this fact, little effort had been made by the Westerners to understand the religious and political underpinnings of Islam. Yet Islam had been an expanding power until at least the eighteenth century, with a long history of conflict with Christianity, the majority religion in the West.
From a classical Western view, in order for Islam to become a strategic threat, Muslim nations would have to first build their economies and industrial infrastructure to the point that they are comparable to those of the West, which would take many decades. For instance, Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan had become threats in the 1930s because they had economies and industrial know-how that were comparable to those of the Allies. But radical Islamists have shown that, by influencing a vast majority of Muslim civilians globally and by converting many of them into foot soldiers, they can become a strategic threat to Western civilization. In other words, they can overcome the deficiency of not being classical military powers. The proliferation of AK-47 assault rifles and bomb-making technology has made terror acts easier to execute and costlier to prevent.
Political Islam holds that Islam should have a prominent if not dominant say in governing the affairs of those nations in which Muslims are the majority or a significant minority. Seen through the context of the Islamic trilogy-consisting of the Koran, the Hadith, and the Sira-political Islam dominates over spiritual Islam (see chapter 2, "Conquest by Design"). Hence, Islam itself has a dominant political flavor to it. There is an internal component of political Islam, as it governs the kind of life and political system to which Muslims should adhere. But the internal politics of Islam and its legal code, called sharia, do not provide a way of setting up a modern state, for the obvious reason that it reflects the customs of societies that existed several hundreds to thousands of years ago. The economic and social aspirations of Muslims have therefore gone unfulfilled, with rising expectations fueled by television and movies from the West and the East. However, the needed focus or a missing mission in the internal component is provided by the external one: conquest of "unbelievers," or non-Muslims. Conquest of unbelievers is either taken to mean their embrace of Islam or their reduced status under Muslim control as the non-Muslim dhimmis. Political Islam concerns those of us who do not believe in its tenets because it commands Muslims to conquer the world for Islam.
With other religions, when disciples' aspirations went unfulfilled, introspection resulted and it led to a reform of religious practices. However, as is discussed in the next chapter, one aspect of Islam that is unique is that whenever Muslims felt they had fallen behind, the most vocal among them were calling for Muslims to embrace even more retrogressive practices of political Islam. These retrogressive practices were identified as fueling the drive toward regenerating the "glory" days of Islamic civilization-defined by the conquering of large swaths of unbeliever land in the aftermath of the death of Muhammad. These practices include literal interpretations of the Islamic trilogy and the importance of conquest through jihad, rather than reform (i.e., the reinterpretation of Muslim scriptures in a contemporary way and the downgrading of the importance given to them). The fundamentalists assert that once the whole world is Islamized, everyone will feel fulfilled and be at peace with one another. Of course, fundamentalists may or may not realize the inconvenient reality that even in Islamic nations, different schools of religious thought are in conflict with each other.
In other words, inner political Islam is keeping Muslims from providing a better future for themselves and their families, and external political Islam commands them to wage jihad. Thus the increasingly accepted view is that the agenda set by political Islam is spawning terrorism.
The doctrine of jihad is the most important tool political Islam uses to assert its influence and achieve its vision. In general, the term jihad can be used to describe two concepts: there is an inner struggle, called "greater jihad," within each Muslim, whose aim is to please the almighty God; and then there is "lesser jihad," which is external warfare aimed at conquest of land belonging to unbelievers and the imposition of Islam on its inhabitants. On the primary meaning of jihad, from the Koran, the most important of the Islamic doctrines:
Jahada, the root of the word Jihad, appears 40 times in the Koran-under a variety of grammatical forms. With 4 exceptions, all the other 36 usages [in specific Koranic verses] are variations of the third form of the verb, i.e., Jahida. Jahida in the Koran and in subsequent Islamic understanding to both Muslim luminaries-from the greatest jurists and scholars of classical Islam [including Abu Yusuf, Averroes, Ibn Khaldun, and Al Ghazzali], to ordinary people-meant and means "he fought, warred or waged war against unbelievers and the like," as described by the seminal Arabic lexicographer E. W Lane.
Hadiths signify the oral traditions recounting events in the life of Islam's founder, Muhammad, who lived during the time period 570 to 632 CE. Of the six traditions of the Haiths, the one by Muhammad al-Bukhari is considered to be the most trusted. Al-Bukhari is said to have lived between the years 810 and 870 CE. In Bukhari Hadith, 97 percent of the jihad references are about war and 3 percent are about the inner struggle, showing that from a practical perspective lesser jihad is more important.
Typically, it is the institutions in unbeliever nations who misinterpret jihad. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) states, while ignoring the statistical dominance of lesser jihad in the doctrines, "While there are various meanings of the term jihad, including an internal struggle of the soul, none are given in this brief discussion [in Saudi school texts], which also includes an emphasis on the importance of power or force over one's enemies and discusses 'martyrdom' with approval." However, American scholar Bernard Lewis disagrees:
Conventionally translated "holy war" [jihad] has the literal meaning of striving, more specifically, in the Koranic phrase "striving in the path of God" (fi sabil Allah). Some Muslim theologians, particularly in more modern times, have interpreted the duty of "striving in the path of God" in a spiritual and moral sense. The overwhelming majority of early authorities, however, citing relevant passages in the Koran and in the tradition, discuss jihad in military terms.
The celebrated Dictionary of Islam, published in the year 1895 by Thomas Hughes, characterizes jihad along these lines:
[A] religious war with those who are unbelievers in the mission of Muhammad. It is an incumbent religious duty, established in the Koran and in the traditions as a divine institution, enjoined especially for the purpose of advancing Islam and of repelling evil from Muslims.
Well-known American ex-prosecutor of jihadists Andrew McCarthy uses the above quotes and further articulates:
It is no wonder that this should be so. The Koran repeatedly enjoins Muslims to fight and slay non-Muslims. "O ye who believe," commands Sura 9:123, "fight those of the disbelievers who are near you, and let them find harshness in you, and know that Allah is with those who keep their duty unto him." It is difficult to spin that as a call to spiritual self-improvement. As it is, to take another example, with Sura 9:5: "But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them. And seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem( of war)," relenting only if they have accepted Islam.
The Hadith, lengthy volumes recording the words and traditions of the prophet, are even more explicit, as in Muhammad's teaching that "[a] single endeavor (of fighting) in Allah's cause in the afternoon or in the forenoon is better than all the world and whatever is in it."
The most significant modern interpretation of jihad is revealed in what Muslim entities and institutions tell their fellow Muslims. Consistent with the overwhelming importance given to the lesser jihad in the doctrines, a Saudi text books says: "In these verses is a call for jihad, which is the pinnacle of Islam.... Only through force and victory over the enemies is there security and repose." The emphasis of lesser jihad, including the armed one in Pakistan's textbooks, too has been noted.
Throughout the discussion, the word jihad is taken to mean the dominant form, the lesser jihad. This is the jihad that Muslim extremists, radicals, or jihadists-practitioners of jihad-mean in their discourse. Armed warfare imposed on unbelievers is one form of jihad. More generally, jihad should be understood as a struggle that uses every means possible to achieve the goal of Islamic conquest. The doctrine of jihad is used by political Islam to achieve conquest. Muslims who pursue political Islam's goals include activists-jihadists, radicals, extremists-and nonactivist ordinary Muslims who identify with and sponsor actual activists. With this in mind, we can see that even though many ordinary Muslims are busy eking out a living, without their support political Islam's vision of Islamic conquest would be a nonstarter. In this context the main goal of winning the war on terror can be defined as the negation of the support political Islam receives from the Muslim public and sponsoring nations.
We will use the term "political Islam" to denote the ideology we are fighting. This ideology has spawned a worldwide movement whose intent is a violent conquest of unbelievers. This may be the first necessary step toward identifying the enemy correctly and coming up with a coherent policy response.
The majority of Muslims associate the trilogy with all of the necessary information for leading a complete life. This interpretation has made it difficult for Muslim nations to adapt to new ideas and to evolve, and especially to compete with the Western world, which in the last several hundred years led the industrial and technological revolutions that have been considered the basis for the modern world. These revolutions shifted wealth and power to the nations with industrial know-how. This put most Muslim nations at a disadvantage until huge deposits of petroleum were found in many Middle East nations, including Saudi Arabia, the birth nation of Islam's founder, Muhammad.
Regardless of how predisposed a theology or an ideology is toward a certain outlook, such as conquest, it has to have committed and resourceful backers to become influential. In Saudi Arabia, political Islam has found a passionate backer. The enormous oil wealth of the country gave the Saudis an opportunity to reinvigorate the expansionist designs of political Islam. By many accounts, since the mid-1970s, Saudi Arabia alone is said to have spent well over $85 to 90 billion (strictly through official channels) on spreading the Wahhabi version (see chapter 2, often described in the West as an "extremist" version of Islam) of political Islam to Sunni (the other major denomination is Shia Islam) Muslim populations around the world. Added to this is the tradition for Saudis in all walks of life to fund the propagation of Islam. As new groundbreaking research discussed in the next chapter shows, statistically, jihadist politics form a significant component of Islamic doctrine. Hence, one has to wonder whether the Wahhabi interpretation of Sunni Islam is indeed a fair and accurate representation of Islamic doctrine as defined in the trilogy.
There is every reason for Saudi Arabia to promote Wahhabism, because along with Wahhabism, as part of a package, the Saudis could also promote their political and strategic agenda to unsuspecting nations and populations. Also, as Islam originated in Saudi Arabia, a nation under the Wahhabi ideological spell creates a civilization subservient to Saudi Arabia.
There are other reasons for the Saudis to support the Wahhabi version. Islamists of various hues have a common goal of an Islamic caliphate. A caliphate is the political leadership of the Muslim ummah (community of Muslims in the whole world) in classical or medieval Islamic history and juristic theory. The head of state's position or the caliph is based on the notion of a successor to the prophet Muhammad's political authority. Who can lead the caliphate? According to the so-called Islamic law, it has to be an Arab from Quraysh tribe (the tribe the prophet Muhammad belonged to-now found in Saudi Arabia and Jordan). During the early 1900s when India was a British colony, the Hyderabad Nawab (or the king) in India, out of religious reasons, had periodically sent allowances to the cash-strapped Saudi royal family-the custodian of the Muslim holy sites. With oil yet to be found, these allowances were an important source of funding for the Saudi royals. Hence, it is not unreasonable for Saudi Arabia to invest in conquest and the spread of Wahhabism and to expect a payoff later-in the form of subsidies from better-off Wahhabi-influenced Muslim nations (such as Turkey or Malaysia), once oil revenues dry up in about a hundred years.
With a long and successful history of conquest and being deeply Wahhabi, Saudi Arabia is unlikely to put to good use (such as providing a broad-based modern education system internally-a must for overall development and empowerment) the free wealth it got in the form of oil revenues. From a traditional Wahhabi view, all important knowledge is in the Islamic trilogy. By implication, there is really no important knowledge in modern science; besides, science is associated with the infidel or "Christian" Western world. Even within Saudi Arabia, education is tilted toward Islamic history and less toward modern literature or science. Saudi Arabia has more than enough wealth to buy or pay for both skilled and unskilled guest workers, and their population in Saudi Arabia reflects this reality. When the call for jihad came from Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, to free the country from non-Muslim "oppressors," the Saudi Arabian regime and society were more than prepared to assist a popular jihad.
An alternate and competing Islamic school of thought is Shiite Islam. The Sunni and Shiite sects have bloody political differences dating back almost to the immediate aftermath of Muhammad's death. Iran, the most populous Shiite-dominant country, found itself awash with petroleum reserves. It also joined the movement of Islamic conquest in the 1980s by spending its wealth to influence Shiite groups around the globe toward jihad.
Excerpted from DEFEATING POLITICAL ISLAM by Moorthy S. Muthuswamy Copyright © 2009 by Moorthy S. Muthuswamy. Excerpted by permission.
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