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Rejecting Terrorism, But Not Jihad By: Robert Spencer
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, June 06, 2008


Much is being made of “The Rebellion Within: An Al Qaeda mastermind questions terrorism,” by Lawrence Wright, in the June 2 issue of the New Yorker. In it, one of Al-Qaeda’s chief theorists rejects terrorism – leading to a cascade of both liberal and conservative voices rejoicing that the end of the war on terror is at hand.

Unfortunately, reality -- as is usually the case -- is not quite so comforting. Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, Dr. Fadl, the subject of Wright’s piece, is not rejecting the idea that Muslims must strive to subjugate unbelievers under the rule of Islamic law. All he is doing is advocating a change in strategy: less terrorism, more stealth jihad. This news shouldn’t make Americans go back to sleep; it should spur them to become aware of the ways in which the jihadist agenda of Islamic supremacism is advancing without guns and bombs.

In one key passage, Montasser al-Zayyat, whom Wright identifies as an “Islamist lawyer,” annoys Al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri by asserting that “jihad did not have to be restricted to an armed approach.” This is indicative of the wishful thinking that so many have brought to their reading of Wright’s article: Zayyat didn’t say that jihad did not have to waged against infidels. All he said was that it did not have to be restricted to an armed approach. But many readers seemed to assume he was saying the former.

“Zawahiri,” says Wright, “became increasingly isolated. He understood that violence was the fuel that kept the radical Islamist organizations running; they had no future without terror.”

That may be so for some organizations. Others, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, get along just fine without violence. In fact, the Brotherhood is the key force behind the stealth jihad agenda, which aims at (in the words of a Brotherhood operative in 1991) “eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and Allah’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.”

Oh, but they’re not blowing anything up in pursuit of this goal! And since terrorism is the only aspect of the Islamic supremacist problem that is on the radar screen of most Western analysts, most assume that any non-violent Islamic groups, even those that are working to subvert the West from within, are benign moderates.

In any case, this particular reformist group, according to Wright, “wrote a series of books and pamphlets, collectively known as ‘the revisions,’ in which they formally explained their new thinking.” Wright met with the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Sheikh Ali Gomaa, to ask him about this.

Wright describes Gomaa as a “highly promoted champion of moderate Islam.” Unfortunately, he’s a highly promoted champion of moderate Islam who supports Hizballah. “Gomaa,” Wright continues, “has also become an advocate for Muslim women, who he says should have equal standing with men.” Unfortunately again, he is an advocate for Muslim women who has spoken positively of wife-beating. “His forceful condemnations of extreme forms of Islam,” says Wright, “have made him an object of hatred among Islamists and an icon among progressives, whose voices have been overpowered by the thunder of the radicals.” Yet his forceful condemnations of extreme forms of Islam have been accompanied by his denial of reports that he had rejected the traditional Islamic death sentence for apostates.

Gomaa tells Wright: “We accept the revisions conditionally, not as the true teachings of Islam but with the understanding that this process is like medicine for a particular time.”

In other words, the true teachings of Islam include the mandate to wage violent jihad against unbelievers. But jihad violence can be set aside as “medicine for a particular time.” That is, different times call for different tactics, but the overall objective remains the same.

Significantly, Gomaa also said: “We have not come across the person who can be moved all the way from terrorism to a normal life.”

Now there is an extraordinarily important admission, given the much-ballyhooed claims by Major General Douglas Stone and others to cure jihadists of their jihadism.

After outlining various reasons why, in Fadl’s new view, today’s global jihad is illegitimate, Wright informs us that “Fadl does not condemn all jihadist activity.” In fact, Fadl says that “jihad in Afghanistan will lead to the creation of an Islamic state with the triumph of the Taliban, God willing,” and that “if it were not for the jihad in Palestine, the Jews would have crept toward the neighboring countries a long time ago.” And as for 9/11, Fadl asks, “what good is it if you destroy one of your enemy’s buildings, and he destroys one of your countries? What good is it if you kill one of his people, and he kills a thousand of yours?...That, in short, is my evaluation of 9/11.”

In other words, it was tactically stupid. Not morally wrong.

This is no rejection of jihad. It is just a change in tactics. It should make us all the more aware of, and on guard against, the stealth jihad.


Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of eight books, eleven monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including the New York Times Bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book, Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam is Subverting America without Guns or Bombs, is available now from Regnery Publishing.



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