It is a unquestioned dogma of American policymakers and the mainstream media that Islamic jihadists have twisted and hijacked the authentic, peaceful teachings of Islam, and are motivated not by Islamic imperatives but by poverty exacerbated by ignorance and other factors. Yet from the words of the Islamic jihadists themselves, one gets just the opposite impression: recent statements by a variety of Islamic jihadists reinforce the fact that jihadists gain recruits and justify their actions within the larger Islamic community by claiming for themselves the mantle of Islamic authenticity. And while virtually all Western policymakers and analysts are convinced that they actually have no claim to that authenticity, self-proclaimed moderate Muslim groups have never yet formulated an Islamic response to these claims that is comprehensive and convincing enough to counter the jihadist challenge among Muslims worldwide.
Recent examples abound. New tapes have come to light this week, on which accused North Carolina jihad plot ringleader Daniel “Saifullah” Boyd saying, “The blood of Muslims has become cheap in the marketplace. It has become cheap because Muslims have abandoned the jihad….I love jihad. I love to stand there and fight for the sake of Allah.”
Meanwhile, a boy in Pakistan, one of a large group of pre-teens whom the Taliban recruited to become suicide bombers, explained that the appeal to them was purely Islamic: “They just told us that they (army) are against Islam, are against the Quran. They said wage jihad against them; we are waging jihad for the Quran.”
And on Al-Jazeera television on July 21, two representatives of the Lebanese branch of the Islamic supremacist group Hizb Al-Tahrir (which recently held a convention in Chicago) made statements about jihad that differed sharply from the “jihad is a spiritual struggle or at best a war of self-defense” line upon which Islamic apologists in the West insist. Salah Al-Din ‘Adhadhda of Hizb Al-Tahrir’s Lebanese press bureau declared: “We have come here to talk about the pinnacle of Islam – Jihad for the sake of Allah.” He said that jihad, “like other precepts of the Shari’a,” had been “subjected to distortion and perversion, due to the ideological and cultural invasion from which our nation continues to suffer.” But in this he didn’t mean that its true, peaceful or spiritual meaning had been obscured. On the contrary, he declared that Muslims must work toward “the conquest of the capitals of the world by the message of Islam, in order to save and liberate humanity, by pulling the people out of the darkness and tyranny of capitalism into the light and justice of Islam.”
In other words, he was calling for the imposition of Islamic Sharia. Muhammad Ibrahim, a member of the Hizb Al-Tahrir’s Lebanese advisory council, made this clear when he explained on the same program that “Jihad in Islam is two-fold. The first type is the offensive Jihad, in which the Muslims engage the infidels in fighting in order to bring the message of Islam to them, and to pull them from darkness and into the light.” This campaign to impose a system of laws that extinguished free speech and institutionalized the oppression of women and non-Muslims must go on, he said, even in the West: “The West has directed its arrows intensively against the Jihad, because it realized how dangerous Jihad is to Western civilization and culture.”
As a result of this, he said, the West “has distorted the true meaning of Jihad” – which clearly as far as he was concerned meant warfare against unbelievers, not spiritual struggle. He complained that some Muslims even “went as far as to repeat the claims of many Orientalists – that Jihad is a defensive war only, and that there is no truth in what is being spread about offensive Jihad or offensive war. Thus, they aligned themselves with Western culture. Worse are those who bleat like the enemies of Islam, and consider Jihad to be aggression and terrorism.” In reality, he maintained, “Jihad is an offensive Jihad, which was instated in order to spread Islam throughout the world.”
Yet according to Islamic spokesmen in the West, as well as non-Muslim scholars and analysts, there is no imperative to “spread Islam throughout the world,” and certainly no “offensive Jihad.” Indeed, those who, like Dutch politician Geert Wilders, point out otherwise are routinely dismissed as “bigots,” “hatemongers,” and “Islamophobes.” The cognitive dissonance is immense. As American Islamic jihadists such as Daniel Boyd continue to be active, it becomes increasingly imperative for government and law enforcement officials to confront the facts honestly. They need to face the fact that Islamic jihadists claim to represent true and pure Islam, and that “moderate” Muslims are not effectively countering this claim in Muslim communities. Then they must formulate policy accordingly. The longer they dismiss this as insignificant or even deny that it is happening, the longer it will continue, and once Islamic jihadists have had a few more years to advance their agenda, it will be all the harder for officials to take the steps that need to be taken to defend free people.