This one’s for you, entheogens!
NPR’s All Things Considered. January 7, 2005 “Jihad” is one of the few Arabic words used in English. It means “spiritual struggle,” but many Muslims have pointed out that “jihad” is almost always used in English in the context of terrorism, even though the actual meaning is broader. Commentator Anisa Mehdi would like to propose a word that could be used instead of “jihad.” – From the NPR Website
Anisa Mehdi, a guest on NPR’s All Things Considered, has suggested that for the word “Jihad” - possibly the word of greatest significance in the texts, and history, of Islam - another word could be used. For Muslims, she insisted, were made uneasy by the continued use of this word “in the context of terrorism” when its “actual meaning is broader.” And so, to prevent unnecessary harm to Islam’s image, she asks if it might not be possible to avoid the word “Jihad” altogether.
She has a point. And we will sharpen her point, with a pencil-sharpener of our own choosing. But first it would be useful to describe the current state of Infidel knowledge about Islam, and of Muslim attempts to shape or limit that knowledge. An army of apologists for Islam, both Muslim and non-Muslim, is abroad in the land today, yet many Infidels seem not to be following the script. Some appear determined to educate themselves, rather than rely on the Outreach Programs of local imams in local mosques or, for that matter, on National Public Radio. Not everyone seems quite as willing, as they once were, to be satisfied by the pabulum of Karen Armstrong or the coffee-table books of John Esposito. Infidels have discovered websites where four or even five Quranic translations are laid out for comparative reading, a horizontal pentapla that may be accessed at www.usc.edu. At the same site, or at many others, Infidels can now read for themselves hundreds of the Hadith (the sayings and acts of Muhammad), as collected and catalogued according to its relative authenticity by such trusted Hadith-compilers, or muhaddithin, as Bukhari and Muslim (a proper name). In addition to reading Qur’an and Hadith, Infidels can read the sira, or life of Muhammad. As al-insan al-kamil, the Model of Perfect Man, the figure of Muhammad is at the center of Islam, and everything he is reported to have done or said, or even remained silent about, in 7th century Arabia, remains as vivid, compelling, and emulous today.
And finally, not content with reading Qur’an and Hadith and sira, those Infidels have embarked on learning about the history of Jihad-conquest of those vast lands where, far more numerous, settled, wealthy, and advanced populations, of Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, Hindus, and Buddhists all lived and, upon conquest, when not killed or forcibly converted at once to Islam, were permitted to live as “dhimmis,” as non-Muslims under Muslim rule were called, subject to carefully elaborated financial, legal, political, and social disabilities that made life for them one of humiliation, degradation, and physical insecurity.
It has been quite an effort to prevent Infidels from getting the wrong (that is to say, the right) impression of Islam, at least until such time as Muslims in the West currently singing the praises of “pluralism” no longer have need for Infidel good will and tolerance. To date, the twin techniques of “Taqiyya” and Tu-Quoque have been relied on. “Taqiyya” is the religiously-sanctioned doctrine, with its origins in Shi’a Islam but now practiced by non-Shi’a as well, of deliberate dissimulation about religious matters that may be undertaken to protect Islam, and the Believers. A related term, of broader application, is “kitman,” which is defined as “mental reservation.” An example of “Taqiyya” would be the insistence of a Muslim apologist that “of course” there is freedom of conscience in Islam, and then quoting that Qur’anic verse – “There shall be no compulsion in religion.” But the impression given will be false, for there has been no mention of the Muslim doctrine of abrogation, or naskh, whereby such an early verse as that about “no compulsion in religion” has been cancelled out by later, far more intolerant and malevolent verses. In any case, history shows that within Islam there is, and always has been, “compulsion in religion” for Muslims, and for non-Muslims. The “compulsion” for Muslims comes from the treatment of apostasy as an act punishable by death. And though “dhimmis” are allowed to practice their religion, they do so under conditions of such burdens and restrictions that many, not as an act of conscience but rather as a response to inexorable Muslim pressure, have converted (or “reverted”) to Islam.
“Kitman” is close to “taqiyya,” but rather than outright dissimulation, it consists in telling only a part of the truth, with “mental reservation” justifying the omission of the rest. One example may suffice. When a Muslim maintains that “jihad” really means “a spiritual struggle,” and fails to add that this definition is a recent one in Islam (little more than a century old), he misleads by holding back, and is practicing “kitman.” When he adduces, in support of this doubtful proposition, the hadith in which Muhammad, returning home from one of his many battles, is reported to have said (as known from a chain of transmitters, or isnad), that he had returned from “the Lesser Jihad to the Greater Jihad” and does not add what he also knows to be true, that this is a “weak” hadith, regarded by the most-respected muhaddithin as of doubtful authenticity, he is further practicing “kitman.”
The use of the word in Qur’an and Hadith, and constantly through 1350 years of Muslim history, has certainly endowed the word “Jihad” with a meaning of struggle, usually through military means, to expand the domain of Islam. Almost all Muslims understand that “warfare” (qital, qatala) is the essential meaning of the word. But Infidels, who prefer to think otherwise, have eagerly snapped up little guides such as that put out a few years ago by Karen Armstrong, a compleat apologist and no scholar of Islam, who made sure to quote that hadith in support of her proposition that Jihad is a “spiritual struggle.” The meaning of words comes from their common and accepted usage, not from what someone wishes to convince us should, for the purpose of a temporarily comforting harmony, be believed to be the meaning.
Jihad as military conquest is of course discussed in the Qur’an and Hadith, and in the commentaries on the Qur’an. And while “qital” or combat is mentioned 27 times in the Qur’an, other instruments of Jihad are also commonly discussed; any Islamic website will provide examples. One is the use of “wealth” to create the conditions that will help to spread Islam. Another is the use of “pen, speech” - persuasion, propaganda – to spread Islam. Still another instrument of Jihad discussed, for example, in the pages of Muslim newspapers, is the use of demography as a weapon of Jihad. Muslim populations within the Bilad al-kufr, or Lands of the Infidels, are seen as helping to spread through Da’wa, the Call to Islam, and in their own increasing presence within Infidel lands, as contributing to the inexorable spread of Islam.
The situation in the world today borders on the fantastic. Never before in history has one civilization allowed large numbers of those who come from an alien, and immutably hostile situation, to settle deep within that first civilization’s borders. Never before have the members of one civilization failed to investigate, and even willfully refused to investigate, or to listen to those who warn about, the consequences for all non-Muslims of the belief-system of Islam. In history, the phenomenon of the Barbarians at the Gates is hardly new. Those barbarians lay siege; if they win, they enter in triumph. Should they lose, the advanced civilization survives. But never before have the gates been opened, to an entering force that has not even been identified or understood. Never before have the inhabitants of the by-now vulnerable city made efforts not to recognize, or realize, what they have done, and what they have undone. That demographic intrusion shows no signs of diminishing. The systematic building of mosques and madrasas, paid for by Saudi Arabia, everywhere in the Western world, helps to make the conduct of Muslim life easier. Western populations have been trained to make much of “celebrating diversity” and “promoting difference” and constructing, on a base of militant but unexamined pluralism, an edifice of legal rights and entitlements. These rights, these entitlements, this militant pluralism are exploited by Muslims who do not believe in pluralism. Nor do they accept the individual rights of conscience and free speech, the legal equality of men and women, and of religious and racial minorities, recognized, for example, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Their current claim to support pluralism is based on the need to protect, and increase the power of, the Muslim umma, or Community, within the West, until such time as that umma no longer needs to pretend to have any interest in Western pluralism and Western values.
“Taqiyya” and “kitman” are no longer needed for Muslims addressing purely Muslim audiences. While in the early days, the Shi’a were afraid of Sunni persecution, and therefore needed to practice taqiyya, today both Sunni and Shi’a, by and large, do not find that they need dissimulate about the nature of Islam for other Muslims. It is only when non-Muslims may overhear, and begin to understand, an intra-Muslim discussion, that the need to dissimulate is emphasized. Yassir Arafat could, with impunity, refer to the Treaty of al-Hudaibiyya in speeches to fellow Muslims. He was fortunate; no Westerners, or even Israelis, seemed to think that the significance of that repeated allusion to Muhammad’s treaty with the Meccans in 628 A.D. needed to be examined.
Among those who see no need to practice taqiyya when rousing fellow Muslims, but instead see the need to remind their listeners of the central tenets and teachings of Islam, are Osama Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. The canonical texts support their view of the need for, the duty for, Jihad. And they receive a good deal of support, and admiration, all over the Muslim world. For they are not renegades, not unorthodox, not the promoters of a wild misinterpretation of Islam. Their view of Islam is exactly what Muhammad, Ibn Taymiyya, Al-Ghazali, Ibn Khaldun, and all the greatest Qur’anic commentators, muhaddithin, and theologians in the history of Islam, would have understood and shared. Some Muslims believe that at the moment, Islam is too weak, and therefore, for the sake of Islam itself, the truth of its teachings should not be so clearly expressed, and acted upon. It may be that Bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri themselves will reach the same conclusion. That would not constitute an abandonment of Jihad, but rather a prudent relinquishing of terrorism as a weapon of Jihad, and greater emphasis on other, tactically more effective, weapons of Jihad, such as Da’wa and demographic increase. The idea that “Jihad” is primarily a “spiritual struggle” would cause laughter everywhere in the world’s mosques and madrasas, for Muslims know that this definition is flatly contradicted by their texts and their entire history. Yet, the same imam who gives a fiery speech about Jihad can show up at an Interfaith Rally and, with seemingly complete conviction, assure his Infidel audience that, of course, “Jihad” refers only to “spiritual struggle.” This kind of thing is second nature.
Infidels need to understand that however wary they may pride themselves on being, they are still not prepared for the world of the Muslim East. After many decades of work in Egypt, Lord Edward Cecil affixed, as the epigraph to his once-famous Memoirs of an Egyptian Official, the following: “Here lies one who tried to hustle the East.” Many Englishmen regarded that epigraph as the perfect summary of their own encounters with the Muslim world. “War is deceit,” Muhammad said, and those who regard him as al-insan al-kamil, the Most Perfect of Men, have become past masters at the art of deceit. It is nearly impossible to find a Muslim who will admit to the full truth of what Islam teaches about Infidels, though occasionally it happens. Ex-Muslims are just as well-versed in the teachings of Islam as those who remain Muslims, for they do not suddenly cease to understand Islam when they leave the faith… They remain the best sources of knowledge about what it means to grow up as a Muslim, in a Muslim society, surrounded by the attitudes toward Infidels that Islam engenders and promotes.
Sometimes Taqiyya is not enough. Muslim spokesmen often attempt to convince an audience of Infidels that Islam is a religion of “peace” and “tolerance.” This, nowadays, works less well than it used to, and if an audience shows signs of not being completely convinced, another tack - that of Tu-Quoque - is attempted. Now these same spokesmen, who a minute before were all sweetness-and-light, begin to attack Christianity and Judaism for their own lack of “peace” and “tolerance.” They support this attack with bloodcurdling passages from Leviticus or some obscure text, possibly attributed to a rabbi from 2500 years ago.
The Crusades are presented by Muslim apologists as a defining moment in Muslim-Christian relations, a moment in which the peaceful and inoffensive Muslims were attacked, without cause. In this version, not a word is uttered about the centuries of Muslim Jihad-conquest that preceded the Crusades - nearly 400 years of seizing lands formerly occupied by Christians in Mesopotamia, Syria, Egypt, North Africa (where, among other Fathers of the Church, Tertullian and St. Augustine were born and lived).
Nor is what prompted the Crusades ever mentioned. For in 1009 A.D. the Fatimid Caliph Hakim had ordered the destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and for almost a century the Muslims steadily made encroachments on the Christian presence in, and access to, what was for Western Christendom the Holy Land. And there were, for a thousand years, until the 19th century, a constant series of Muslim raiding-parties that came by sea, and attacked the coastal villages throughout Europe, as far as Ireland and even, in one instance, Iceland. Villages were razed, and many villagers killed, and a million European Christians were kidnapped (see the recent White Gold, by Giles Milton), brought back to dar al-Islam, enslaved, and often forcibly converted. The Crusades have to be understood in their full context.
In Islam the world is uncompromisingly divided between dar al-Islam, the House of Islam, and dar al-harb, the House of War, where Infidels have not yet been subjugated to Islam. “Islam is to dominate and not to be dominated” and eventually, all of the world, which belongs to Allah, will become part of dar al-Islam. The Jihad is the “struggle” to expand Islam, to create the conditions where Muslims may rule, and Islam may prevail. This Jihad to spread Islam has lasted 1350 years. It has no end, until its goal is reached, whatever periods of quiescence must be observed because of lack of effective instruments or power. Not every Muslim heart beats with passion for this idea, but around the world, a great many do. Furthermore, Infidels can never know when a Muslim who seemed so Westernized, so removed from such matters, may undergo a transformation, into a much more menacing True Believer.
The Crusades were different. They were limited in both time and space. There was no interest in re-conquering, for Christianity, any territories held by Muslims beyond the Holy Land itself. The Crusades lasted a mere 200 years. Yet this difference is never noted by Muslims intent on blaming “the Crusades” and not the history of Jihad-conquest of Christian lands, and of the subjugation of Christian populations, to Muslim rule and to Muslim oppression (for the “dhimmi” was not so much a member of a “protected people” as of an “oppressed” -because deliberately humiliated and degraded – “people”).
Tu-Quoque has led to real absurdities. At one gathering with a Muslim panel and an audience of Infidels, a Muslim professor recently assured his listeners that “Ku Klux Klan members used to sing Christian hymns as they crucified Afro-Americans.” No one bothered to point out that the Ku Klux Klan did not “crucify,” but lynched, its victims; that the Grand Kleagle did not lead his followers in song, much less Christian hymns, during these lynchings, and that the stoutest enemies of slavery, and then of the Ku Klux Klan, were to be found in the churches themselves, beginning with such celebrated abolitionist ministers as the Reverend Theodore Parker and Henry Ward Beecher.
Though NPR has had hosts and guests who allude to Islam, those hosts, and those guests, almost without exception, are well-versed graduates of the Taqiyya and Tu-Quoque schools or, as the taxonomically-minded rhetoricians would say, suppressio veri and suggestio falsi. Those with degrees in Taqiyya insist on focusing on that “handful of extremists,” and “radical Islamists” who, of course, have nothing to do with “the real Islam,” the “peaceful, tolerant Islam” practiced by “the vast majority of moderate Muslims.” Graduates of the Tu-Quoque Academy (whose diplomas are still written in Latin) like to refer airily to “fundamentalists on all sides” who pose an equal threat to one another, and how important it is to “rein in the crazies” that “every society” and “every religion” throws up. But now, at least one invited guest commentator on NPR has suggested that things need to be taken one step further, and the word “Jihad” be dispensed with altogether. And should that step be taken, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men will not be able to put NPR together again.
–Hugh Fitzgerald, JihadWatch