04 January 2010

Crossroads: Al-Qaeda Should Never Cloud the Legitimacy of Peaceful Muslims

The world's majority of Muslims think that AQ violent jihad is ignorant and wrong as shown here and here and here. I and we at Al-Sahwa whole-heartedly agree.

So too does Leah Farrall, former Senior Counterterrorism Intelligence Analyst with the Australian Federal Police and current author of the blog All Things Counterterrorism, who recently shared John L. Esposito's article on what the majority of Muslims really think about terrorism. It is in response to Tom Friedman's article in the NY Times, 15 December 2009.

Here is the Friedman article, 8 July 2005, Esposito references.

As I have said previously, dialogue of this nature must be well-balanced in understanding the way things are (i.e. threat of radicalization process). We need to maintain binding relationships in order to continually disrupt, dismantle, and defeat AQ, as civic and communal dialogue is part of the systematic CT, COIN strategy.


  1. A sad fact is that even with the majority on their side, the moderate Muslim communities don't seem to have the sheer political power that the militant or pro-militant groups do. The media pays far more attention to statements from terrorists, the Western middle classes don't even stop to think of the moderate majority, and in Muslim nations peaceful Muslim parties don't seem to have much luck.
    The question isn't "does the majority of the global Muslim community support terrorist groups?" We already know the answer to that. The question is "how can the Muslim community and their non-Muslim counterparts work together to weaken terrorism", and for the life of me I still can't find an answer.

  2. Friedman, given the timing, probably penned this column after imbibing too much Riesling at the NYT holiday party. Still, no excuse.

    I can't get over this sentence: "What is really scary is that this violent, jihadist minority seems to enjoy the most “legitimacy” in the Muslim world today."

    By the way, your link to Friedman's column above directs to the an article Esposito references, but not Friedman's latest.

  3. Far be it from me to defend Tom Friedman, but taking John Esposito seriously is a bit much. He is a paid propagandist for the Saudis (look at the funding for his Center for Muslim Christian Understanding), and he is also an apologist for jihadis. Here's what he told NPR after a Hamas suicide bombing:

    “Most Muslims, when they use the word jihad, use it in a very generic sense. They mean the struggle to do God’s will, and so for example a Muslim will use the term the way Jews and Christians and other believers do, that one has to struggle to be good ... People will talk about a jihad to clean up the town, a jihad for a literacy campaign, a jihad against AIDS.”
    (All Things Considered, May 18,1994)

    So according to Esposito, jihad is benign! Yes I know about the greater Jihad and the lesser Jihad, but I also know that to most Muslims, Islamic Jihad and Zawahiri are more authentic and believeable on this subject than John Esposito.

  4. Gyre, your comments are poignant and I must think them over more. I will surely answer tomorrow.

    1. LMD, I think Friedman was concerned enough (from his perspective) to offer a solution to the recent rise in radicalization: a) Zazi, b) Hasan, c) 5 Virginia men, amongst others. Perhaps he can offer further insight now in response to the Christmas attack.

    2. 11 days later, 26 December 2009, Tara Bahrampour of The Washington Post published an article entitled, "Muslim leaders try to counter radicals' influence on youth." She highlights the need for "stronger integration of young American Muslims in the United States [to] help immunize them against the disaffection that leads to extremism." A "social network" is called for to sway children and teenagers away from internet radicalization.

    3. What struck me most about Friedman's article was his comment that only Arabs and Muslims can fight the ideas within Islam (because only Americans did so in the Civil War). This strikes against the all-inclusive, postmodern, multicultural, globalization perspective most often argued.

    First, not all Arabs are Muslim (i.e. Jordanian Christians) and not all Muslims are Arab (African-Americans).

    Second, my following point (according to Friedman) means nothing because I am neither Arab or Muslim: I disagree with the statement "If social networking programs are in place for youths, then youths will not radicalize." Jihadists use the life of the Prophet Muhammad and his hadiths (wise sayings) for justification as well as to recruit members. They offer Hasan and Abdulmutallah as examples of pious Muslims.

    Why do extremists use the Prophet Muhammad? This is why I must think more about Gyre's comments before I answer further.

  5. Anonymous,

    Thank you for your comments. I take both Friedman and Esposito seriously when attempting to generate dialogue on the issue of Islam and terrorism. Both perspectives are needed in order to have a respectable discussion.

    Please know that we analysts at Al Sahwa conduct research and analysis that is objective as well as accurate, timely, and useful. If you have such type of information on Professor Esposito - or Mr. Friedman for that matter - than please support your claims with factual data.

    To most Muslims, as I pointed to in the links above, AQ and affiliates are not more authentic than Imams, scholars, and the umma. Indeed, such terrorists disregard the jurisprudence process required when discerning the meaning and value of hadiths.

    Esposito is correct in explaining jihad as the "struggle to do God's will." AQ, amongst others, co-opt the meaning of jihad and use it ignorantly and falsely to fight with the tools of terrorism. As Bahrampour points out, we must worry for our youth.

    The proper question, as Gyre pointed out, is "how can the Muslim community and their non-Muslim counterparts work together to weaken terrorism?" I may spend my entire life trying to figure this out...

  6. Hi DP:

    I'll be happy to supply such facts about Esposito, and on some related matters in the next few days.

    But I will say re the "struggle to do God's will" that Esposito's statement is empty, because he omits the question of who defines what is God's will. Is it Esposito, or Al-Qaradhawi? Is it George Bush (Islam is a religion of peace) or Al-Awlaki?

    I shall return.

  7. Good day to you, Anonymous. Stay with me; a long response.

    As much as I would like to hear about your idea that Esposito is a propogandist or not and for whom, I am interested mostly in your thoughts on jihad. You say that Esposito says "jihad is benign!" I ask whether you yourself think so, and for what reasons for or against.

    I can not figure out, for the life of me, why you would state, "...to most Muslims, Islamic Jihad and Zawahiri are more authentic and believeable on this subject..."

    Esposito is the Founding Director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding in the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown, but he does not define jihad. Neither does Al-Qaradhawi or Bush or Al-Awlaki.

    Your question is theological in nature, and requires commentary on the historical, cultural, and religious foundations of the meaning of jihad and the contemporary co-optations of it for terrorist use - one I can not expose now but should write a book on.

    Also, your statements seem to have a postmodern lens, meaning that you question - above all else - the issue of authority. Postmodernism and proponents of it would simply use logic to deconstruct your logic: Who then, is authorized to be authorized? Such type of logic is endless and provides no solid answers but only SUBJECTIVE INTERPRETATION.

    The meaning of jihad is natural and historical; it is defined by Islamic tradition. In short, there is a process that has been in place throughout the formation of Islam that rightly defines jihad, its meaning, and its implications. This rests on a structure of jurisprudence that is hierarchical and just.

    AQ and affiliates stand outside of that structure and are unjust: they engage in offensive jihad but falsely name it defensive jihad. This is where proponents of postmoderism and multiculturalism enter sympathetic arguments of sociology, identifying that AQ and affiliates engage in jihad becasue of outside forces: i.e. "western lifestyle and/or policies" clouds their defense of identity, land, and purpose.

    AQ ought never to cloud Islam and the meaning of jihad. Please check out my follow-up post on the men who claim they "are not terrorists but jihadists."