What is jehad after all?
By N.S. Rajaram
Jehad is the ?evil ideology? that is driving terrorism.
Muslims should take the lead in rooting out this barbarism.
A curious drama is enacted each time there is a terrorist attack: politicians and experts start praising Islam. They tell us that Islam is a noble religion, which stands for peace and compassion and abhors violence. This is what Mr. Tony Blair did immediately after the London bombings. It is now all but an obligatory ritual.
The other players in the post attack drama are Muslim leaders and academics. They voice apprehensions about the possible ?backlash? against innocent Muslims, resulting from the acts of a minority. They assure us that the terrorists are acting against the teachings of Islam.
This is soon followed by a third act, i.e., Muslim grievances?the war in Iraq, the Palestinian problem, and of course the oppression of Muslims in non-Muslim countries like Britain. The talk is always about backlash and grievances, rarely about their own responsibility in allowing fanaticism to flourish in their midst.
In all this there is an unstated assumption that the root-cause of terrorism lies outside the teachings of Islam. If that is the case, how are we to explain the fact that all the terrorist attacks?from New York to London to Bali?have one thing in common: they were perpetrated by groups acting in the name of Islam? It is hard to believe that the Bali bombings had anything to do with Iraq or Palestine.
In this drama of denial and diversion, there is always a reluctance to mention the one word that goes a long way towards explaining terrorism: Jihad. While Mr. Blair talked about an evil ideology of hate, he did not mention Jihad. Neither did the British Muslim leaders who promised full cooperation. All spoke in vague terms?about fighting ?extremism and fundamentalism? without telling us how.
At this moment of crisis, what the world needs is clarity, not obfuscation. Fortunately, we have a lucid explanation of Jihad and terrorism by one of the founding fathers of modern terrorism, the late General Zia-ul-Haq, former president of Pakistan. He sponsored one Brigadier Malik to produce an authoritative military manual on Jihad. It is called The Quranic Concept of War.
The other players in the post attack drama are Muslim leaders and academics. They voice apprehensions about the possible ?backlash? against innocent Muslims, resulting from the acts of a minority.
In his laudatory foreword to the book, General Zia wrote: ?The book brings out with simplicity, clarity and precision the Quranic philosophy on the application of the military force, within the context of the totality that is Jehad.?
Indeed it does. Brigadier Malik writes, ?The Holy Prophet'soperations ?are an integral and inseparable part of the divine message revealed to us in the Holy Quran. ? The war he planned and carried out was total to the infinite degree. It was waged on all fronts: internal and external, political and diplomatic, spiritual and psychological, economic and military.?
Another point made by the author is that the war should be carried out in the opponent'sterritory. ?The aggressor was always met and destroyed in his own territory.? The ?aggressor? is anyone who stands in the way of Jihad.
Where does terrorism come in the picture? ?The Quranic military strategy thus enjoins us to prepare ourselves for war to the utmost in order to strike terror into the heart of the enemy, known or hidden??
It doesn'tstop here, for Brigadier Malik assures us: ?Terror struck into the hearts of the enemy is not only a means, it is the end in itself. Once a condition of terror into the opponent'sheart is obtained, hardly anything is left to be achieved? Terror is not a means of imposing decision upon the enemy; it is the decision we wish to impose upon him.? (Original emphasis.)
That is to say, the enemy should be made to live in a state of perpetual terror. We should be grateful to Brigadier Malik and the late General Zia-ul-Haq for spelling it out with such clarity. We no longer need to grope in the dark to identify this ?evil ideology of hate? in Mr. Blair'spicturesque phrase.
Though little known in the West, The Quranic Concept of War is widely studied in Islamic countries. It has been translated into several languages including Arabic and Urdu (the official language of Pakistan). Indian soldiers have recovered Urdu versions of the book from the bodies of slain militants.
It is no coincidence that the trail of terrorism today should lead to General Zia. By making Jihad the centrepiece of Pakistan'spolitics he ensured that Jihadi thinking would dominate all aspects of Pakistani politics in both domestic and foreign affairs. Nor is it a coincidence that every terrorist attack, including the latest in London, points to Jihadi training camps in Pakistan.
In the face of this, Mr. Blair'sactions in the days following the London blasts are not reassuring. Plans to deport all known Muslim fanatics allowed into Britain will accomplish little. Islamic terror is increasingly becoming home grown and will be more so in the future. What is needed is a method of combating indoctrination of young Muslim minds on English soil.
The so-called ?blasphemy law? recently passed by the House of Commons is a knee-jerk reaction to pressure from Muslim groups. It will only shield Islam from honest review and criticism that the situation now demands. It is just a step removed from allowing Islamic courts and an Islamic thought police to function. This is what one expects in countries like Saudi Arabia, not Britain.
What is needed now is the exact opposite of such censorship: a free debate over all aspects of Islamic teachings and practices, especially Jihad. After all, Christianity and Hinduism, the other two major religions of Britain, enjoy no such immunity. Nor have they asked for it.
Muslim leaders need to go beyond condemning violence and voicing grievances. They need to root out this evil from within their ranks. If they are really sincere about fighting terrorism, they should come out openly against the barbarism that is Jihad, and not hide behind vague statements about extremism and fanaticism. Mere lip service will not do.
(The author is a mathematician and historian of science. He lives in Oklahoma City and Bangalore, India.)