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[infowar.de] NEW YORK POST, Wall Street Journal
Islam and War
by Amir Taheri
New York Post
February 16, 2003
ALMOST all religions regard war as, at best, a failure of men's will, or, at
worst a punishment for their sins. Nevertheless, all religions accept war as
a fact of existence. In Christianity, war was initially regarded as part of
the Caesar's realm, and thus as indefensible on religious grounds. But that
was before Christianity had become the official religion of the Roman Empire
under Constantine the Great.
To get out of a theological tight corner, Christians developed the concept of
"the just war" which, in practice, meant any war that they supported. An
entire edifice was built on a slender conceptual structure left by Saint
Augustine: A just war is one that is willed by God.
The thorny question of how that will is assessed, and by whom, was left to
Saint Thomas Aquinas who, always keen to baptize Aristotle, dug into the old
Greek master for philosophical succor.
The conditions that Aquinas developed for his "just war," however, are so
multifarious and complex as to render it virtually impossible. It was,
perhaps, to escape those conditions that Aquinas' less talented successors
developed a new concept, that of holy war, which was used as the ideological
backbone of the Crusades.
What about Islam? Unfortunately, the current media debate is based on what
one could describe as a "Christian reading" of Islam.
MOST of the articles published on the subject in the Western press these days
draw on three recent "Islamic" sources: The Pakistani journalist Abul Ala
Maudoodi, the Egyptian militant Sayyed Qutb and the Iranian sociologist Ali
Shariati - who are supposed to have redefined the concept of "jihad" as the
Islamic version of "holy war."
The three individuals mentioned, of course, had a strictly "Christian"
reading of Islam. This does not mean that they sympathized with Christianity
as a faith or even as a culture. What it means is that they tried to
understand Islam through the prism of Christian terminology. Maudoodi was
deeply influenced by Locke and Hume. Qutb was overwhelmed by his sporadic
reading of Rebatet and Bernanos. Shariati was a pupil of Gurvoitch and a
critical-admirer of Fanon. All three regarded Islam primarily as a political
ideology rather than a belief system. They would, thus, not hesitate to
refashion that ideology to suit their political agenda.
Maudoodi made this clear when he stated that one of his principal tasks was
to "discover" the Muslim equivalents of Christian concepts. "We have the
concepts but not the etymology," he wrote. "It is our task to find the words
needed to describe what exists in our own faith." Thus he took such Western
Christian words as "ideology," "party," "imperialism," and even "political"
and "universal," to come up with a new reinterpretation of Islam.
What he did not realize was that if Islam did not have the etymology, it was
because it did not need it.
Maudoodi, Qutb, Shariati and countless lesser imitators of their method tried
to redefine Islam with a vocabulary that they had borrowed from the Christian
West. Their method was identical to that of Muslim-born Communists who used a
Marxian vocabulary to reinterpret Islamic history.
MANY Western commentators have welcomed the "Christianized" reinterpretation
of Islam because they find it more accessible to their own understanding. In
Christianity, holiness is widely shared. Matrimony, which is a form of
contract in Islam, is "holy" in Christianity. There are thousands of "holy
saints" in Christianity, and many more "holy places," but none of those in
Thus it is now virtually impossible to persuade the Western "Islamologists"
that Maudoodi, Qutb and Shariati are wrong and that jihad is not the Islamic
form of "holy war."
It is even more difficult to make them understand that in Islam only God is
holy (one of His appellations is al-Quddus), and that using the adjective to
describe anyone or anything else is a form of association (sherk) and thus a
Such terms as "holy shrines," "holy cities," and "holy land" are oxymoronic
in Islam. Mecca is only described as "al-Mukarramah" ("the generous"), while
Medina's adjective is "al-Munawaarah" ("the luminous"). And Jerusalem is the
location of al-Haram al-Sharif ("the noble precinct"). Thus, "holy war" is an
oxymoron par excellence.
IT is interesting that Maudoodi, Qutb and Shariati, who borrow heavily from
Western philosophers, never mention any of the classical Muslim sources on
the subject of jihad in general and war in particular.
Islam does not treat war as an abstract philosophical category. Regarded as
one of the forms of human activity, it is subjected to the same basic rules
that apply to man's behavior in general. It is assessed by taking into
account the intention, the method of application and the results.
Abdallah Ibn Mubarak Khorassani, who wrote the first Muslim treatise on war
in the 8th century, makes that point abundantly clear. It was not enough to
declare jihad, and pretend that a war is just, for it to become so.
Malik Ibn Anas, also writing in the 8th century, admitted that war might
become a necessity, but insisted on subjecting to stringent rules at all its
stages. One point he made clear was that Islam does not consider any war as
Another classical Muslim writer, Muhammad Ibn Idris al Isfahani, writing in
the 9th century, rejected the idea of war as a generic category. Each
individual battle that had to be judged separately to determine its justness
or otherwise. Thus there is no single overarching rule that applies to all
battles in Islam's history, from Uhud to the battle of Varna in 1444 and
passing by the sack of Rome in 846.
The wars in which the Prophet himself was present are regarded as a separate
category, known as al-maghazi al-nabi. But even then there is no attempt at a
narrow categorization. Each battle had its own specific rules, and is
ultimately judged on its own merits.
MORE importantly, al-Isfahani showed that war was a minor activity that a
believer would undertake when and if necessary and then only for the period
needed. This is why there were no standing armies in Islam until it was
Byzantanized by the Umayyads and Persianized by the Abbasids. Most of the
great Muslim warriors of the classical era were ordinary citizens,
businessmen, farmers, artisans and physicians. Nor does Islam glorify war.
Almost all major streets at the center of Paris, and many other great Western
cities, are named after war leaders. This was never the case in the great
Islamic cities of the classical times. (With the coming of Western
ideologies, some Muslim regimes imitated that nasty habit.)
Elevating war into a cult is strictly un-Islamic. Ibn Athir was the first
Muslim to notice how religion was exploited as an ideology by the Christian
Crusaders, and warned Muslims against "becoming like them."
Imad al-Din Isfahani, who served as Saladin's secretary, was scandalized by
what he saw as the Crusaders' "cult of war."
He wrote: "Wanting their fame to be on every lip, these men deemed every
means of war to be permissible, indeed sacred. They took liberties with human
souls and claimed license for their deeds, as Satan blurred their vision."
Isfahani found it "strange" that a pope or a bishop could issue an edict
bestowing "sanctity" on a war. No one in Islam had the authority to break all
rules and transgress all limits in such a fashion.
UNTIL the 19th century when the world of Islam began to be influenced by
Western modes of thought, the typical Muslim folk hero was a scholar, a
philosopher or a poet - not a warrior.
When Muslim warriors tried to achieve recognition, they camouflaged their
military aspect behind a spiritual identity. The ghazi would be presented
also as a Sufi. And a rabat, which was a logistical point for war, would be
transformed into a center for religious meditation.
Contrary to Western images of Islam, the conquest of territory or the
imposition of political rule have never been the primary goals of Muslim
wars. The principal goal has been the spread of the True Faith.
But even then, history shows that Islam's victories through proselytizing far
exceed its territorial conquests. Today, Islam has no chance of winning any
territory by force. (In fact, it has difficulty holding its own territory).
But it is still winning more adherents each year than any other religion.
When Muslims won territory, they did not force anyone to submit to Islam by
force. Assad Ibn Furat, the Khorasani general who conquered Sicily in the 9th
century, put it this way: The sword can win the land, but the heart can be
won only by faith, iman."
TO sum up: No war is either holy or just in Islam. War is allowed if it is
waged in defense of the faith, against a tyrant (taghut) or to rescue a
Muslim people from repression by infidels.
But even then the rules, and the limits (hoddod), that apply to all actions,
apply to war: The intention must be pure, the method must not be excessive,
the change must not be worse than the status quo.
On that basis, the wars against Milosevic in Kosovo and the Taliban in
Afghanistan could be regarded as permissible, though neither holy nor just.
What about the looming war in Iraq?
The rules are clear. Each must make his judgment.
The War on Terror Won't End in Baghdad
by Michael A. Ledeen
Wall Street Journal
September 4, 2002
Now that we are set to have our great debate on the war against terrorism, it
seems it will be the wrong debate.
By all indications, the discussion will be about using our irresistible
military might against a single country in order to bring down its leader. We
should instead be talking about using all our political, moral and military
genius to support a vast democratic revolution to liberate all the peoples of
the Middle East from tyranny. That is our real mission, the essence of the
war in which we are engaged, and the proper subject of our national debate.
A Terrible Evil
Saddam Hussein is a terrible evil, and President Bush is entirely right in
vowing to end his reign of terror. But this is not just a war against Iraq,
it is a war against terrorist organizations and against the regimes that
foster, support, arm, train, indoctrinate and command the terrorist legions
who are clamoring for our destruction. There are four such regimes: in Iran,
Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia.
These are the true terror masters and they have two common denominators: All
actively support terrorism and all are tyrannies. They do not all rest on
religious fanaticism; Saddam, for example, has quite low religious standing,
having come to power as a secular socialist, and the Assad family
dictatorship has similar origins. Nor are they all Arabs; The Iranians still
call themselves Persians. They share a common hatred for the Western world
and unconcealed contempt for their own peoples. It's no accident that they
work together in places like the Syrian-dominated Bekaa Valley in Lebanon
with the terrorists of al Qaeda, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad.
Contrary to much of the conventional wisdom, this war is not new in any
meaningful sense. Indeed, it is a very traditional sort of war, one at which
the U.S. has always excelled: It is a war against tyrants and in the name of
freedom. Our greatest weapon in this war is the people oppressed by
tyrannical regimes. They constitute a lethal dagger aimed at the hearts of
their rulers. And knowing this, the tyrants fear us.
Despite all the talk about growing anti-Americanism in the Middle East, we
inspire their people. We inspired the Iraqis at the end of the Gulf War to
rise up against Saddam, only to be abandoned by the American leaders of that
unhappy time. We inspired the Iraqis again when we supported the democratic
Iraqi National Congress in Northern Iraq until the mid-1990s, only to abandon
them again. We inspire the Iranian people today -- there have been nearly
constant demonstrations against the Tehran regime over the past year. There
were also deeply moving pro-American demonstrations on Sept. 11, and again on
July 4 of this year.
If we come to Baghdad, Damascus and Tehran as liberators, we can expect
overwhelming popular support. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld put it
well the other day when he encouraged his media questioners to think about
the people in such places as prisoners, not as free men and women. They will
join us if they believe we are serious, and they will only believe we are
serious when they see us winning. Our first move must therefore show both our
power and our liberating intent.
Of the four terrorist tyrannies, Iran seems the easiest to liberate. The
president has eloquently described the circumstances there: The Iranian
people have clearly and repeatedly demonstrated their desire to be rid of
their self-appointed rulers. They deserve our support just as did the
Yugoslavs in their desire to be rid of the Milosevic tyranny. We must support
them as we supported the Solidarity free trade union in Poland in their
desire to be rid of communist tyranny and as we supported the Filipino people
in their desire to be rid of the Marcos tyranny.
We know how to do it: broadcasting the truth and funding others who do the
same, denouncing the oppression, defending the political prisoners by name,
encouraging private American and international organizations to provide
money, communications and guidance to the people on the ground. As serious
political thinkers like Peter Ackerman keep reminding us, politically savvy
and nonviolent internal resistance movements have brought down several
tyrannical regimes in the recent past. There is every reason to believe the
same can be accomplished quite rapidly in Iran, where such a movement already
The fall of the mullahs in Tehran would dramatically change the Middle East
and give us an extremely potent political weapon against the surviving terror
masters. We could then address the Muslims of the world: Islamic extremism
has now been attempted in both its versions, the Sunni in Afghanistan and the
Shiite in Iran. Both failed on all counts. They wrecked the countries, earned
the hatred of the people, and fell to the West. Such will be the destiny of
all those who emulate them. It is exactly the message we want to send to
those tempted by the likes of Hezbollah and al Qaeda.
With a triumph in Iran, the democratic revolution would quickly gain allies
in Syria and Iraq, and transform our war against Saddam Hussein from a
primarily military operation to a war of national liberation against a hated
regime. We should first recognize the democratic Iraqi opposition as the
legitimate government of the country, and call upon the Iraqi people to leave
Saddam's territory to find freedom in the zones we control in the north and
south of the country. It is hard to imagine that Saddam could long resist
such a massive challenge to his authority, and our military power would do
This strategy, or something like it, should be adopted even if we decide to
begin the war with Saddam Hussein. And just as a successful democratic
revolution in Iran would inspire the Iraqis to join us to remove Saddam, it
is impossible to imagine that the Iranian people would tolerate tyranny in
their own country once freedom had come to Iraq. Syria would follow in short
order. (Bashar Assad's fear of his own people was once again demonstrated
last week, when he rounded up three of his muted critics on the usual charges
of unpatriotic behavior.)
Once the terror regimes are brought down, we will be obliged to play an
active role to ensure that we do not simply replace one dictator with
another, as the CIA has so often proposed. We must remember that the defeat
of the fascists in World War II was only half the mission of that great
American generation. The other half was purging Germany and Japan of those
still loyal to, or tempted by, the old order and training, defending and
supporting the fledgling democrats until the rules of a free society were
assimilated into the national cultures.
The Saudi terror masters are somewhat different from the others, for there
are pro-Western, antiterrorist elements within the royal family who will
almost certainly gain strength once the tyrants fall in Baghdad, Damascus and
Tehran. The destruction of the tyrants will also gravely weaken the
attraction of the wildly extremist Wahhabi doctrines now in vogue, and the
liberation of Iran, Iraq and Syria will greatly encourage liberal forces
within the kingdom, some of whom, like the son of the former oil czar, Sheikh
Yamani, are even now openly calling for a considerable democratization of the
It will be objected that this mission is too ambitious, and that prudence
requires us to move carefully, one case at a time, all the while mending our
diplomatic fences with friends, allies and undecideds. But the prudent
strategy is actually more dangerous and thoroughly unrealistic. Moving step
by step gives the surviving terror masters time to mount a counterattack --
time they would use to develop the weapons of mass destruction that rightly
concern us, and give urgency to our cause.
Thus the greater danger. And the long period of dawdling since the fall of
the Taliban has given the terror masters the opportunity to develop a
collective strategy. Military leaders, intelligence chieftains and wily
diplomats have flown incessantly between the three capitals. They have
exchanged plans, weapons, communications gear and many promises. Iran, Iraq
and Syria are now bundled; an armed attack against any one of them will
provoke them all, which is yet another reason to begin with Iran. There is
little that Saddam or Assad can do to defend the mullahs against the
righteous wrath of the Iranian people.
A Just War
This war cannot be limited to national theaters; we face a regional challenge
and must respond accordingly. But it is both a just war and one for which we
are marvelously well suited.
We are the one truly revolutionary country on earth, which is both the reason
for which we were attacked in the first place and the reason we will
successfully transform the lives of hundreds of millions of people throughout
the Middle East. God willing, our national debate will drive home the true
dimensions of this mission, and strengthen our resolve to see it through to
Essentials of war reporting
by Arnaud de Borchgrave
January 14, 2003
Once upon a time citizenship and loyalty mattered. There was also a time when
the job of war correspondents was to report the news, not make it. Even in
Vietnam, a conflict seen as purposeless by most reporters, they were still as
American as those they were reporting on. Now, the latest generation of
journalists covering conflict says it must remain neutral and therefore
should not wear camo (camouflage combat fatigues). That way, presumably, they
can play the role of umpire when American and Iraqi troops duke it out in the
Today, when CNN prides itself on being a global news organization without a
country and therefore loyal to no one in particular, neutrality on the
battlefield has become the better part of valor. The International Herald
Tribune, once America's voice abroad, became the bifurcated progeny of its
sole owner, the New York Times, on Jan. 1, and quickly dropped any pretense
of neutrality. It has become a global voice of anti-Bush dissent with elite
readers in some 200 countries and territories.
As the U.S. is about to go to war against Iraq, it might be useful to pass on
a few tips of what worked best for their elders. The simplest and easiest way
to report on U.S. troops in battle was to wear the same fatigues as U.S.
soldiers. Reporters didn't hit the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944, in a
combination of civilian and military clothes, hoping German gunners would
recognize them as neutral observers. They were indistinguishable from GIs
except for cameras and notebooks instead of weapons.
In the Vietnam War, as in the Korean conflict, military dress was de rigueur.
Vietnam was the first of these wars without censorship. Battle-dressed war
correspondents between 1965 and 1975, unhampered by censorship, didn't pull
any critical punches because they wore camo. Media critics of the U.S. war
effort were already in Vietnam covering U.S. military advisers attached to
South Vietnamese units when the first U.S. Marines arrived, ordered ashore by
President Lyndon Johnson.
In Vietnam, reporters were not only obligated to wear military fatigues in
the field, but certain units would not accept to take us into combat with so
much as a small white triangle of T-shirt showing below the neck. It would
only help an enemy sniper draw a bead. T-shirts had to be olive-drab or
khaki. But we were free to hitch rides on military flights to anywhere in
South Vietnam and once there to hop onto a chopper on its way to resupply a
unit under fire and to medevac the first casualties. And there was never any
doubt whose side we were on irrespective of how we felt about the larger
The International Press Institute in Switzerland once complained because the
Marine unit we were covering was ambushed on the top of a hill just south of
the demilitarized zone and four reporters were issued cases of grenades that
we threw as fast as we could pull the pins. The ordeal lasted 36 hours. The
alternative was to stand up as mortar shells exploded all around our hastily
dug foxholes and shout "Bao Chi" (Press). Which is what those who had never
heard a shot fired in anger said we should have done during the "Battle for
Grenada and Panama produced a new generation of combat reporters with little,
if any, military experience. Anxious not to be mistaken for combatants, they
prided themselves on civilian dress. One black reporter in Panama complained
bitterly about being detained in a U.S. barracks overnight. He was wearing a
red shirt with tan slacks. Had he been wearing camo, with his name sown on
above his right breast pocket and the name of his organization above the left
one, chances are he would not have been arrested and would have been allowed
to move freely - at his own risk, of course.
Embedded with the 101st Airborne in Kandahar, Afghanistan, UPI reporter
Richard Tomkins, one of the few journalists in camo, was vehemently upbraided
by a colleague in civvies. Mr. Tomkins was told he had to be neutral and that
by wearing camo he was endangering the safety of every other reporter in the
country. Mr. Tomkins returned verbal fire by telling him that he was putting
his own life at risk by standing out among camo-wearing soldiers and possibly
being popped by a sniper.
Military dress in the field enables war correspondents to fit in
inconspicuously and establish a rapport with the combatants. As a veteran of
18 wars - plus one in which I served for four years - I frequently used the
camos of other nations when civilian dress would have stopped me at the first
military roadblock. In 1967, I covered the Six-Day War on the Israeli side.
Life magazine's Bill Wise and this reporter, mistaken for Israeli reservists
rejoining their frontline units, were waved through half a dozen roadblocks
until we caught up with the lead tank in an Israeli column south of Jenin.
Once there, the Israeli captain, under orders to send journalists back to
division headquarters, clearly wanted us to measure for ourselves the speedy
success of the Israeli offensive.
In the October 1973 war, we were on the Egyptian side, in Egyptian camo
purchased in the Cairo souks, and again made it all the way across the Canal
with the lead Egyptian unit (that later got clobbered by Gen. Ariel Sharon's
lightning counteroffensive). In civilian dress, we would not have made it
beyond the outskirts of Cairo.
On the south side of Tora Bora inside Pakistan a year ago, lying in wait for
escaping "Afghan Arabs," our UPI party of three traveled on rickety local
jitneys, dressed in camez shalwar with pancake hats, and passed several
military roadblocks inside the forbidden tribal zone unchallenged.
For today's aspiring war correspondents, camo alone won't always do the
trick. In combat fatigues, both sexes must try to blend in with (1) short
hair; (2) a military bearing when walking from place to place; (3) no
slouching; (4) no beer bellies for the men; (5) knowing the difference
between incoming (hit the deck) and outgoing (no flinching) fire; (6) in the
field, always walking a respectable distance behind the soldier in front of
you, never to his side. Remember you are not paid to be the first to set off
a booby trap or an anti-personnel mine.
During Desert Shield in 1990, as the editor-in-chief of The Washington Times,
I had assigned four reporters to cover the coming Gulf war. The daily refrain
was invariably a complaint about not being able to go anywhere without a U.S.
military escort. I then decided to see if my own experience and MO might not
get me to the Iraqi border sans escort.
Arranging for an interview with President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo on Jan. 15,
I persuaded the Egyptian head of state to get me accredited to the Egyptian
army. Outfitted with Egyptian camo, webbing belt with two canteens, chemical
protection gear, I landed at King Khaled Military City near the tri-border
area (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq) on Jan. 18, the day after the war started.
As luck would have it, there was no one to meet me and, in a borrowed Saudi
military 4x4, I had the run of the entire battlefield for a week, which
included drop-in visits to British, French, Czech, Egyptian, Syrian units and
interviews with the first seven Iraqi deserters. My disguise even worked with
a U.S. unit because of the Egyptian accreditation document.
So bluff is a key ingredient to war reporting. But camo is an essential
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