Knowing The Jihadists in The West

This paper thoroughly discusses the origin and nature of Jihad, including its transformation from the religious-oriented group to being radicals and extremist. Their ideologies and missions are also discussed and how these ideologies drive them to fight fearlessly against anyone outside the sect of Jihadism. Relevant and reliable reports and studies on terrorism were also included in the paper in order to bring out the clear connection of Jihadism on terrorism especially that one that operates in the West. INTRODUCTIONThe Jihadists have been one of the most terrifying Islamic terrorist groups that spread global terror. They have been well-recognized globally after thousands of lives and million worth of properties have been destroyed during the 911 attack.

Even their fellow Muslims condemn these acts and even claim that these groups are not genuinely Muslims. While Islam promotes peace, love and unity as with the God of the Christian community, the group’s mission can never be religious-oriented. While all countries in the world desired to have freedom and achieve international peace and unity, the Jihadists do all what they can to bring the world apart. What do these radicals really aim? Why do they hate the West? Who are they and what ideologies do they fight for? All the answers lie on exploring the origin of these groups and their mission.

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In this paper, the author will try to explore the origin of Jihad and its nature. This paper also includes the analysis and studies made by respected groups and personalities in the field of global security and socio-political studies for thorough understanding of who these Jihadists are and what threat do they pose to the West and the global community. A. THE NATURE OF JIHADDuring the time of Muhammad, jihad originally meant and aimed at spreading Islam by way of a non-violent struggle. Jihad is a derivation of the Arabic words lahd or juhd which means an ability of exertion of power, and ihad, meaning exerting one’s power in repelling the enemy ( It has originally two aspects of a Muslim’s struggle: the inward spiritual struggle which is aimed at attaining a perfect faith and the outward material struggle aimed at promoting justice and the Islamic social system (R.

Wuthnow). It is the Muslim mystics called Sufis who are the known adherents of jihad as an inward spiritual struggle. The outward aspect of jihad is strongly founded on a Quranic passage that says: “command the right and forbid the wrong” (3:104, 110). The contemporary violent Jihadists are the obvious adherents of this aspect of Jihad.  Tracing from its medieval doctrine, the Encyclopedia of Politics and Religion (1998) has provided a concise and yet concrete meaning of jihad: it is generally referred to “a divinely sanctioned struggle to establish Muslim hegemony over non-Muslims as a prelude to the propagation of the Islamic faith (p.425).” In Islam, the world is divided into two basic divisions: the Dar al-Islam, which means the land of Islam where the laws of Islam are prevalent and Dar al-Harb of the land of war, where there Islamic laws are not applied and is thus considered as the nest of anarchy and immorality. Therefore, the Jihad’s mission of spreading Islam is focused on the Dar al-Harb.

Most Muslims understand that Jihad today has already been distorted and misused. The originally religious ideology of Jihad had developed into a political career of establishing Islam as the world’s religion, and that is by means of what they call “holy war”. Because of this, Jihad has been seen as synonymous with Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Even Muslim leaders are against this distorted ideology of the modern Jihadists. “It can at best be described as Jihadism as its central belief system is based on a willful misinterpretation of the Islamic concept of Jihad” (Sultan Shaheen).“Jihad, in Islamic terminology~ means to strive to one’s utmost for what to one is the noblest object on earth. There can be nothing nobler for a Muslim than the earning of God’s pleasure through making a complete submission to His Will.”- Maulana Mohammad Ali  B.

THE TRANSFORMATION OF JIHADAs has been stated earlier, Jihad originally aimed at spreading Islam in the world and by no means should it be violent as what we know Jihad today. Tracing back from the Rules on the Right Conduct of Jihad, one will conclude that Jihadists today are clearly misguided.Rules on the Right Conduct of Jihad:1.      Any war carried out against anyone, without the permission of the Imam (leader of the Islamic State) is not in anyway considered a jihad. Anyone who rejects Islam has to be warned and to be offered with a dhimmi or protected status. Such status will enable these enemies to retain communal autonomy within the Islamic state in exchange of tax payments.

Dhimmi initially applies to all Christians and Jews and but was later expanded to cover other religious organizations. Although it is true that there exist different sects of Jihadism, it should be clear that these sects genuinely foster one religious aim, and that is to spread Islam and make it the world’s only religion. The expansionist Jihad extends its mission on the rehabilitation of Muslim rebels. Non-combatants were not to be killed, nor was enemy property to be destroyed unnecessarily. The Key Personalities behind JihadismMary Habeck, one of the few persons who have thoroughly studied Jihadism, had examined the three key personalities behind the foundation and transformation of Jihadism: Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, Hassan al-Banna, and Sayyid Qutb. A theologian in the 18th century, Muhammad ibn Abd Al-Wahhab, blamed the fraying of the Ottoman Empire on retreat from true Islam (Habeck, 2006).

Al-Wahhab holds that Muslims are allowed to kill non-believers, as opposed to the true aim of tawhid where judgment of the non-believers must be left in the hands of God.  In 1928, an Egyptian leader named Hassan al-Banna founded the Muslim Brotherhood. The said brotherhood was to serve as a party whose mission is to lead in the struggle against the British occupation. He fostered the name of Jihad as a violent means of combating the enemies although Habeck said Banna shifted target from the British occupiers to the Egyptian apostates after bringing down the British enemies.

When Banna was killed in 1949, Sayyid Qutb took over the Brotherhood. Combining the missions and ideologies of the first two leaders, Qutb considered the United States and Britain as its major enemies. From the major Brotherhood branched out other jihad organizations that focus on different enemies. Hamas, who is based on Palestine focuses on attacking occupiers. Jamaat al Islamiya focuses on the tourists while Al Qaeda’s mission is to bring down the superpower United States. 2. Approaches to Understanding Jihad In order for us to understand the nature of Jihad, the concept of Jihadism and the different orientations of the Jihadists, we first need to have an understanding of the three broad approaches of the Modern Reinterpretation of Jihad:The Apologist Approach – adherents of this approach are very vocal against the concept of Jihad as a “holy war”. They argued that the Qur’an is clear about allowing war only for the reason of self-defense.

Hashmi (1998) had particularly mentioned those European Imperialist Muslims in British India, who believe that Islam should not be engaged in a war unless there is a direct threat to Islamic worship.;The Modernist Approach – Modernists are against the distortion of Quranic ethics. This approach maintains that a war can only be considered jihad only if it is for the cause of self-defense. As opposed to the concept of Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb, modernists opposed the separation of these two divisions as it is not found in the Quran. With this approach, jihad is seen as a just war with the sole purpose of repelling aggression.;The Revivalist Approach – this approach directly opposed the apologist and modernist approaches. Adherents to this approach argued that jihad must not be limited to self-defense. They are dedicated to overthrow powers that rise against Islam.

Its main mission includes replacing hypocritical Muslims with the real ones. With this approach, jihad is held synonymous with the Muslim activists’ Islamic Revolution.;C. IDEOLOGIES AND MISSION OF THE JIHADISTS“Jihadists, being radicals, believe that the non-Islamic nations are inherently corrupt and that the West in trying to take over the Islamic world” (G. Thomas).Since this paper focuses on the Jihadists in the West, the discussion on their ideologies and mission will focus on the Contemporary Jihadists, especially those operating in the Western countries. Dr. Walid Phares, the Academic Adviser to President Bush had his analysis on the real purpose of these Jihadists of spreading terrorism acts, especially in the West.

What do Jihadists really want and why do they hate the West? Phares, being engaged in the study of Jihad for about 25 years, has one straight answer: “The jihadists believe in an ideology that wants to reshape the West’s “evil world”, particularly its most liberal, secular and democratic dimensions” (The Sun, May 16, 2007). The Jihadists’ hatred of the West is evident in the 911 attack and that hatred is deeply rooted in the context of socio-political ideologies.;Mary Habeck, in his book “Knowing the Enemy: Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror” points to some aspects of the Jihadists’ ideologies that explain their hatred of the West. Jihadists hold that they are the only true believers and therefore points to the conclusion that anyone outside the sect is an unbeliever.

They also argue that those hostile unbelievers are worthy of attack since they are threats to Islam. With these beliefs, we can clearly draw a conclusion that their main argument is on the concept of governance. “The jihadists agree with fact that Islam requires political power and should run the state, but they believe that the faithful cannot wait for ideological change” (M. Habeck).

They too defensively argued that violence is the only means of creating the Caliphate, which is their ideal form of governance and leadership. With violence, they believe that it will be the most appropriate means of struggle against the unbelievers.;If we are to compare the ideologies of the Jihadists with the tenets of Islam, we will end up discovering inconsistencies with the religious foundation of Islam. These consistencies are therefore enough evidences that the Jihadists are actually undermining the genuine Islamic fundamental beliefs.

As Habeck puts it, “how the jihadists subvert the tenets of Islam.” This paper will evaluate the ideologies of modern Jihadists against the main tenets of Islam. Tawhid holds that there is only one God and has no partners; therefore to worship another god is sinful and anyone who does will be judged by God. Jihadists regard the secular’s tradition of making laws as a way of taking over the place of God as the supreme ruler. Liberalism and secularism are therefore rendered idolatry and false religion in this context.;As had been explain in the earlier discussions of this paper, Jihad originally is similar to the West’s concept of just war and this war should only be within the cause of self-defense. For the Jihadists, jihad is an individual duty. As with governance, Islam holds that laws must be inspired by Islam, especially those to be implemented in the Muslim countries.

Habeck says that Islam separates those that concern private and family life from that of the government. Jihadists however are tough on this matter. They insist that Caliphate is the only correct form of governance which is dominated by the shari’a law, which encompasses both public and private life. Caliphate form of governance does not include election and legislation procedures. The contemporary da’wa instructs Muslims to participate in the mission of converting the unbelievers to Islam. With the Jihadists, this is slightly but dangerously twisted. They promote that da’wa should be revived into convincing Muslims to become jihadists and that would mean encouraging them to fight against the unbelievers. In addition, Jihadists justify that anyone who refuses is but rightful to be killed.

This ideology encompasses both non-Muslims and their fellow Muslims. Because Britain and the United Stated are the two major adherents of liberalism, Jihadists set the highest priority of eliminating them. Bin Laden and Al Qaeda was only a portion of this mission.In Gary Thomas’ report in the VOA News Now, broadcasted on May 10, 2006 that Jihadists make use of the tactic of prioritizing its enemies. Since Jihad considers non-Jihadists to be enemies, whether they are fellow Muslims or the liberals, Jihadists have to evaluate who is the greatest enemy. After the evaluation, Britain and the United States turned out to be the greatest. They have few reasons justifying that the 911 attack is an act of heroism. First, United Stated is a center of liberalism which Jihadism is against with.

Second, the United States’ foreign policies increase their anger. This hatred, according to CIA officer Michael Scheuer, have been accumulated from the United States’ support of Israel, whom the Muslims considered one of their greatest enemies. It may have also been a result of the American forces in countries like the Afghanistan, in the Philippines, and Iraq, of which they regard as a means of controlling such territories where Islam should have the right to rule. “The jihadists also see governments of Islamic states that cooperate with the West as illegitimate, which explains in part why there have been terrorist acts in places like Saudi Arabia,” added Scheuer.

In his article in the Daily Standard (March 03, 2006) entitled “Why They Fight?” David Ross expressed his opinion that the Jihadists’ hatred of the West is not rooted on the shallow issues like that of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and their comrades aren’t simply reacting to U.S. policies. ” Sheldon Kirshner sees one deep cause of the Jihadists’ hatred of the West. Leading political analysts say that it could not be poverty because Mohammed Atta and Al Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden actually out of a well-off family. Oppressive governments neither drive them to spread terror because they too operate even in Muslim-ruled countries.   “Jihadists, be they Saudis, Iraqis, Canadians, Indonesians or Americans, are committed to the violent overthrow of the existing international system and its replacement by an all-encompassing Islamic state” (S.

Kirshner). They especially dislike the United States and Britain because these superpowers foster global peace and unity and the establishment of an international system. Jihadists see these efforts as threats to Islamic interests and so they make use of Jihad to cover for their terrorist activities.;The world should be thankful to the Muslims who do not protect their fellow Muslims. These genuine Muslims directly condemn the terrorist activities of the Jihadists because they are in the first place who understand what the true mission of Islam is. In The Canadian Jewish News, Kirshner stated that the majority of Muslims disagree with the Jihadists’ view of sacred texts and Islamic law. Despite this, jihadists hold that they hold a monopoly on the truth. For them, freedom, human rights and democracy are sinful ideas.

Advances on science, psychology and sociology are tools of the West’s treachery to Islam and the Quran. Jihadists are against the idea of liberalism, of which the West is the active advocate. They regard multiculturalism as only a mask used by the West to cover their true interest and that is to weaken Islam. Jihadists do not buy the idea that imperialism enhances economic resources but had it regarded as the West’s weapon of destroying Islam. ;D. JIHADISTS AND TERRORISM”Success in the war on terror requires understanding that it is a political and ideological struggle” (RAND). It is undoubtedly the clash of opposing ideas that any conflict and war exist. Like the Jihadists and the West, these ideas are lead to the destruction of countless lives and properties.

Both parties are willing to bring each other down to dust. The Taliban and Al- Qaeda are more than willing to sacrifice their own lives and put on much of their resources together in their quest for victory over the West. According to RAND, a privately owned corporation which lead the thorough study of the nature and operation of contemporary Global Jihadist Movement, “What inspires and sustains the global jihadist movement is an ideology that is radical and Islamist at its core, but also borrows from 20th century Western totalitarian traditions.” The group’s report has revealed four main sources of terrorist threats:Al-Qaeda, including the group’s strategy, ideology, operations, tactics, finances, changing character and possible future.

Terrorist groups that have adopted al-Qaeda’s worldview and concept of mass-casualty terrorist attacks, even if the groups are not formally part of al-Qaeda.Violent Islamist and non-Islamist terrorist and insurgent groups without known links to al-Qaeda that threaten United States interests, friends and allies. These include Hezbollah and Hamas, along with insurgencies in Iraq, the Philippines and other countries.The nexus between terrorism and organized crime, including the way terrorists and insurgents use criminal organizations and connections to finance their activities.

Such actions also tend to weaken and corrupt political and social institutions.With all these sources combined, we can conclude that Jihadists are not just ordinary enemies of peace and unity. Jihadists, as we can clearly see do not only pose threat to the future of the West and the Islamic community, but the global future of the next generation. What might be of priority today is not just the consumption of power, resources and lives to eliminate these extremists but also to ensure that the next generation will not be indoctrinated on JIhadism.

CONCLUSIONJIhadism and the Jihadist’ ideologies are deeply rooted on socio-political reasons. Aside from the conflicts with the Jews and Muslim countries, contemporary Jihadists cry for political power. Although they are Muslims, the Islamic community is not at all supportive of them because of their ideologies that are clearly opposed to the tenets of Islam. Because they do not buy to the ideas of liberalism, freedom, scientific advances, multiculturalism and the existence of international system, they hate anyone who advocates these ideas.

For many reasons, they found the United States and Britain their priority enemies. This paper also was able to dig into the roots of Jihadism and their transformation from a religious-oriented Jihadist to extremist has been explored. The exploration had included the different approaches to understanding Jihad, their original rules of right conduct, their ideologies and their missions. Finally, this paper had presented studies that revealed the evils of these groups, especially those groups like Al-Queada whose mission is to overthrow liberalism that the West promotes.


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