The would-be jihadis, who found inspiration in their Holy Book of Peace
Earlier this week, it was reported that an aspiring suicide bomber and his secret wife who had a "common interest" in violent jihad have been found guilty of planning an ISIS-inspired terror attack on London after testing lethal bombs in their back garden.
Mohammed Rehman, 25, planned to blow up either Westfield shopping centre or the London Underground to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the 7/7 bombings. His jihadi dream was funded by his wife Sana Ahmed Khan, 24, who used payday loans to buy fertiliser which her husband engineered into bombs.
We are extremely fortunate that their plan was impeded before it could come to fruition, but once again we are struck by - no, ASSAULTED by - the fact that nobody is seriously considering where such an "interest" in violent jihad could have come from. Sure, the linked Daily Mail article spends A LOT of time speculating that it might be to do with drugs, boredom, etc. It even quotes a key figure in the Counter Terrorism Unit saying: "It is clear that Rehman and Khan shared a radical and violent extremist ideology. They actively accessed extremist material on the internet and used social media to develop and share their views as they prepared acts of terrorism. The removal of access to terrorist and violent extremist material on the internet is a critical element in preventing radicalisation and terrorist atrocities and we will continue to work with partners to remove such material whenever it is discovered."
And yet, buried almost ONE HUNDRED PARAGRAPHS into this immense article is a clue to a key contributor to their "radicalisation" that has nothing to do with the Internet, or drugs:
But the court heard that Khan had also underlined passages in a copy of the Koran that read: 'Slay them wherever you find them and drive them out from the places they drove you out…such is the reward of the unbelievers.'
Another marked passage read: 'Warfare if [sic - should be "is"] ordained for you though it is hateful for you. It may happen that you hate a thing that is good for you and that you love a thing that is bad for you.'
Aha! The Qur'an! Who'd have thunk it? The first passage quoted above is verse 2:191. The second is 2:216.
But surely, you will inevitably protest, they are taking these verses out of context? After all, most Muslims interpret these verses completely differently, don't they?
As for context, let's consult one of the greatest Qur'an commentaries of all time, shall we?
Abullah al-Qurtubi (d.1273) was a revered Andalusian Muslim scholar. An online Muslim bookstore says his tafsir (commentary on the Qur'an) is “one of the great classical commentaries”, and adds that Qurtubi “was a man of great modesty who disdained worldly honours and throughout his life wore the simple gown and cap of the ordinary Muslim.” An English translation of the first volume of his tafsir, by the venerated translator Aisha Bewley, was published a few years ago to great fanfare and acclaim.
Hardly an "extremist" to most Muslims, then, Qurtubi's discussion of the first quoted verse and the surrounding verses (i.e. the context) reaches the following stark conclusions:
This is a command to fight every idolater in every place...It is an unqualified command to fight without any precondition of hostilities being initiated by the unbelievers. The evidence for that is in the words of Allah, "and the din [religion] belongs to Allah alone." The Prophet said, "I was commanded to fight people until they say, 'There is no god but Allah.' The ayat [Qur'an verse] and hadith [tradition of Muhammad] both indicate that the reason for fighting is disbelief because Allah says, "until there is no more fitna," meaning disbelief in this case. So the goal is to abolish disbelief and that is clear...
If they [non-Muslims] stop and become Muslim or submit by paying jizya [poll tax signifying submission to Islamic rule] in the case of the People of the Book [Jews and Christians]. Otherwise they should be fought and they are wrongdoers and only transgress against themselves...The wrongdoers are either those who initiate fighting or those who remain entrenched in disbelief and fitna. (p.496)
With regards to the second verse, Qurtubi writes:
This means that fighting is obligatory and refers to the obligation of jihad. Allah makes it clear that He has made the trial of fighting a means to reach the Garden [of Paradise]. What is meant by fighting is fighting enemies among the unbelievers. This is known from the context. The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was not given permission to fight while he was in Mecca. When he emigrated, he was given permission to fight those idolaters who fought him and then he was given permission to fight idolaters in general...
You do hate the hardship in jihad but it is good for you in that you conquer, have victory, take booty and are rewarded and whoever dies dies a martyr. You do love peace and not fighting but it is evil for you since you will be overcome and abased and your authority lost. (pp.544-546)Qurtubi was - and remains - a greatly admired and respected authority among Muslims, and his Qur'an commentary has been widely read by Muslims around the world in many languages. He is, in other words, a MAINSTREAM Islamic scholar. Are there Muslims who will disagree with his interpretation? Sure. But the problem is that Qurtubi represents a major strand of Islamic thought that dates back centuries, and is still prominent in the Islamic world. It is, simply, orthodox Islam, NOT extremist or radical Islam.
Authorities are spending so much time looking into "the Internet" as the source of our little radicalisation problem, that they completely ignore the niqabbed elephant in the room: mainstream Islamic teaching.
Until that ends, and our law enforcement and intelligence agencies get real about this, I can guarantee there will be many more Muhammad Rehmans and Sana Ahmed Khans in the weeks, months and years to come.