Monday, 18 April 2016

The Middle East Eye: Blind to the Truth About Jihad (Part 2)

The Middle East Eye's disingenuous recent article "When is it permissible to fight in Islam?" continues to conflate jihad as a method of establishing Islamic political rule around the world with the overly simplistic idea of forced conversion.

As I noted at the end of the last part of this rebuttal, the Qur'an does in fact allow for the forced conversion of pagans and polytheists (basically anyone apart from Jews and Christians, who as "People of the Book" get the special privilege of merely being subjugated instead of killed), in its notorious Verse of the Sword (9:5). It is remarkable, therefore, when the author of the MEE piece cites another Islamic apologist, Fazlur Rahman, who claims: "There is no single parallel in Islamic history to the forcible conversion to Christianity...en masse carried out by Charlemagne...although, of course, isolated cases of such conversions may have taken place."

What an outrageous falsehood this is! The entire history of Islamic conquest and rule in India is one long chronicle of mass forced conversion, with some 80 million Hindus having fallen victim to the Muslim sword between 1000 and 1525 AD. Constant similar outrages were perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire, as one expert on the region notes:

The writings of the Turkish poet and prince Danishmend Ahmet Gazi, founder of one of the strongest Turkoman principalities in Eastern Turkey, indicate that conversion of Christians by the sword was common. In many instances prisoners as well as inhabitants of conquered territories were given the choice of either conversion or death. In the course of his campaign against the city of Comana, Malik Danishmend was determined either to convert the inhabitants or to massacre them. After the capture of Comana, the populace opted for conversion rather than extermination. The citizens of Euchaita faced the same dilemma. When Malik conquered the city, he offered its inhabitants the choice of death or Islamization. The same Turkish poet relates that in one city, nearly 5,000 people accepted Islam, while a similar number of its inhabitants were put to the sword.

The author of the MEE piece clearly doesn't know any of this - or at least doesn't want us to know it - and so he tries to beguile us with the fact that the Qur'an says "There is no compulsion in matters of faith" (2:256). Which is all well and good, but doesn't magically rule out the command to "slay the polytheists wherever you find them" (9:5), and also still allows the forceful spread and implementation of Islam as a POLITICAL SYSTEM as enunciated by the likes of Sayyid Qutb, without forcing anyone to convert.

We are then treated to a paragraph about the idea of jihad as a kind of "just war" to extirpate injustice and oppression:

Nevertheless, several modern authors hold that the idea of jihad as bellum justum can clearly be traced in classical Islamic texts. In this respect, those scholars refer to Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406), who distinguishes between hurub jihad wa-adl (wars of jihad and justice) and hurub baghy va fitna (wars of sedition and persecution).

Left untouched in all of this is any discussion of what Ibn Khaldun actually said about jihad as an offensive institution. Here is what the great Muslim historian and social scientist wrote in his Muqaddimah, summarising centuries of pre-existing orthodox Islamic thought:

In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universality of the [Muslim] mission and the obligation to convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force...The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty for them, save only for purposes of defense...Islam is under obligation to gain power from other nations.

Kind of confirms everything I've been saying up until now, doesn't it?

Next the author quotes Qur'an 5:32, "Whoever kills a person [unjustly] is as though he has killed all mankind", which is such a tired argument, and was dealt with definitively by me recently enough, that I am not going to waste time debunking it yet again here. Anyone who finds this argument remotely compelling needs to go here and get a reality check.

Next up, this: "In addition, Muslims are also urged to avoid inflicting harm on animals, plants or generally the civilian infrastructure of those they are fighting."

It is true that many of these inhibitions have been incorporated into Islamic legal theory, but this is hardly universal. For example, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (d.1111), a Muslim philosopher and legal theorist, and a renowned spiritual authority, wrote the following about jihad (emphasis mine):

One must go on jihad (i.e. warlike razzias or raids) at least once a may use catapults against them [non-Muslims] when they are in a fortress, even if among them are women and children. One may set fire to them and/or drown them...If a person of the ahl al-kitab [People of the Book] is enslaved, his marriage is automatically revoked...One may cut down their trees...One must destroy their useless books. Jihadists may take as booty whatever they decide...they may steal as much food as they need... 

Similarly, the fourteenth-century Spanish Muslim jurist Ibn Hudayl wrote:

It is permissible to set fire to the lands of the well as to cut down his trees, to raze his cities, in a word, to do everything that might ruin and discourage him...[being] suited to hastening the Islamisation of that enemy or to weakening him. Indeed, all this contributes to a military triumph over him or to forcing him to capitulate.

The self-contradiction about wanton destruction among Islamic scholars most likely stems from the example of Muhammad, who was himself inconsistent on this matter. Although apologists frequently cite various hadiths in which Muhammad forbids wanton destruction in war, they rarely mention his own violation of this rule, and Allah's endorsement of this violation. The hadith record that during the Muslim siege of the Jewish Banu Nadir tribe, the Prophet of Islam ordered that the date palms of the Nadir be burned (Muslim b.19, no.4326). The Nadir Jews, surprised, asked him: “Muhammad, you have prohibited wanton destruction and blamed those guilty of it. Why then are you cutting down and burning our palm-trees?” Allah justified Muhammad’s action in a revelation that can be found in the Qur'an: "Whatsoever palm-trees ye cut down or left standing on their roots, it was by Allah's leave, in order that He might confound the evil-livers." (59:5). This incident, and accompanying verse, have been used ever after as a justification for similar behaviour by subsequent generations of jihadists.

It is clear from all of the above, and from the analysis provided in the previous part of this rebuttal, that the Muslim author of the Middle East Eye piece is either woefully unqualified to speak accurately about the subject on which he writing, or that he is being massively dishonest with the publication's readers about the real issues affecting Islamic jihad terrorism around the world today.

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