Hamza Tzortzis – The Quran, Jihad And The Causes of Terrorism

In the second part of this exclusive feature on Jihad and terrorism, Hamza Tzortzis discusses Jihad in Quranic discourse, the objectives of Jihad and the causes of terrorism.

The Qur’an discusses fighting and Jihad, the language used is emotive and can be seen as aggressive. However, the intended effect of these verses in the Qur’an are meant to evoke action, therefore in the context of fighting and war, the Qur’an would not say “Tickle their toes” or “Give them flowers”. What must also be realised is that the language is couched in restraining expressions such as “…and God does not love the transgressors” and “…be mindful of God” [14] thus instilling an awareness of God in such actions and to remind that the essence of Jihad is to remove oppression.

In the Qur’an, Jihad is a noble concept that is considered as a mercy from God. Without it there would be no mechanism to protect Muslims and Non-Muslims, remove oppression and implement justice. In today’s reality of death and destruction, due to oppressive western foreign policy, some people argue that this concept needs to be revived to today. [15]

The objectives of Jihad

U.S. Brig. General William Looney’s following statement is an apt description of Western foreign policy: “If they turn on the radars we’re going to blow up their goddamn SAMs (surface-to-air missiles).They know we own their country. We own their airspace… We dictate the way they live and talk. And that’s what’s great about America right now. It’s a good thing, especially when there’s a lot of oil out there we need.” [16]

Whereas the Islamic view describes another paradigm: “And what is the matter with you that you fight not in the cause of Allah and for the oppressed among men, women and children who say, ‘Our Lord, take us out of this city of oppressive people and appoint for us from Yourself a protector and appoint for us from Yourself a helper’?” [17]

The Pakistani army which is one of the biggest in the Muslim world receives huge military funding from the US.
The Pakistani army which is one of the biggest in the Muslim world receives huge military funding from the US.

Everyone wants to remove oppression and injustice. Islam does exactly that via Jihad and this can be seen in Islamic history. Contemporary pseudo-Islamic nations can not be used as a reference for Jihad and Islam as they do not implement and manifest the Islamic system. This is evident when their constitutions are analysed. It can only be concluded that Muslim world Governments implement and promote a system that is antithetical to Islam.

What, then, are the results of the Islamic foreign policy?

 

Reinhart Dozy, an authority on early Islamic Spain, explained the results of Jihad in Islamic Spain:

“…the unbounded tolerance of the Arabs must also be taken into account. In religious matters they put pressure on no man…Christians preferred their rule to that of the Franks.” [18]

Thomas Arnold, commenting on an Islamic source, states that “the Christians called down blessings on the heads of the Muslims, saying, ‘May God give you rule over us again and make you victorious over the Romans; had it been they, they would not have given us back anything, but would have taken all that remained with us.”[19]

Ulick R. Burke, a prominent historian specializing in the history of Spain, reached a similar conclusion:

“Christians did not suffer in any way, on account of their religion, at the hands of Moors…not only perfect toleration but nominal equality was the rule of the Arabs in Spain.” [20]

Adam Smith, the 18th century founding father of the modern capitalism, explains the impact of Islamic rule,

Adam Smith
Adam Smith

“The ruin of the empire of the Romans, and, along with it the subversion of all law and order, which happened a few centuries afterwards, produced the entire neglect of that study of the connecting principles of nature, to which leisure and security can alone give occasion. After the fall of those great conquerors and the civilizers of mankind, the empire of the Caliphs seems to have been the first state under which the world enjoyed that degree of tranquility which the cultivation of the sciences requires. It was under the protection of those generous and magnificent princes, that the ancient philosophy and astronomy of the Greeks were restored and established in the East; that tranquility, which their mild, just and religious government diffused over their vast empire, revived the curiosity of mankind, to inquire into the connecting principles of nature.” [21]

Bernard the Wise, a pilgrim monk, visited Egypt and Palestine in the reign of Caliph al-Mu’tazz (866-9 CE). He stated that:

“…the Christians and the Pagans [i.e. Muslims] have this kind of peace between them there that if I was going on a journey, and on the way the camel or donkey which bore my poor luggage were to die, and I was to abandon all my goods without any guardian, and go to the city for another pack animal, when I came back, I would find all my property uninjured: such is the peace there.” [22]

Reading the above, the reader must now ask “Does this sound like terrorism?”

The Cause of Terrorism

The history of terrorism and political violence demonstrates that it is cross-cultural, cross religion and is driven by a number of factors often born out of a sense of political injustice, occupation or invasion. An academic study by Professor Robert Pape, an Associate Professor at Chicago University, published in his book ‘Dying to Win: The Logic of Suicide Terrorism’ [23], demonstrates that the advent of suicide bombing is not unique to Muslims but is rather a generic human issue driven by a number of political factors rather than theological beliefs.

British soldiers in Afghanistan.
British soldiers in Afghanistan.

The study included the first complete database of every suicide attack around the world from 1980 to early 2004. The study found that:

• The world leader in suicide attacks was the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka – a Marxist, secular group.
• Two thirds of Muslim ‘suicide bombers’ have been from countries where US forces have or are still maintaining military forces.
• The presence of US forces is creating suicide attackers in Iraq which was a country that had never previously had a suicide attack in its history prior to the 2003 invasion.

According to the study, political injustice provides a possible reason for the proponents of such attacks to justify such actions. It is therefore crucial that acts of political violence are analysed as a separate issue based upon the individuals who choose to engage in them.

The Professor states,

“The data show that there is little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any one of the world’s religions. . . . Rather, what nearly all suicide terrorist attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland.” [24]

Regarding the July 2005 bombings in London, the British government was forewarned that its involvement in the catastrophic US invasion of Iraq had increased Britain’s vulnerability to the threat of retaliation. The leaked report from the UK’s Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC), which predated the attacks, warned:

“Events in Iraq are continuing to act as motivation and a focus of a range of terrorist related activity in the UK”.

In April 2005, a report drawn up by the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) entitled “International Terrorism: Impact of Iraq” was even more explicit, stating:

The US invaded Iraq in 2003.
The US invaded Iraq in 2003.

“We judge that the conflict in Iraq has exacerbated the threat from international terrorism and will continue to have an impact in the long term. It has reinforced the determination of terrorists who were already committed to attacking the West and motivated others who were not.”

It is essential to understand what role Western foreign policy has played in exacerbating the sense of political injustice and in driving individuals to undertake acts of political violence against those they perceive as aggressors. This is not a justification, but it does set a context for a discussion to find answers to contemporary political problems.

Rather than blame a whole community or its leanings towards Islam and its concept of Jihad, it is important to understand the political nature of the factors that drive such acts as opposed to solely attributing them to Jihad, which does not take account of the history of political violence across cultures, religions and ways of life.

Final Remarks

It has to be noted, that Muslims are simply human beings that believe in Islam, which is a comprehensive way of life that seeks to promote religious tolerance and social cohesion. The Islamic concept of Jihad is not indiscriminate terrorism, rather it is a mechanism that seeks to remove oppression and protect the innocent. In line with the teachings of classical Islam, Muslims do not – and should not – seek to violently attack non-combatants.

Muslims want to facilitate understanding and promote mutual peaceful coexistence. This however cannot be achieved without engaging in an open and honest discussion on what Islam really is. Outdated clichés of ‘Jihadi Terrorist’ can no longer quench the public’s intellectual thirst and a more nuanced and comprehensive discussion is now needed.

It was intended that this article would achieve just that.

You can follow Hamza on Twitter @HATzortzis

Footnotes

[14] The orders are always couched in restraining language, with much repetition of warnings, such as “do not transgress” and “God does not love the transgressors” and “He loves those who are conscious of Him”. These are instructions given to people who, from the beginning, should have the intention of acting “in the way of God”. Linguistically we notice that the verses in this passage always restrict actions in a legalistic way, which appeals strongly to Muslims’ conscience. In six verses (Quran 2:190-5) we find four prohibitions (do not), six restrictions: two “until”, two “if”, two “who attack you”, as well as such cautions as “in the way of God”, “be conscious of God”, “God does not like aggressors”, “God is with those who are conscious of Him”, “with those who do good deeds” and “God is Forgiving, Merciful.” It should be noted that the Qur’an, in treating the theme of war, as with many other themes, regularly gives the reasons and justifications for any action it demands.http://www.islamicity.com/articles/Articles.asp?ref=IV0603-2947
[15] Observer Comment Extra “Imperialism may be out, but aggressive wars and colonial protectorates are back”http://observer.guardian.co.uk/worldview/story/0,,684308,00.html
[16] U.S. Brig. General William Looney (Interview Washington Post, August 30, 1999) Referring, in reality, to the brutal mass-murder of hundreds of civilian Iraqi men, women and children during 10,000 sorties by American/British war criminals in the first eight months of 1999.
[17] Qur’an 4:75
[18] Reinhart Dozy, A History of Muslims in Spain , 1861 (reprinted 1913, 2002), Delhi , P.235.
[19] T. W. Arnold , Preaching of Islam, London , 1913, P. 61.
[20] Ulick R. Burke, A History of Spain , London , 1900, Vol I, P. 129.
[21] The Essays of Adam Smith, London , 1869, P. 353.
[22] Christopher J. Walker, Islam and the West, Gloucester , 2005, P. 17.
[23]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dying_to_Win:_The_Strategic_Logic_of_Suicide_Terrorism
[24] Ibid

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