In the introduction to Tawfiq al-Hakim‘s 1938 C.E. book Zuhrat al-3umr, he relates how his French friends André and Germaine were proud that they owned a French translation of a book that their friend of many decades, Tawfiq, had written. He wrote: Continue reading
Andrew Sullivan, Founding Editor of The Daily Dish and former editor at The New Republic, responded to Glenn Greenwald’s column criticizing calling the Boston Marathon bombing attacks terrorism based on publicly available knowledge.
And when will they grasp that a religion that does not entirely eschew violence (like the Gospels or Buddhism) will likely produce violence when its extremist loners seek meaning in a bewildering multicultural modern world? This was an act of Jihad. That does not mean we elevate it above crime; it means we understand the nature of the crime. It only makes sense in the context of immediate Paradise, combined with worldly fame. And those convinced of the glories of martyrdom – of going out with a bang – are the hardest of all to stop.
I have two objections to this passage. One, the idea that adherents to Islam are more prone to violence than adherents of Christianity or Buddhism is an assertion that requires evidence.
Second, even if investigations prove that Tamerlane and Dzhokhar deluded themselves into think that they were doing an “act of jihad,” which is a meritorious act in Islam, wishing does not make it so. The vast majority of Muslims, especially religious scholars, have condemned acts of terrorism as hiraba, a term that covers piracy and highway robbery, definitely unmeritorious acts.
So I hope that Mr. Sullivan would at least change the sentence “This was an act of Jihad” to “The brothers thought they were doing an act of Jihad.”
Whatever the merits of the criticism of the Tea Party, it’s a misuse of the Muslim religious term jihad and contributes to Islamophobia. Many Muslims suggest using the Muslim religious term hiraba for terrorist violence. Tearabist, people!
Jihad is a meritorious act in Islam. Before you set the FBI on me, understand that to me, and to most Muslims, jihad is effort expended for a good cause. When it involves military action, it is subject to the conditions similar to Christians’ Just War doctrines.*
any vigorous, aggressive movement for the defense or advancement of an idea, cause, etc.: a crusade against child abuse.
So why are liberal commentators using jihad pejoratively when there is an authentic Muslim term to describe terroristic violence pejoratively and an authentic English word that can carry both positive and negative connotations?
Retired Major General Perry Smith, a local columnist at The Augusta Chronicle, wrote regarding the Arab revolutionaries:
These moderate leaders are sometimes called the Arab revolutionaries counter-jihadists.
In my following of the revolutions, I’ve never seen any participant call themselves counter-jihadists, and I’ve certainly seen revolutions use Muslim religious terms like jihad to describe their efforts and shaheed (“martyr”, another term Islamophobes often distort) to describe those killed by the oppressive regimes.
- Mohammad al-Maskati, Bahrain
- Sara Abulkhair, unknown location, media jihad
- Use of the term jihad to describe the work of journalists during the revolutions
- Every mission (important task) is jihad
- Jihad against oppressive rulers is more important than jihad against external non-Muslims.
- Martyrs Behind Bars in Egypt’s Revolution
A search on the term counter-jihadist returned sites of Islamophobes, discussions of the Norwegian terrorist and non-Muslims’ descriptions of Muslims’ efforts to discourage hiraba. So I’m not sure where General Ellis came across the term.
The column is correct in that the revolutionaries’ use of mass non-violent techniques is a repudiation of hiraba. The revolutions are, in my opinion, the only effective way to end hiraba. It is certainly more effective than the measures of the United States’s Global War on Terror (GWOT).
One last point regarding General Smith’s editorial. He recommended some books at the end of the column, among them a book by Robin Wright. I’d recommend ignoring being cautious about everything Robin Wright and Thomas Friedman write.
*I personally think that changes in the nature of war have rendered nearly all forms of religiously-sanctioned war impossible to support.
P.S. Although the example I used was from the political left, the political right misuses Muslim religious terms as well.
Updated September 16, 2016: Egyptian man of letters in 1938 uses the word jihad on the tongues of his French friends.