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Nafeez Ahmed - Part 1/3

Nafeez Ahmed is the author of The War on Freedom and most recently, The War on Truth

This text was presented in part as a speech on December 15th, 2005 at the Perdana Global Peace Forum and is re-presented here with permission by the author.

International terrorism has routinely been understood as a phenomenon integrally linked to radical Islamism. After 9/11, this trend of thought, already prevalent in official circles, became the defining discourse of Western international relations, now permanently configured within the paradigm of the “War on Terror”.

So widespread is this notion, that it has penetrated even the discourse of mainstream Islam itself. Thus, the respected moderate American Muslim cleric Hamza Yusuf declared after 9/11 that: “Islam has been hijacked by a discourse of anger and a rhetoric of rage1”.

Consequently, much of the debate on the roots of international terrorism both among Western policymakers and among Muslims themselves, concerns the role of Islam as an exploited ideological facilitating factor in the intensification of terrorist attacks around the world. Prominent Muslim commentators such as Ziauddin Sardar lamented after 9/11 that:

“Muslims everywhere are in a deep state of denial. From Egypt to Malaysia, there is an aversion to seeing terrorism as a Muslim problem and a Muslim responsibility. ... Terrorism is a Muslim problem … Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Algeria, Bangladesh, Lebanon, Iran – there is hardly a Muslim country that is not plagued by terrorism.
... Muslims have stubbornly refused to see terrorism as an internal problem. While the Muslim world has suffered, they have blamed everyone but themselves. It is always ‘the West’, or the CIA, or ‘the Indians’, or ‘the Zionists’ hatching yet another conspiracy. This state of denial means Muslims are ill-equipped to deal with problems of endemic terrorism2”.

A number of salient points can be derived here. Sardar, articulating a narrative very much supportive of Western officialdom’s perspective of international terrorism, sees terrorism as ultimately a question of Muslim responsibility. The consequence of this for Muslims is that they should firstly lend their wholehearted support in principle to the West’s fight against international terrorism, and secondly that they should manifest such support by routing out extremism within their own midst. Moreover Sardar, once again echoing officialdom’s perspective, supports President Bush’s resounding a priori condemnation of “outrageous conspiracy theories concerning the attacks of September the 11th; malicious lies that attempt to shift the blame away from the terrorists, themselves, away from the guilty3”. By implication, the guilty, then, are not merely the terrorists themselves, but Muslims as such for whom terrorism is an “internal problem” regarding which they persist in “denial”.

This paradigm, however, is not based in an objective analysis of international terrorism itself. Indeed, it is devoid entirely of meaningful historical and empirical content. As such, it generally tends to generate two conventional forms of rebuttal, both of which are equally devoid of relevant historical and empirical analysis of the very phenomenon under discussion. The first comes from within Islam itself, and attempts to challenge the idea using Islamic scripture—namely the Qur’an (considered to be the Word of God revealed to the Prophet Muhammed) and Ahadith (historical records of the Prophet’s life, sayings and actions)—that terrorism can be justified on its basis. Thus, it is argued that an authentic understanding of Islam delegitimizes terrorism. The second rebuttal comes from what might be amorphously described as the antiwar movement, and attempts to explore the dynamics of precisely why Muslims have developed the “internal problem” of terrorism. Those dynamics are found to be located precisely in a series of devastating historical conjunctures between the West and the Muslim world, proceeding for several centuries, whereby Western imperialism has subjugated predominantly Muslim regions of the Middle East and Central Asia. Events such as the 2003 Iraq War are considered to be merely extensions of this world-historical process.

The content of these rebuttals, on their own terms, is well-documented and highly persuasive. However, in one simple way, they are exactly similar to the very argument which they attempt to refute, by failing to comprehend the reality of the phenomenon of international terrorism itself. As such, by refusing to confront this phenomenon directly, they inadvertently perpetuate the defactualization of analytical discourse which supports Western officialdom’s bold equation of international terrorism with radical Islamism, and henceforth as a distinctly Muslim problem which needs to be dealt with by finding some sort of Muslim solution, even if that be a peaceful one4.

Therefore, my approach here will not be to pursue the arguments of conventional rebuttals to the paradigmatic perspective of the underpinnings of international terrorism, but rather to critique this paradigm on its own terms using a historical and empirical analysis.

My argument is not that there are no violent interpretations of Islam within the Muslim world that might be seen to endorse terrorism. Of course there are. And my argument is not that the West’s imperial role in the Muslim world should be ignored. Certainly, it should not. Rather, my argument is that when international terrorism is scrutinized impartially, scientifically, the conventional understanding of its supposed inextricable origination in the dynamics of radical Islamism is fundamentally weakened in surprising ways.

The evidence that 9/11 was the result of a distinctly radical Islamist plan is highly questionable. The nature of “al-Qaeda” as a distinctly radical Islamist organization is also questionable. Finally, compelling evidence that identifiable groups involved in terrorist activity around the world are, in fact, manipulated on behalf of entirely non-Islamist Western geostrategic interests challenges the entire official narrative of the “War on Terror”.

Deconstructing the al-Qaeda 9/11 Mythology 9/11 and the Myth of Islamic Suicide Bombers

According to the official narrative, 19 Muslim fundamentalists belonging to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist network, hijacked four civilian planes on the morning of 9/11 and flew them into the World Trade Center and Pentagon. But this narrative, widely accepted by both proponents and critics of US imperial foreign policy, is problematic at its core: the very identities of the alleged hijackers.

It is now known that at least 10 of the 19 alleged hijackers are alive according to multiple, credible news accounts by the BBC, CNN, the Telegraph, the Independent, and other international media. As Jay Kolar observes, “at least ten of those named on the FBI’s second and final list of 19 have turned up and been verified to be alive, with proof positive that at least one other ‘hijacker’, Ziad Jarrah, had his identity doubled, and therefore fabricated”. Reviewing video evidence furnished by the government to support its narrative—including alleged footage of the hijackers at Dulles Airport and the infamous Osama bin Laden confession tape—Kolar finds them to be riddled with impossibilities and anomalies, and concludes that they are utterly unreliable at best, and downright forgeries at worst5.

The abject failure of the Bush administration and its key allies to substantiate its narrative of what happened on 9/11 with regards to the most basic issue of who perpetrated the terrorists attacks, obviously raises fundamental questions about the official narrative as such. Why has such a failure not been rectified, if the evidence exists? There are a number of possible explanations, the simplest of which is that the alleged hijackers were not, in fact, hijackers at all; or rather, that there were no Arab hijackers on board the planes. Another explanation is that there were hijackers, but that disclosing their real identities and the extent of the evidence of their connection to 9/11 might inevitably disclose a large number of related connections that would be deeply embarrassing, to say the least, for the US government. So we will not attempt to answer this question here. Suffice it to say that with the identities of the alleged hijackers not only in dispute, but essentially unknown, the core underpinning of the official narrative is vacuous; it is merely an unknown, a question.

Such questions extend to the very activities of the alleged hijackers as conventionally identified prior to 9/11. A variety of reports based on journalistic investigations and eye-witness testimonials provide a bizarre picture at odds with the conventional portrayal of the alleged hijackers as Islamic fundamentalists. Two of them, Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi, visited the popular Woodland Park Resort Hotel in the Philippines several times between 1998 and 2000 according to numerous local residents and hotel workers who recognized them from news photographs. They reportedly “drank whiskey with Philippine bargirls, dined at a restaurant that specializes in Middle Eastern cuisine and visited at least one of the local flight schools.” Al-Shehhi threw a party with six or seven Arab friends in December 2000 at the Hotel according to former waitress Gina Marcelo. “They rented the open area by the swimming pool for 1,000 pesos,” she recounts. “They drank Johnnie Walker Black Label whiskey and mineral water. They barbecued shrimp and onions. They came in big vehicles, and they had a lot of money. They all had girlfriends.” But one big mistake they made was that unlike most foreign visitors, “[t]hey never tipped. If they did, I would not remember them so well.” Victoria Brocoy, a chambermaid at the Woodland, recalls: “Many times I saw him let a girl go at the gate in the morning. It was always a different girl6.”

According to US investigators, five of the hijackers including Atta, Al-Shehhi, Nawaq Alhamzi, Ziad Jarrah, and Hani Hanjour visited Las Vegas at least six times between May and August 2001. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that here, they “engaged in some decidedly un-Islamic sampling of prohibited pleasures in America’s reputed capital of moral corrosion,” including drinking alcohol, gambling, and visiting strip-clubs7. As the South Florida Sun Sentinel observed, the hijackers’ frequent debauchery was at odds with the most basic tenets of Islam:

“Three guys cavorting with lap dancers at the Pink Pony Nude Theater. Two others knocking back glasses of Stolichnaya and rum and Coke at a fish joint in Hollywood the weekend before committing suicide and mass murder. That might describe the behavior of several men who are suspects in Tuesday’s terrorist attack, but it is not a picture of devout Muslims, experts say. Let alone that of religious zealots in their final days on Earth”.

For instance, specialist in Islamic and Middle East studies Mahmoud Mustafa Ayoub, Professor of Religion at Temple University in Philadelphia, noted that the prohibition of alcohol, gambling, and sex outside marriage are Islam’s most fundamental precepts: “It is incomprehensible that a person could drink and go to a strip bar one night, then kill themselves the next day in the name of Islam. People who would kill themselves for their faith would come from very strict Islamic ideology. Something here does not add up8.”

Similar reports abound regarding other al-Qaeda terrorists connected to 9/11. Even alleged 9/11 mastermind, al-Qaeda icon Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, reportedly “met associates in karaoke bars and giant go-go clubs filled with mirrors, flashing lights and bikini-clad dancers,” according to evidence collected by Philippine investigators:

“He held meetings at four-star hotels. He took scuba-diving lessons
at a coastal resort. When he wasn’t engaged with the go-go dancers, he
courted a Philippine dentist. Once, to impress her, he rented a helicopter
and flew it over her office, then called her on his cell phone and told her
to look up and wave”.

Mohammad’s al-Qaeda associates engaged in much the same behavior. They had local girlfriends and held a drinking party “to celebrate the anniversary of the 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 explosion over Lockerbie, Scotland9.”

Clearly, this pattern of debauchery is not by any standard commensurate with the strict requirements of al-Qaeda’s brand of Islamic fundamentalism. As Professors Quintan Wiktorowicz and John Kaltner point out, al-Qaeda is “a radical tendency within a broader Islamic movement known as the Salafi movement…

“The term Salafi is derived from the Arabic salaf, which means ‘to precede’ and refers to the companions of the Prophet Muhammed. Because the salaf learned about Islam directly from the messenger of God, their example is an important illustration of piety and unadulterated religious practice. Salafis argue that centuries of syncretic cultural and popular religious rituals and interpretations distorted the purity of the message of God and that only by returning to the example of the prophet and his companions can Muslims achieve salvation. The label ‘Salafi’ is thus used to connote ‘proper’ religious adherence and moral legitimacy, implying that alternative understandings are corrupt deviations from the straight path of Islam”.

Thus, although there are various schools of thought within Salafism—including al-Qaeda’s violent jihadist interpretation—they all emphasize and indeed attempt to derive their legitimacy from the Salafist goal of “piety and unadulterated religious practice” based directly on the piety and practice of the Prophet10. In this context, the depraved conduct of the alleged 9/11 hijackers in terms of their routine violation of the most basic Islamic precepts contradicts al-Qaeda’s strictly puritan Salafist philosophy.

The Takfir Paradigm
How to explain this anomaly? Time Magazine reports that intelligence officials claim many al-Qaeda terrorists are “followers of an extremist Islamic ideology called Takfir wal Hijra (Anathema and Exile). That’s bad news: by blending into host communities, Takfiris attempt to avoid suspicion. A French official says they come across as ‘regular, fun-loving guys—but they’d slit your throat or bomb your building in a second.’” Another French official says that the goal of Takfir “is to blend into corrupt societies in order to plot attacks against them better. Members live together, will drink alcohol, eat during Ramadan, become smart dressers and ladies’ men to show just how integrated they are11.”

However, this depiction of al-Qaeda and Takfir wal Hijra is thoroughly inaccurate. Takfir wal Hijra was the title given to a radical Islamic movement known as the Society of Muslims. The latter was founded in Egypt by Muslim Brotherhood member Shukri Mustafa after his release from prison in 1971. The group disintegrated after Mustafa was arrested and executed by the Egyptian government, but some of its followers went on to join other radical groups such as al-Jihad and/or fled to North Africa. Rather than attempting to integrate into modern society to carry out attacks as intelligence officials now claim, Takfiri ideology advocated the very opposite: “As contemporary society was infidel, he argued, Takfir would set up its own alternative community that would work, study and pray together…. Takfir declared that not only the regime but the society itself was infidel and under excommunication. This entailed… a personal withdrawal from society.” Even Takfir’s rival radical Islamic group in Egypt, Jama’at al-Jihad, known as the Society of Struggle, espoused such a harsh perspective of Islamic practice that it advocated as Islam’s top priority “jihad against unbelievers—including ‘Muslims’ who did not observe the religion’s requirements properly”—let alone endorsing in any manner a violation of those requirements12.

So extreme is Takfir’s ideology, that it sees bin Laden as not sufficiently Islamic in his violent approach. The Sunday Times reported a month after 9/11 that Takfir “regards Osama bin Laden as an infidel who has sold out.” The group’s members “have embarked on killing sprees in mosques against fellow Muslims in the belief that a pure Islamic state can be built only if the corrupt elements of the last one are wiped out.” Takfir’s enmity toward al-Qaeda is based on the perception that Osama bin Laden is “excessively liberal.” In 1995, four Takfir members attempted to assassinate bin Laden at his home in Khartoum. Takfiris continue to be “angered” at bin Laden’s leadership of a “compromised jihad.” According to the Times, “Takfir denounces all but those who copy the behaviour of the prophet Muhammad as infidels and promises to kill them.” One senior Sudanese government source confirmed that Takfir “regard [bin Laden] as a sellout… the Takfir think that everything in contemporary Muslim society is corrupt and should be destroyed13.”

Djamel Beghal and Kamel Daoudi—alleged UK-based terrorists arrested in September 2001 for plotting a series of spectacular terrorist assaults on Europe—were both supposed to be members of Takfir wal Hijra. But according to one Algerian in London who knew Beghal, integrating into Western culture by engaging in various acts of debauchery in violation of Islamic tenets was the last thing this alleged Takfiri would ever do: “Believe me, you do not want these people in your country… they will kill anybody, including their own family, if they are caught smoking or drinking14.”

Thus, the new scenario being proposed by Western intelligence officials to explain the patently un-Islamic behavior of the 9/11 hijackers is largely incoherent. Despite claims to the contrary, Takfir wal Hijra is aggressively opposed to al-Qaeda and its strict ideology is fundamentally incommensurate with the prospect of permitting defiance of Islamic rules under any circumstances. Furthermore, al-Qaeda is in turn staunchly opposed to Takfir. Therefore, the anomaly of the 9/11 hijackers persists: They clearly did not possess the conduct of hardened Islamic fundamentalists connected to al-Qaeda. So, who were they?

Agents of the US Military?
According to reports in Newsweek, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, US military officials confirmed to the FBI “that five of the alleged hijackers received training in the 1990s at secure US military installations15.” Knight Ridder news cited defense sources confirming that Mohamed Atta had attended International Officers School at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama; Abdulaziz Alomari had attended Aerospace Medical School at Brooks Air Force base in Texas; and Saeed Alghamdi had been to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. ( New York Times, September 16, 2001) The Washington Post revealed that as many as “four of 19 suspected hijackers may have participated during the 1990s” in a “flight training program for foreign military trainees” at Pensacola Naval Air Station. “Two of 19 suspects named by the FBI, Saeed Alghamdi and Ahmed Alghamdi, have the same names as men listed at a housing facility for foreign military trainees at Pensacola. Two others, Hamza Alghamdi and Ahmed Alnami, have names similar to individuals listed in public records as using the same address inside the base16.” Among these, Abdulaziz Alomari, Saeed Alghamdi and Ahmed Alnami are reportedly alive (Kolay), proving that whoever these US military trainees were, they were using fraudulent aliases.

Not long after these embarrassing reports of US military ties to al-Qaeda terrorists, the US Air Force issued an official statement of denial, arguing that “the name matches may not necessarily mean the students were the hijackers because of discrepancies in ages and other personal data.” Although some terrorists “had similar names to foreign alumni of US military courses,” these biographical discrepancies “indicate we are probably not talking about the same people.” But the government has refused to substantiate the denial, by preventing the publication of the relevant biographical data that would actually prove the discrepancies. On September 16, 2001, news reports asserted that: “Officials would not release ages, country of origin or any other specific details of the three individuals”—and have refused to do so to date. ( Washington Post, 22 September 2001)

By October 30, 2001, journalist Daniel Hopsicker—who has been a producer at PBS Wall Street Week, an executive producer of NBC TV’s Global Business, and an investigative reporter for NBC News—queried a major in the US Air Force’s Public Affairs Office who “was familiar with the question.” She explained: “Biographically, they’re not the same people. Some of the ages are 20 years off.” But when questioned to substantiate the specific discrepancy, she was forced to admit that there was no discrepancy. According to Hopsicker: “‘Some’ of the ages? We told her we were only interested in Atta. Was she saying that the age of the Mohamed Atta who attended the Air Force’s International Officer’s School at Maxwell Air Force Base was different from the terrorist Atta’s age as reported? Um, er, no, the major admitted.” Hopsicker asked if he could contact the other alleged “Mohamed Atta” at the International Officer’s School at Maxwell Air Force Base, who was purportedly confused with the chief 9/11 hijacker, so that he could confirm that they were indeed two different individuals. The major declined without explanation, stating that she did not “think you’re going to get that information17.”

In a separate interview, Hopsicker was told by a spokesman for the US Defense Department that some terrorists did attend US military installations, but declined to release any further details:

“Despite earlier denials, terrorists in the Sept. 11 attacks received training at secure US military bases, a Defense Department spokesman admitted.… the Defense Dept spokesman was asked to explain the particulars of fuzzy statements in which officials said … ‘we are probably not talking about the same people.’
“Pressed repeatedly to provide specifics, the spokesperson finally admitted, ‘I do not have the authority to tell you who (which terrorists) attended which schools.’ So it appears certain that at least some of the previous denials have been rendered inoperative, and that a list exists in the Defense Dept which names Sept 11 terrorists who received training at US military facilities, a list the Pentagon is in no hurry to make public18”.
In other words, it can now be confirmed that individuals identified by the FBI as al-Qaeda’s 9-11 terrorists, whether or not those identities were aliases, were connected to US military operations.

Al-Qaeda and the Myth of a Radical Islamist International Terrorist Organization
I will not attempt to answer the preceding question here. It suffices to point out that firstly, the connection of the alleged 9/11 hijackers to the actual events of 9/11 is deeply questionable at best, and secondly, even assuming the validity of such a connection, the notion that the alleged hijackers were Islamist fundamentalists is simply unsustainable.

The problem is not isolated to these individuals believed to be members of bin Laden’s international al-Qaeda terrorist network. The same questions can be addressed to al-Qaeda itself. Given that according to the official narrative, these individuals were members of an elite al-Qaeda cell, what does their un-Islamic conduct reveal about the real character of al-Qaeda? Two alleged hijackers, Mohamed Atta, who was reportedly leader of the cell, and Khalid Almidhar, another elite member, were reportedly members of the Islamic Jihad group led by bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri19. According to intelligence sources, “Atta and several others in the group” responsible for the attacks, “met with senior Al Qaida leaders, most notably Ayman al-Zawahiri” in Afghanistan shortly before 9-1120. Thus, these distinctly un-Islamic characters had very close relationships to the senior leadership of al-Qaeda.

Other prominent members of al-Qaeda also reportedly behave in distinctly un-Islamic ways. The example of Syrian al-Qaeda leader Laui Sakra provides a case in point. Suspected of involvement in the November 2003 bombings of UK and Jewish targets in Istanbul which killed 63 people, Sakra was arrested in Diyarbakir, southeast Turkey21.

Turkish officials said that Sakra is “one of the 5 most important key figures in Al Qaeda”. By his own off-the-record account to police, “he knew Mohamed Atta” and had aided the 9/11 cell, providing money and passports.” He also claimed involvement in the July 7th 2005 London bombings22, confessed to be in frequent contact with bin Laden, and admitted involvement in terrorist activity in the US, Britain, Egypt, Syria and Algeria23.

Citing further official revelations, the Turkish daily Zaman revealed that Sakra, like many of the alleged 9/11 hijackers, did not act in accordance with basic Islamic edicts. When Turkish Security Directorate officials told him that “he might perform his religious practices to have a better dialogue with him and to gain his confidence”, Sakra responded: “I do not pray. I also drink alcohol.” Curiously, his fellow al-Qaeda detainees and underlings, Adnan Ersoz and Harun Ilhan, did “perform their religious practices.” Police officials admitted that “such an attitude at the top-level of al-Qaeda was confusing24.”

Sakra’s story confirms the bizarre mixture of un-Islamic conduct penetrating the elite membership of al-Qaeda and the radical puritan exterior apparent in the use of Islamist language and symbols by its members. It is impossible to explain this within the parameters of the official narrative, which views al-Qaeda as one of the most militant elements of a radical Islamist tendency. In fact, the evidence perused so far fundamentally challenges the idea that al-Qaeda can be properly categorized as a genuinely Islamist entity. Other statements by Sakra further challenge the very idea of al-Qaeda as constituting an international organization in any meaningful sense, and throw further light on what might explain its duality between apparent fundamentalist Islamist and patently un-Islamic conduct. In his own words:

“Al-Qaeda organizes attacks sometimes without even reporting it to
Bin Laden. For al-Qaeda is not structured like a terrorist organization. The
militants have the operational initiative. There are groups organizing
activities in the name of al-Qaeda. The second attack in London was
organized by a group, which took initiative. Even Laden may not know
about it25”.
Sakra’s description of al-Qaeda contradicts entirely the official narrative. But he went even further than that. Zaman reported incredulously the most surprising elements of Sakra’s candid revelations during his four-day interrogation at Istanbul Anti-Terror Department Headquarters: “Amid the smoke from the fortuitous fire emerged the possibility that al-Qaeda may not be, strictly speaking, an organization but an element of an intelligence agency operation.” As a result of Sakra’s statements:

“Turkish intelligence specialists agree that there is no such organization as al-Qaeda. Rather, Al-Qaeda is the name of a secret service operation. The concept ‘fighting terror’ is the background of the ‘lowintensity- warfare’ conducted in the mono-polar world order. The subject of this strategy of tension is named as ‘al-Qaeda’.
... Sakra, the fifth most senior man in Osama bin Ladin’s al-Qaeda… has been sought by the secret services since 2000. The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) interrogated him twice before. Following the interrogation CIA offered him employment. He also received a large sum of money by CIA… in 2000 the CIA passed intelligence about Sakra through a classified notice to Turkey, calling for the Turkish National Security Organization (MIT) to capture him. MIT caught Sakra in Turkey and interrogated him…
Sakra was [later] sought and caught by Syrian al-Mukhabarat as well. Syria too offered him employment. Sakra eventually became a triple agent for the secret services… Turkish security officials, interrogating a senior al- Qaeda figure for the first time, were thoroughly confused about what they discovered about al-Qaeda. The prosecutor too was surprised26.”
According to Sakra then, himself a paid CIA recruit, al-Qaeda is less a coherent centralized organization than a loose association of mujahideen often mobilized under the influence of Western secret services. His own lack of traditional Islamic piety at a senior level within al-Qaeda further discredits the widespread perception of al-Qaeda as a truly Islamist Salafist group.

Two key issues arise here – firstly the question of the manner in which al- Qaeda exists; and secondly, the question of Turkish intelligence’s interpretation of al-Qaeda as integral to a “secret service operation” within a wider “strategy of tension”.

As for the first issue, it is indeed difficult to identify any way in which al-Qaeda genuinely exists as a concrete international terrorist organization—or at all—as conventionally promulgated by Western government and security sources.

Award-winning film maker Adam Curtis in his series of BBC documentaries The Power of Nightmares, went so far as to argue that al-Qaeda does not even have members, a leader, “sleeper cells”, or even an overall strategy. As a concrete international organization “it barely exists at all, except as an idea about cleansing a corrupt world through religious violence.”27 Dr Andrew Sike, a criminologist and forensic psychologist at the University of East London serving on the UN Roster of Terrorism Experts, similarly notes that al-Qaeda lacks “a clear hierarchy, military mindset and centralised command”. At best, it constitutes a loose network of “affiliated groups sharing religious and ideological backgrounds, but which often interact sparingly”. Al-Qaeda is less an organization than “a state of mind”, encompassing “a wide range of members and followers who can differ dramatically from each other28.”

Numerous other experts have thus questioned conventional portrayals of al-Qaeda, concluding that there is no solid evidence that it exists, let alone that it might function as an organized network. Conversely, mainstream studies that have endorsed such a perspective in support of the official narrative are profoundly flawed. Rohan Guranatna’s Inside Al-Qaeda, for instance—widely acclaimed as the most comprehensive, authoritative and well-documented analysis of al-Qaeda available—is consistently unreliable and inconsistent, to the point that the book’s British publishers inserted a disclaimer in its edition cautioning readers to avoid interpreting its content as factual, but rather as “nothing other than a suggestion29”.

This, of course, raises yet another question. If al-Qaeda does not exist in the conventional sense, then how does this fit with Sakra’s description of al-Qaeda as a “secret service operation” operating within the parameters of a “strategy of tension”? The answer to this can be best sought in an examination of precisely what is denoted by what Turkish officials describe as “a strategy of tension”. And to answer this, we must delve deeper into history to discover the roots of international terrorism in the Cold War.

International Terrorism: Ideological Framework, Covert Reality
International Terrorism as Ideological Construct

In the summer of 1979, a group of powerful elites from various countries gathered 
at an international conference in Jerusalem to promote and exploit the idea of “international terrorism.” The forum, officially known as the Jerusalem Conference on International Terrorism (JCIT), was organized by Benjamin Netanyahu – now a former Israeli Prime Minister and Minister of Finance – on behalf of the Jonathan Institute. 
The Institute was established in honor of the memory of Netanyahu’s brother, Lt. Col. Jonathan Netanyahu, an Israeli officer killed by a stray bullet during an IDF raid in the Occupied Territories.

Over two decades ago, the JCIT established the ideological foundations for the “War on Terror.” The JCIT’s defining theme was that international terrorism constituted 
an organized political movement whose ultimate origin was in the Soviet Union. All terrorist groups were ultimately products of, and could be traced back to, this single source, which—according to the JCIT—provided financial, military, and logistical assistance to disparate terrorist movements around the globe. The mortal danger to Western security and democracy posed by the worldwide scope of this international terrorist movement required an appropriate worldwide anti-terrorism offensive, consisting of the mutual coordination of Western military intelligence services. The JCIT’s findings served as the basis of the worldwide publication of hundreds of newspaper, think-tank and academic accounts of Soviet involvement in orchestrating an international terrorist network.

But as Philip Paull documents extensively in his Masters thesis at San Francisco State University, the JCIT’s own literature and use of source documentation was profoundly flawed. It heavily cited, for instance, statistics purporting to demonstrate a drastic ten-fold increase in incidents of international terrorism between 1968-78—but as Paul shows, these figures were deliberately concocted and inflated, contradicting original CIA data illustrating a decline in terrorist incidents for the same period. It also routinely relied on techniques of blatant disinformation, misquoting and misrepresenting Western intelligence reports, as well as recycling government
sponsored disinformation published in the mainstream media. Paull thus concludes that the 1979 JCIT was:

“… a successful propaganda operation… the entire notion of ‘international terrorism’ as promoted by the Jerusalem Conference rests on a faulty, dishonest, and ultimately corrupt information base…. The issue of international terrorism has little to do with fact, or with any objective legal definition of international terrorism. The issue, as promoted by the Jerusalem Conference and used by the Reagan administration, is an ideological and instrumental issue. It is the ideology, rather than the reality that dominates US foreign policy today.”

The new ideology of “international terrorism” justified the Reagan administration’s shift to “a renewed interventionist foreign policy,” and legitimized a “new alliance between right-wing dictatorships everywhere” and the government. “These military dictatorships and repressive governments have long used the word ‘terrorist’ to characterize the opposition to their rule.” Thus, the administration had moved to “legitimate their politics of state terrorism and repression,” while also alleviating pressure for the reform of the intelligence community and opening the door for “aggressive and sometimes illegal intelligence action,” in the course of fighting the international terrorist threat.

The primary architects of the JCIT’s “international terrorism” project were, reports Paull, “present and former members of the Israeli and United States governments, new right politicians, high-ranking former United States and Israeli intelligence officers, the anti-détente, pro-cold war group associated with the policies of Senator Henry M. Jackson, a group of neoconservative journalists and intellectuals…, and reactionary British and French politicians and publicists36.” Individuals who participated included:

Menachem Begin, then Prime Minister of Israel and former Irgun “terrorist”
Benjamin Netanyahu, then Cornell University Professor Emeritus
Shimon Peres, then leader of the Israeli Labor Party
Gen. Chaim Herzog, former Israeli military intelligence chief
Maj. Gen. Meir Amit, former Israeli military intelligence chief
Lt. Gen. Aharon Yariv, former Israeli military intelligence chief
Maj. Gen. Schlomo Gazit, former Israeli military intelligence chief
Paul Johnson, former editor of New Statesman
Honourable Sir Hugh Fraser, Conservative MP and former British Undersecretary of State for Colonies
Henry M. Jackson, influential right-wing Senator from the State of Washington
Richard Pipes, a professor and Russian expert in President Reagan’s National Security Council
Ray S. Cline, former Deputy Director for Intelligence at the CIA
Maj. Gen. George J. Keegan, former US Air Force Intelligence chief
George Bush Sr., former CIA Director and then Presidential candidate who later became President.

It is perhaps no coincidence that Bush Sr.’s son, President George W. Bush, has most effectively overseen the enforcement of an entire domestic and international American political program based principally on the ideology of “international terrorism.” Noting the instrumental influence of the JCIT on US policy during the Reagan administration, re-emerging with the Bush Jnr. Administration, Diana Ralph rightly concludes that the new “War on Terror” is “modelled on Islamophobic myths, policies, and political structures developed by the Israeli Likkud in 1979, to inspire popular support for US world conquest initiatives”.

Soviet Threat as Negligible
If the target of the US government’s anti-terrorist program was not real, what was the government targeting? According to the late Richard Barnet, former State Department aide to Assistant Secretary for War John McCloy, the inflation of Sovietsponsored “international terrorism” was useful precisely for demonizing threats to the prevailing US-dominated capitalist economic system:

“Even the word ‘communist’ has been applied so liberally and so
loosely to revolutionary or radical regimes that any government risks being so characterised if it adopts one or more of the following policies which the State Department finds distasteful: nationalisation of private industry, particularly foreign-owned corporations, radical land reform, autarchic trade policies, acceptance of Soviet or Chinese aid, insistence upon following an anti-American or non-aligned foreign policy, among others.”

This view is supported by the fact that there was no tangible, imminent Soviet threat to any of the regions subjected to aggressive US and western military interventionism during the Cold War. Recently declassified top secret British Foreign Office files, among other documents, establish this case decisively. These have been extensively examined by British historian Mark Curtis, former Research Fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs. A selection of the documents unearthed by Curtis is reviewed below40.

A December 1950 Foreign Office paper pointed out that “only three Middle Eastern countries… are exposed to direct Soviet attack.” It went on to illustrate that such an attack was inconceivable. “Short of general war… an attack on Turkey is unlikely owing to the Western guarantees which she enjoys.” As for Iran (Persia), “the Soviet government must be aware that any attack on her would carry a grave risk of general war, and it is more likely that Soviet efforts to gain control of Persia will be confined to propaganda, diplomatic and subversive activity.” Regarding Afghanistan, “there is little danger of attack41”.

Another document noted that “the Arab states are all orientated towards the West in varying degrees, opposed to communism and generally successful at present in minimizing or suppressing existing communist activities through restrictive measures.” Rather, “ultra-nationalist elements may exercise greater influence and form a greater threat to maintenance of a pro-Western orientation42.”

Regarding Africa, the State Department observed during 1950 that “‘Black’ Africa is orientated towards the non-Communist world. Communism has made no real progress in the area43.” To the contrary, nationalism “constitutes the real force of the future in this area” according to Assistant Secretary of State McGhee44.

Concerning Asia, Kennan, then head of US Policy Planning Staff, affirmed that “the problem is not one primarily of Russians but of basic relations of Americans with Asiatics45.” The State Department commented in 1950 that “in most of Southeast Asia there is no fear of communism as we understand it46.”

The stark contrast between western national security discourse and reality during the Cold War was also noted by the London Guardian reporting on newly declassified British government documents from 1968, including a pertinent analysis by the Foreign Office Joint Intelligence Committee summarized as follows:

“The Soviet Union had no intention of launching a military attack on the West at the height of the Cold War, British military and intelligence chiefs privately believed, in stark contrast to what Western politicians and military leaders were saying in public about the ‘Soviet threat’. ‘The Soviet Union will not deliberately start general war or even limited war in Europe,’  a briefing for the British chiefs of staff – marked Top Secret, UK Eyes Only, and headed The Threat: Soviet Aims and Intentions – declared in June 1968.”

The primary threat to western interests was described in a 1952 Foreign Office study as “The problem of nationalism”, which consisted of five key components parading themselves as ‘Communism’: “(i) insistence on managing their own affairs without the means or ability to do so, including the dismissal of British advisers; (ii) expropriation of British assets; (iii) unilateral denunciation of treaties with the UK; (v) ganging up against the UK (and the western powers) in the United Nations48.”

All this fundamentally contradicted western national security discourse throughout the Cold War period. Indeed, this data suggests that there was negligible Soviet/Communist threat to the Middle East, ‘Black’ Africa, North Africa, the Far East, South Asia and Southeast Asia. This does not preclude that the Soviet Union posed a potential threat explaining the dynamics of the bipolar system. But countering Soviet expansionism was not the central galvanizing factor in western national security strategy. The bipolar system functioned as a convenient framework for both superpowers to command and mobilize domestic politics and resources in the service of powerful vested interests49.

International Terrorism as Covert Operations Construct
International terrorism was not merely a construct of ideology, framed around the Soviet Union. It swiftly became a very real construct of western covert operations. It is now well-documented and no longer disputable that during the Cold War, highlevel sections of the American, British and western European secret services, participated in a sophisticated NATO-backed operation to engineer domestic terrorist attacks to be blamed on the Soviet Union. The objective was to galvanize public opinion against leftwing policies and parties, and ultimately to mobilize drastic anti- Communist policies at home and abroad, most of which were in fact designed to legitimize interventionism against nationalist independence movements throughout the South. The most authoritative study of this ‘Strategy of Tension’, NATO’s Secret Armies, is authored by Dr. Daniele Ganser, Senior Researcher at the Center for Security Studies in the Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich. Ganser’s sources are unimpeachable: the transcripts of European parliamentary inquiries; the few secret documents that have been declassified; interviews with government, military and intelligence officials, and so on.

The process was begun on the order of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who in July 1940 called for the establishment of a secret army to “set Europe ablaze by assisting resistance movements and carrying out subversive operations in enemy held territory50.” By 4th October 1945, the British Chiefs of Staff and the Special Operations branch of MI6 directed the creation of a “skeleton network” capable of expansion either in war or to service clandestine operations abroad: “Priority was given in carrying out these tasks to countries likely to be overrun in the earliest stages of any conflict with the Soviet Union, but not as yet under Soviet domination51.” In the ensuing years, Col. Gubbins’ Special Operations branch of MI6 cooperated closely with Frank Wisner’s CIA covert action department Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) on White House orders, and in turn coordinated US and UK Special Forces, to establish stay-behind secret armies across western Europe52.

The programme soon developed into a dangerous conglomerate of unaccountable covert operations controlled largely by clandestine structures operating as parallel sub-sections of the main intelligence services. Among the documents Ganser brings to attention is the classified Field Manual 30-31, with appendices FM 30-31A and FM 30-31B, authored by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) to train thousands of stay-behind officers around the world. As Ganser observes: “FM 30-31 instructs the secret soldiers to carry out acts of violence in times of peace and then blame them on the Communist enemy in order to create a situation of fear and alertness. Alternatively, the secret soldiers are instructed to infiltrate the left-wing movements and then urge them to use violence.” In the manual’s own words:

“There may be times when Host Country Governments show passivity or indecision in the face of Communist subversion and according to the interpretation of the US secret services do not react with sufficient effectiveness… US army intelligence must have the means of launching special operations which will convince Host Country Governments and public opinion of the reality of the insurgent danger. To reach this aim US army intelligence should seek to penetrate the insurgency by means of agents on special assignment, with the task of forming special action groups among the most radical elements of the insurgency… In case it has not been possible to successfully infiltrate such agents into the leadership of the rebels it can be useful to instrumentalise extreme leftist organizations for one’s own ends in order to achieve the above described targets… These special operations must remain strictly secret. Only those persons which are acting against the revolutionary uprising shall know of the involvement of the US Army53…”

The existence of this secret operation exploded into public controversy in August 1990 when Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti admitted the existence of ‘Gladio,’ a secret sub-section of Italian military-intelligence services, responsible for domestic bombings blamed on Italian Communists. Ganser documents in intricate detail how this subversive network created by elements of US and UK intelligence services orchestrated devastating waves of terrorist attacks blamed on the Soviet Union, not only in Italy, but also in Spain, Germany, France, Turkey, Greece, and throughout western Europe. Despite a number of European parliamentary inquiries; an European Union resolution on the Gladio phenomenon; NATO’s close-doors admissions to European ambassadors; confirmations of the international operation from senior CIA officials; and other damning documentary evidence; NATO, the CIA and MI6 have together consistently declined to release their secret files on the matter.

This secret history demonstrates that in the absence of an existing mobilizing factor legitimizing the militarization of Western societies, military intelligence services took it upon themselves to manufacture, ideologically and operationally, a projected external threat of monolithic proportions. This was, then, the elemental ideological and operational structure of the Cold War:

1. predominance of western interests in the expansion and consolidation of a US-dominated capitalist world system

2. lack of a real Soviet threat sufficient to legitimize the militarization necessary to pursue those interests

3. ideological and operational construction by western military intelligence services and policymakers of a projected external threat consisting of Soviet directed “international terrorism”

The collapse of the Soviet Union entailed the collapse of this self-reinforcing structure that was intrinsic to the policing of world order under US hegemony during the Cold War. Yet it for the first time opened the way for the projection of military power in theatres previously prevented by the possibility of Soviet reprisals. But to sustain such force projection required a new sort of threat projection, in which al-Qaeda was to play a crucial strategic role. Sakra’s testimony as a leading al-Qaeda insider to the effect that al-Qaeda is a tool of a post-Cold War strategy of tension points to a startling and radical departure from the official narrative, and suggests that al-Qaeda plays a far more functional role in Western geostrategic imperatives than we are conventionally permitted to believe.

The Post-Cold War Strategy of TensionThe New Destabilization Doctrine
As early as June 1979 – the same year the JCIT had established “international terrorism” as a defining ideological framework legitimizing the militarization of western societies – the United States had already commenced covert operations in Afghanistan to exploit the potential for social conflict. According to Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Adviser under the Carter Administration, US involvement began long before the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan on 27th December 197954. According to Janes Defence Weekly, “al-Qaeda” was created in 1988 “with US knowledge” by Osama bin Laden, a “conglomerate of quasiindependent Islamic terrorist cells” spanning “at least 26 countries55.”

But the conventional wisdom dictates that after the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union beginning in 1989, there was no longer any need for an alliance with the mujahideen. As such, Western military-intelligence services broke away from their former proxies and severed their relationship with Osama bin Laden.

This is simply false. The CIA had never envisaged that the operational scope of bin Laden’s international al-Qaeda network would be restricted to Afghanistan alone. On the contrary, as one CIA analyst told Swiss television journalist Richard Labeviere – chief editor at Radio France International and author of Dollars for Terror:

“The policy of guiding the evolution of Islam and of helping them against our adversaries worked marvellously well in Afghanistan against the Red Army. The same doctrines can still be used to destabilize what remains of Russian power, and especially to counter the Chinese influence in Central Asia56.”
Al-Qaeda operations were seen as integral to a new doctrine of covert destabilization, to be implemented in new theatres of operation strategically close to Russian and Chinese influence, namely, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the Caucasus and Central Asia.

A number of studies confirm in substantial detail this overarching trajectory of al-Qaeda sponsorship in these regions in the post-Cold War period. Shortly after 9/11 for example, Michel Chossudovsky, professor of economics at the University of Ottawa, published a number of detailed analyses documenting US sponsorship of al-Qaeda in the Balkans and Caucasus, in relation to a number of conflicts, including Bosnia, Kosovo, and Macedonia. “The ‘blowback’ thesis is a fabrication”, he concludes. “The evidence amply confirms that the CIA never severed its ties to the ‘Islamic Militant Network’. Since the end of the Cold War, these covert intelligence links have not only been maintained, they have in fact become increasingly sophisticated”, with new covert operations initiated in “Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Balkans”, financed by “the Golden Crescent drug trade57”.

Focusing on Central Asia, Peter Dale Scott, professor emeritus of English at the University of California, Berkeley, has unearthed considerable evidence of US sponsorship of al-Qaeda to accelerate the fragmentation of the Soviet Union and its successor Republics, particularly in Azerbaijan. In his testimony in US Congress in July 2005, Scott noted that for more than “two decades the United States has engaged in energetic covert programs to secure US control over the Persian Gulf, and also to open up Central Asia for development by US oil companies…

“To this end, time after time, US covert operations in the region have
used so-called ‘Arab Afghan’ warriors as assets, the jihadis whom we
loosely link with the name and leadership of al Qaeda. In country after
country these ‘Arab Afghans’ have been involved in trafficking Afghan
... In short, the al Qaeda terror network accused of the 9/11 attacks was supported and expanded by U.S. intelligence programs and covert operations, both during and after the Soviet Afghan War58”.
Ahmed Rashid, correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review, Daily Telegraph, and Wall Street Journal, documents the consistent US sponsorship of the Taliban—which was essentially equivalent to al-Qaeda’s state-support infrastructure—throughout the late 1990s through allies Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, to make the country safe for a UNOCAL pipeline project59. Rashid quotes a US diplomat commenting in 1997 on the new “free Afghanistan”: “The Taliban will probably develop like the Saudis… There will be Aramco [consortium of oil companies controlling Saudi oil], pipelines, an emir, no parliament and lots of Sharia law. We can live with that60.”

In all such cases, the operational imperative was to secure access routes to lucrative energy resources based largely in Central Asia and the Caspian basin. My own research has attempted to extend these analyses worldwide, focusing on the detailed dynamics of American, British and European connections with al-Qaeda in the Balkans, Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Middle East, North Africa, and the Asia-Pacific.
w Reply 
New Frontiers in Conflict Management:
A “Grand Strategy” to Wage Jihad Against Terrorist Muslims who would Hijack Islam[1]

September 17, 2004
Dr. Robert Dickson Crane

I. Introduction
On September 3rd, 2004, nationalist extremists from the Caucasus region of Russia demonstrated their demonic hatred of everything sacred by taking a thousand teachers, parents, and children hostage in a school and then shot children in the back when they tried to escape. This has been called Russia’s 9/11, but this act of terrorism was perhaps worse than 9/11 in its sheer evilness because the terrorists did not first dehumanize their targets by lumping them all as unknown ciphers in a group condemned by collective guilt. Instead, they knew many of the victims as individual persons. They had taken these innocent people hostage with the precise purpose to kill them as an act of war.

The moral issue here is not merely whether suicide bombing can be justified, because only those who have lost even the rudiments of civilized values can possibly think that it is. A larger issue is whether the terrorists’ actions can be categorized as war. If so, what limits does the “just war doctrine” impose as recognized universally by the classical scholars in all the world’s religious traditions.
The larger challenge to global civilization in the twenty-first century is how does one manage conflict with hate-filled extremists who are immune to all tactics of conflict resolution? Can such extremists be marginalized by marshaling spiritual and intellectual powers against which they have no defenses? If so, is there a “grand strategy” to do so?


II. Arguing Cause and Effect

All terrorists justify their actions based on cause and effect. All terrorists are alienated in one way or another and they pursue a cycle of escalating violence by claiming that the other guy started it all. This begs the question whether their response to their perceived grievance meets the standards of “just war.”

The terrorists who committed the atrocity in Beslan justified their crime as an act of self-defense against the Russian military, who four years earlier at the turn of the century had flattened an entire city of a half a million inhabitants, Grozny, because it was the capital of Chechnya and had become a symbol of resistance throughout the Caucasus at a time when the disintegration of the old Soviet Empire into sixteen independent countries still threatened to spread into Russia proper.

Over the previous five years, since the Russian invasion of 1994, Chechnya was collapsing toward the status of a “failed state.” The last freely elected president of Chechnya, Aslan Maskhadov, was losing control to a radical coalition of foreign Arab fighters, led by the Saudi Emir Ibn al Khattab, an Omar bin Laden protégé, and the followers of the Chechen war hero, Shamil Basayev. When these two radicals invaded neighboring Dagestan on August 7th, 1999, in order to launch a general uprising throughout the entire Caucasus and install a Caliphate “from sea [Black] to sea [Caspian],” the fate of Chechnya was sealed.

Two days later, Vladimir Putin, the head of the Russian secret police, succeeded Boris Yeltsin as Prime Minister and immediately declared that Russia must annihilate the Chechens or the resulting domino effect would cause Russia, as he put it, “to cease to exist as a state.” He summarized his general formula for conflict management as preemptive intervention: “You have to hit first and hit so hard that your opponent will not get to his feet.”

On New Year’s Eve, Year Two Thousand (YK2), Yeltsin appointed Putin acting President pending his election three months later as a war hero. His first act was to launch a preemptive war against Chechnya by effectively wiping out its capital. American officials, who advocated a political solution under the anti-war Chechen president, Aslam Maskhadov, and still do, nevertheless felt bound to give limited support to Putin by lamenting only “the excess use of force.” American officials described Putin as a pragmatic, can-do leader, a “man with whom we can do business.” President Clinton, based on his advisers’ political calculations, characterized the conquest of Grozny as “liberation.” On January 6th, 2000, William Safire declared in the New York Times that Clinton’s characterization was an abomination.

This history, which is well-known throughout both the Caucasus and the entire Muslim world, linked America with almost three centuries of imperialistic repression. Russia first invaded Chechnya in 1722 and by 1864, when the uprising had finally been temporarily surpressed, Russia had killed seventy-five percent of the Chechen population. The last resistance hero, the martyred Imam Shamyl, has been a sacred icon throughout the entire Caucasus ever since and is an inspiration for tens of millions of Muslims everywhere in the world today.

The second liquidation came in February, 1944, when Stalin ordered the deportation of all Chechens to Siberia and in a bloodbath killed the half of the population that resisted. Khrushchev finally permitted what was left to return in 1957.

After the Soviet Union collapsed, and a year and a half before the Russian Federation was established on March 31, 1992, the Chechens exercised their felt right to national independence, along with all the other nations of the Caucasus, the Dagestanis, Ingush, Abkhazians, and Azeris, and led the way in reviving the North Caucasus Federation of May 11, 1918, working toward a larger regional identity. The Chechens held national elections, but the new Russia opposed this as insurrection and initiated the third major liquidation from 1994 to 1996.[3]

The past four years since Putin’s occupation from 2000 to 2004 may be considered a failed effort at a fourth liquidation. The specific Great Russian objective toward the Chechens today is not merely to counter an aggressive offensive by Al Qa’ida professionals, but to Russify the Chechens, whose myths date back 26,000 years, in a counter-offensive in order to destroy them as a nation with a common sense of the past, common values for the present, and common hopes for the future.

The terrorist attack in Beslan a week before the third anniversary of 9/11 is now debated both in Russia and America as a possible lesson on the limits of force in countering terrorism without addressing its causes.


III. When Muslims Are No Longer Islamic

More important even than the causes of terrorism is its legitimacy. Do ends justify means without limits? A sign of civilizational rise is when limits are not only recognized but applied, and the sure sign of civilizational collapse is when they are not. This would apply both to terrorism and to terroristic counter-terrorisn.
It can be a fatal mistake to over-emphasize the causes of terrorism of whatever kind at the expense of appreciating the extent of the evil inherent in the terrorist mentality itself.

There is perhaps merit in the argument that, after Communism imploded, Muslims provided a convenient target for Cold Warriors who needed a new enemy. But, the spread of religious exclusivism and extremism, which had been funded for two decades by the Saudi government for its own political purposes, clearly stoked the terrorist paradigm of thought and the nihilism of suicide bombing. This led inevitably to what amounted to a new Fourth World War against the traditions of all world religions and against the civilizations built upon them.The clash of which Samuel Huntington has spoken has taken place primarily within civilizations rather than between them.

This clash within the Muslim world is clearly shown by President Aslam Makhadov of Chechnya, who stated on September 7th that, “There cannot be any justification for people who raise their hand against what is most sacred to us – the life of defenseless children! And there are no words able to express the full depth of our indignation at what happened.” For a decade he has been a voice of traditionalist Islam in Chechnya, as well as in much of the rest of the Muslim world. I had the honor to introduce him at the Plenary Session of the Second International Unity Conference sponsored on August 8th to 10th, 1998, by the Islamic Supreme Council of America in Washington, D.C., when he was battling to overcome the extremists who were committing crimes against their own religion under the guise of defending i

t.Maskhadov is widely recognized as one of the greatest leaders of the twentieth century for his work in resolving disputes between emerging nations and declining empires. He is a Sufi, like most of the people in the Caucasus, and a follower of Mahatma Gandhi’s doctrine of passive resistance. Although no Muslim is a doctrainaire or absolute pacifist, Maskhadov has led the way in opposing violence as a means to secure human rights.

Maskhadov has been supported by authoritative Muslims throughout the world, who have become increasingly appalled by those who are trying to hijack Islam, as well as every other religion, in a global war of hatred. They were incensed at the vicious sadism of the kidnappers in Beslan who denied the children food and water and forbid them even to go to the bathroom. Egypt’s top cleric, Grand Mufti Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, declared at the Friday Prayer on September 3rd that, “Those who carried out the kidnappings are criminals, not Muslims.”

The General Manager of the popular TV station, Al Arabiya, Abdel Rahman al-Rashed, commented after the Beslan massacre, “It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that most terrorists are Muslims.” He called them “Neo-Muslims,” perhaps in reference to the Neo-Conservatives in America. The traditionalist Muslim leaders are asking who these Arabs and Muslims are who pray, fast, grow beards, demand that women wear veils, call for the defense of Islamic causes, and then slash the throats of hostages, behead them, and indiscriminately blow up innocent people.

The committed Muslims have been forced to distinguish sharply between the religion of Islam and those Muslims who violate all its principles and then call their actions Islamic. There is no Islamic world, because no country observes the human responsibilities and human rights laid out over the course of centuries in classical Islamic jurisprudence. But, there is a Muslim world, where individual persons and governments claim to be Muslim, regardless of whether they are Islamic or not. And there are Islamists who have tried to turn the religion of Islam into a political ideology and thereby cut it off from its classical traditions. Like the suicide bombers, these are Muslims but not Islamic.

Clearly there is a “culture war” developing within the Muslim communities around the world in response to the extremists who once were tolerated but after the 9/11 experiences of America and Russia can be tolerated no more. The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), which is the leading Muslim civil liberties group in the United States and an influential part of the global Muslim Brotherhood, is collecting signatures on a petition entitled “Not in the Name of Islam.” This reads: “We, the undersigned Muslims, wish to state clearly that those who commit acts of terror, murder, and cruelty in the name of Islam are not only destroying innocent lives, but are also betraying the values of the faith they claim to represent. No injustice done to Muslims can ever justify the massacre of innocent people, and no act of terror will ever serve the cause of Islam. We repudiate and disassociate ourselves from any Muslim group or individual who commits such brutal and un-Islamic acts. We refuse to allow our faith to be held hostage by the criminal actions of a tiny minority acting outside the teachings of both the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.”

Easier said than done. The question is, what are the teachings of these two sources of the Islamic faith? This question forms the core of the clash within the Muslim world. The problem is largely one of vincible ignorance. The success of re-education efforts by Islamic scholars in marginalizing the extremists within the Muslim communities during the coming century will determine the future of civilizational clash and perhaps even the continued existence of civilization itself.


IV. Two Paradigms of Thought that Produce Terrorism

The key premise or paradigm of thought that almost inevitably must lead to war and terrorism in the modern world is Syed Qutb’s teaching that, “There is only one place on earth which can be called the House of Islam (Dar al Islam), and it is that place where an Islamic state is established and the Shari’ah is the authority and God’s laws are observed. … The rest of the world is the House of War (Dar al Harb).” Modern extremists may use different words, like Dar al Zulm, the land of evil, or Dar al Kufr, the land of those who are going to hell because they deliberately reject the truth, but the substance of their war to exterminate entire civilizations is the same.

This confrontational view of reality and the destructiveness that derives from it have been around ever since some hadith scholars collected and interpreted the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad to justify war against the Byzantine Empire in the second and third Islamic centuries more than a thousand years ago. The concept of a war of extinction between the East and the Beast as a mirror image of the alleged war between the West and the Rest is older than the Crusades.

All except a few Muslims except in that early period and during the past century, however, have rejected such malignant concepts as grossly un-Islamic. They may use dichotomies, but they are benign, such as dar al taqwa, the land of those who stand in loving awe of God, contrasted with dar al da’wa, the land of those who still need enlightenment, or dar al ijaba, the land of those who have accepted Islam, contrasted with dar al ahd, the land of those with whom one has treaties of friendship and cooperation.

Radical puritanical reformism, whether anti-establishment like the Salafis in Saudi Arabia, or pro-establishment like the fascist Wahhabis, represents a complete break with traditional Islamic teachings. The same is equally true of those Islamists who would reduce Islam de facto to a political movement, modeled perhaps unconsciously after the Bolsheviks of Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin, designed oxymoronically to establish an “Islamic state.”

Traditional Islam has always derived from reliance on a transcendent reality as the source of truth and justice, rather than from reliance on oneself as the ultimate power. Desperate resort to war or terrorism in the pursuit of justice is nothing other than worship of oneself as a false god.Traditional Islam values thought before action, principles more than slogans, and addresses the root of all ignorance, namely, what the Qur’an calls diseases of the heart, which infect Muslims as well as Christians and Jews. Puritanical religious reductionism, as well as the covertly secular movement of ideological Muslims, are caused by pressures on the ignorant to become secularized by denying the spiritual sovereignty of person and community. Once one denies one’s higher identity and purpose and therefore fails to recognize the same identity and purpose in every other person, the entire world is de-humanized. The basis of right versus wrong becomes the relativistic reduction of justice to one’s own narrow self-interest in a clash with everyone else. Aborting fetuses or blowing up Jewish babies can be easily justified.

This is why Joseph E. B. Lumbard, the editor of perhaps the best book ever published on the distinction between Islam and Muslims, entitled Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition: Essays by Western Muslim Scholars, World Wisdom Books, 2004, states that Muslims must set their own house in order, because no-one else can do it. He writes, “Though others may blame Islam for the spread of wanton violence, such violence is a defining, if not the, defining feature of the twentieth century.”

The second paradigm or premise of thought, other than dichotomizing the world, that necessarily leads to war and terrorism is the restriction of the concept of jihad to defeating the enemy. Muslim bashers like to restrict the term jihad to the totally un-Islamic concept of “holy war,” perhaps because there are so many Muslims who stereotypically do the same. No war can be “holy,” but every distortion of terms has its Muslim supporters.

The Arabic term jihad has three classical meanings. The first two are found only in the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. These are: 1) jihad al akbar or “greatest jihad,” which is the effort or struggle to understand the true word of God and to control one’s human impulses in order to achieve real peace by submitting to the will of God; 2) and jihad al saghrir or the lesser jihad, which is the community approved joint struggle using armed force to defend the seven universal principles of human rights, established over the course of centuries in classical Islamic law, against attack by armed aggressors.

The third form of jihad, which is mentioned by name only in the Qur’an (Surah al Furqan 25:52), is the jihad al kabir or simply the “great jihad.” This is the intellectual jihad, which requires respect for knowledge (haqq al ‘ilm), including freedom of thought, publication, and assembly. It calls for concerned citizens and those in leadership positions to bring the wisdom of divine revelation to bear on all issues of conscience. This third form of jihad recognizes the legitimacy of “just war” doctrines, but calls for “just peace.”


V. The Mother of All Black Sheep

What Bishop Richard John Neuhaus calls Osama bin Laden’s “monistic fanaticism” is mild compared to the messages that were distributed by the Saudi Embassy in the form of a new Qur’an to hundreds of mosques in America immediately before 9/11. This official Saudi version of the Qur’an calls not only for war against the infidel, meaning also Americans, but for their enslavement.
This Qur’an, known as the Hilali/Khan translation or merely as the Khan Qur’an, employs the spurious technique of abrogation to eliminate passages that recognize the legitimacy of diverse religions and that call for interfaith cooperation. The official Wahhabi scholars are troubled by such passages as Surah al Ma’ida 5:69, which reads, “Surely, those who believe (in the Oneness of Allah and His Messenger Muhammad and all that was revealed to him from Allah), and those who are Jews and Christians – whosoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and works righteousness, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.”

The Saudis invoke the doctrine of abrogation, which has been rejected by most Islamic scholars throughout history, by asserting that God changed His mind and overruled this passage by a later one in Imran 3:85, which reads, “Whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him and in the Hereafter he will be among the losers.” The authors of the Khan Qur’an interpret this by asserting that Islam means submission to the official Saudi view rather than submission to God, Who in Surah al Ma’ida 5:69 above explicitly spells out the only three requirements for submission to God, namely, belief in God, belief in divine justice, and the practice of good works. Through resort to the doctrine of abrogation more than two hundred times, which feeds on itself, and by means of such circular reasoning the Saudi clerics have managed to gut the Qur’an and harness what is left of it to their own political agenda.

Once the basic principles of Islam are conveniently eliminated, the Saudi commentators in this Khan Qur’an are free to advocate the enslavement of non-Muslims. They cite Surah Ali Imran 3:110 and translate it as: “You [true believers in Islamic monotheism and the real followers of Prophet Muhammad and the Sunnah] are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind.” Then comes the official comment, which reads, “This means the best for the people, as you bring them with chains on their necks till they embrace Islam (and thereby save them from the eternal punishment in the Hell-fire and make them enter Paradise in the Hereafter).”

Their scholarly support for this interpretation is a sahih hadith from Abu Huraira. This prolific reporter of hadith was known as a misogynist who put his own spin on whatever he remembered or thought he remembered from the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, regardless of whether this spin was consistent with the Qur’an.

Ancient spin leads to modern spin which has led in Saudi Arabia to the creation of a reigning pseudo-religion that mocks everything Islamic. In no century of Muslim history and in no Muslim culture have self-proclaimed Muslims preached and proselytized such a bizarre distortion of divine revelation. For their own political purposes, the leaders of Saudi Arabia have produced the mother of black sheep among religions, which in turn has given birth to raging lions that threaten to devour their creators.


VI. Exposing Extremists on their Own Grounds

In their efforts to expose the extremists among Muslims, the counter-terrorists run the risk of buying into the same distortions of the Qur’an that feed terrorism. They interpret the Qur’an just as the terrorists do and thereby lend them support, when they should be attacking the terrorists’ distortion of their own religion.

For example, terrorists like to deny that they are terrorists by claiming that the word terrorism is subjective. They claim that the term is used indiscriminately by their enemies to attack political opponents. It would be more effective to accuse the terrorists of hiraba, which is the classical Arabic word for terrorism and has a precise definition.

The term hiraba refers to public terrorism in a war against society and civilization. In legal terminology it is defined as “spreading mischief in the land,” but its precise meaning, as defined by Professor Khalid Abou el Fadl, is “killing by stealth and targeting a defenseless victim in a way intended to cause terror in society.” This is the Islamic definition of terrorism. It is the very opposite of jihad. A cognate word, from the common root hariba meaning enraged, is harb, which means enemy or war, as in Syed Qutb’s Dar al Harb.

In order to counter the extremists, one must hoist them by their own petards by using classical Islamic terminology to show that they are frauds. There is no such thing as Islamic terrorism, but there have always been muharibun or Muslim terrorists. And there is no such thing as “holy war,” certainly not as a translation of jihad, but there are extremists who claim that their extremism is holy, when in fact they are only exhibiting the supreme sin in Islamic thought, which is arrogance. Arrogance is incurable, because arrogance denies itself.

The Muslim terrorists are muharibun, guilty of hiraba. Classical jurists state there can be no greater evil and no greater sin, other than blaspheming against God. If there is to be a clash both within and among civilizations, the major cause will be not Islam or any religion, but the extremists in every religion who commit hiraba. They have a name, and to name an evil is to expose it for what it is.

The extremist Muslims recite and distort various portions of the Qur’an to support their extremism, of which three are their favorites.

The first is Surah al Ma’ida 5:51, which has been translated by the six major translations of the Qur’an into English, namely, Arberry, Pickthall, Dawood, Yusuf Ali, Ahmad Ali, and now El-Halali/Khan, as follows: “O, you who believe [in the message of Muhammad], do not take Jews and Christians as friends. They are friends to one another, and the one among you who turns to them is of them. Truly, God does not guide wrongdoing folk.”

The extremists like to give the term awliya the meaning of friends, when, in fact, it means much more than that. The singular, wali, means guardian, one to whom one entrusts one future and one’s faith. Wali is one of the 99 names of God that Muslims often recite. A cognate meaning of wali, with emphasis on the first syllable, and also one of the names of God, is “ruler,” one to whom one submits.

The extremists support their favorite distortion of this text by ignoring the circumstances of this particular revelation. According to one of the earliest and most famous historians and commentators, Al-Tabari, who died in the third Islamic century, this verse was revealed shortly after the Makkans had driven the Muslims out because Muhammad opposed the profitable pilgrimage of neighboring tribes to visit the many gods set up in and around the Ka’aba. Although the Makkans were much more powerful militarily than the small group of Muslims who emigrated to Madina, the Makkans feared their growing popularity. Therefore the Makkans attacked Madina with a relatively overwhelming force.

Since it was the practice then to secure one’s own personal survival and the survival of one’s tribe or clan by making alliances with other tribes, many Muslims started to seek such alliances with Jewish and Christian tribes. This would have split the umma or community in Madina and caused the annihilation of the Muslims. In this case, the proper translation of awliya would be protectors or guardians.

The extremists among the Muslims today, however, like the translation of “friends” because this supports their ghetto mentality of confrontation with the outside world and suspicion of every Christian and Jew as a enemy. This is the perfect justification for demonizing entire civilizations and even one’s next door neighbor as part of the Dar al Harb. From this it is not a great step to 9/11.

The second favorite distortion by the Muslim extremists, and one pounced upon by those who confuse Islam with extremist Muslims, is Baqara 2:191: “And slay them wheresoever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out.” This is a favorite of the suicide bombers in the Holy Land, whose ultimate aim is to drive the Jewish population into the sea.

This selection out of context ignores the immediately preceding verse, 2:190, which reads: “Fight in the way of God against those who fight you, but transgress not the limits. Truly, God does not love the transgressors [of limits].”

Again, the historical context is also necessary to put the “slay them” verse in perspective. It does not refer to all non-Muslims and very specifically not to Jews and Christians. The object of the verse are the mushrikun or polytheists who were driving the Muslims out of their homes in Makkah. By universal definition in Islamic law, Christians and Jews are not polytheists but People of the Book, with whom Muslims are free to intermarry.

In fact, these two verses, 2:190-191, are often cited by Islamic jurists as the first instance in which the Qur’an forbid all war and violence except in self-defense and within strict limitations, which were spelled out in other parts of the Qur’an and in the whole body of later scholarship during the classical period of Islamic civilization.

As David Dukake points out in his chapter, “The Myth of a Militant Islam,” in Lumbard’s edited book, Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition: “Al-Tabari gives many accounts detailing the limits placed upon the muhajidun [wagers of jihad]. He says, for instance, that the cousin of the Prophet of Islam, Ibn ‘Abbas, commented upon Verse 190 as follows: ‘Do not kill women, or children, or the old, or the one who greets you with peace, or the one who restrains his hand from hurting you, and if you do this then you have transgressed.’ Another tradition related by Al-Tabari comes from the Ummayad Caliph ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al ‘Aziz or ‘Umar II [at the end of the first Islamic century], who explained the meaning of 2:190 as:’Do not fight he who does not fight you, that is to say women, children, and monks’.”

The hadith that prohibit exactly what the suicide bombers are doing to innocent Jews in the Holy Land and the suicide bombers did to the Christian women and children in the North Ossetian village of Beslan in the year 2004 are much too numerous to detail, but many are quoted in Dukake’s chapter on “The Myth of Militant Islam.”

Most Muslims are familiar with these many hadith, which is one reason why they are so horrified that any self-proclaimed Muslims would support suicide bombers in the name of Islam. The best way to marginalize Muslim extremists is to turn the tables on them and show that in their ignorant rage they are trying to hijack their own religion.

The third favorite distortion of the Qur’an by those who allegedly base their crimes upon it is Surah al Taubah 9:73: “O Prophet, perform jihad (jahid) against the unbelievers (kafirin) and the hypocrites (munafiqin), and attack them (akhlu).” The Muslim extremists rightly believe that this is directed against Muslims as the hypocrites, but they are clearly distorting the meaning when they say that this verse requires war against all Christians and Jews as unbelievers. The Qur’an does often refer to Christians and Jews as unbelievers, but it distinguishes usually (only a few verses from each other) between those who have a disease in their hearts and those who don’t. In verses 2:105, 5:78, 98:1, and 98:6, for example, it clearly prefaces the term unbelievers referring to the People of the Book with the preposition min, which means “among” the People of the Book. Extremists, like the Hisb al Tahrir, whose reason for existence is to institute a global Caliphate to rule the world, deliberately leave out the qualifying adjective “among” when translating this verse, thereby deliberately corrupting the Qur’an.

The extremists simply overlook other verses that talk about the Christians and Jews who do not have a disease in their hearts or else they claim that they were abrogated. Especially embarrassing for the extremist Jew haters are verses 113-115 of Surah Ali Imran: “Not all of them are alike. Of the People of the Book are a group that stand (in prayer), rehearse the signs of God throughout the night and prostrate. They believe in God and the Last Day; they enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong, and they hasten in (all) good works. These are among the righteous. Of the good that they do, nothing will be rejected of them, and God knows the God-fearing ones.”

The distortion by the extremists goes even further. They insist on translating the imperatives jahid “wage jihad” and ahklut “attack or cause pain” in the sense of offensive military warfare. Perhaps the best translation of the Qur’an, by Muhammad Asad, renders Surah al Tauba 9:73 as: “O Prophet! Strive hard against the deniers of the truth and the hypocrites, and be adamant with them.” Asad comments, “The imperative jahid is obviously used here in its spiritual connotation, implying efforts at convincing both the outspoken believers and the waverers, including the various types of hypocrites spoken of in the preceding passages.” He adds that the word akhlut means, “Do not compromise with them in matters of principle.”

The historical context is important in understanding the meaning of such key terms as umma or “community” and jihad. Extremists interpret the term community exclusively in reference to Muslims and jihad exclusively in reference to non-Muslims. The Prophet Muhammad first used the term umma in reference to all the citizens of Madina, who were Muslims, Christians, and Jews. Perhaps the first reference in the Qur’an to jihad in Surah al Hajj 22:39-40 was to defend Jews and Christians, as well as Muslims.

Prior to the revelation of this verse in Surah al Hajj, the Muslims were told to avoid all violence even in self defense, because their initial task was to purify themselves and not yet to transform society by promoting justice. Verses 39-40 were revealed as the Muslims were leaving Makkah in the migration to Madinah in the expectation that they would be attacked militarily. They read: “Permission [to fight] is given to those against whom war is being wrongfully waged – and, verily, God has indeed the power to succour them, that is, those who have been driven from their homelands against all right for no other reason than their saying, ‘Our Sustainer is God!’ For, if God had not enabled people to defend themselves against one another, [all] monasteries and churches and synagogues and mosques – in [all of] which God’s name is abundantly extolled – would surely have been destroyed [ere now].” The call to jihad was not for the destruction of other faiths and peoples, but to preserve places of worship for all the People of the Book, including Muslims.

The Constitution of Madina, which governed the first Muslim civil community together with the Jews and Christians, spells out the permanent state of common identity as follows: “In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate! This is a writing of Muhammad, the prophet, between the believers and Muslims of Quraish and Yathrib and those who follow them and are attached to them and who fight along with them. They are a single community distinct from other people. … Whosoever of the Jews follows us has the (same) help and support … so long as they are not wronged [by Muhammad] and he does not help [others] against them. … Between them [Muslims and Jews] there is help (nasr) against whoever wars against the people of this document. Between them is sincere friendship (nas’h wa nasiha) and honorable dealing. …”

Christians were prominent in the jihad waged against the enemies of Islam, because, as Lumbard puts it, the point of the jihad was not to establish a world populated only by Muslims; it was to create a social order in which the freedom to practice the worship of God was guaranteed for all Muslims as well as for the People of the Book.” He concludes, “Traditional Muslims saw all of life in terms of balance. … It has primarily been certain modernized Muslims, whose influences are not the traditional teachings of the faith, but the attitudes and excesses of modernity (only cloaked with turbans and beards), who have transgressed all limits and discarded the Balance that is true Islam.”


VII. The Challenge of Transcendent Justice

The paradigm of radicalism and resulting resort to violence as a solution of first resort has passed from the twentieth century, the most violent in human history, into the present one, like a hurricane mutating from a Category Four to a Category Five or beyond the scale to a Category X. In order to address this monumental threat, Muslims, as well as everyone else, need what the British called a “grand strategy” that orchestrates all dimensions of civilizational dynamics. The followers of every religion can best address the impending dissolution of civilization by reviving the core vision of their classical past. This is the vision of a transcendent justice that derives from an ultimate truth beyond the power and authority of human beings.

Among all the legal systems of the world, the principles of transcendent justice have been most beautifully articulated in classical Islamic thought. These constitute a sophisticated code of human responsibilities and corresponding human rights.

Unfortunately, in the Muslim world, especially in its Sunni portion, this enlightened legal system has been dead for six hundred years. Probably not one Muslim extremist in a thousand has ever even heard of the Islamic code of human rights. The task of Muslims in the world today is to revive the best of this classical Islam, just as it is the task of Americans, including American Muslims, to revive the equivalent in traditionalist or classical America. If there is to be a future for civilization, this project of recovering the best of the past in order reliably to build a better future must be a joint venture.

The starting point in reviving transcendent justice and applying it should be recognizing that the transcendent sources in revelation, natural law, and human reason (known in Islamic philosophy as haqq al yaqin, 'ain al yaqin, and 'ilm al yaqin) can be the starting point. The transcendent approach looks upon the details of the law, known in Arabic as the ahkam or rules and regulations, from the starting point of the whole. The details can be understood and intelligently applied only as applications of higher principles. The opposite approach looks at the whole, if at all, from the starting point of the details. In the transcendent approach, analysis takes precedence over synthesis. In its opposite, synthesis takes precedence over analysis, often without any principles whatsoever.

Many centuries of the best Islamic scholarship developed Islamic jurisprudence into an elaborate and sophisticated holistic framework of human responsibilities and rights. The holistic system of Islamic philosophy and its expression in shari’ah thought is primarily educational and inspirational, focused on transcendent justice, in contrast to the positivist systems of tyrannical and totalitarian governance which serve primarily to consolidate the status quo with all of its injustices. The holistic regards the use of any force to assure compliance as a failure of the system, and it reveres non-violence though not to the extent of absolute pacifism. The positivist system, on the other hand, tends to regard the monopoly of violence and its application by the power of established government as rule by law and as the very definition of justice. As some Muslims use the term, justice can even mean revenge.

According to some classical Islamic scholars, seven universal principles of law, known variously as kulliyat or universals, maqasid or purposes, and dururiyat or essentials, best reflect the architectonics of human rights and constitutional law in Islamic thought. The art of these maqasid as part of the science of 'usul al fiqh (especially in the form of istislah) was initiated by the Prophet Muhammad but was first systematically developed by Imam Jafar and Abu Hamid al Ghazali. It reached its zenith in the writings of Abu Ishaq al Shatibi in the later 1300s and then suddenly died out. These universal principles finally were revived again toward the end of the twentieth century, among others, by Sa’id Ramadhan of Geneva, Switzerland, who married the daughter of Hassan al Banna, and by their son, Tariq Ramadhan, at the beginning of the twenty-first century as part of a movement to marginalize the extremist movements that threatened to hijack religion in all of the world's traditions.

The first universal principle is haqq al din, which provides the framework for the next six in the form of respect for a transcendent source of truth to guide human thought and action. Recognition of this absolute source of truth and of the responsibility to apply it in practice are needed to counter the temptations toward relativism and the resulting chaos, injustice, and tyranny that may result from the de-sacralization of public life.

The next six can be viewed as pairs. The first pair deals with human sovereignty. The first of this pair is haqq al nafs, which is the duty to respect the human person as the source of all sovereignty, subject only to the higher sovereignty of God.

A second order principle or subordinate goal of the first purpose in this pair is known as haqq al haya, which is the duty to respect life. This provides the framework for the third-order principles or hajjiyat of the just war doctrine. It also provides that the human embryo is sacred from the moment of conception, regardless of when the soul is breathed into the body.

The second maqsud of this first pair is haqq al nasl, which is the duty to respect the nuclear family of husband and wife as the basic building bloc of society and to respect the community at every level all the way to the community of humankind as important expressions of the person.

The next pair deals with the institutional means to maintain the sovereignty of the person and of communities. The first maqsud of this pair is haqq al mal. This is the duty to respect the right of private property in the means of production, a right that Muslim socialists during the era of the Cold War did their best to eliminate. This maqsud requires respect for institutions that broaden access to capital ownership as a universal human right. This requires reform in the sense of perfecting the institutions of the global financial system in order to improve access to credit based on future, not merely on past, wealth.

The second maqsud of this second pair in the Islamic framework of human rights is haqq al hurriyah. This requires respect for self-determination of persons and communities through political freedom, including the concept that economic democracy through expanded capital ownership is a precondition for the political democracy of representative governance. All the great Islamic scholars were imprisoned, often for many years, for teaching this Islamic code of human rights, but particularly for insisting on this principle of freedom and its four subsidiary or second-order principles or hajjiyat of khilafa, shura, ijma, and an independent judiciary.

The third set of universal principles of justice deals with the means to promote human dignity through social justice. The first of this pair is haqq al karama or respect for personal dignity, especially through two hajjiyat or subsets of legal guidance, namely, religious freedom and gender equity.

The last of this third pair is haqq al 'ilm or respect for knowledge. The second-order principles of this universal principle of justice require freedom of thought, press, and assembly, so that all persons can fulfill their purpose to seek knowledge wherever they can find it.

These basic principles of human responsibilities and rights are universal. They form the core of human aspirations and they provide the basis for a global traditionalist movement led by enlightened Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and all others who acknowledge an ultimate source of transcendent truth, who accept the accountability of each person and community for one's deeds in this life, and who perform good works out of love for the Infinite, whether known as Allah, God, Jehovah, or other word, and out of love for its finite expression in every human being.


VIII. Applying Transcendent Justice in Chechnya

American foreign policy has advocated a political solution to the warfare in the Caucasus. This could apply both to the former republics that became independent states and in the autonomous regions that were smaller and lower in rank in the Leninist formula of power to the people and therefore did not qualify for independent statehood when the Soviet Union imploded. Since the peoples of this region are both Christian and Muslim, the political solution might be an Abraham Federation, as has been advocated for decades as a one-state solution to the dilemmas of the Holy Land.

This might obviate the political embarrassment that compromise might cause the Russian leadership in addressing the currently insoluble dilemma of terrorism emanating from Chechnya and from other peoples of the Caucasus that aspire to greater self-determination. If it were based on the Islamic code of human rights, this would undercut the Muslim extremists who are even more unwilling than the hard-line Russian leaders to “surrender.”

The solution must be more than merely political, because often economics is an unspoken but influential factor in conflict resolution. The terrorists claim that Russia is interested in Chechen oil, just as similar terrorists in Iraq insist that the United States wants to occupy Iraq permanently in order to steal its oil. There is a simple answer to these conspiratorial extremists. Privatize the oil resources in individual voting shares to every citizen of the federation, whether it is a federation of the Caucasus or of Iraq, with provision that the shares cannot be sold for twenty years until a true ownership mentality has taken hold.

Since ideas shape history over the long-run, the framework for such ambitious undertakings must be rooted in the ideas of transcendent justice. The basis for both these political and economic solutions to the conflict highlighted by Chechen terrorism must be respect for the sovereignty of the person as the source for all higher political sovereignty. This would give rise to the principle of subsidiarity, taught especially in classical Roman Catholic moral theology, whereby problems are solved at the lowest level of human society wherever possible and only then at ascending higher levels. This reduces the role and importance of state sovereignty, which is more of a cause than a cure for much conflict in the world.

This revolutionary approach, if advocated by the spiritual leaders of the world as mediators and supported by the United States, would make the terrorists of the world irrelevant. Our task is not to stop evil, which can't be done, but to promote good, which can marginalize evil and overcome it.


[1] Presented on September 26, 2004, at the Center for Global Studies, George Mason University, Arlington, Virginia, as part of the 33rd Annual Conference of the Association of Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS). This presentation introduced Panel 8, entitled “Dialogue, Peacemaking, and Justice,” in support of the conference theme: Revisioning Modernity: Challenges and Possibilities for Islam.
[2] Dr. Crane is Scholar in Residence and Executive Director of the Peace Institute associated with the Islamic Society of Central Florida. He earned a Doctor of Laws (J.D.) from Harvard Law School in 1959 in international investment. President Nixon appointed him Deputy Director of the National Security Council in January 1969, and President Reagan appointed him in 1981 as U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates responsible for two-track diplomacy with the Islamist movements of the Middle East and North Africa.
[3] See the author’s position paper, Kosovo and Chechnya: Products of the Past, Harbingers of the Future, Islamic Institute for Strategic Studies, February 2000, 32 pp.


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