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Rating: 0 of 0 votes Quote waheed1 Replybullet Posted: 24 April 2008 at 3:54pm
This is a very interesting discussion, it seems everyone here is on their best behavior and giving really insightful comments. I can only add that I would like to recommend to all the posters in this thread the book "The Phenomenon of Religion, a thematic approach" by Moojan Momen.

It's published by Oneworld. I think the work would really add something to discussions of this nature.

Regards,
S.Waheed
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Rating: 0 of 0 votes Quote Guests Replybullet Posted: 24 April 2008 at 11:24pm
Brilliant title by the way, this war (or whatever you want to call it) is full of examples of the power words and names have to mislead people.

If it's specifically what is now known as the Al-Qa`ida movement we're talking about, then Yishmael's Qutbist is probably the most accurate term that's been suggested in this thread. I think the qualifier 'radical Qutbist' would be more precise however; as although Al-Qa`ida's ideological origins lie in a group of Egyptian militants who - inspired by Sayyid Qutb's works arguing that as a result of being ruled by corrupt dictators the Muslim world had effectively ceased to exist - unsuccessfully plotted to overthrow the Egyptian government (though they succeeded in killing President Sadat); they represent the very extreme fringe of people influenced by Qutb, who was executed before he had the chance to make any explicit suggestions in his writings as to how this situation could be rectified, so his works are legitimately open to diverse interpretations: deciding that the only way to solve the problem was to kill as many 'infected' Muslims as possible to force the masses to snap out of it, as Al-Qa`ida has, is certainly just about the most radical interpretation as you can get.

But these matters are complicated, I think now would be a good place to explain why I have a problem with any such terms like 'Alqaidaist', as UmDanu mentioned earlier in this thread. Although there is definitely now an 'Al-Qa`ida' ideology out there, this is a relatively new thing (i.e. post 9/11) thanks to mass publicity Osama bin Laden and his gang of thugs gained after the 9/11 attacks, and putting any significant proportion of the issues in the Muslim world from the last thirty years or so down to Al-Qa`ida would be wholly inaccurate. The other reason is that, even if it's made clear that it's an ideology being talked about, because of alarmist politicians and even more alarmist media coverage people have it so deeply ingrained in their minds that Al-Qa`ida is a cohesive international terrorist organisation with cells all around the world commanded by Osama bin Laden, that they would never be able to separate this fantasy from the ideology being discussed (which is a very radical interpretation of Sayyid Qutb's works). Indeed, the former is a fantasy, the actual organisation referred to as Al-Qa`ida (although there's no evidence that Osama bin Laden, Ayman Al-Dhawahri, or anyone else associated with the group called it 'Al-Qa`ida' until the Americans started doing so) only ever consisted of little more than a few dozen radical Qutbist militants who - on the run after failing to violently overthrow governments in their own countries - had fled to Afghanistan and had came together in the mid 1990s around Ayman Al-Dhawahri, who devised a new spin on the radical Qutbist ideology, arguing that since they had failed to create revolutions in the Muslim world because the mass violence they created had disgusted so many people, they should instead attack the United States, and that would legitimise them in the Muslim world again and get the revolution back on track. Osama bin Laden was one of these men and was selected as their leader, but it's been well established by now this was only done to keep him on board because he was the only one who had lots of money, and that Al-Dhawahri is the real brains behind the whole operation. This very loose band were connected to the 9/11 attacks in that they had given assistance to the man who planned the attacks, Khalid Shaikh Muhammad, a Kuwaiti militant of Pakistani descent who had volunteered in the Afghan-Soviet war and later the Bosnian-Serbian war, and had also travelled to Qatar, Yemen, Sudan, the Phillipines, Malaysia and Brazil to support terrorist actions against Americans there. Khalid Shaikh Muhammad was actually not a radical Qutbist, he wanted to attack America because he was angry about it's support for Israel, but having a shared interest in attacking America was good enough, and after bringing his proposal (i.e. the 'planes operation') to Osama bin Laden in 1998-9 he was given money and some recruits from the militant training camps in Afghanistan from which he could go to the US carry out his plan. The assistence Al-Qa`ida gave to him would prove disastrous for them however, because the United States government had decided after 9/11 that they were going to totally obliterate the group behind the attacks, as well as any who harboured them or in any way gave assistence to them. In contrast to the situation in Iraq (where the Bush administration has squeezed every last bit of credit possible out of any success like that last bit of toothpaste from the tube, dismally attempting to distract people from the fact that the invasion has been a catastrophe), the success in Afghanistan was actually downplayed by the Americans (perhaps because they were already planning to invade Iraq under the justification that Saddam Hussain was harbouring Al-Qa`ida, and so reporting too much success in Afghanistan would be counter-productive to convincing people of this claim). Although Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Dhawahri both got out alive, Al-Qa`ida was almost crippled beyond repair in the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan; most of their original group had been killed; Afghanistan's training camps had been almost completely destroyed, (while the vast majority of these had neither anything to do with Osama bin Laden or were interested in attacking America, they did provide potential trained recruits) the Taliban had been destroyed and the Afghan Mujahideen (who hated the militants of the training camps) had retaken control of the country, with NATO assistance.

What I'm trying to get across here is that this war is not against an organisation, Al-Qa`ida wasn't anything like as sophisicated as it's so often made out to be, and was effectively destroyed after the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. What is being fought is a dangerous ideology which was actually on its last legs by 9/11 (attacking America was not a sign of strength, it was actually an act of desperation after all their attempts to create revolutions in the Muslim world failed abysmally). It was by foolishly exaggerating the threat it posed (as if a few scraggly Arabs running around a couple of primitive camps in Afghanistan are a serious threat to the United States) and then even more foolishly invading Iraq that it's been given a £200 and a get out of jail free card; what's more, the card's been given to a particular strand of this ideology which had just recently developed, which went against the 'mainstream' (amongst radicals, of course) by deciding the way to success was not by killing Muslims, it was by killing Americans! Couldn't have made a better choice eh? I'm slipping into politics so I'll wrap this paragraph up now, but I seriously think the American people need to to wake up to the fact that they're being governed by rulers who have absolutely no idea what they're doing, and realise how very dangerous that is.

I'll now get back to addressing the opening post more directly. If you're not familiar with the term, 'Wahabist' (or more commonly, Wahhabi) is a somewhat derogative term to denote the spiritual followers of Muhammad bin `Abdal-Wahhab, an 18th Century scholar who formulated something of an 'Islamic reformation' in Arabia by purging the peninsular's religious pracises of all unIslamic influence, for example idolatry, astrology, praying to dead people etc, his ideological successors now call themselves Salafis (which literally means followers of the early generations (of Muslims)). Although this 'fact' has been mentioned so frequently in the Western media that it's became accepted as if it's something universally established, neither Osama bin Laden or Ayman Al-Dhawahri are Salafis/Wahhabis nor do they really have anything to do with the movement. As explained earlier, they follow a radical interpretation of the works of Sayyid Qutb, whom Salafis consider to be a heretic (for saying slavery is banned in Islam, amongst other things). What Salafism does has in common with the Al-Qa`ida ideology is a history of violence and intolerance, but this stems from their, quite different, founding principle. The way I see it is after Wahhab's death, the Salafi movement's goal of purifying the Islam practised in Arabia from unIslamic, Paganistic influences had more or less been completed. But, rather than accept this and say job well done, they continued to be on the lookout for innovations in religion (the dreaded b-word, biddah) and in their fear of it returning started seeing them where there was no innovation at all, becoming increasingly extreme. Their reasoning for labelling as a heretic Sayyid Qutb and anyone else who says slavery is banned in Islam is that slavery was practiced in Muhammad's time and therefore banning it is biddah; this is despite the fact that Muhammad (pbuh) and his companions all preached against slavery and set free thousands of slaves, Muhammad even said in an authentic Hadith that on the Day of Judgment he would personally be a plaintiff against anyone who enslaved someone; yet in their eyes the fact that slavery existed in Muhammad's time and was not banned then is proof that it is a divine institution, the fact that Muhammad (pbuh) was hardly ever in a position to abolish slavery is besides the point. That's the kind of mindset you have to deal with. That being said, although there's plenty to criticise about the Salafi movement, the main problem about them is that in effectively ruling Saudi Arabia and receiving vast amounts of money in return for pumping oil, they have the resources to promote around the world as authentic representations of Islam what are, in reality, extreme minority viewpoints that almost nobody outside of Saudi Arabia agrees with. They're not really a threat to anyone else.

'Jihadist' is another annoying one, because jihad is actually a Qur'anic term, and so when the Western media refers to people killing civilians as 'Jihadists' (not that that's a real word, but nevermind) what they're doing is giving them the Islamic justification they don't deserve. Regardless of what they label their actions, there is absolutely nothing in the Qur'an that even in war justifies killing women, children or non-combatants of any kind, nevermind flying jetplanes into skyscrapers. The word jihad literally means to exert oneself, and in the Qur'anic context means to exert yourself to better serve God. The first verse to talk about jihad (which has been translated as 'strive') in the Qur'an is this one (I'll borrow Eldon's idea of providing an Arabic transliteration too):

And strive in the way of God as you ought to strive. He has chosen you and has not imposed upon you any unbearable hardship in your religion; (this is) the faith of your forefather Abraham. He (God) has named you Muslims, before this and in this (book), that the Messenger may be a witness for you, and that you may be witnesses to mankind. So establish prayer, give regular charity, and hold fast unto God; He is your Patron. A blessed Patron and a blessed Helper! (22:78)

Wajahidoo fee Allahi haqqa jihadihi huwa ijtabakum wama jaAAala AAalaykum fee alddeeni min harajin millata abeekum ibraheema huwa sammakumu almuslimeena min qablu wafee hatha liyakoona alrrasoolu shaheedan AAalaykum watakoonoo shuhadaa AAala alnnasi faaqeemoo alssalata waatoo alzzakata waiAAtasimoo biAllahi huwa mawlakum faniAAma almawla waniAAma alnnaseeru


Now while it's true that jihad can also refer to physical fighting and in Islamic literature often does, what is being referred to is a much more noble cause than the despicable nihilistic murders committed by those who the Western media shamefully call jihadists. Here's a verse in the Qur'an that describes this form of jihad:

And why should you not fight in the cause of God, and of the weak among men, women and children who are crying: Our Lord! Rescue us from this town whose people are oppressors! Oh, give us from Your presence some guardian! Oh, give us from Your presence some defender! (4:75)


Far from taking it away, jihad in the military sense is about establishing freedom of religion. I hope you understand why Muslims find it very insulting that plain murderers are called 'jihadists'.

But you may also legitimately ask why do these people say what they're doing is jihad? Do they think it is? Well, the answer is yes and no. In the case of radical Qutbists like Al-Qa`ida, the term has been totally redefined in the context of their metanarrative. In Qutbist theory, the entire Muslim world has fallen into a state of jahiliyya, an Arabic word which has no exact translation in English, but means something like 'deluded ignorance' and was used by Muhammad (pbuh) to refer to pre-Islamic Arab civilisation. Now, at the time it was readily accepted amongst the populace of the Muslim world that they were one nation united in one brotherhood, and were the world's greatest civilisation. For someone like Sayyid Qutb to turn up and write that not only was this not true, but that there wasn't even any Muslim 'nation' or 'civilisation' to speak of, and that the Muslim world (or what was the Muslim world) had fallen into jahiliyya, that is a very powerful and shocking statement, but he felt it was necessary if Muslims were going to wake up to reality, because the nature of jahiliyya is that it deludes people into thinking they're successful when they're actually failures, united when they're actually divided, civilised when they're actually barbaric.

As previously explained, contemporary Qutbist thought is very diverse, especially since he was executed by the Egyptian government for being a seditious influence before he every really got into the 'how to we fix this?' part of his theory in any sort of detail. The main body influenced by his works is the Muslim Brotherhood, which is an officially banned political party in Egypt who despite being banned, their members imprisoned and their supporters attacked, have still managed to gain a fair number of seats in the Egyptian Parliament through recent general elections (Egypt is officially a democracy, but in reality it's a one party dictatorship). The most common interpretation of Qutbism is that it's by educating the people and using the will of the people against the dictators ruling the Muslim world (such as through elections) that they can be overthrown, and generally do not approve of violent methods. But of course there is the more radical faction, who in the early 1980s lead by Ayman Al-Dhawahri decided that the way to end jahiliyya was through jihad, and plotted a coup to overthrow the Egyptian government through the mass killing of government officials, whereupon the Askariya (vangard) could then form a new government, free the Muslim masses from jahiliyya and establish the Khilafa (Caliphate), and a harmonious society would soon emerge without the need of any enforcement. In case you're wondering if this sounds somewhat familiar, it sounds familiar to me too. This is somewhat controversial so everyone can feel free to disagree with me, but this to me is clearly just Marxist-Leninist theory dressed in Islamic terminology, where jahiliyya = capitalist/commodity fetishism, Muslim masses = proletariat, jihad = dictatorship of the proletariat, the Askariya = the enlightened communist revolutionaries and Khilafa = Communism. I've always found it ironic that right-wing American thinktanks refer to Al-Qa`ida's ideology as 'Islamofascism', when it really has very little in common with fascism, but the similarities to Marxism are striking.

When this coup attempt failed, the interpretation of 'jihad' changed, as they deemed trying to kill the leaders of jahiliyya to be a failed policy. Because the Muslim masses did not rise up and assist in the overthrowing of their government, they were deemed to be infected by jahiliyya to such a degree that they were trapped into supporting it, and thus were guilty and must also be killed. Thus 'jihad' went through the first major change in definition in their ideology, rather than killing the corrupt leaders of Muslim countries to free the masses from jahiliyya, it now effectively meant killing as many Muslims as possible in order to collectively free them from jahiliyya. This application reached its most radical level in the Algerian Civil War in which somewhere in the region of 200,000 people died, much of which at the hands of radical Qutbist militias who had now decided that jihad meant to deliberately commit the most disgusting and shocking acts of violence possible against the Muslims of Algeria. They would go round Algerian villages nihilistically slaughtering thousands of civilians, women, children, the elderly, all of whom had absolutely nothing to do with the conflict, purely for the sake of killing them. Of course such tactics did not work in creating a revolution either, and lead to the 'Muslim masses' rising up against the radical Qutbists and kicking them out. Later around 1995-96 the faction of radical Qutbists that would later became known as Al-Qa`ida, realising that mass violence against Muslims in order to shock them into a revolution had been an utter failure too, made a second major change in the definition of jihad. Remembering how inspirational the Afghan's defeat of the superpower Soviet Union was, they decided that instead killing Muslims or indeed focusing their activities in Muslim countries at all, they would attack the world's only superpower, the United States, striking specific targets (preferably military) rather than mindlessly killing civilians, and that this would give them legitimacy in the eyes of the Muslim masses, and so lead them to rise up in revolution against their governments hoping to replace them with the 'freedom fighters' they saw battling America. This strategy doesn't seem to have lasted very long though, probably because Al-Qa`ida (the group) doesn't really have that much influence. For example the Iraq War, where despite Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Dhawahri urging the radical Qutbists to unite with the the Muslims of Iraq and fight only the American occupation forces, we can see it didn't take long for militant leaders like Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi (who although he renamed his group 'Al-Qa`ida in Iraq' in 2004, this was more because it was a more attention grabbing 'brandname', not that he was actually part of Al-Qa`ida proper) to go back to the usual savagry, and thus we see the thousands of Muslim civilians being murdered in mosques, marketplaces, schools, hospitals etc for no discernable reason other than to kill people.

So my answer to the posed question is 'yes' they do think that what they're doing is jihad, and 'no' because they're defining jihad purely within the context of their own sick political ideology which hasn't the slightest basis in Islamic theology.

And 'Islamist', well I don't think it requires much explanation why we're not happy with that one. The word or variants thereof (for example in Turkish: İslamcı) is often used in the Muslim world as an insult, though not towards people who want to impose Islam on others, but just to any Muslim who takes their religion seriously (someone who prays five times a day for example) and whom more secular types consider to be backward minded idiots. Even if those in the West who use it claim it has a different meaning here, in practice it means the same thing as it does in the Muslim world. For example Muslim women in Europe who wear headscarves can expect to be refused jobs because the business doesn't employ 'Islamists'.
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yishmael  
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Rating: 0 of 0 votes Quote yishmael Replybullet Posted: 25 April 2008 at 12:31am
Hi Kadaveri,

Congratulations for an outstanding article. I only have a couple of minor points which might serve to enhance your already astute analysis.

Kadaveri Wrote:
This is somewhat controversial so everyone can feel free to disagree with me, but this to me is clearly just Marxist-Leninist theory dressed in Islamic terminology, where jahiliyya = capitalist/commodity fetishism, Muslim masses = proletariat, jihad = dictatorship of the proletariat, the Askariya = the enlightened communist revolutionaries and Khilafa = Communism. I've always found it ironic that right-wing American thinktanks refer to Al-Qa`ida's ideology as 'Islamofascism', when it really has very little in common with fascism, but the similarities to Marxism are striking.

I'm glad someone else noticed this. I made the same association after reading Qutb's Milestones a few weeks ago. While I know almost nothing about Islam, I know a little bit about Marxist-Leninist philosophy. I've thrown this idea out to various people, and the reaction has been mixed.

Jahiliyah most closely corresponds to an idea formulated by Lukacs (a Hungarian Marxist philosopher) known as reification.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reification_(Marxism)

In Qutb's critique of modernity, he touched on nearly everything Lukacs did in his polemics against capitalism. Basically, societal structure objectifies (reifies) human beings, and makes material wealth and media of exchange the objects of history.

In this regard both jahiliyah and reification describe the same process. It is a commodity fetishism critique, specific to psychological processes. For Qutb and Lukacs both, modern society reduced human beings to the lowest common denominator.

Qutb began to formulate his theories while he was a student in the American State of Colorado, at a time in history when Marx, Gramsci and Lukacs were widely studied by Americans (particularly education majors like Qutb). It's impossible to believe he wasn't intimately acquainted with a basic working knowledge of Marxist-Leninist theory in context.

At the same time, I don't want to paint him as a petty plagiarist. If you read Qutb's work, you get a picture of a very bright (possibly brilliant) social critic who genuinely wants to meld traditional values with the benefits of modernity. He started out with Marxist ideas, but built them into a post-Marxist totality all its own.

Kadaveri Wrote:
As previously explained, contemporary Qutbist thought is very diverse, especially since he was executed by the Egyptian government for being a seditious influence before he every really got into the 'how to we fix this?' part of his theory in any sort of detail.

The "how do we fix this" is identical to the Marxist ideal of Class Consciousness, which was also being honed by Lukacs in the 20th century.

http://books.google.com/books?id=SfcylisIu4gC&dq=history+and+class+consciousness

The idea of a people's liberation army (Qutb appropriated the Muslim Brothers for this task) taking control of an area and enforcing the redistribution of wealth and re-education of the working class (Qutb attempted this with an assassination of Nasser, in Egypt) is a Marxist idea commonly called The Dictatorship of the Proletariat, and is thought to inevitably lead to a spontaneous awakening. Eventually, society becomes gradually depoliticized and decentralized, with workers assuming more and more ownership of the means of production, until the political state withers away. Qutb believed that the key was simply to have his armed vanguard take control of Egypt. Just as in the Marxist model, where false consciousness would be gradually replaced by class consciousness, Qutb felt confident that the end of Jahiliyah would produce a perfect shari'a. In his ideal society, every citizen would be an authentic Muslim, simply by experiencing the structure of the society, and this ideal society would be the launching point for a world revolution, which would lead to a global superstate.

For the real foundation of the theory in toto, you might want to read Lenin's State And Revolution

http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/staterev/

It's an interesting take on the "how do we fix it" idea that I suspect Qutb had a copy of.

In other words, it's just as you described it: classical Marxist-Leninist philosophy worked into an Islamic structure, and eventually expanded into a post-Marxist (and perhaps post-Islamic) socio-political-economic theory of its own.

Thanks again for a very comprehensive deconstruction of Qutb, and for a post-Qutbist critique of the critic. You've clarified things I'd still be wondering about had you not written it; and I'd like to see your article widely read and reviewed by both secular and religious peers. Consider publishing.

Yishmael
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Rating: 0 of 0 votes Quote Aviatrix Replybullet Posted: 25 April 2008 at 1:16am
Wow, Kad, I didn't know you had it in you. I'm amazed. But subhanallah, Yishmael mentioned this very topic to me some weeks ago and I'm afraid I just totally didn't understand it (because I've never studied Marxist or Leninist ideologies.) I feel like I just learned more reading that one post than I have in an entire semester of studying US-MidEast relations.
 
I only had one tiny thing that I wanted to say, and that is about literature published by the Saudi government. I've been able to review some da'wah literature coming from Saudi Arabia and all that oil money, and it does not represent any extremism that the Muslim world would disagree with. From Saudi Arabia we have the Saheeh Int'l translation of the Qur'an, for example. But I was actually really impressed to read some little booklets and stuff that we had form the Saudi Embassy about Islam. And I also know a little about what is being taught at the universitiesin Saudi Arabia, and really it's not so extreme and bizarre or even modern. Yes, they do study Ibn AbdulWahhab, but it hasn't seemed so extreme to me as you made it sound, that the world doesn't agree with it. When I've seen people disagree, it's usually because they don't understand what is being taught in the first place.
 
But that was a really impressive article all the same. And maybe I'm wrong. I know I certainly learned plenty by reading what you wrote, jazakallahukhair.
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Rating: 0 of 0 votes Quote eldon Replybullet Posted: 25 April 2008 at 9:18am

My thanks also, Kadaveri for taking the time to write that insightful article.

Would it be allright if I posted your article, along with Yishmael's comments, to a Christian preachers' discussion board to help them discern between Islam and Terror-in-the-name-of-Islam?

So lose not heart nor fall into despair, for ye MUST gain mastery if ye are true in faith.3:139

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Rating: 0 of 0 votes Quote yishmael Replybullet Posted: 25 April 2008 at 6:00pm
Originally posted by eldon

My thanks also, Kadaveri for taking the time to write that insightful article.

Would it be allright if I posted your article, along with Yishmael's comments, to a Christian preachers' discussion board to help them discern between Islam and Terror-in-the-name-of-Islam?



Can't speak for Comrade Kadaveri, but you have my permission to cleanse, fold and manipulate whatever I write...here or anywhere...for whatever purpose you think useful.

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Rating: 0 of 0 votes Quote LtTony Replybullet Posted: 26 April 2008 at 6:04am
 
I don't know a lot about Sayyid Qutb, so I can't comment there, kad, but drawing a comparison between Marxism and  Al-Qa`ida's ideology, or Outbism or whatever you want to call it that doesn't offend anybody is interesting.
 
BTW, ran across this:

Bush Administration Gives NewTerminology  to Terrorism

'Jihadist' booted from government lexicon

For example, while Americans may understand "jihad" to mean "holy war," it is in fact a broader Islamic concept of the struggle to do good, says the guidance prepared for diplomats and other officials tasked with explaining the war on terror to the public. Similarly, "mujahedeen," which means those engaged in jihad, must be seen in its broader context.

U.S. officials may be "unintentionally portraying terrorists, who lack moral and religious legitimacy, as brave fighters, legitimate soldiers or spokesmen for ordinary Muslims," says a Homeland Security report. It's entitled "Terminology to Define the Terrorists: Recommendations from American Muslims."


http://www.nysun.com/news/national/bush-administration-gives-new-terminology-terrorism

http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5i3X6Gha4z-MCq9pU0vC4FWqDCXrwD908CUGO0




Edited by LtTony - 28 April 2008 at 2:42am
"“We love death. The US loves life. That is the difference between us two.” Osama Bin Laden
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