Posts Tagged ‘al-Qaeda’

Pew have published some new research on Muslim opinions towards the Islamist groups Hamas and Hezbollah and, amongst other things, views on the role of Islam in public life.  The report makes for interesting, and worrying, reading as you can imagine:

Extremist groups Hamas and Hezbollah continue to receive mixed ratings from Muslim publics. However, opinions of al Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden, are consistently negative; only in Nigeria do Muslims offer views that are, on balance, positive toward al Qaeda and bin Laden.

It is Pew’s job to produce objective, non-partisan research, but this opening paragraph to their commentary understates what to me are some startling figures.  Firstly, we often hear about the public’s ‘mixed reaction’ to various policy initiatives, or even their ambivalence.  In some instances this might even be a controversial issue (such as lingering support for capital punishment).  In this instance, however, we’re talking about a large body of people who support genocidal terrorist organisations: according to Pew, some 38 million Nigerians express support for Hamas and al-Qa’idah, and some 35 million the Shi’ite Islamists of Hezbollah (this in spite of the fact that Nigerian Muslims are overwhelmingly Sunni).  In Egypt, some 36 million people look upon Hamas favourably, whilst 14.5 million Egyptians champion al-Qa’idah.  In avowedly secular Turkey, some 3 million, 3.8 million and 7 million Turks endorse the policies of al-Qa’idah, Hezbollah and Hamas respectively; this, in a country in the advanced stages of gaining accession to the European Union.  But perhaps the most disturbing data in the survey comes from Indonesia.  With a population approaching 250 million, Indonesia is the largest Muslim-majority country in the world with some 209 million Indonesians professing faith in Islam (according to the last census) or 86% of the population.  Of this 209 million, according to Pew, 23% approve of al-Qa’idah (48 million); 39% Hamas (81.5 million); and 43% Hezbollah (90 million).


Looking at the results of two previous surveys (see Mixed Views of Hamas and Hezbollah in Largely Muslim Nations and Muslim Views of Hamas Mixed) on Muslim attitudes to Islamism, we notice a general trend of growing support, with exceptions:

  • support for Hamas has doubled in Lebanon, nearly doubled in Indonesia and Turkey, and increased by over a third in Nigeria since 2007;
  • support for Islamism in Egypt has fallen, with declining support particularly marked for Hezbollah;
  • support for Hezbollah has increased significantly in Jordan and by 50% in Lebanon since 2009

The survey also finds that Muslims are overwhelmingly in favour of Islam’s role in their countries’ politics.  Furthermore, although the Turkish public are ambivalent towards the role Islam, of the 69% who say  religion plays a large role, 45% see it as good a thing.


Regarding democracy, majorities in most of the Muslim publics surveyed say that democracy is preferable to any other kind of government, though it is unclear from the survey exactly what form of democracy.  This view is especially widespread in Lebanon and in Turkey, the most Westernised countries in the Middle East with the exception of Israel.  In these two states at least three-quarters of Muslims (81% and 76%, respectively) express a preference for democratic governance.  Support for democracy is less common in Pakistan, but a plurality (42%) of Muslims in that country prefer democracy to other types of government; 15% of Pakistani Muslims say that, in some circumstances, a non-democratic government can be preferable, and 21% say that, for someone like them, the kind of government their country has does not matter.

To view or download the full report in .pdf, click here.


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Great post over at The Spittoon from Rashad Ali on the scriptural and moral legitimacy of the Islamist-espoused pan-global Caliphate.  I’ve reproduced it below in full (Thanks Rashad!  Excellent work!):

Hizb ut-Tahrir; Jamaat-e-Islami; Ikhwan al-Muslimeen and al-Qaeda all have, as a fundamental aim; the establishment of a global dictatorship under the rule of one Caliph, an autocrat, who will impose one interpretation of the Shar’iah over the entire globe. They intend to do this through unifying countries where there already exists Muslim majorities then launch a worldwide international effort at expanding this state through diplomatic and hostile means i.e. warfare.

For them, there is a religious duty (fard) in which there is no dispute, that there must be a single caliphate encompassing the whole globe. There is no room for different interpretations, and anyone differing with them – especially the likes of the Hizb, and al-Qaeda, are upon Kufr – unbelief and apostates from Islam. In fact they would argue that all the Muslim scholars who have abandoned engaging in political activity for the sake of establishing such a super-state are upon misguidance, and Kufr, even if on the whole the Muslim jurists take the position, that there are different opinions on this issue, which are legitimate opinions – Ijtihadaat – and therefore we cannot start accusing others of being on un-Islamic positions for holding different views.

The fact is whilst mainstream religious scholarship prefers unity to disunity, and an ideal of unified peaceful relations, it recognizes the practical and political reality that has existed throughout our history, that we have always had different states and empires. Scholarship has always recognized that there differences in all such issues which warrant recognition. Barking on about the obligation of having a leader/caliph/head of state- all of which carry the same meaning according to groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir, is not the same as proving that Muslim scholars historically or presently support the forceful unification of Muslim majority countries or expansionist states in the World. This is a false representation of classical and modern scholarship.

First of all, Muslim scholars have differed over the necessity of having a single political leadership. Rather it was considered acceptable to many scholars.

Secondly, rejecting the concept of having a caliph and Imam or leadership was considered as erroneous (this should be differentiated form the notion of an expansionist state), but not Kufr. In fact, it was considered a form of extremism amongst classical scholars to exaggerate the issueof caliphate as their many differences upon such issues.

Thirdly, political rebellion in order to remove leaderships by force, coup or militant means or through political agitation was considered heresy, and fisq (transgression) and an aspect of deviant sectarian cultiures such as the Khawarij; deemed outside of the way of mainstream Islamic teaching; which is where the seperation from classical tradition and Islamist ideological activism originates.

A question arise though about the apparent clear cut evidences from prophetic tradition which are often cited to clearly oblige the necessity of one caliph and forbid multiple rulers. It is then claimed that such rules are clear cut and definitive (Qati) permitting no other interpretations.

Methodological principles

The founder of Hizb ut-Tahrir Taqi ul-Din al-Nabhani explains in volume 3 of Shakhsiya Islamiya page 186, in the chapter titled ‘Mafhoom ul-Shart’ (the concept of the condition/conditional clause):

“The mafhoom al-Shart is when the rule depends upon something which has come in any of the forms of the conditional clause such as ‘if/when’ or any meaning implying a condition. It indicates the negation of the ruling when such a condition is not realised/is absent”
Nabhani also states that absolute and general statements would be restricted by conditional clauses, or in fact more generally by the denotation (mantooq) as well as the connotation (mafhoom) of the speech.

“It is permitted to restrict the the mantooq (the meaning of the denotation of the speech), by the mafhoom (the connotations of the speech), whether this is when it is the in the meaning of the statement and in harmony with it (mafhoom al-muwafaqa) or divergent from it (mukhalafa)” [such as the the conditional clause – he gives an example to substantiate this]. (Chapter: restricting the Mantooq by the Mafhoom, page 255)

Hadith about one leader and how they have been interpreted

So for example the hadith wherein the prophet is reported to have said as narrated by Sahih Muslim:

“whoever comes to you, and you are united under one man, and seeks to cause political dissention and separate your community (jama’ah), fight him”

This would apply when united under a single leadership. This would then restrict the meaning of other general texts which imply a single leadership according to nabhani’s principles of interpretation, i.e. the specific meaning would be then understood to restrict the general implications of other texts such as “if the pledge is given to two Caliphs, fight the latter” as applying under a single leadership, not when there are many different states and leaderships already.

Imam al-Nawawi comments on the above hadith in the chapter ‘the ruling of segregating the affair of the Muslims when they are united’,

“Whoever come to you and you are united…” stating that this refers to “those who rebel (kharaja) against the leader…”(!!) (page 444 of al-Minhaj bi-Shar’h Sahih Muslim bin al-Hajjaj, Dar al-Marifa, Beirut – Lebanon).

He also states regarding the second hadith that “generally scholars have agreed that you can not contract two caliphs… there is however the probability of the opinion of Imam al-Haramayn”. (page 445) He explains that there is a possibility of differet opinions in this matter. He states

“This is outside of the definitive matters (kharij min al-Qawati). And Maziri (the well known Maliki commentator on Imam Muslim’s collection of hadith) has narrated this Qawl (opinion) on some of the later scholars of Principle, including Imam al-Haramayn”. So it is the position of Imam al-Haramayn that it is permitted to have multiple political leaders. Imam al-Nawawi is not of this view and he states “though it is an irregular position and conflicts with the views of the early scholars and the apparent, absolute meaning of the text.” (page 435).

The important point is that it is not a definitive issue, it is subject to opinion and Ijtihad. Imam al-Haramayn is however one of the most widely accepted scholars agreed upon to reach the position of a Mujtahid Imam, and was the celebrated teacher of of revered Imam al-Ghazali.

What was Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwayni’s point of view? He explained this clearly in his text ‘al-Ghiyath al-Umam fi Tiyath al-Zulam’ where he explained:

“I do not deny the permissibility of appointing (two leaders) according to the need (haja) and enforcing both of their executive decisions as a religious duty. This however is a time without an overall Imam.”

People have misconstrued his words, as implying that this is only when it is impossible. This is absolutely false. Not just frpom the quotation itself, which is that it is according to the need (not even necessity), but Imam al-Haramayn explains in the following sentence, “if they agree to appoint an Imam over them, it is a right for the two leaders to submit to the decisions of this Imam in a manner he deems appropriate” He goes on to discuss to Imams in two separate countries, not one would have claim to the leadership of all the Muslims. [(pp 168-169 Muassas al-Rayan edition)]

al-Amir al-San’ani explains that in the statement:

“’Whoever left obedience to the Imam and separated from the community and then died, then his is a death of pagan ignorance.’…the phrase, ‘…left obedience…’, means obedience to the Caliph with whom there is agreement. And the implication here is that the Caliph referred to is that of a particular region because the people have never gathered together behind a single Caliph in all the lands of Islam since the time of the Abbasid State . Rather, the people of every region were independent with someone presiding over their affairs. If the hadith was taken to mean the overall Caliph which the people of Islam had united behind, then there would have been no benefit in the saying” [Subul al-Salaam, (volume 3, page 499)]

Imam Shawkani also held this view:

“As for when Islam spread and its territories expanded and its regions became distant [from each other], then it is known that in all of these regions loyalty was given to an Imam or Sultan… So there is no harm in the multiplicity of Imams and Sultans and it is obligatory for those people in whose land his orders and prohibitions become effective to give obedience to him after having giving bay’ah (a pledge of allegiance) to him. It is the same for the people of all the other regions.”

Shawkani goes on to say, someone not understanding this will not benefit from the presentation of the dalil (scriptural proofs) as he won’t “be able comprehend it”. [al-Sayl al-Jarrar (volume 4, page 512)]

Rejecting Imamate in principle

As for making the issue of political leadership a central aspect of faith, and declaring Kufr on ideas and people on the basisi of such ideas, or even for rejecting the whole notion of having any kind of political leadership, this is considered a characteristicof extremists. As Imam al-Ghazali stated:

“Know, however that error regarding the status of the Caliphate, whether or not establishing this office is a (communal obligation), who qualifies for it, and related matters, cannot serve as grounds for condemning people as Unbelievers. Indeed Ibn al-Kaysan denied that there was any religious obligation to have a Caliphate at all; but this does not mean thathe must be branded an Unbeliever. Nor do we pay any attention to those who exaggerate the matter of Imamate and equate recognition of the Imam with faith in God and His Messenger. Nor do we pay any attention to those people who oppose these people and brand them Unbelievers simply on the basis of their doctrine of on the Imamate. Both of these positions is extreme. For neither of the doctrines in question entails any claim that the Prophet perpetrated lies.” ‘On the Boundaries of Theological Tolerance in Islam’ Abu Hamid al-Ghazali’s Faysal al-Tafriqa by Sherman A. Jackson, Oxford.

To clarify, it is considered a subsidiary branch of fatawa, not a fundamental aspect of religion. Which is why someone denying any aspect of recognising political leaderships is considered by the mainstream scholars to be mistaken, at worst upon a devaint position, but not a non-Muslim or outside the community of believers.

‘Nihayat ul-Su’al fi-Shar’h minhaj ul-Wusul lil-Qadi al-Baydawi ma al-hashiya Salam ul-Wusul li-Sharh al-Nihaya’ authored by Jamal ul-Din al-Asnawi and commentary by Shaykh Muhammad Bakhit al-Muti’ee, Alim ul-Kutub edition states:

“The obligation of appointing an Imam is from the branches of religious rulings (furoo ul-fiqh’hiya), and without a doubt they are not from the fundamentals of religion (Usul ul-Din).” (volume 3 page 92)

Political rebellion in order to forcefully remove leaderships

Imam al-Nawawi explains the orthodox position of the Sunni Muslim scholars:

“We should not challenge nor dispute the legitimacy of the political leqadership, nor come out in difference to them, unless we clearly see a evil perpetrated by them, definitively violating the principle of Islam. If this is seen then this evil should be denounced and you should speak the truth. As for khurooj (rebellion) this forbidden by consensus of all the Muslims.” (page 532).

So what about those who have decided to undertake military means to remove established rulers, despots and tyrants they may be, based upon their interpretation of such evidences? Well let us return to the writings of Imam al-Asnawi, Qadi al-Baydawi and Shaykh Muhammad Bakhit al-Muti’ee.

“Similarly the Khawarij, those who permit the slaughter of Muslims, taking their wealth and their famillies based upon an interpretation and speculative interpretation of the text; they are transgressors (fussaq) in our eyes, though not in theirs…” (volume 3 page 136)

Ironically Imam al-Nawawi (see above) applies the very same hadith stating that the meaning of the hadith which are politicised for their own ends by the likes of Hizb ut-Tahrir, to mean that they should be fought for political rebellion.

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I have translated an article published recently at IslamOnline not because it is particularly useful or contains anything especially groundbreaking, but because it was quite a challenge to translate given that the Arabic source was so impenetrable; perhaps the gist of the text is more easily understandable in English.

In spite of its complexity, the text does offer us some basic categories for defining Islamist movements as viewed from a Western perspective; something that gives the text as a whole some residual value.

Western Strategy towards Islamism

By Rafiq Habib

How will the West deal with Islamic movements in the future?  This is the question to which we will try to seek an answer: in spite of the present state of uncertainty and confusion in western attitudes towards the Islamic movement, we are witnessing a transitional stage in Western policy towards political Islamism.  With this in mind, Western policy can be radically different for short periods and there is no consistent long-term strategy for dealing with political Islamism.  Western policy mainly seeks to protect Western interests in the Arab and Muslim worlds.  This can be achieved through political hegemony, securing Israel’s sovereignty and the alliance of the ruling elite in the region with the West.

However, Western policy towards Islamic movements changes according to the advice of policymakers seeking the most appropriate means to achieve their aims.  It is evident that the West disapproves of the Islamic movement, which it views as a threat that must be kept under control.

During George W. Bush’s presidency, and especially after the 9/11 attacks, Western policy placed the disparate Islamic movements in the same basket as the foremost enemy of the West.  When it was revealed that this policy encouraged disagreement, confrontation and hostility amongst a broad cross-section of the public, the West started to differentiate between extremist and moderate movements, dealing with each according to their classification.  This tactic eventually spawned a draft Western strategy that gradually took shape in dealings with the Islamic movements.

Revising the Status of Islamism

The West initially tries to be an invaluable constituent in deciding the status of Islamism, so that it can influence it both domestically and abroad.  This eventually leads to a fundamental shift in the Islamist situation and the outcomes for Islamic movements.  Western policymakers realise that it is difficult to effect change on Islamic movements, so Western attitudes demonstrate concepts and models for the Islamic movement to follow and then exercise pressure on each movement to determine its attitude towards these Western models.  The respective Islamic movement, accordingly, has only to declare itself either an ally or an enemy to the West.  However, there are a variety of models, based mainly on the Islamic movement’s relative position on the map of the Muslim and Arab world, giving rise to various distinctions within each category of allies and enemies.

The Western policy seemingly deals with various models, without restricting itself to the narrow categories of friend or foe.  The following are several representations highlighted by Western policies.

1 – The Islamic enemy:

This category consists of the al-Qaeda network and the Taliban Movement in Afghanistan, as well as the Pakistani Taliban Movement.  It is apparent from the policy of President Barack Obama that this category constitutes the archenemy of the United States and the West.  Any anti-US militant movement that opposes the US-allied regimes is also listed in this category. The war that the Pakistani government has launched against the Pakistani Taliban Movement has no connection with what happened on 9/11.  It has been said that the Pakistani Taliban Movement supports the Taliban Movement in Afghanistan and the al-Qaeda network, but that does not justify the intensification of the war in Pakistan in such a way that it may trigger a civil war.  This war was actually launched against anti-US Jihadist movements who have been fighting US allies in the region.  The salient feature of this category is its espousal of violence.

2 – Secularist allies with Islamic roots:

This category consists of any Islamic movement or Islamic ideologue that campaigns on a political platform or uses Islamist rhetoric under the guise of secularism, assuming that secularism is the optimum standard of democracy and human rights in the Western mindset.  Any secularist approach on the political and public level is consistent with the Western understanding of politics, despite their being cultural and ethical differences.  Islamists who campaign on a platform that embraces the secularist criterion of the modern state is actually committed to Western politics, where cultural differences reflect Western political models special features tailored for various local environments.  An example of this model is the Turkish Justice and Development Party (AKP), which constitutes a secular party founded by Islamists; that is ‘A party with Islamic roots’, without an Islamic source of authority.  This is an example of a movement that can ally with the West, unlike the Islamic enemy.

3 – Islamists allying to fight extremism:

This occurs where special conditions require the sealing of alliances with an Islamic party, without imposing unjust conditions, for the purposes of combating another Islamic party.  This is what has happened in Somalia, where the West allied with one wing of the Islamic Courts Movement, which ruled Somalia for a few months, against another faction in the same movement.  This resulted in the confrontation between the Western-backed Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed as President of Somalia, and his friend in the Islamic Courts Movement Tahir Awes.  Certainly, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was not promoting secularism.  They also allowed him to request the application of the Islamic Shari’ah and he was given the freedom to fight the Islamic opposition.  In this particular case, we observe an Islamic ruler and an Islamic opposition.  We observe that Western policy is based on getting rid of ‘an extremist movement’ and replacing it with a movement that the West perceives as more moderate.  We even anticipate a tragic end for such an approach, resembling the end of the mujahideen movements in Afghanistan.

If Sharif Sheikh Ahmed’s coalition managed to eliminate the so-called extremist movements, seen as embracing the ideology of the Al-Qaeda network and its leader Osama bin Laden, Western powers will then oppose it in an attempt to eliminate it as well and search for a completely secular ally; this is unless they find a secular tendency within the Islamist movement of Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.  This occurred with Afghan militants as they faced a confrontation with those who were formerly among them after the end of their role in the war against the former Soviet Union.  This is presumed to be the catalyst for al-Qaeda, under the leadership of Osama bin Laden, to wage war on America.  Similarly, there have been other occasions when Islamic movements have been tolerated for specific purposes, as was the case with support for the Iraqi Islamic Party in return for its participation in the political process during the US occupation of Iraq.

4 – Recognition of Israel:

This approach appears in the resistance movements in Palestine and Lebanon.  The Hamas movement is asked to adopt policies that safeguard the existence of an Israeli state in return for its own international recognition, the acknowledgement of its political role, and allowing it to share power.  This is a deal between the resistance and the recognition of the movement which is in fact a compromise between all the constituents of the movement and the constituents of the Palestinian people.  Therefore, such deals and the compromises they require are not likely to succeed because what they ask of the Hamas movement or Hezbollah to commit popular suicide.  If the Hamas movement abandoned its supporters and electorate, the movement would disappear leaving a void to be filled by yet another movement.

The problem here is that the West thinks that what happened with secular resistance movements can happen with Islamic resistance movements, which is plain wrong.  Secular resistance movements can compromise and change the fundamental nature of their struggle because their founding tenets are only political views; yet, the doctrines of Islamic resistance movements, which are religious and cultural by nature, are principles that cannot be restricted or changed.  Hence, Western policy towards the Islamic resistance movements will progress in a vicious circle: the West will hold dialogue with them without reaching a final settlement.  This means that dialogue with Islamic resistance movements is only a means to a temporary understanding with the resistance, because the status quo cannot be disregarded.  Therefore, a dialogue will be maintained with those movements to gradually soften their attitudes, in the hope that this may eventually lead to an accommodation or transformation.

5 – Keeping them away from reins of power:

An example of this phenomenon is the Muslim Brotherhood movement, present in several Arab and Muslim countries, and particularly in Egypt, where we find that Western policy does not favour an Islamic movement achieving power.  Any Islamic movement that has an Islamic platform is considered unacceptable as a partner with the West.  However, the West does not want a confrontation with all of the Islamic parties at once.  We observe this policy towards the Muslim Brotherhood group based on its refusal of secularism and its rejection of Israel.  It also calls for a unified Palestinian state.  The West will move towards controlling its external power, as an alternative to confrontation and exclusion. The Western policy will focus on not allowing the Muslim Brotherhood movement to achieve power, whilst allowing it to function and take part in the political process.

According to the aforementioned categories, Islamic movements are considered as the terrorist enemy, the secularist ally, the temporary moderate Islamic ally confronting Islamic extremism, the Islamic resistance that wishes to change its attitude, and the Islamist movement kept from power as long as it refuses to be secularized.  The most important feature of this strategy is that it has no permanency; it may change from time to time.  It also widens gaps between the Islamic movements, and deals with them by means of giving them the carrot of power for those accepting secularism as a political goal, and the stick of military force against those fighting US hegemony or those hostile towards US allies in the region.  The aim is to widen the gap and even cause a schism between the Islamic movements in such a way as to trigger confrontations amongst them, causing these movements to get involved in proxy wars on behalf of the West.

The most complicated aspect is the dialogue with the Islamic resistance movements in Palestine; in particular Hamas.  Holding a bilateral dialogue has the aim of exerting pressure on it to recognise the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state, and to denounce the resistance, which is considered ‘terrorism’.  This is impossible.  Therefore, the results of the dialogue with the resistance movements will remain an important and effective factor in Western attitudes towards the Islamist movement in general, and may even lead to Western policies changing towards them.

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