One World Under Allah | General News & Politics | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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One World Under Allah 

Last Updated: 08/13/2013 4:00 pm

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In 1979, three major events converged. First, the Soviet invasion into Afghanistan. This was a global call to Muslims facilitated by the US, UK, the Saudis, and many European countries—all enemies of Soviet Communism pouring money into Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence and doing everything they could to move resources and Muslims from all over the world into Afghanistan’s battlefield to fight the Soviets. The Saudi government bought plane tickets for these kids. Second, you have the Iranian Revolution where the Shi’a, the Sunni’s archenemy, get their own state apparatus represented by an extremist, Jihadist form of Shiism, the goal of which is to export the revolution of Shi’a Islam—the worst scenario for hardcore Sunnis. Third, you have Osama Bin Laden 0.1—Juhayman al-Utaibi, a Saudi jihadist who seizes the Grand Mosque in Mecca to show it is possible to overthrown Arab regimes. He sets an important model to potential jihadists—this upstart, hardcore jihadi attempts to unseat the Saudi regime, or at the very least, expose the hypocrisy of the Saudi establishment scholars. Establishment scholar, Shaikh Bin Baz, the Saudi Grand Mufti at the time, has to make a choice—side with the regime or with this revolutionary movement embodied by Juhayman? He chose the regime and passed a fatwa allowing French Special Forces to enter Saudi Arabia, temporarily converting them to Islam so that they could enter Islam’s holiest of holy places. This was the death knell for establishment scholars. Juhayman was captured and killed. His banner passed onto Abu Muhammed al-Maqdisi, who took Juhayman’s ideas and turned them into a robust set of arguments that became the backbone of the global jihadist movement.

Why is it so difficult to define jihadism?

There is generally a broad acceptance of the doctrine behind jihadism. One of the core doctrinal points for global jihadism is Al-Wala wal-Bara—loyalty to all that is in accordance to sharia and disavowal of all that stands in your way of implementing sharia. Most agree with this concept, even mainstream Salafists. But the question is what do you mean by “disavowal”? Don’t speak to Jews and Christians? Don’t live around them? Kill them? There is a spectrum of how you apply this doctrine. You can be a mainstream Salafist, hate the West, think most Arab governments are illegitimate, and think that eventually it would be great to destroy them all, but not any time soon, or not by violent tactics but through political means. So they all agree with the doctrine of Al-Wala wal-Bara, but how to apply it in the real world. I wouldn’t consider people of that bent an enemy of the US; I think they are a potentially powerful ally. But they believe in the same doctrine that groups like al Qaeda does. That is the level of complexity here—it is less what you believe and more of how you apply it.

You suggest the jihadist movement be viewed as a tremendously successful entrepreneurial initiative and talk about the “branding” of the jihadist movement. Can you explain?

It is one of the world’s most successful self-fulfilling prophecies in the sense that Bin Laden, in 1996, talked about this global untied front, a worldwide organization. Represented by a few hundred people and networks in a lot of countries that had some money, it was an organization, not a robust social movement or ideology. But the more they talked about it as being such and the more we responded to it as such, the more it became what they said it was. Even after 9/11, al Qaeda was best described as an organization. This is an important point: By 2003-4 al Qaeda transformed from a terrorist organization that used media propaganda to talk about itself into a media organization that used terrorism to keep it relevant. This represents a tremendous shift in prioritization regarding who they think they are and what their goal is. 9/11 checked the box for “We’re the best terrorist group on the block.” But their goal isn’t just to blow stuff up; their goal is to change people’s minds about policy. It’s fundamentally a religious movement—using religion to get political change. The way to do that is create a social movement with a robust ideology. All these disparate jihadist themes, books, scholars, attacks, and groups have been slowly consolidated into a coherent phenomenon that today we understand as Global Jihadism. Its taken a long time, a lot of it was ad hoc, but it has cemented over the past few years into a really powerful movement.

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