Explaining Jihadist Ideology
Frontpage Magazine has an interesting interview with Professor Mary Habeck, author of Knowing the Enemy: Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror. Professor Habeck's book is a superb analysis of the radical Islamist worldview and is well worth reading. This ideology is ably summarized in the interview:
It's a particular view of Islam, which makes three separate arguments: first, they believe that all other Muslims have fallen away from the real faith and that they, therefore, are the only true believers left in the world. The reason they are the only true believers is because they follow the only authentic definition of "tawhid." For most Muslims, tawhid means that there is one God and only he should be worshiped. Jihadis saw that this definition is incomplete: tawhid requires also that only God should be obeyed. Anyone who is not obeying God's laws, or who is attempting to create "manmade" laws that contradict God's revealed laws, is engaging in polytheism and is no longer a Muslim. This definition of tawhid implies that Muslims must have a state (the Caliphate) that correctly implements God's laws and also that liberalism and democracy are antithetical to "true" Islam.
Second, they believe that the world is controlled by hostile unbelievers who desire the destruction of Islam. By this they mean that the unbelievers are attempting to prevent the "true believers" from setting up an Islamic state (since it is only in the Caliphate that true Islam can be correctly practiced). This is their definition of a "war on Islam."
Thus, Muslims are allowed to fight these unbelievers in a just jihad. Their definition of jihad is quite different from that generally accepted by Muslims today. Most Muslims say that jihad is first and foremost an internal struggle to control one's desires or, if it is about fighting, jihad is a defensive just war. These extremists make jihad into the central tenet of their religion, arguing that it is primarily about fighting both defensively and offensively (to spread the just laws of Islam). They also say that any Muslim who does not participate in their jihad is not a "true believer," and is at most a sinner and at worst an unbeliever and can therefore be killed with impunity.
Among other topics, Professor Habeck explains the obstacles faced by those Muslims who oppose the Islamists:
FP: Why are “moderate” Muslims so silent, in general, in the face of jihadism?
Habeck: There are probably many reasons for this, but I can give at least three. First, many Muslims have spoken out against jihadism, but they have been ignored by Western media. There was, for instance, a huge demonstration against violence carried out in the name of Islam is Morocco not too long ago (late 2005), but I don't remember reading anything about this is in the mainstream media. I read memri.org and see many, many moderate Muslims speaking out against these guys every day. Second, in many countries these guys control the public arena and intimidate or even murder anyone who speaks out against them. The intimidation carried out in Western countries recently shows the power that just a few fanatics can have. Finally, there is a peculiar dynamic going on in the Islamic world: most people do not trust their governments or media to be reporting the truth, so they refuse to believe that the jihadis are carrying out these terrible atrocities. It's far more satisfying to believe that the government/US/Zionists are lying about all this rather than to confront the fact that someone has hijacked your religion for their own purposes.