"Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid" - Ronald Reagan

New York

Old jihad, new jihad

From Amr Elshoubaki writing for the Al-Ahram Weekly.

The recent ideological retractions of Sayed Imam El-Sherif, founder of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, mark the beginning of a major departure from the theological underpinnings that governed the militant Islamist organisation's actions in the 1980s and 1990s. The ideological shift -- probably more than practical realities -- will make it extremely difficult for the organisation and those inspired by it to revert to violence and terrorism.

In Correct Guidance of the Jihad in Egypt and the World, Sheikh Imam writes,

On fighting unjust rule, Sheikh Imam holds, contrary to his earlier stance, that insurrection can result in many evils. During recent decades, he writes, Muslim countries have experienced numerous incidents of insurrection in the name of holy war and with the purpose of establishing the rule of Islamic law in these countries. These incidents gave rise to grave ills at the level of Islamic groups and at the level of the countries in which they occurred. Wrong is not redressed by a like wrong, and certainly not by a worse wrong. (emphasis added)

Understand, this is the founder of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad stating "the ends do not justify the means." The "ends justifying the means" is exactly why suicide bombers feel it is within the parameters of jihad to kill oneself and civilians. However, Mr. Elshoubaki does not feel this refutation of earlier writings will affect current jihadists which he labels the "new jihad".

Sheikh Imam's revisions are undoubtedly sincere and historic. But they will not influence the new terrorist generation, because they were written with the old style of jihad in mind. They, therefore, do not take into account the new youth, which is essentially an unknown quantity and which operates independently and who seldom read books exceeding 50 pages let alone voluminous philosophical or theological treatises.

Mr. Elshoubaki may very well be right. However, it is indeed significant when the founder of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad comes out and refutes violence. Imam El-Sherif's Correct Guidance of the Jihad in Egypt and the World will undoubtedly add to the intellectual turbulence which is occurring among muslims. This intellectual turbulence was first noted in November 2007 when Abu Baseer Al-Tartousi, wrote, "On the Jihad in Iraq". In this article, Al-Tartousi chastised "Awakening" tribes in Al Anbar. However, closer examination of the work also seems to chastise Al Qaeda in Iraq. In his article, Al-Tartousi states three concerns with Al Qaeda.

1. Exaggeration of the Sins of Rival Groups

2. Use of force to settle disagreement among Jihad Groups.

3. Blindly following extremists.

If we couple Al-Tartousi's article with Imam El-Sherif's current work, we see a reformation of sorts happening in among jihadist circles. They both are pointing to the same theme, namely, "the ends do not justify the means". More specifically, it is not right to blow up innocent muslims in the name of jihad. El-Sherif even spells it out specifically stating,

"it is regrettable that some pursue forbidden means to obtain money, justifying their actions on the grounds that this money is needed for jihad. Thus, they kidnap innocent people in order to demand ransom, or they rob blameless persons in the course of which they might commit wrongful murder. It is a grave sin to attack the persons and property of blameless persons."

These type of writings are becoming more prevalent in jihadists circles and signifies a fundamental shift in muslim religious leaders. The leaders are seeing that dishonorable acts are breeding to a dishonorable muslims resulting in a loss of followers. A loss of followers is leading to decreased economic support. The great infidel, the USA, is gaining support in the region due to its fairness in dealy with jihadists and muslims in general. The extremists, whether Sunni or Shiite, are rapidly losing support among followers.

The complete loss of support among Sunnis caused Al Qaeda's insurgency in Iraq to completely unravel. The loss of support resulted in the MMA losing handedly in Pakistan during their recent elections. The loss of support for extremists has resulted in Hezbollah losing ground in Lebanon. The loss of support for extremists may very well have the same effect in Iran during their upcoming elections on 14 March.

Both of these holy leaders are showing precisely why extremists are losing support. Extremist stifle individual freedom and happiness. When they cannot stifle, they murder. In the place of extremists, we have a US-sponsored democratic Iraq which is quickly becoming the economic powerhouse in the Middle East providing for freedom and happiness among fellow muslims. Neighboring countrymen are beginning to see what a democracy brings to its people. Even while still engaged in a war, a democratic Iraq provides for more freedom for its countrymen than do neighboring countries not at war.

Democratic freedom and happiness is spreading like a wild fire in the Middle East. As Jordanian, Saudi, and Turkish drivers continue to bring in goods into Iraq, they are undoubtedly wondering how these people at war are enjoying more freedom and economic opportunities than they enjoy at peace. This economic freedom is powerful and has caused the intellectual turbulence described above. Religious leaders are also seeing what the opposite effect, namely radical, extremist jihad, brings. The contrast is stark.

I predict we will see a new jihad, or rather an old jihad, soon come to the forefront in the Middle East. That jihad will be the internal struggle which marked the jihad of old. The internal struggle has already began. It is creating the intellectual turbulence described above. This internal struggle has already had significant effects in Pakistan, Lebanon, and Iraq. It will shortly have significant impacts in Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Syria.

Not only are Iraqis returning to Iraq for freedom and happiness, but come next decade we will see immigration into Iraq as neighboring countrymen seek the economic benefits that a free and democratic Iraq brings. This freedom will spread, continue to create the intellectual turbulence among muslims, resulting in an internal jihad, and eventually resulting in an external jihad, of sorts, against tyrants in their own muslim nations.

George W. Bush and the American military have caused this intellectual turbulence in the Middle East. George Bush caused it by his surge of forces in 2007. The American military caused it by being fair and impartial in Iraq. Al Qaeda helped with its indiscriminant murders. All these foreces have given to Iraqis and to muslims in general the jihad of old, the internal struggle. This internal struggle will soon manifest itself between tyranny and democracy. The leaders of the Middle East are trying to prevent this struggle, but this struggle began on 20 March 2003, when US forces crossed the berm from Kuwait to Iraq. It is quite frankly, too late to stop.

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