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UNCLASSIFIED. The Distortion of Islamic Concepts & Practices by Muslim Extremists . Briefer: Michael Knapp Asymmetric Warfare Analyst Africa/Middle East Division, NGIC. UNCLASSIFIED. UNCLASSIFIED. Why Is This Brief Important?. Increase post-9/11 understanding of:

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the distortion of islamic concepts practices by muslim extremists

UNCLASSIFIED

The Distortion of Islamic Concepts & Practices by Muslim Extremists

Briefer: Michael Knapp

Asymmetric Warfare Analyst

Africa/Middle East Division, NGIC

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why is this brief important

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Why Is This Brief Important?

Increase post-9/11 understanding of:

  • Conditions that promote Islamic extremism
  • Islamic extremist mindset (what they see and why)
  • Ideology that drives such groups, justifies violence
  • Major radical philosophers, their enduring works, and their reinterpretations of mainstream Islamic thought
  • How Muslim world perceives us, and why many hate us
  • Nature of the transnational radical Islamist threat
  • Most Muslims don’t agree with/condone extremism

May help to save American lives, prevent future attacks

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looking into the cauldron

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Looking Into “the Cauldron”
  • Internal conditions in the Arab/Muslim world:

- Corrupt, authoritarian, unrepresentative regimes

- Repression, economic failure and disenfranchisement

- Promotion of impure forms of Islamic belief and practice

- Continuing lack of opportunities and hope

  • Threats from outside of the Islamic “nation”:

- “New Crusade” by Jews and Western neocolonialists

- Political and economic domination, maintain dependence at region’s expense

- Invasion of alien ideas: secularism, nationalism, democracy and “human rights”

- Continued Western support to Israel and to unpopular Middle Eastern governments

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radical islamist beliefs

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Radical Islamist Beliefs
  • Sense of crisis from Muslim states’ backwardness/weakness, challenges from modernization
  • History of blaming problems on others, victimization
  • World is a perpetual battlefield between faith and unbelief; no coexistence or compromise
  • Islam is a revolutionary “liberation” movement: required to alter the unjust political, economic and social status quo
  • Current regimes are apostate, must be deposed
  • Struggle (jihad) is required until all lands are under Muslim control: reestablish the caliphate
  • Goal of God’s utopia: phased process to build ideal society, governed only by the shari’a

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key islamist ideologues their works

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Key Islamist Ideologues & Their Works
  • Sayyid Abul A’la Mawdudi (1903-1979, Indo-Pakistani): Jihad in Islam; Islam and Jahiliyya; “Mischief of Takfir”
  • Hasan al-Banna (1906-1949, Egyptian): “On Jihad” in Five Tracts of Hasan al-Banna
  • Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966, Egyptian), “Al-Qaida’s Philosopher”: Social Justice in Islam; In the Shade of the Qur’an; Milestones
  • Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (1902-1989, Iranian): Islamic Government
  • Muhammad ‘Abd al-Salam Faraj (1952-1982, Egyptian): The Neglected Duty
  • Abdullah Azzam (1941-1989, Palestinian), “Godfather of Jihad”: Join the Caravan; Defense of Muslim Lands
  • Ayman al-Zawahiri (1951- , Egyptian): Knights Under the Prophet’s Banner; Loyalty and Enmity: An Inherited Doctrine and a Lost Reality

Note: Underlined works are most significant; most are available from the Internet

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reinterpretation of concepts

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Reinterpretation of Concepts
  • Jahiliyya: early pagan ignorance -> modern willful disbelief
  • Takfir: condemnation as an apostate -> means to justify jihad against “un-Islamic” governments
  • Hakimiyya: ideal governance by God -> unjust sovereignty of man over men, which leads to oppression and injustice
  • Hijra: earlymigration to avoid persecution -> moral/physical separation from jahili society (required to strengthen movement)
  • Jihad: Spiritual/internal battle, defensive, communal obligation -> physical battle, offensive, individual duty for all Muslims
  • “Near enemy” first (Faraj) vs. “far enemy” first (al-Zawahiri)
  • *Shahadat: Martyrdom in conventional combat -> Istishad: fatal jihadis are “martyr-like”, not suicides (intihar)

*Reflects adaptation in extremist tactics to justify violence ideologically

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jihad in islamic thought practice

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Jihad in Islamic Thought & Practice
  • NOT “Holy War”, but striving for a noble cause
  • Concept still in dispute among Muslims:

- Physical struggle: “Lesser jihad” vs. “Greater jihad”

- Limited (defensive) or universal (offensive)?

- Communal (fard kifaya) vs. individual obligation (fard ‘ayn)

- Both religious and political in nature (protect the faith, expand realm)

- Who is right authority to declare it? (legitimate ruler w/ulama support)

- Just cause, right intention, proportionality required

- Last resort, waged to “establish/restore peace” (remove fitnah)

  • Radicals have loosened restrictions, applied new meaning

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early perspectives

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Early Perspectives
  • Described as fighting in the path of God in Koran, Hadith: defense of the ummah, then spread of the faith
  • “Territory of peace” vs. “Territory of war”
  • (Taqi al-Din) Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328): influenced by threats to the ummah from both Crusaders and Mongols

- Leader who doesn’t enforce shari’a completely, wage active jihad against infidels is unfit to rule

- Muslim who doesn’t live by requirements of the faith is an unbeliever

  • Sufis: concept of “greater jihad” as internal struggle that is necessary for spiritual insight
  • Three differing views just in the pre-modern period!

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muhammad ibn abd al wahhab and salafism

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Muhammad Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab and Salafism
  • Founded the movement to cleanse Islam of innovations (bid’ah), deviances, heresies; based on Hanbali school of law (most rigid of the four schools); inspired by the ideas of Ibn Taymiyya
  • Wahhabis advocate strict return to fundamentals of the faith, reject any behavior not conducted or supported by the Prophet Muhammad, and refer to themselves as Muwahhidun – “Unitarians”
  • Expanded the concept of jahiliyya to include Muslim societies of the 18th century that had diverted from pure Islamic practice to sin (idolatry, veneration of saints by Sufis)
  • Reintroduced Kharijite concept of takfir to label “sinful Muslims” as hypocrites, thus allowing for jihad against them
  • Known outside Saudi Arabia as Salafis (“Forefathers”): all interpret the Qur’an literally, but most disagree with radicals on the permissibility of armed jihad as a religious duty, and specific tactics in warfare such as terrorism and suicide attacks
  • At most extreme, Salafis reject nation states and all manmade laws; many Sunni radicals are products of this sect’s teachings

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origins of discontent

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Origins of Discontent
  • Inability to restore early purity of Islamic faith and practice, regain lost glory and prestige
  • Arrival of European colonialism, economic exploitation, alien culture
  • Rulers reformed laws, education, economies but continue to struggle for stability and legitimacy
  • Social changes disrupted, traumatized populace
  • Post-World War II independence accelerates modernization drive, intensifies identity crisis
  • Disillusionment peaks in 1970s: rejection of Western civilization as a model, rise of radical groups

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sayyid abu l a la mawdudi

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Sayyid Abu’l A’la Mawdudi
  • “Islam is a revolutionarydoctrine and program that overturns governments. It seeks to overturn the whole universal social order...It is not satisfied by a piece of land but demands the whole planet...Islamic Jihad is at the same time offensive and defensive...The Islamic party does not hesitate to utilize the means of war to implement its goal.”
  • “Islam wants and requires the earth in order that the human race altogether can enjoy the concept and practical program of human happiness, by means of which God has honored Islam and put it above the other religions and laws. In order to realize this lofty desire, Islam wants to employ all forces and means that can be employed for bringing about a universal all-embracing revolution. This far-reaching struggle that continuously exhausts all forces and this employment of all possible means is called jihad.”

Jihad In Islam, 1939

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mawdudi s islamic transformation

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Mawdudi’s Islamic Transformation
  • Prolific writer on issues of religious faith, and the proper relationship between Islam and the political structure, law, and practices of the state; writings became available in Arabic in 1950s
  • Entry into the political process is necessary to revive Islamic society: small group of dedicated activists (saliah Jamaat) captures political leadership by penetrating key societal institutions: top-down reform
  • Need to preserve purity and effectiveness of the vanguard through careful screening, and extensive training to insure loyalty and impart knowledge of traditional Islamic principles and political techniques
  • Vanguard must be supported by broad-based overt political organization to attract members, further activists’ goals
  • First Islamist writer to approach jihad systematically:

- Warfare not just for political control, but to establish just rule

- Jihad becomes war of liberation: links concept to anti-colonialism, “national liberation movements,” and Arab resistance to Israel

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hasan al banna

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Hasan al-Banna
  • “Jihad is not against polytheists alone, but against all who do not embrace Islam…Today the Muslims…are compelled to humble themselves before non-Muslims, and are ruled by unbelievers…Their adversaries are in charge of their affairs, and the rites of their religion have fallen into abeyance within their own domains, to say nothing of their impotence to broadcast the summons [to embrace Islam]. Hence it has become an individual obligation, which there is no evading, on every Muslim to prepare his equipment, to make up his mind to engage in jihad, and to get ready for it…Know then that death is inevitable, and that it can only happen once. If you suffer it in the way of God, it will be your profit in this world, and your reward in the next.”
  • “Islam is concerned with the question of jihad and the …mobilization of the entire Umma into one body to defend the right cause with all its strength…The verses of the Qur’an and the Sunnah…are overflowing with all these noble ideals and they summon the people in general…to jihad, to warfare, to the armed forces, and all means of land and sea fighting.”

“On Jihad”

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building al banna s islamic state

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Building Al-Banna’s Islamic State
  • Muslim Brotherhood founded as a vehicle to counter threats from Western colonialism, Arab nationalism and secularism; movement endures today throughout the Muslim world
  • Primary means to restore Islamic character to society is vigorous preaching and teaching (da’wa) campaign; direct political action not appropriate or effective
  • Gradualist approach to build a strong Muslim state governed by shari’a: re-Islamization through four stages starting with individuals, then families, then communities, which will band together to form a true Islamic state (unique bottom-up approach to reform)
  • Influenced radicals by redefining jihad: God-ordained defensive requirement for all Muslims, as long as unbelievers rule any Islamic lands; greater jihad is armed physical struggle against injustice and unbelief, not the internal spiritual struggle
  • His concept of jihad combined the Qur’anic definition of fighting (qital) with a struggle not only against infidels but also People of the Book

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sayyid qutb

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Sayyid Qutb
  • “Mankind today…is devoid of those vital values which are necessary not only for its healthy development but also for its real progress…If we look at the sources and foundations of modern ways of living, it becomes clear that the whole world is steeped in Jahiliyya (pagan ignorance of divine guidance), [which] takes the form of claiming that the right to create values, to legislate rules of collective behavior, and to choose any way of life rests with men, without regard to what God has prescribed. The result of this rebellion against the authority of God is the oppression of His creatures…”
  • “Western civilization is unable to present any healthy values for the guidance of mankind…Islam is the only system which possesses these values and this way of life.”

Milestones, 1964

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qutb s manhaj 4 phased process

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Qutb’s “Manhaj”: 4-Phased Process
  • Vanguard (jamaah) of the movement is formed
  • Vanguard sounds the call (da’wah) to society to turn back to God, but is persecuted for its faith, oppressed by the system
  • Movement undergoes hijra: conscious separation (spiritual and/or physical detachment) from the jahili system, and the group purifies itself, unifies and grows in strength
  • Victory and consolidation of power: movement conducts a jihad by force tooverthrow the apostate government, and restores the community to just rule and the practice of true Islam (through institution solely of the shari’a); God himself grants the victory and is once again sovereign

As with Mawdudi, Qutb advocated top-down reform

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radical sunni doctrines

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Radical Sunni Doctrines
  • Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas):

- Ideological and military crusade by the “Great Powers of East and West” has taken Palestine, created Israel

- Defensive jihad (like Saladin) is required to recover Muslim lands and get rid of the infidels

- Emergency situation where secular approval of an established government is not needed, everyone must participate

  • Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ):

- Equates current struggle with early jihad against the Mongols

- Inattention to physical jihad has resulted in current depressed condition of the Islamic “nation”

- Mass resistance justified: must overthrow and kill apostate ruler to establish true Islamic government, then restore the caliphate; authorization comes from loss of ruler’s divine authority (bid’ah)

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radical shi ite doctrines

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Radical Shi’ite Doctrines
  • Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini: population must be goaded to overthrow tyrannical regimes, establish true Islamic government headed by clerics (velayat-e faqih); proper Islamic teaching turns all into mujahids
  • Ayatollah Murtaza Mutahhari: Armed force sanctioned in Islam, required wherever and whenever oppression and injustice are to be found (“defensive jihad”)
  • Shaykh Fadlallah (Lebanese Hizballah):

- Terrorism is not justified in Islam, and Islam should not be seen as uncompromisingly hostile to the West

- However, Muslims’ legitimate grievances being ignored, and they are inflicting violence on others due to their own pain

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the case against the west

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The Case Against the West
  • Arrogance, insensitivity toward other cultures
  • Unbalanced foreign policies, favoritism toward Israel
  • Resentment over economic success, political and military power, commercial exploitation
  • Disgust over lax morals: alcohol consumption, suggestive dress of women, commercialization of sex
  • Economic sanctions against Muslim countries
  • Continued stationing of US troops in Saudi Arabia
  • Support of repressive, corrupt regimes due to Western greed (oil)
  • Wide reach of international news media spreads resentment that can be manipulated

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abdullah azzam

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Abdullah Azzam
  • "…Every Muslim on earth should unsheath his sword and fight to liberate Palestine.  The Jihad is not limited to Afghanistan…There will be no solution to the Palestinian problem except through jihad…"
  • “Jihad means fighting.  You must fight in any place you can get.  Whenever Jihad is mentioned in the Holy Book, it means the obligation to fight.  It does not mean to fight with the pen or to write books or articles in the press or to fight by holding lectures… Jihad and the rifle alone: no negotiations, no conferences, no dialogues."
  • “The Jihad in Afghanistan will broaden until the entire world will be conquered because Allah has promised the victory to Islam."

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azzam expands the struggle

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Azzam Expands the Struggle
  • Founded the Mujahedin Services Bureau (MAK) in Peshawar to physically support the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan, absorb and train Muslim volunteers; also helped to unite leaders of the resistance
  • Didn’t invent movement’s ideas, but developed religious ideology for the Afghan conflict, then put it into practice globally; also redefined the Palestinian struggle from a nationalist/secular to a religious conflict
  • As the Islamic jihad’s “traveling salesman,” he traveled throughout the Arab world and Middle East (and in Europe and the US) promoting participation in the struggle: defense of Islamic faith and territory are important cause for all Muslims
  • Proclaimed that any land that was once part of the caliphate must be recaptured if it falls into infidel hands
  • Thought to have recruited between 16,000-20,000 fighters from 20 countries, and built an international network that became al-Qaida
  • Disagreement over network’s long-term goals: Afghan war as training ground for reclaiming Palestine (Azzam) vs. (bin Laden’s) waging jihad simultaneously on multiple fronts against the US and “agent regimes”

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global jihad a new twist

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Global Jihad: A New Twist
  • Usama bin Laden:

- August 1996 Declaration of War (“Ladinese Epistle”): Muslims must expel infidels from “land of the two holy places”

- February 1998 Fatwa: Americans “stormed” the Arabian Peninsula and are using it to launch attacks against Muslims; are hurting Iraq; and are supporting Israeli occupation of Jerusalem and aggression – so all must be killed anywhere

- “Defensive struggle” that is morally required for all true Muslims

- May 1998 ABC Interview: Bring the battle to American soil; focus on political, economic and military targets (not offensive religious or cultural institutions)

  • Fed by “Jihad Factories”: madrassas have provided steady source of mujahedin for struggles in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, Kashmir (highest honor is to wage jihad against “enemies of Islam”)
  • Ayman al-Zawahiri: small suicide teams best, establish new base for jihad operations in Middle East, hit “far enemy” first

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what is to be done

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What Is To Be Done?
  • Encouraging signs: Some Muslim authorities have denounced distortion of the faith; increased recognition in Islamic world that terrorist leaders don’t have religious authority to declare jihad; bombers are really “suicides” instead of martyrs
  • Islamic states starting to look inward: must take responsibility for own failings and enact painful but meaningful reforms (including change of narrow educational models and biased school texts); and have courage to curb the extremists
  • United States must: better understand other cultures and try to balance foreign policy; encourage reforms and be willing to commit to help solve enduring problems; and recognize this is a long-term process against a persistent and resilient adversary

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