As we note the sixth anniversary of the horrific attacks of 9/11, we in the Muslim community need to begin a serious intellectual deconstruction of “bin Ladenism,” its origins, and all of its offshoots and ideological siblings – which form the nucleus of the phenomenon of political Islam (Islamic supremacism, or Islamism) and Jihadism.
Americans are now reviewing the recent video message from bin Laden, whose delivery was timed to preface our annual mourning of the victims of his cowardly attack. Despite the denials of many “leading” Muslim organizations in America, bin Laden’s mantra is not that of an isolated psychopath. Rather, as Daveed Gartenstein-Ross writes, it is the rant of an imperialist a manifesto of militant Islamism, which deserves the full resources of the American Muslim community to defeat.
Bin Laden’s mantra is derived from Wahabi teachings (extremism founded in late 19th century Saudi Arabia), and its associated Jihadism and caliphism (the desire to build an oppressive Islamist empire, or “caliphate”). Throughout the world, we are witnessing the growth of various militant Islamist organizations that share, as their common motivating mission, the drive to create intercontinental Islamic states, at all costs. Their militantly Jihadist interpretation of the Koran serves as both the root cause and moral justification for their vision, and the actions they take to realize it.
If Muslims wish to defeat the fervent believers of Jihadism and Islamism, we must begin by deconstructing and defeating their claim to moral sanction – and even divine commandment – to perpetrate their acts of intolerance, murder and oppression. The time has come (indeed, it is long overdue) for anti-Islamist Muslims to begin offering alternative interpretations of the Koran to political and militant Islamists who, unfortunately, are the focus of the lion’s share of everything the world currently sees, hears, and reads about Islam.
It is time to argue ideas, and not ‘qualifications’
In my first column of this series, last column (Part I) I set the stage for the beginning of just such a discussion. I reassert the fact that I am not a formal expert in Koranic Arabic, or in sharia (Islamic jurisprudence).
I am, however, schooled in enough disciplines to understand the general principles of intellectual derivations, and the underpinnings of language, meaning, interpretation, history, religion, and faith. My interpretations are made through the lens of a devout anti-Islamist Muslim, as well as an advocate for universal liberty. A plurality of Muslims – if not a majority – are non-Islamist or better yet, anti-Islamist, and have pragmatically reconciled our faith with the principles of universal religious freedom. But the vast majority of us have had neither the mentorship nor the courage to take on the so-called ulamaa’s (Islamic scholars’) interpretations of the Koran. Similarly, we have allowed many articulate, diligent non-Muslim critics of Jihadism and Islamism to rely solely on Jihadist/Wahabiist interpretations of Islam, and have not provided them with reasoned, academic refutations and alternative interpretations.
Sadly, the result is that most “mainstream” Muslim organizations rely upon claims of victimization and “Islamophobia” to deflect both internal and external criticism of Jihadism and Islamism – claims that are manifestly illegitimate, and serve only to undermine our faith.
While a truly legitimate refutation of the myopic, exclusively Jihadist/Islamist interpretation of Koran would take a full textbook, even a taste of such a discussion will provide an example of how a Muslim can read his or her Koran free of Islamism. This is the real work we need to do – and this is what must be done if we are to undermine those who seek to cultivate yet another generation of Jihadists and Islamists.
There can be no room for denial or equivocation in this reinterpretation. But I am confident that we can have a candid and forthright assessment of the divergent views of Islam. If along with this there is also a willingness to separate history from religious doctrine, and couch it in the underlying principles of the nation-states founded in freedom – we can win the war of ideas against monsters like bin Laden, and all his ideological brethren.
In part three, I will discuss interpretation of the Koran, both by laymen and through the lens of freedom.