In the current war of Islamic extremists against the West, communication superiority is a prerequisite for success, this essay argues, and the Islamists have seized the verbal high ground. However, the author believes, we currently have an exceptional opportunity to regain the rhetorical initiative and improve our performance in the global struggle for hearts and minds. Ed .
The apparent renunciation of terrorism by the person who provided the rationale for the global Muslim revivalist movement presents an opportunity for the United States to improve its performance in strategic communication.
In Foundations of Preparation for Jihad, Sayid Imam al-Sharif prescribed a Third Jihad for the Islamization of the world. Al-Sharif founded the Egyptian Islamic Jihad; his supporters assassinated President Anwar Sadat in 1981 and he was with Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan fighting against the Soviet Union. He is a medical doctor and was an associate of Ayman al-Zawahiri, another Egyptian doctor, who is now Osama Bin Laden's deputy. Al-Sharif was captured after 9/11 and has been in an Egyptian jail since 2004.
There have been several reports that Al-Sharif will soon publish a book in which he states that the use of terror, and the killing of innocent nonbelievers, in the name of Jihad violate the Qur'an. On July 27, 2007, the Guardian (London) reported him as citing the injunction: Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not transgress the limits; for God loveth not transgressors. Qur'an 2:190 In other words, he now condemns the violence that has been an integral part of all three Jihads. This would mean a modification in how to achieve the Great Caliphate.
A caliphate, which combines religious and political authority, is the only form of governance approved by traditional Islamic theology. There have been caliphates in the Middle East since the seventh century. The Great Caliphate is a goal; it would replace all secular governments from Morocco to Indonesia with a single caliphate that would then be able to convert the rest of the world to Islam. This was Al-Sharif's original vision that has had a major influence on the global Muslim revivalist movementan effort to achieve Islamic conquest through violence known to its partisans as the Third Jihad.
It has been reported that Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama Bin Laden's deputy in Al Qaeda, is very unhappy with Al-Sharif's recantation since it might cause many others to question their basic ideas about the Third Jihad. Also it has been reported that hundreds of other former Islamic militants now imprisoned are prepared to join Al-Sharif in renouncing the use of violence to spread their beliefs and are ready to accept the free flow of religious ideas.
Our leaders need to make changes in order to capitalize on al-Sharif's new views, since they can potentially take away the protection of the Qur'an from those who use terror. By accurately stating that we are fighting against evildoersnot holy warriors, we can remove some of the communication advantage that the leaders of the Third Jihad have enjoyed. We must reach out and hold our people, our enemies, and people around the world.
THE THIRD JIHAD
After Muhammad's death in the seventh century, the First Jihad spread under the caliphs (vice regents) west from Medina across North Africa and then into Spain, France and Italy, and east across the Middle East deep into Southwest Asia. Then Islam consolidated its control of the lands conquered. The First Jihad ended in 1492 when Islam was driven out of Spain. The Second Jihad started with the fall of Constantinople in 1453. The Ottoman Turks then implanted Islam in the Balkans and established hegemony over lands from North Africa to India. The Second Jihad was stopped in 1682 with the second unsuccessful attempt to capture Vienna; it was held in check during the Modern Era (eighteenth and nineteenth centuries) by European power, and ended in 1924. In 1979 the Third Jihad started with the Shah of Iran being overthrown by Shiite followers of Ayatollah Khomeini. It was given focus in February 1998 with a Sunni fatwa, which declared war on America and its allies. For its leaders, the Third Jihad is just another effort to spread Islam until everyone is governed by the ways of the Prophetand to take down the Great Satan. For the foot soldiers, it is a way to express their feelings. In all three Jihads violence has been an accepted way to eliminate, or convert, non-believers (infidels).
The goal of the Third Jihad is to weaken all of those who oppose the establishment of a single caliphate from Morocco to Indonesia, and to remove the influence of Western Civilization from the Islamic world. This goal of cultural takeover was al-Sharif's original message. However, many Muslims oppose the Third Jihad and its goal; indeed Muslims are its most numerous victims. Yet they will condemn only terrorism but not the goal of a Great Caliphate.
Many Americans and Europeans either do not understand or deny the threat of the Third Jihad, claiming that Islamic terror is caused by our actions in Islamic countries. They stress the differences between Shiites and Sunnis. They often speak of Islamophobia - a term invented to shut down legitimate and vital debate about the threat of the Third Jihad - and narrow their focus to the personal, inner, nonviolent Jihad al Akbar. They are weary, and want to enjoy the good life without effort or worry.
It is clear why our enemies would call their movement a holy warJihad. But this puts a positive spin on something that under international law is considered aggression, and for the past 300 years has often been called imperialism.
Therefore, we need to distinguish those who advocate Islamic conquest through violence, i.e. the Third Jihad, from those who merely use Islam for spiritual guidance to improve their personal behavior. Some Islamic scholars consider it impossible to make such a distinction since both a defensive Jihad (to regain territory that was once part of a caliphate) and an offensive Jihad (to conquer new territory) sanction warfare without limits. They can cite Muhammad himself on this. They point to the refusal of moderate Muslims to condemn, and work against, the global Muslim revivalist movement. However, the words Hirabah (unholy warfare) and hirabahists (evildoers who use terror and will incur Allah's condemnation on Judgment Day) allow this distinction to be made.
It is necessary for most Muslims to be convinced that this distinction can be made in accordance with authentic Qur'anic Islam. The conversion of al-Sharif allows this distinction to be better communicated to all Muslims. The struggle over whether such a distinction can be made illustrates why communications is the center of gravity in irregular warfarethe oldest form of conflict among humans: insurgents using any means available to them to weaken those in authority. The current Muslim revivalist movement has simply changed the battlefieldthe result of changes in transportation and communication. Formerly waged within a specific group or in the territory of a single state, we must now face worldwide irregular warfare. This conflict will be won or lost in this new battlefield.
THE USE OF WORDS
However, the changes needed are not primarily in semantics. They are primarily contextual: how the leaders and people of America and Europe view irregular warfare and what changes they are prepared to make to become more effective in this form of conflict.
We need to condemn in religious terms, rather than in Western secular terms, those whom many in the West called terrorists and those who give them aid and support. No longer should we adopt the language of those falsely claiming they are fighting a Jihad for Islam. Hirabahists is the correct term for those who bombed the transportation system in London on 7/7, those who did the same in Madrid on 11/11, those using car bombs in Iraq, those who killed over 3,000 Americans on 9/11, and like-minded killers around the world who are active participants in the Third Jihad or give aid and support to the hirabahists. If used effectively the apparent renunciation of terrorism by al-Sharif can facilitate such a change.
HOW TO USE AL-SHARIF'S NEW VIEWS
We need to encourage all Islamic clerics to issue fatwas (religious edicts) that condemn anyone that uses terror against nonbelievers as an apostate, or kafir (infidel), to authentic Qur'anic Islam. In their condemnation, the Islamic clerics must state that:
Islamic clerics who will not issue such a fatwa, and Islamic moderates who will not state the same, would themselves be considered hirabahists.
Rather than using politically correct words, U.S. officials should be willing to use accurate wordsthat have meaning for our enemieswhen talking about our enemies. There is an emotional, spiritual, religious component to this conflict. They should readily charge that the use of terror in the name of Islam is playing God in the name of Allah. Anyone who believes in Western Civilization should consider those who use terror as Servants of Satan, and refer to them as hirabahists engaged in crimes against humanity in violation of authentic Qur'anic Islam. We need to remember that Western Civilization was born in Christianity. Europe was called Christendom for centuries, and during these centuries there was conflict between the Crescent and the Cross. If Christianity is abandoned can the Third Jihad be defeated in today's world?
The leaders of the Third Jihad will surely condemn al-Sharif. Such condemnation presents an opportunity for U.S. officials to capture the initiative and achieve success by making the distinction between hirabahists and devout Muslims who oppose violence. Apologists will claim that al-Sharif has been tortured into making these statements. But this must be refuted by proof that his change of heart is the result of reflection and debate among those who believe deeply in the authentic Qur'an.
Also we should benefit from knowledge of the process that produced al-Sharif's apparent renunciation of terrorismthe Egyptian government's counter radicalization program. Al-Sharif and other prisoners have been allowed to meet and discuss religious matters with Muslim clerics who oppose the use of terror in the name of Islam. This program has not converted them into pacifists, Christians, or Jews but into reasonable human beings who want to live without violence in a stable society with more than one set of beliefs.
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