Friday, September 9, 2011

Re: Islamism and Creeping Sharia

Lawrence had written: "No, no, no. You may have used the term 'Jihadis and Salafists,' but those deriving from the teachings of Sayyid Qutb prefer 'Islamists' and those deriving from Saudi Wahhab teachings prefer Salafist."

OW (Opposing Writer): My attempt at nomenclature was not meant to label every fundamentalist group but rather to distinguish those groups which strive to establish an Islamic society, and with it a hierarchy of religious and political authority, from those groups which strive to create the conditions where Muslims can practice a pure Islamic faith, without interference from authority, whether religious or political. Lawrence lumps the Khomeini 'movement' with its principle of vilayat-e faqih, or the guardianship of the jurist where both religious and political authority is placed in the hands of a divinely appointed individual, with Qutb and his rejection of the very idea of religious authority.

OW continues: If the goal is to understand whether Sharia courts are a threat to Western civilization, then confusing these two kinds of groups is unhelpful. Whatever you want to call them, groups like al-Qaeda would strongly object to Sharia courts since they presume that some Muslims have authority over other Muslims, and that there is a need to use reason to apply Sharia. For this and other reasons, members of al-Qaeda have declared Shia Muslims as takfir, or heretics, and deserving of death. Lawrence may object to the labels I assign to these two different groups but that does not change the fact that these are two different groups.

Lawrence had written: "Bin Laden was raised a Wahhabi. While fighting against the USSR in Afghanistan he formed "the base" aka Al Quaeda. He was influenced by Sayyid Qutb, but then Sayyid Qutb was a member of the Egyptian Muslim Brothers led by Hassan Al Banna who had been influenced by the Wahhabis who later chose to call their Islamic sect, Salafism."

OW: Yes, Qutb was at one point a member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood but left the movement. The Muslim Brotherhood grew out of discontent with the corruption and poverty of Egyptian society and aimed to create an Islamic social organization that provided healthcare, education, support for the poor. The aim was to create a truly Islamic society, not necessarily an Islamic state. As far as I know, the Brotherhood has never officially embraced violence and today explicitly rejects violence and supports democracy. Qutb, and those who follow him, have explicitly embraced violence as a means for overthrowing any authority that threatens the purity of the Islamic faith. For those who follow Qutb, there is no interest in establishing a government or social organizations that would improve the living conditions of Muslims. There is then an important difference between those who follow Qutb, like many in al-Qaeda, and the Muslim Brotherhood or even the official Wahhibism of Saudi Arabia. Again, if the goal is to understand the role Sharia courts might play in the West, it is important to understand these kinds of differences.

Lawrence now writes: What happened to all the other areas of disagreement, I wonder? I didn’t just disagree about labels. Have all the other matters been recast into this new argument? Notice the title Islamism and Creeping Sharia. How does that relate to your attempt to "distinguish those groups which strive to establish an Islamic society, and with it a hierarchy of religious and political authority, from those groups which strive to create the conditions where Muslims can practice a pure Islamic faith, without interference from authority, whether religious or political? Why not continue to see the agreement or disagreement between Islamism and Creeping Sharia? What you present is a new subject.

The second group of yours would be like Christians today, everyone practicing his religion as his conscience dictates with minimum interference from deacons, elders, pastors, or priests. And if church leadership cracks down on a person in order to discipline him, there is nothing to prevent his changing denominations. I don’t see that sort of thing existence in the Middle East.

Sayyid Qutb didn't believe in national boundaries, but then neither did Nassar, sort of. Pan-Arabism is a secular construct of the traditional Ummah. The idea of the Ummah is of long-standing. Current middle-eastern boundaries were created after World War I by Britain and France primarily although the U.S. and Italy were there when this happened. Qutb repudiated those boundaries. There should be no “boundaries.” The Ummah does not need boundaries.

Andrea Nusse has written a book that bears upon this issue, Muslim Palestine, the Ideology of Hamas. Hamas started out as a follower of Qutb's teaching which emphasized the Ummah and repudiated national boundaries, but when the chance came to gain political power in Palestine, Hamas took it.  Does that mean they repudiated Qutb.  We shall see that it does not.

On page 14 Nusse writes "Following the example of the first Muslims who emigrated to Medina (hijra) and only attacked Mekka when they felt strong enough to do so, Qutb elaborated the theory of an ever growing nucleus of 'true' believers that should be developed until it can wage a "Jihad” against the surrounding society and its rulers. He believed that only through Jihad could the sovereignty of God . . . be re-established. This would be achieved when the Sharia has become the only source of law. Qutb did not elaborate how exactly that state, society and economy would be organized under the Islamic order.”

Did Qutb reject “the very idea of religious authority”? No, he didn’t need to develop the idea of what the Religious State should look like because Mawdudi had already done that, and Qutb accepted Mawdudi’s ideas on this point. Nusse writes, “. . . the Indian fundamentalist thinker Abu Ala al-Mawdudi developed a detailed blueprint for the organization of an ideal Islamic state and built up the group ‘Jamia Islami, founded by him in 1941 in British India along these lines. In fact, Mawdudi had already developed the interpretation of Jahiliyya which Qutb then made a major element of his analysis.”

“Any territory that is once ‘opened’ (maftub) to Islamic rule has to remain ruled by Muslims. As Muslims have to establish an Islamic society on earth, no territory can be left to non-Muslims to rule. . . The final goal can never be the protection and expansion of Dar al-Islam, but the spread of God’s rule to the whole earth. . . thus the attachment to a specific territory even for allegedly religious reasons is rejected by the ideologues of modern fundamentalism.”

Hamas doesn’t exactly repudiate Qutb’s opposition protection of Dar al-Islam, but it concentrates upon the idea that once land is conquered and belongs to the Ummah, it must never be abandoned. This land Hamas is concerned about “happens to be called Palestine.”

I didn’t have Nusse on either of yesterday’s lists because she doesn’t fit either category. She doesn’t think of herself as an outsider considering whether or not Islamists are a threat. She seems to have gone a bit native. She believed (her book was published in 1998) that once Hamas had a taste of national power it would abandon the violent aspects of Qutb’s ideas. That hasn’t happened, witness an article of last month entitled “Hamas Violent Message”:

As to Sharia Law, no I wouldn’t say the “goal is to understand the role Sharia courts might play in the West . . .” I would say Sharia courts threaten Western societies and should be opposed. Three concerns about them come to mind: 1) The institutors of Sharia Law believe as Hamas does, that once land belongs to the Ummah, it does so forever. This includes all the enclaves in Western nations practicing Sharia Law. 2) Sharia Law despite the gloss of harmlessness applied by “tolerant” westerners is aggressive by nature. 3) Enclaves with Sharia Law provide a haven for overtly aggressive activists. See that happening in Germany: The article begins, “The spread of Islamic Sharia law in Germany is far more advanced than previously thought, and German authorities are “powerless” to do anything about it, according to a new book about the Muslim shadow justice system in Germany.

“This ‘parallel justice system’ is undermining the rule of law in Germany, Wagner says, because Muslim arbiters-cum-imams are settling criminal cases out of court without the involvement of German prosecutors or lawyers before law enforcement can bring the cases to a German court.”

“The 236-page book titled “Judges Without Law: Islamic Parallel Justice Endangers Our Constitutional State,” which was authored by Joachim Wagner, a German legal expert and former investigative journalist for ARD German public television, says Islamic Sharia courts are now operating in all of Germany’s big cities.”

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