New report has been released from RAND called Building Moderate Muslim Networks. I saw it on Imam Suhaib Webb’s blog. Jinnzaman has written a great commentary about it. (Also posted on SufiStication).
“Remember how the Unbelievers plotted against thee, to keep thee in bonds, or slay thee, or get thee out (of thy home). They plot and plan, and Allah too plans; but the best of planners is Allah.”
(Surat al-Anfal Verse 30)
The RAND corporation, author of the infamous “Civil Democratic Islam” paper that essentially laid forth a “divide and conquer” strategy to subdue the Muslim world from resisting American hegemony, recently released a follow up report entitled “Building Moderate Muslim Networks” to effectuate the policy objectives that were previously discussed in their other papers. The report comes in the wake of a recent summit by â€œsecularâ€ Muslims in St. Petersburg, Florida where they issued a proclamation declaring support for secularism, â€œhuman rightsâ€, along with condemnation of orthodoxy, the Shariâ€™ah with particular focus on the hadd punishments against apostasy, zina, Islamic governance, not to mention practices that have no place in Islam such as female circumcision, honor killing, forced veiling, and forced marriage. Unsurprisingly, the doctrine such â€œsecularâ€ Muslims espouse and the method they utilize to propagate their ideas coincides exactly with the doctrine and methods espoused in the â€œBuilding Moderate Muslim Networksâ€ paper. Some may describe the secular Muslim summit and the publication of the RAND report as a fortuitous coincidence, while others may describe them as merely the convergence of plans that were long in the making.
The underlying argument of this paper is that the United States is currently embroiled in what is described as a civil war within Islam whose outcome is on par with the titanic struggle that occurred during the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Just like the US utilized both covert and overt tactics to contest the expansion of communism, it must utilize both covert and overt tactics to subdue â€œradicalâ€ Islam. The paper specifically focuses on the concept of developing â€œmoderateâ€ networks to contest the authority of Americaâ€™s opponents both at home and abroad.
The paper defines â€œmoderateâ€ Muslimsâ€™ as (1) those who support democracy, (2) internationally recognized human rights, including gender equality and freedom of worship, (3) respect for diversity, (4) acceptance of nonsectarian sources of law, and (5) opposition to terrorism and all illegitimate forms of violence. It also claims that â€œmoderateâ€ Muslims are in the majority in the Muslim world whereas radical Muslims form an extreme minority that have only come to power because of (1) their use of force and intimidation to silence their opponents, (2) Saudi funding promoting Wahhabism, and (3) organization through networks.
These moderate networks can be built by (1) bolstering existing networks, (2) identifying potential networks and promoting their inception and growth, and (3) contributing to the underlying conditions of pluralism and tolerance that are favorable to the growth of these networks. The authors go so far as to identify the types of networks that must be promoted: (1) democracy promotion networks, (2) civil society networks, and (3) public diplomacy networks.
- Democracy Promotion means the promotion of liberal democratic values of equity, tolerance, pluralism, the rule of law, and respect for civil and human rights. The US government already has democracy mandates in both the Department of State and the US Agency for Development (USAID) which contract with NGOs such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the Asia Foundation, and the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID). Incidentally, one of the the Board of Directors of the CSID was a professor of mine at UMBC where he taught a class called â€œIslam and Politics.â€ (Cantori bio).
- Civil-society development. By â€œcivil society,â€ the authors refer to a set of institutions and values that serves both as a buffer and a critical link between the state and individuals, families, and clans that are manifested when voluntary civic and social organizations (such as NGOs) can stand in opposition to forces brought by the state. They describe possible targets for the promotion of civil society as (a) Liberal and secular Muslim academics and intellectuals, (b) young and moderate religious scholars, (c) community activists, (c) womenâ€™s groups engaged in gender equality campaigns, and (d) moderate journalists and writers. A specific focus should be directed towards Muslims living in Diaspora in the West, along with those from â€œmoderateâ€ nations such as Turkey and Indonesia, whose works should be translated.
- Public Diplomacy. Although the paper itself doesnâ€™t bother to define public diplomacy, in international relations, it is merely clever verbiage for propaganda. “PUBLIC DIPLOMACY refers to government-sponsored programs intended to inform or influence public opinion in other countries; its chief instruments are publications, motion pictures, cultural exchanges, radio and television.”
The paper is wracked with ambiguous definitions, weak inferences, and downright ignorance of the subtleties of the region as a whole. Although I am not quite certain how the paper has been received by strategists within the government, if this paper is the primary source of covert policy in subduing â€œradicalâ€ Islam, then the US is in for a world of trouble because such a program is bound to fail. In addition to the general problems of the normative and descriptive value of the paper, I have five specific criticisms of the article.
- War on Islam, Not Terrorism. This paper shows that there are some strategists in the world who seek not to subdue extremists within Islam, but subdue Islam itself as a discourse of social justice and resistance to hegemony. According to Imam Laqqani, the author of the classical Ashari text â€œJawharat at-Tawheedâ€, a Muslim is â€œone who both believes and submits to that which is necessarily known of the religion.â€ The main problem with the article is that it automatically affiliates those Muslims who espouse the Shariâ€™ah as being extremists who want to utilize violence in order to achieve their goals. The document shows that the conflict is not being defined in terms of methodology, but in terms of ideology. Those who support the Shariâ€™ah, regardless if they support violence to establish it, are grouped in with terrorists. In other words, even if Muslims democratically instituted the Shariâ€™ah, it would still be construed as a threat to Western civilization. The article fails to make a distinction between those who seek to establish the khalifah through non-violent means and those who use violence to kill innocent civilians. It also conflates jihad with terrorism, either intentionally for propaganda purposes, or unintentionally, reflecting reckless ignorance of the legal distinctions and implications between the two actions. Given that the authors are highly educated people who no doubt are being well paid for their analysis of radicalism in the Muslim world, I cannot give them the benefit of the doubt and presume that they made such a glaring error innocently. The mindset of the authors is one that is becoming dominant in most policy makers, especially of the neoconservative persuasion. If such a policy proposal becomes integrated in strategic planning, then the war on terrorism must be proclaimed a farce and renamed a war on Islam since the Shariâ€™ah is inherently a component of Islam and any call to eliminate the Shariâ€™ah is, by de facto, an attack on Islam itself. Allah (subhana wa taâ€™alaa) warned against leaving the deen in order to conform to the desires of the Ahl ul Kitab: â€œNever will the Jews or the Christians be satisfied with thee unless thou follow their form of religion. Say: “The Guidance of Allah,-that is the (only) Guidance.” Wert thou to follow their desires after the knowledge which hath reached thee, then wouldst thou find neither Protector nor helper against Allah.â€ (Surat al-Baqarah Verse 120) The Shariâ€™ah is a legal system, not a political system. A legal system which, by definition, cannot be totalitarian or fascist since the very purpose of a legal system is to limit the powers of the state. In other words, the Shariâ€™ah is the very antithesis of totalitarianism or fascism. The â€˜Ulema are not servants of the state, but act as a separate class of professionals whose primary duty is to emphatically emphasize what the law is. Both the state and lay people have no authority in declaring crimes and punishments regarding Islamic law. Just because Islamic law is not democratic does not make it totalitarian. Furthermore, merely advocating the complete implementation of the Shariâ€™ah is not, in and of itself, a radical belief or act. It is shared by Muslims all through out the world. The assertion that this the US is merely supporting one side in a “civil war” within Islam is downright ludicrous. This is a conflict that has been precipitated from day one from foreign soil. The origins of the “moderate” Muslims has been and always will be merely a tool for Western hegemony, whether they realize it or not. This paper affirms that modernist Muslims are merely a fifth column within the Muslim Ummah. The relationship between such people and foreign powers with imperialist designs has been described in detail in “The ‘Death’ of Progressive Islam” post. The conflict within Muslim countries would not exist but for the covert and overt interference of Western nations. This is not a civil war, but a world war.
- Definition of â€œModerateâ€ Muslims. Anyone who rejects those aspects of the Shariâ€™ah upon which there is consensus is simply not a Muslim, let alone a â€œmoderateâ€ one. Thus, it is unsurprising when the paper lists potential â€œmoderateâ€ Muslims whose works should be promoted in the Muslim world, it includes: Ibn Warraq, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wafa Sultan, Salman Rushdie, Tasleema Nasreen, Irshad Manji, amongst others. Most of the people who have been described as â€œmoderateâ€ Muslims are not even Muslim at all. The secularized Muslims, i.e. apostates, come from some of the most educated and wealthy segments of Muslim societies, yet, for all their affiliation with the most powerful nation on the Earth, they are absolutely weak. Thus far, they have failed to penetrate the authority of the â€˜Ulema let alone establish a strong hold anywhere in the world. Every overdramatic theatrical endeavor they have embarked on has been met with utter ridicule and scorn. The assistance of the kuffar is infinitely miniscule compared to the assistance of Allah (subhana wa taâ€™ala).Interestingly enough, the authors refer to the Danish imams as not being â€œmoderateâ€ Muslims simply because they traveled through the Middle East to urge support for their complaint against the Danish government concerning outrageous cartoons that depicted the Prophet (sallahu alayhi wa sallam) in a terrible manner that was both ahistorical, stereotypical, and downright hateful. The author fails to recognize that Muslims from all over the world, whether moderate or radical by their own definition, protested the Danish cartoons, including â€œsecularâ€ Turkey and Indonesia. Muslims as far off as Thailand and China protested the cartoons. This illustrates even further how incoherent the authors are since they do not have a working definition of â€œmoderateâ€ Muslim.
- Stuck in the Cold War Rut. The documentary â€œWhy We Fightâ€ opens with video footage of President Dwight D. Eisenhower warning of the dangers of the â€œmilitary-industrial complex.â€ With a hint of clairvoyance, he cautioned against overstating the importance of RAND-like institutions. â€œThe prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded. Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific technological elite.â€ After World War II, the Cold War was perhaps the most expensive venture in American foreign policy, if not the longest in duration. New branches of the government, industries, and think tanks were conceived simply to study the ideological foe. Colleges and universities sprouted political science departments where some professors ended up dedicating their whole lives to this task. Then, in a moment, the evil empire crumbled. People whose sole occupational purpose was to study this foe were suddenly fish out of water. Think tanks, intelligence experts, military officers, suddenly found that they needed to justify their funding and purpose. Reformists within the military who sought to transform the Cold War-era structure of the armed forces into one that could fight in the era of asymmetrical warfare were castigated by the â€œOld Guard.â€ This can be clearly illustrated when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld attempted to scrap the $11 billion Crusader artillery program and was met with opposition by both officials within the military and politicians. Thus, it is not improbable that the Cold War era thinkers would rely upon pre-existing paradigms for scrutinizing â€œradicalâ€ Islam. There are, of course, several major problems with analogizing between Communism and Islamism. To be fair, the authors recognize that not all of the tactics that were utilized in the Cold War can be used against â€œradicalâ€ Islam since they are, by their very nature, two drastically different entities. However, the threat of â€œradicalâ€ Islam to the US is nowhere near comparable to the Soviet threat. At best, Islamists might be able to detonate one or two nuclear warheads in an American city, and although that is reprehensible, it is simply a gross exaggeration to claim that such a threat is on par with the annihilation that could have been inflicted by the Soviets who possessed hundreds of armed warheads with intercontintental ballistical missiles. Until recently, Islamists didnâ€™t even posses armies, let alone stable control over one Muslim country. Of course, the war on Iraq has changed all that. The war on Afghanistan pretty much destroyed, if not disrupted, Al-Qaedaâ€™s infrastructure and command network. Had their been no war on Iraq, that might have been the end of Al-Qaeda, but the war on Iraq, with the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians, the atrocities at Abu Graib, the rape of Iraqi women and children, and the rampant sectarianism gave provided the causus belli to this organization whose numbers grew exponentially in that region. The rise of Islamist militants in Iraq is a direct reaction that has emanated from the myopic vision of strategic analysts who have been stuck in this Cold War rut. After all, the very origin of many of these groups has been due to the presence of authoritarian tyrants in the Middle East that were supported by the U.S. government in order to combat the threat of communism. The support of mujahideen in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets, the support of these dictators, the invasion of Iraq, the attacks on Afghanistan, are all examples of epic levels of short-sightedness on behalf of these policy experts who continue to fail to understand Islam for what it is. One of the reasons they have repeatedly failed to do so is because they constantly try to examine Islam with their Cold War goggles. Islam is not the same threat to America or the West as the Soviet Union was. What Islamists seek is not the destruction of freedom or human rights, but the preservation of their own way of life. If anyone is threatened with annihilation, it is the Islamists, not America. However, the paper grossly aggrandizes the threat of Islamism as a threat to the very core of Western civilization. This language is not accurate and is left over verbiage from the Cold War era. However, regardless if such mistakes are accidental or intentional, they have drastic consequences in global affairs. Any more miscalculations on behalf of Western strategists, and their will be a global, unified revolt of Islam.
- Anachronistic Obfuscation of Islamic Revival and Terrorism. Perhaps the greatest illustration of the shortsightedness of the article its failure to recognize that the movements of today are not merely reactions to Western hegemony, but part of a greater Islamic revival that has been thriving for the past several centuries. The distinction between the revivalists of today is a change in their tactics and targets, not in the revival itself. Thus, the claim that radicals have been influenced by Saudi funding for Wahhabism is ludicrous. The effects of Wahhabism/Salafism on movements like Jamat e Islami, Ikhwan al Muslimeen, Hizb e Tehrir, Tableeghi Jamaat, the Taliban are all miniscule. Nor does it account for revolutionary Iran, whose origins are in the intellectual triumph of the Usooli tradition over the Akhbaris just like the origins of the Sunni revival can be directly traced to the revival of hadeeth studies. Terrorism is not caused by Wahhabism, nor are all Islamic resistance movements utilizing terrorism to achieve their goals. The call for Islamic sovereignty, governance, and law does not make a person a terrorist. It is only when they use violence against civilians can such a person be declared a terrorist. If people use non-violent or violent means that are directed at legitimate military targets, they cannot be construed as terrorists or radicals. Such movements can be traced back to the pre-colonial and colonial era of resistance. To claim that such movements began only recent is downright false and may lead to dramatic outcomes if not corrected.
- Democratizing the Muslim World. Perhaps what I find most dangerous about their program is that their plan to (1) detach the authority of the â€˜Ulema from the state and from within the state and to (2) expand the concept of ijma into a consensus concerning public opinion. Although no strategy is explicitly propounded to achieve these goals, my guess is that theyâ€™ll be using the legal principle of ijtehad. There is no reason to believe that democratization would have prevented the rise of militant groups and movements. The direct cause of these movements has been particular political problems, not for ideological reasons. Islam was an a posteriori justification for violent act, not an a priori action. Whether they utilize democracies or Islamic governance, these resistance movements will continue since the cause of their resistance is a particular conflict, not a want for a particular system of values.
Challenging the Hegemonic Discourse on Islamism
What the RAND paper has made clear, along with other papers on Islam, is that Western countries do not seek to eliminate those Muslims who utilize violence against innocent civilians, but those Muslims who seek to challenge Western hegemony as well, regardless if they use entirely peaceful and legal means to fulfill these objectives. If this is true, than the â€œWar on Terrorismâ€ must be changed to the â€œWar on Islam Itself.â€ Some Muslims may contest such a claim. Some Muslims, wasting away in luxury and conceit, ignorant of Islamic traditions and history, naÃ¯ve of global politics, go so far as to deny that the West is an existential threat to Islam. What these ignoramuses fail to realize is that war is already upon the Muslim Ummah. The threat of bombs falling on our cities, our women being raped, our men being shipped off to prisons for no crimes and being tortured in inhumane ways, is not merely a potential future outcome, it is already here. The future is now.
I ask that all Muslims honestly and sincerely endeavor to answer the following questions:
- Do Muslims have an obligation to establish a single universal Islamic government? Universal not in the sense that it must encompass every inch of the earth, but that it seeks to preserve the interests of all Muslims, irrespective of their race, sect, or location. The answer to this question is yes.
- Do Muslims have a right to establish a single universal Islamic government? In other words, if Muslims had a peaceful way of establishing a universal Islamic government that implemented the Shariâ€™ah, but did not interfere in the affairs of other nation-states, would Western governments allow such a state to subsist? The answer to this is yes, according to the very principles of the doctrine of nationalism.
- Why is there opposition to the Shariâ€™ah? Is the Shariâ€™ah a threat to John Doe living in Kansas? Why do Westerners care about the Hadd punishments when they are not subject to it? Is their a real genuine concern for the crimes and punishments under the Shariâ€™ah? The answer is that the opposition to the Shariâ€™ah is merely pretext in the war of propaganda which seeks to incite the masses against Islam.
- Why is there opposition to jihad, even if it rejects terrorism (i.e. the targeting of civilians)? This is self-evident; jihad is a threat to Western hegemony. Regardless if it follows the rules of war or not, any Muslim who espouses jihad, even in defense for their self-preservation and national integrity is a terrorist in the eyes of the West. The West does not care about social justice and peace, it is concerned with preserving its control of Muslim lands and it can only do so through Muslim hearts and minds.
- Why is it no surprise that this study calls for networking among apostates (people who are either atheists or openly reject elements of the deen which are necessarily a part of the faith)? If Western countries truly were not at war with Islam and merely sought to combat extremists, why is that they promote apostates to â€œreformâ€ Islam? They do so because they are not at war with a handful of extremists, but because they want to change the very nature of Islam into a subservient defanged religion.
Intellectual Revolution: The Only Solution
Upon reading about such plans and plots, the average Muslim asks him or her self â€œWhat can be done? What can I do to participate in this war of ideas?â€ The answer is simple: intellectual revolution. What is intellectual revolution?
What many Muslims fail to understand is that neo-colonialism has not only economic, political, and military aspects, but also intellectual and philosophical aspects as well. The RAND paper and others like it highlight the efforts of Western intellectuals to subdue Islam as a form of a resistance to Western hegemony. Such efforts can not be responded to by force alone nor can they be disregarded or ignored. Obviously, intellectual hegemony can only be contested by intellectual resistance, intellectual revolution. The definition of a revolution is that it (1) calls for the complete deconstruction of one paradigm and replacing it with another or (2) a return to the existing state of things (in the manner that a cosmic body returns to the point of its origin). Thus, an Islamic intellectual revolution is one that seeks to thoroughly deconstruct the intellectual paradigms that are instrumental in preserving Western hegemony in a manner by returning to the Sunnah of the Prophet (sallahu alayhi wa sallam) in spirit, mind, and body.
As such, intellectual revolution refers to efforts by a group of thinkers, in accordance with the traditional Islamic sciences, to utilize their minds in order operate within the conceptual framework of Ahl us Sunnah waal Jamâ€™ah to serve as a catalyst in convering the thought of the Muslim Ummah. To be more precise, Intellectual Revolution has four components: (1) the reconstruction of the sacred sciences to provide the proper epistemological outline for developing ethics, political theory, and law in accordance with the Shariâ€™ah, (2) the deconstruction of Western ethical, legal, and political philosophy that is used to critique the Shariâ€™ah, (3) the construction of Islamic alternatives to contemporary economic, legal, and political paradigms, and (4) the refutation of deviant groups, with a special focus on those who oppose the Shariâ€™ah itself. The reconstruction of Islamic knowledge entails the revival of the Islamic sciences in accordance with the boundaries of the Quran and Sunnah as understood by the Mujtahid Imams and those who followed them with a special focus on Aqeedah, Fiqh, and Tasawwuf. The second component of intellectual revolution entails deconstructing Western power systems. Instead of Muslims falling into an ideological trap of whether or not Islam is compatible with such Western thought-systems as science, democracy, feminism, etc, we ought to question the authority of such systems. Deconstructing Western power systems requires those Muslims living in the West to rigorously reject the authority of the Western political discourse and to firmly attack the roots of their political concepts, especially this absurd notion of freedom. The third component of Intellectual Revolution is the thorough refutation of deviant groups, especially those groups that possess deviant aqeedah or lack an understanding of usool al fiqh, or question the authority of the Ulema without having studied their proofs. Special attention should be given to those who ascribe to the â€˜modernistâ€™ paradigm where they claim that there is no proof in the Quran and Sunnah for a variety of rulings. The method of responding to such groups must be based firmly on the Islamic sciences as well as rational arguments, which is why the reconstruction of Islamic knowledge is a necessary prerequisite for all of the other components of intellectual revolution. The last component of intellectual revolution is to develop a contemporary formulation of Islamic power systems (ie to provide sufficient proofs for the establishment of a Universal Islamic Government). As is it clear by the works of the Ulema such as Imam Tahawi, Imam Mawardi, ibn Khaldun, Shaykh Uthman dan Fodio et al, that the establishment of a Khalifa is a fardh kaffayah, there must always be a group of people within our Ummah working towards this goal. The method of working towards khalifa is not by hosting debates on college campuses or passing out flyers or by throwing protests against the actions of corrupt governments as some political groups engage in. The method of restoring the khalifa is by restoring the confidence of the people within such a system. Due to the effects of excessive Western propaganda that slander the image of the khalifa based on false information or incorrect assessments, the average Muslim is so afraid of the establishment of a khalifa that he would prefer living under non-Muslim rule than Muslim rule. With all these four components of intellectual revolution, the basis of the intellectual suppression of the Ummah becomes null and void and it is only then when talk of real change becomes feasible. When the masses realize that political systems are not solid, cemented, metallic structures but are constructed and comprised of human beings like themselves, it is only then that they will be able to realize that just as they can be constructed, they can be â€˜deconstructedâ€™ and â€˜reconstructedâ€™ as an Islamic one.â€
For more information about intellectual revolution, click here.
May Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) raise up a leader from amongst us who will unite our Ummah and fight this fitnah. Ameen.
Source: Jinnzaman’s Blog.