Qaradawi’s New Book On Jihad
|Sunday, July 12,2009 06:17|
Marc Lynch highlights a new_book_on_Jihad by the Egyptian cleric Yusuf Al-Qaradawi. This book may be imporant and even influential — but not necessarily in the way that many Americans are hoping.
1) WHO WON’T BE READING?
First, its a super-legalistic technical treatise on the rules of Jihad, something which is of little interest to most average people. It’s about as relevant to their every-day lives as 200 pages on the nitty gritty of Commercial trade law. Do non-lawyers sit down and read these kinds of books? I read the first two pages of the Al-Masri Al-Youm articles and then lost interest. If I didn’t get past page two, then neither will most people in the Middle East, if they are even aware that this book exists.
Also, there’s the question of media coverage. Outside of Al-Masri Al-Youm which probably/ may have paid to run the summary of Qaradawi’s new book, I haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere else, including Islam Online, a site associated with Qaradawi that extensively covers Islamist movements.
Secondly, for it to be “influential” and “important” it seems to me that there has to be some kind of debate taking place. But the debate about the use of violence in the name of Jihad inside Muslim countries has long been settled in all but the most extreme circles. As is well known, almost every single Jihadi group of the 1980s or 1990s gave up their violent approach. Outside of extremely small communities of radical Islamists there is no debate over about whether taking up arms against their government is legitimate.
2) WHO MIGHT BE READING?
The book could have some influence on the few hundred or so Jihadis still technically at war with the Algerian government. There is a major effort by the government to convince these holdouts to “come down from the mountain” and embrace the National Reconciliation process. And there is significant evidence to suggest that they do pay attention to what the major clerics are saying about the legitimacy of their cause. For example, in this April_interview with al-Hayat, Hassan Hattab, founder of the GSPC explains why he embraced Reconciliation:
Hattab basically says that “the Ulema’s strong and united position against the continuation of violence” was an essential factor in convincing him to embrace reconciliation. “We noticed their wasn’t a single cleric who supported the continuation of fighting. Before they were silent about what was going on in Algeria, now they are standing firmly against it.”
Since Qaradawi is the most influential Sunni scholar and since he spent some time in Algeria during the late 1980s, maybe this book will have some influence in encouraging the last holdouts in Algeria to lay down their arms and embrace amnesty.
3) HOW DOES THIS AFFECT U.S. INTERESTS?
Sure, Qaradawi’s book may inspire some kind of nerdy philosphical “what is the meaning of Jihad” -type discussion inside Al-Azhar and other schools for Islamic clerical training. But most MediaShack readers are primarily interested in political and security issues of the Middle East, especially as relates to American foreign policy, and here I don’t see the book having much influence.
Let’s break it down into two categories:
a) Effect on Counter-Terrorism:
Sure, Qaradawi criticizes Al-Qaeda’s use of terrorism against civilians, such as the 9/11 attacks, but this really isn’t a noteworthy position. I am not aware of any mainstream cleric who didn’t condemn them ( or at least openly supported them), or any other terrorist attack against civilians, in either the West or the Arab world. So there’s nothing groundbreaking about criticizing Al-Qaeda’s use of terrorism against civilians. Still, maybe these kind of criticisms will and have been influencing Al-Qaeda to stop conducting terrorist attacks against Western civilain targets. Have there been any attacks clearly attributable to Al-Qaeda leaders against Western civilians since …..London 2005?
b) Effect on Al-Qaeda’s Targeting of US in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gulf, and Hamas vs Israel in Israel-Palestine:
I don’t see the book having any effect in this area. Let’s be clear: There is not a single Islamic cleric anywhere who disputes whether Muslims have the right to violently “resist,” ie defensive Jihad, when their countries are invaded and occupied. Find me a Muslim anywhere who has any question in his mind that when a Muslim country is attacked, Muslims don’t have a right to fight back. Professor Lynch’s post seems to imply that there is some debate about this:
Is this the dichotomy that exists? The only debate on the type of that Jihad Americans care about (the one that’s directed against them in Afg, Iraq etc) that I see is over the technical rules of its conduct. For example, whether Muslims from Egypt or Morocco should go to help their co-religionists in Iraq. Someone might argue “no they shouldn’t” because they are of better use to the Umma back home working in their factory. Another technical arguement might say ”don’t go because due to the different ethnicities in Iraq, you won’t be able to tell the difference between friend and enemy.”
The Saudi “rehabilitation” program has drawn alot of attention in Western media, but there is no mechanism whatsoever inside this program for calling Jihad in Iraq against the US un-Islamic. This is never, ever said by the Saudi government in this program. What they do is make technical arguments against going. Their “sin” in their eyes was that they may have disobeyed the Ruler who said “don’t go” but not that their was anything immoral or un-Islamic, and the point of the rehabilitation program is to convince them that they should obey the ruler.
Yusuf Al-Qaradawi is not questioning the basic legitimacy of violent campaigns to drive the US military out of Iraq or Afghanistan, of which Al-Qaeda is a participant. If he was questioning this, polls would not show that 90 % of Egyptians support_attacks on the US Army in the Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan.
So basically, what I am saying it that this book might inspire some discussion inside academic Islamist circles. I don’t, however, see it having much effect on delegitimizing Al-Qaeda, the way the US government wants. In fact, it may even do the opposite. The criticisms of Al-Qaeda’s tactical use of terrorism over the years by clerics like Al-Qaradawi may have actually pushed Al-Qaeda towards greater legitimacy by abandoning those uses of terrorism and, as Thomas Hegghammer points_out, influenced them to take more favorable stances on groups like Hamasa