INVESTIGATORS OF THE 3/11 TERRORIST ATTACK ON Spain have found that the leader of the radical Islamic cell was a drug dealer who traded a load of hashish for the explosives that killed 191 people. Spanish authorities are finding that the al-Qaeda-related terrorists are also tangled up in organized crime, the underworld of robbery, counterfeiting, fraud, drug dealing, and murder.
How can that be? A Muslim who steals is to have his hand cut off. Islam forbids the use of drugs. How can there be an alliance between fundamentalist Islam and organized crime?
The answer, reports Sebastian Rotella of the Los Angeles Times, is the existence of a particular Islamic sect: the Takfirs.
Nearly all of today's radical Islamic groups trace their lineage to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded in the 1960s. One offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood was an order called the Takfir wal Hijra. The name means "Excommunication and Exile." Outwardly, members appear to be excommunicated from Islam, conforming to Western ways and even Western vices. But inwardly, they are devout Muslims in exile in a strange land. This split between their outward behavior and their inner piety is justified, according to Takfir theology, as a tactic of jihad.
"Takfiris accept drinking and vice and encourage short hair, fashionable dress, and an outwardly Western lifestyle as a holy warrior's disguise against detection," explains Mr. Rotella. "In the Takfir creed of outward conformity and internal exile, crime is a means of waging war against the West."
The 9/11 terrorists fit the Takfir profile: They were clean-cut, wore Western clothing, and spent the days before their "martyrdom" drinking in strip clubs and receiving lap dances.
The biggest breeding ground for Takfiri is the underworld of Northern Africa and Europe, with its vast underclass of Muslim immigrants. The major center of Takfiri evangelism, if one can call it that, is prison.
Mr. Rotella quotes De Bousquet de Florian, the French intelligence chief: "Crime that was once practiced with no trace of an Islamic reference, once they have converted, rather naturally acquires an objective, a justification, a religious legitimization. Because the base of Takfir doctrine explains that crime can be committed for the good of the cause."
Takfir is spreading beyond the European immigrant community. Reportedly, a leader of the Mafia in Naples has converted to Islam. According to an Italian prosecutor, he has set up an operation with terrorists trading arms for drugs.
Criminals are human beings. They may feel plagued by guilt. A Christian chaplain can offer them Christ's forgiveness for what they have done and usher them into a new life in the gospel. A Takfir imam can offer them a redemption that allows them to remain criminals. Crime even can become a means of redemption.
According to Islam-and this is orthodox Islam, not just this particular sect-after death a person's deeds are weighed in a balance: Those whose evil deeds outweigh the good deeds they performed in their lives are thrown into hell. If the good deeds outweigh the evil deeds, the person will be accepted into paradise. But it is impossible to know whether one's deeds are sufficient for salvation.
But those who wage jihad, holy war, against non-Muslims can have their sins forgiven. Dying as a "martyr" while killing the enemies of Allah is about the only way a person can be assured of going to paradise.
For a criminal weighed down by his bad deeds, knowing that he faces certain damnation, the gospel of jihad will appear as very good news indeed. And he doesn't even have to change his ways. Rather, he can feel self-righteous, even as he retains his vices, giving his life meaning as he strikes at the infidels by stealing from them, selling them drugs, or blowing them up.
Takfir shows how a legalistic religion can be twisted to justify sin. It is reminiscent of the thugee, the Hindu sect that committed murder as a sacrifice to the god Kali, from which we get the word thug. Takfir may have a direct relationship to the hashishiyyin, the Muslim sect that would consume hashish as a prelude to the murder of enemy leaders, from which we get the word assassin.
Postmodernists, relativists, and ecumenical types who believe that all the world's religions are essentially the same and all equally beneficial should consider the Takfirs. Before the Takfirs get hold of them.