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Islam vs. liberty

"Islam vs. liberty" Continued...

Issue: "Remembering 9/11," Sept. 10, 2011

Should Islam triumph, that's what Christians and Jews can expect from Muslim rulers.

Muslims, like Christians, divide people into believers and nonbelievers, but the Islamic conception of future relations between the two is very different. Christians believe that final Christian victory will come only when Christ returns. For Muslims, though, the world is divided into the dar al-Harb, land controlled by non-Muslims that forms the "territory of war," and the dar al-Islam, the land where Islamic law prevails. This is a permanent state of war, although there may be truces, because it is man's might that will make Islam supreme throughout the world.

In Islam, therefore, a peace is not a peace, and a truce should not last longer than 10 years. A time of peace longer than a decade is occasion not for relaxation but for feeling inadequate and fidgety. Infidels should never be allowed to rest on their laurels, famed 14th-century Muslim jurist Ibn Taymiyya asserted: Any land they possess is held illegitimately. This means that jihad is not aggression but retrieving what is Islam's legitimate possession. The dar al-Harb has no right to exist.

Muslims have long understood the difference between the Islamic and Christian agendas, and the way that Muslim centralism can contribute to a mission of permanent war. Medieval philosopher Ibn Khaldun wrote, "In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the [Muslim] mission and the obligation to convert everyone to Islam either by persuasion or by force."

Should Islam as a religion escape responsibility for 9/11? The terrorists who became infamous were not generic Muslims but largely came out of a radical Sunni Muslim movement founded by Ibn Abdul Wahhab (1703-1792). Wahhabis from the start were willing to kill civilians who opposed them. They did just that in the city of Qarbala in 1801, leaving 2,000 ordinary folks dead. In recent years Wahhabis have worked to overthrow "the American empire": They have trained a generation of students for that pursuit through a network of madrassas (religious boarding schools) funded by Saudi oil money.

It's clear that the 9/11 terrorists were familiar with bloody Quran verses. For instance, Sura 8:39, "And fight with them until there is no more persecution and religion should be only for Allah." Or 9:14, "Fight them, Allah will punish them by your hands and bring them to disgrace." Or 9:29, "Fight those who do not believe in Allah . . . until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection." The terrorists were also familiar with Islam's history: Christianity initially spread through nonaggressive means, especially the blood of martyrs, while Islam initially spread at least in part through military conflict, with the blood of its opponents often flowing.

It's clear that the 9/11 terrorists were familiar with Quranic verses promising that good things will happen to all who die in a campaign to spread Islam. "Those who fly in Allah's way and are then slain or die," Sura 22:58 promises, "Allah will most certainly grant them a goodly sustenance, and most surely Allah is the best Giver of sustenance." Some were familiar with the thinking of the 11th-century Persian philosopher Avicenna, who suggested that spreading Islam by any means creates the greatest good for the greatest number in the life to come, and any suffering inflicted in this life is minor compared to the joy to come.

But an additional facet is also important. That enormous list of what to do and what not to do raises the question of what happens to those who break some rules. Some Muslims are relaxed about that, believing that daily ritual practices will cover over a multitude of sins. But some become frenzied when they break the rules-and they have so many to break. The 9/11 hijackers evidently took advantage of America's freedom to break lots of Quranic rules by having alcohol, prostitutes, and much besides. Their actions condemned them to hell, in Muslim thinking-but they had a "get out of jail free" card called jihad.

The notebooks of two of the terrorists showed their goal on Sept. 11, 2001: "Purify your heart and clean it from all earthly matters. The time of fun and waste has gone. . . . Those few hours that are left you in your life are very few. From there you will begin to live the happy life, the infinite paradise. . . . Read al-Tawba and Anfal [traditional war chapters from the Quran] and reflect on their meanings and remember all of the things that Allah has promised for the martyrs. . . . Know that the gardens of paradise are waiting for you in all their beauty, and the women of paradise are waiting, calling out, 'Come hither, friend of God.' They have dressed in their most beautiful clothing."

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