The LA Times provides a unique angle to the "insurgency" taking place in Iraq.
Iraq's insurgency has long targeted local police, government leaders and national guardsmen as a means of destabilizing the nascent democracy, but now guerrillas have taken aim at a far more unlikely line of work.
In what some describe as a Taliban-like effort to impose a militant Islamic aesthetic, extremists have been warning Iraqi barbers not to violate strict Islamic teachings by trimming or removing men's beards. Giving Western-style haircuts or removing hair in an "effeminate" manner, they say, are crimes punishable by death.
Would it not be fair to say that those who mark barbers for death are not "guerillas" but terrorists? Speaking of extremism, I was rummaging around the Internet and found this dated but relevant piece from Khaled Abou El Fadl from the UCLA School of Law. Fadl discussed the principles of war and jihad developed by the "classical jurists" of the 11th century, which are actually quite humane:
Building upon the proscriptions of the Prophet Muhammad, Muslim jurists insisted that there are legal restrictions upon the conduct of war. In general, Muslim armies may not kill women, children, seniors, hermits, pacifists, peasants or slaves unless they are combatants. Vegetation and property may not be destroyed, water holes may not be poisoned, and flame-throwers may not be used unless out of necessity, and even then only to a limited extent. Torture, mutilation and murder of hostages were forbidden under all circumstances. Importantly, the classical jurists reached these determinations not simply as a matter of textual interpretation, but as moral or ethical assertions. The classical jurists spoke from the vantage point of a moral civilization, in other words, from a perspective that betrayed a strong sense of confidence in the normative message of Islam. In contrast to their pragmatism regarding whether a war should be waged, the classical jurists accepted the necessity of moral constraints upon the way war is conducted.
They also had an aversion to terrorism and terrorist groups.
Muslim jurists reacted sharply to these groups, considering them enemies of humankind. They were designated as muharibs (literally, those who fight society). A muharib was defined as someone who attacks defenseless victims by stealth, and spreads terror in society. They were not to be given quarter or refuge by anyone or at any place. In fact, Muslim jurists argued that any Muslim or non-Muslim territory sheltering such a group is hostile territory that may be attacked by the mainstream Islamic forces. Although the classical jurists agreed on the definition of a muharib, they disagreed about which types of criminal acts should be considered crimes of terror. Many jurists classified rape, armed robbery, assassinations, arson and murder by poisoning as crimes of terror and argued that such crimes must be punished vigorously regardless of the motivations of the criminal. Most importantly, these doctrines were asserted as religious imperatives. Regardless of the desired goals or ideological justifications, the terrorizing of the defenseless was recognized as a moral wrong and an offense against society and God.
So what happened, and why is terrorism so prevalent today? Fadl accepts that terrorism is a "weapon of the weak", and that "the moral foundations that once mapped out Islamic law and theology have disintegrated, leaving an unsettling vacuum." Multiple factors are laid out to explain the demise of more the classical doctrines, and which opened the door to more extremist ideologies.
There is little doubt that organizations such as the Jihad, al-Qaeda, Hizb al-Tahrir and Jama'at al-Muslimin were influenced by national liberation and anti-colonialist ideologies, but they have anchored themselves in a theology that can be described as puritan, supremacist and thoroughly opportunistic. This theology is the byproduct of the emergence and eventual dominance of Wahhabism, Salafism and apologetic discourses in modern Islam.
Fadl describes Wahhabism thus:
Wahhabism resisted the indeterminacy of the modern age by escaping to a strict literalism in which the text became the sole source of legitimacy. In this context, Wahhabism exhibited extreme hostility to intellectualism, mysticism and any sectarian divisions within Islam. The Wahhabi creed also considered any form of moral thought that was not entirely dependent on the text as a form of self-idolatry, and treated humanistic fields of knowledge, especially philosophy, as "the sciences of the devil." According to the Wahhabi creed, it was imperative to return to a presumed pristine, simple and straightforward Islam, which could be entirely reclaimed by literal implementation of the commands of the Prophet, and by strict adherence to correct ritual practice. Importantly, Wahhabism rejected any attempt to interpret the divine law from a historical, contextual perspective, and treated the vast majority of Islamic history as a corruption of the true and authentic Islam. The classical jurisprudential tradition was considered at best to be mere sophistry. Wahhabism became very intolerant of the long-established Islamic practice of considering a variety of schools of thought to be equally orthodox. Orthodoxy was narrowly defined, and 'Abd al-Wahhab himself was fond of creating long lists of beliefs and acts which he considered hypocritical, the adoption or commission of which immediately rendered a Muslim an unbeliever.
Related to Wahhabism is Salafism.
Methodologically, Salafism was nearly identical to Wahhabism except that Wahhabism is far less tolerant of diversity and differences of opinion. The founders of Salafism maintained that on all issues Muslims ought to return to the Qur'an and the sunna (precedent) of the Prophet. In doing so, Muslims ought to reinterpret the original sources in light of modern needs and demands, without being slavishly bound to the interpretations of earlier Muslim generations...After 1975, Wahhabism was able to rid itself of its extreme intolerance, and proceeded to coopt Salafism until the two became practically indistinguishable. Both theologies imagined a golden age within Islam, entailing a belief in a historical utopia that can be reproduced in contemporary Islam. Both remained uninterested in critical historical inquiry and responded to the challenge of modernity by escaping to the secure haven of the text. Both advocated a form of egalitarianism and anti-elitism to the point that they came to consider intellectualism and rational moral insight to be inaccessible and, thus, corruptions of the purity of the Islamic message. Wahhabism and Salafism were beset with contradictions that made them simultaneously idealistic and pragmatic and infested both creeds (especially in the 1980s and 1990s) with a kind of supremacist thinking that prevails until today.
Fadl lays much of the blame for today's Islamic extremism to the "apologetics", which "consisted of an effort by a large number of commentators to defend the Islamic system of beliefs from the onslaught of Orientalism, Westernization and modernity by simultaneously emphasizing the compatibility and supremacy of Islam. Apologists responded to the intellectual challenges coming from the West by adopting pietistic fictions about the Islamic traditions." Fadl doesn't out-and-out say it, but it's pretty clear that his solutions for eradicating terrorism is to reject the current brands of Wahhabism and Salafism and go back in time to the classical jurists.
Speaking of rejecting extremism, as an update to my War on Wahhabism Continued post, Free Muslims Against Terrorism has weighed in on the Freedom House report on the spread of Wahhabism in American mosques:
Muslim-bashing. That's the accusation many of my fellow Muslims now hurl at the various news outlets for their news stories about a Freedom House investigation that found extremist Islamic literature in some leading American mosques. This name-calling is unfortunate.
Since 1980, the Muslim world has experienced an enormous growth of religious fanaticism and extremism the likes of which Islam has not experienced in its 1,400 years. This movement continues to grow because of the spread of Wahhabi Islam; a sect that used to number no more than one percent of all Muslims, but because of money and technology, has spread to more areas around the world.
Extremism is also growing because of an ideology called political Islam. The basis of political Islam is the rejection of secularism and the belief that the mosque and the state should be completely intertwined. Unfortunately, history has shown that when politics and religion are completely intertwined, disaster results.
Most importantly, extremism in the Muslim world continues to grow because most Muslims are unwilling to admit that we have a problem with extremism and support for terrorism. The response by Muslims to the Freedom House report is not the first time that the Muslim community resorted to denial and accusations of Muslim-bashing when presented with evidence of Muslim culpability.
Free Muslims Against Terrorism is one of several moderate and tolerant Islamic groups that we should be recognizing and supporting. Their group consists of "American Muslims and Arabs of all backgrounds who feel that religious violence and terrorism have not been fully rejected by the Muslim community in the post 9-11 era. The Free Muslims was created to eliminate broad base support for Islamic extremism and terrorism and to strengthen secular democratic institutions in the Middle East and the Muslim World by supporting Islamic reformation efforts." Here here. Michael Totten links to several other similarly aligned groups, such as:
- Faithfreedom.org, whose goal is to "fight Islamic militancy, militarily and its ideology, ideologically. These are the two fronts of the war against barbarism."
- Muslim Refusenik, which is Irshad Manji's site.
- The writings of Stephen Schwartz, who is a Sufi Muslim, and one of his books is The Faces of Islam
- The Islamic Supreme Council of America, which is "dedicated to differentiating the majority of peace-loving, moderate Muslims in the world from the handful of extremists who mar the beautiful image of Islam." At Dean Esmay's site, there is a piece on the ISCA and its opposition to theocratic government.
Although these groups are at the end of this post, their importance is primary. These are the groups that need to counter "advocacy" groups like CAIR, which is terror connected and gets no small amount of its money from Saudi Arabia, which is of course impossibly intertwined with Wahhabi and Salafi sects.