– But Rather Believers And Idealists Who Commit Horrific Murders For A Cause And Sacrifice Their Lives For A Utopian Future: A World Ruled By Their Faith
Just like Barack Obama, Francois Hollande and David Cameron, who denied that the jihadi bombings in the West were in any way connected to religion, Donald Trump and Theresa May now also insist on mischaracterizing the jihadi phenomenon, calling the jihadis by different names such as “evil losers” (Trump) and “sick cowards” (May).
During his campaign Trump spoke in different terms (“radical Islamic terrorism”) – but since then he has evidently adopted the approach favored by the other Western leaders, who consider any reference to the religious roots of terror as “unhelpful.” Like them, he is apparently motivated by the understandable need to avoid offending 1.4 billion Muslims.
So first, let’s put forward the true, if “unhelpful,” definition. The jihadis who perpetrate these horrific crimes are neither losers, nor nihilists, nor worshippers of death, nor sick cowards. On the contrary, the overwhelming majority of them are devout and fanatic believers. They are idealists who sacrifice their lives for the sake of a utopian future: a world ruled by their faith. The attacks they commit are extreme acts of piety. They seek to emulate the dedication of the early believers in order to revive the glory and grandeur of the past. In fact, as part of their training, many suicide bombers adopt a pious lifestyle: they immerse themselves in prayer, help the needy in their society, pay all their debts, and become moral and religious role models for others (see the Appendix of this document for the last statement of the suicide-bomber Hanadi Jaradat, who committed mass murder in a Haifa restaurant and began her will with the religious formula, “in the name of Allah the Merciful and Compassionate”).
Contrary to the approach of the Western leaders, who blame the evil character of the perpetrators while absolving the faith they follow, the truth is that these perpetrators, by the standards of their own belief, are virtuous people who follow the directives of the Koran [48:29]: “Be fierce towards the infidels, merciful towards each other.” The problem lies not in the perpetrators’ innate character but in some of the core values of their religious belief system. Indeed, their faith – any faith – includes elements that are beautiful alongside elements that are malevolent. Denying that these malevolent elements are part of the faith, as the Western leaders do, is wrong. It is such denial that is unhelpful; in fact, it is self-deception.
Can the mischaracterization of the terrorists’ acts actually achieve the goal of avoiding offense to the world’s Muslims? The answer is no. Faced with the Western leaders’ statements that totally disassociate the jihadis’ acts from their religious roots, the world’s Muslims can only conclude that Western leaders do not understand their faith and have the intellectual conceit to mischaracterize it. In fact, this mischaracterization denies some of the core values that underpinned the great achievements of Islam in which Muslims take pride: the establishment a great civilization and the building of not one empire but several in the course of history.
It would be far more respectful to Muslims to acknowledge that these values (of self-sacrifice and extreme dedication aimed at spreading the faith by force) were the basis of Islam’s expansion, just as the spread of Christianity, after the Emperor Constantine established it as the state religion, was based on a similar process of imposing the faith by force. However, Christianity has since renounced these values. Christianity does not deny its past, but it has jettisoned the element of coercion. Similarly, Western leaders must not denigrate the Muslim past by denying its core values, but rather should demand that Muslims follow the same path: realize that some violent values that underpinned their civilization and glorious past are incompatible with modern morality. Western leaders should therefore demand that contemporary Muslims focus on other aspects of their faith (as Christianity has done), and totally reject imposing their religious utopian vision by the force of arms.
Western leaders cannot expect to defeat “terrorism” in their countries when they deny and evade acknowledging the roots of the jihadi phenomenon: the deep connection of the attacks to the faith. Admitting this connection will not only be more respectful to Muslims, it will also be conducive to reforms and useful to Muslim reformists, who acknowledge that the terrorists’ ideals come from within: from the houses of worship, the schools and society at large. Being truthful towards the Muslims is more respectful than denial. It will also be much more helpful, since only discarding the completely unnecessary hypocrisy regarding the roots of Islamic terror will help Muslims adopt a normal attitude towards their past: pride in its achievements, along with the necessary criticism of the archaic values that led to these achievements. Muslims should accept a post-caliphate role for themselves just like all European states have reconciled themselves to post-imperial status. This is an admittedly painful process but it is an unavoidable one. The most senior Muslim religious leaders should seek a Muslim aggiornamento (a bringing up to date of the religion) along the lines of the reforms introduced by Pope John XXIII.
These messages should be delivered by Western leaders openly and insistently, in lieu of the intellectual evasion and denial practiced today. It should be emphasized that this demand is not addressed exclusively to Muslims. It is a demand that the West and Christianity have applied to themselves, and therefore have every right to demand it of the Muslim world. Only thus will the ideological base of jihad be eradicated and “terrorism” significantly decline. Needless to say, this is a long-term process, but it is nevertheless the genuine solution to the problem and the only way to produce results.
In translating this insight into concrete policies, two steps seem to be immediately necessary.
First, Western leaders must cease the hypocritical denial of jihad’s deep connection to faith, and firmly and openly demand that the leaders of the Muslim world take significant steps to reform the religion.
Second – and this is up to them alone – they must enact legislation to stop the jihadi use of the Internet, which has been powering the spread of jihadi ideology for over a decade. They must disregard all the corporate excuses, that this is impossible or incompatible with free speech. Free speech does not permit incitement to murder, including faith-based incitement. They should honor the international conventions against genocide and not allow the Internet companies to flout the laws of democratic countries. For a detailed strategy for purging the Internet of jihadi incitement, see MEMRI Daily Brief No. 126, An Internet Clean Of Jihadi Incitement – Not Mission Impossible, May 1, 2017.
Comment: This prescription doesn’t go near far enough. They should criminalize anything supportive of Islamic supremacy or of Jihad whether the stealth kind or the violent kind. It should be a crime to promote Islam.
Appendix: The Will of Hanadi Jaradat
The following is the transcript of the videotaped “last will and testament” of HanadiJaradat, who carried out the Maxim Restaurant suicide bombing in Haifa on October 4, 2003. The transcript was posted on the Islamic Jihad website, at http://www.qudsway.com/Links/J
“The last will and testament of the Martyr Hanadi [Jaradat], before she set off to carry out the Haifa operation:
“In the name of Allah the Merciful and Compassionate, prayer and peace be upon the master of mankind, our master Muhammad, may Allah pray for him and give him peace:
“The Exalted One said [in the Koran]: ‘Do not consider those who died for the cause of Allah as dead, rather as alive, at their Lord sustained.’ [Koran 3:169]. Verily, Allah’s words are true.
“Dear family, whom the Lord of the world will reward as He promised us all in His Holy Book [with the words], ‘Give glad tidings to those who persevere.’ [Koran 2:155]. Indeed, Allah promised Paradise to those who persevere in all that He has brought upon them – and what a good dwelling Paradise it is.
“Therefore, reckon my sacrifice in anticipation of the reward of Allah, praised and exalted be He, to you in the Hereafter. I should not be too valuable to sacrifice myself for the religion of Allah. I have always believed in what is said in the Holy Koran, and I have been yearning for the rivers of Paradise, and I have been yearning to see the glorious light of Allah’s face. I have been yearning for all this ever since Allah bestowed guidance upon me.
“My loved ones, for whom I wish to vouchsafe [for entering Paradise] on the great Day of Judgment, I have chosen this way of my own full will, and I have striven greatly for this, until Allah bestowed martyrdom upon me, Allah willing. Martyrdom is not [given] to everyone on earth; rather, it is for those who are honored by Allah. Will you then be grieved because Allah honored me with it? Will you repay Allah with [thoughts] which He will not like, nor will I like? Reckon my sacrifice in anticipation of Allah’s reward for you in the Hereafter, and say, ‘There is no power or might save by Allah. We belong to Allah, and it is to Him that we return.’
“All of us are destined to die, and no one lives forever on this earth. However, he who is intelligent responds to Allah’s call. This is only a land of Jihad, and we live in it for Jihad, so that perhaps we will be able to remove the injustice under which we have been living in recent years.
“I know that I shall not bring back Palestine. I fully know this. However, I know that this is my duty for Allah. Believing in the principles of my faith, I respond to the call. I now inform you that, Allah willing, I shall find what Allah has promised to me and to all those who take this path – gardens which Allah promised us, in which we will live forever, Allah willing.
“Having believed in this, how do you think I can accept all the passing worldly temptations? How can I go on living on this earth when my spirit has become attached to an Omnipotent King? My entire aspiration has become to see the glorious light of Allah. It is His land and it is His religion, but they want to extinguish His light. We all know this.
“It is therefore my duty to the religion of Allah – and my obligation to Him – to defend it. I have nothing before me other than this body, which I am going to turn into slivers that will tear out the heart of everyone who has tried to uproot us from our country. Everyone who sows death for us will receive death, even though it be a small part [of what they deserve].
“We are still weak in the estimation of the powerful one. But we have our faith. Our belief makes us renew our covenant with our Lord and our land. Our war against them is a war of faith and existence, and not of borders. You know this well.
“My dear beloved father, please honor my desire and reckon my sacrifice in anticipation of Allah’s reward for you in the Hereafter.Whoever helped me to reach Paradise shall be rewarded by my vouchsafing for him [to enter Paradise]. Make me always reassured and proud of the father whose daughter I am, before my Lord and all mankind. I pray thee, dear father, by Allah’s glory, give me rest in my grave, and do naught but reckon my sacrifice in anticipation of Allah’s reward for you in the Hereafter. For Allah giveth and Allah taketh away, and we belong to Allah and to Him we all return.
“Dear mother, I wish to Allah that you will persevere, my mother, for I love you because you have always been endlessly giving. Allah willing, you shall continue to be this way. Reckon my sacrifice in anticipation of Allah’s reward for you in the Hereafter. I am going to be with Fadi, Salih, and Abd Al-Rahim and all those whom Allah has chosen to be near him. Reckon us all as sacrifices in anticipation of Allah’s reward for you in the Hereafter, and say, Allah, redeem me from my plight and reward me for my plight and give me good recompense for it.
“I ask everyone to forgive me for whatever I may have done [to offend them]. For my part, I have already forgiven everyone, and I ask of you the following: Pay 50 dinars to a dress shop in Jarash, pay 100 dinars to so-and-so in Qabatiya, and give 10 dinars [to charity] for my soul [as atonement], for I have forgotten a debt of a few piasters in Jordan and I do not remember it, and pray always for me for Allah’s mercy and forgiveness and contentment. May you always be content with me, my parents, and au revoir in the gardens of Paradise.
“Allah said, ‘Therefore let those fight in the way of Allah, who sell this world’s life for the Hereafter; and whoever fights in the way of Allah, then be he slain or be he victorious, We shall grant him a mighty reward’ [Koran 4:74].”
 According to the Hadith, this is one of the duties of the mujahid. See Rudolph Peters, Islam and Colonialism: The Doctrine of Jihad in Modern History (Religion and Society, no. 20). The Hague and New York: Mouton Publishers, 1979, pp. 11, 12, 18.
 Saudi reformist Turki Al-Hamad made similar arguments in an interview that aired on Rotana Khalijiyya TV on July 13-14, 2015. He said: “Take a look at any Islamist group – they are always saying that their number one goal is to reestablish the Caliphate. The Caliphate is history. It is over and done with.”
Interviewer: “It is impossible to revive it.”
Turki Al-Hamad: “Impossible. You cannot lump together a Malaysian, a Saudi, and an Egyptian, and impose a caliph upon them, giving him absolute authorities. This is impossible, but they refuse to accept it, and they live the myth of the Caliphate. I call it a myth because it will never happen. Ultimately, they will hit the brick wall of reality. A nation state is the foundation for everything. If you make it stable and prosperous, and if this state guarantees people’s rights, it can become a model state. If each state were to focus on its own affairs, the world would be a beautiful place. But if each state tries to impose its own model upon the rest of the world, disorder ensues, and Iran is an example.”