Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) had a great idea Tuesday: the U.S. needs to combat the Islamic State not just militarily, but ideologically. Speaking at a congressional hearing, he said: “We have the outreach–what we don’t have is the research. Keep in mind, the State Department has a thousand lawyers. I think they ought to hire one or two experts in Islamic jurisprudence, whether they be practicing Muslims or others who have the expertise.” He added: “It’s not enough to say, ‘look at what ISIS did, they beheaded somebody, it’s evil.’”
Instead, Sherman said, the jihadis had to be refuted on Islamic grounds. “One must be able to turn to the Quran, to turn to the Hadith and show how ISIS is making a mockery of a great world religion,” he explained. “You cannot appeal to Islamic jurists unless you can cite Hadith, unless you can cite Quran, unless you can do all the things you would do in working before any other jurists anywhere in the world. You need legal expertise to get the Islamic legal scholars to be on our side.”
Sherman has a point. For years now, I have been calling on self-proclaimed moderate Muslims in the West to produce an interpretation of the Qur’an and Sunnah that would refute Islamic jihadists’ exegesis and blunt their ability to make recruits among Muslims by convincing them that groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State were the authentic exponents of Islamic teaching. Muslim spokesmen have responded to this call with ridicule, scorn, and exegeses of the Qur’an that were riddled with half-truths and telling omissions, such that it was hard to escape the impression that they were produced in order to reassure credulous infidels, rather than to convince jihadis to lay down their arms.
One notorious example of these deceptive pieces came last September, when the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Fiqh Council of North America unveiled with great fanfare what they presented as a refutation of the religious ideology of the Islamic State, in the form of a lengthy “open letter” (not, interestingly enough, a fatwa) addressed to the Islamic State’s caliph Ibrahim, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
If Sherman knows about this “open letter,” he probably believes that it does what he wants, and shows “how ISIS is making a mockery of a great world religion.” He would probably be pleased if the State Department hired some of its signatories to wage the ideological battle against the Islamic State. State could offer contracts to Professor Mustafa Abu Sway, the integral professorial chair for the Study of Imam Ghazali’s Work, Jerusalem — and a Hamas activist; Dr. Jamal Badawi, an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation Hamas terror funding case; Mustafa Ceric, former grand mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who has called for Sharia in Bosnia; Professor Caner Dagli, a venomously hateful Islamic apologist at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts, who traffics in Nazi imagery about “unclean” unbelievers; Ali Gomaa, former grand mufti of Egypt, who endorses wife-beating, Hizballah, and the punishment of apostates from Islam; Hamza Yusuf Hanson, founder and director of Zaytuna College, USA, who blamed the West for Muslim riots over a teddy bear named Muhammad; Ed Husain, senior fellow in Middle Eastern Studies for the Council on Foreign Relations, who recently claimed that seizing British jihadis’ passports so that they couldn’t return to the UK from the Islamic State would only create more jihadis; Muhammad Tahir Al-Qadri, founder of Minhaj-ul-Qur’an International, Pakistan, who drafted Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy law and issued his own disingenuous and hypocritical Fatwa Against Terrorism; and Muzammil Siddiqi, chairman of the Fiqh Council and former head of the Hamas-linked Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).
The signers’ unwholesome associations and allegiances were just one indication that there was far less to this open letter than the mainstream media’s rapturous reception suggested. In fact, the “moderates” who signed on to this open letter by doing so endorsed elements of Islam that most non-Muslim Westerners consider to be “extremist.”
“All Muslims see the great virtue in jihad,” says the open letter. It repeatedly stresses that jihad warfare is strictly defensive. “There is no such thing,” the scholars assert, “as offensive, aggressive jihad just because people have different religions or opinions. This is the position of Abu Hanifa, the Imams Malik and Ahmad and all other scholars including Ibn Taymiyyah, with the exception of some scholars of the Shafi’i school.”
The Shafi’i school is one of the four great schools of Sunni jurisprudence. If some Shafi’i scholars allow for “offensive, aggressive jihad just because people have different religions or opinions,” can it really be said to be un-Islamic? Are the scholars pronouncing takfir on the Shafi’i school? Or just deceiving gullible non-Muslims? The answer is clear.
What’s more, restricting jihad to defensive warfare looks even worse in light of the fact that in Sunni Islamic law, only the caliph has the authority to declare offensive jihad, but defensive jihad is obligatory upon all Muslims when a Muslim land is attacked, and need not be declared by anyone. So since the caliphate was abolished in 1924 to this day (except for those who accept the Islamic State’s caliphate claim), all jihad attacks, even 9/11, have been cast by their perpetrators as defensive — hence the jihadist tendency to retail long lists of grievances when justifying their actions.
So if 9/11 was defensive jihad, and these “moderate” scholars are endorsing defensive jihad, their “moderation” should send just a bit of a chill up the spine.
“Regarding Arab Christians,” the scholars remind the Islamic State’s caliph, “you gave them three choices: jizyah (poll tax), the sword, or conversion to Islam.” Jizya is the tax specified in the Qur’an (9:29) to be levied on “the People of the Book” as a sign of their dhimmitude, their subjugation and submission to Muslim hegemony. This, the scholars say, was wrong, because “these Christians are not combatants against Islam or transgressors against it, indeed they are friends, neighbours and co-citizens. From the legal perspective of Shari’ah they all fall under ancient agreements that are around 1400 years old, and the rulings of jihad do not apply to them.”
However, then the open letter asserts that “there are two types of jizyah in Shari’ah (Islamic Law)”: the first “applies to those who fought Islam,” but the second “is levied on those who do not wage war against Islam.”
The scholars tell the caliph that the Arab Christians are friends of the Muslims, they “did not wage war against you” and thus should not have been subjugated as dhimmis. But then in the next paragraph they say that “the second type of jizyah is levied on those who do not wage war against Islam.” Thus how is the Islamic State transgressing against Islam by levying the jizya on those who did not wage war against Islam?
In any case, the “moderate” scholars are apparently fine with a religion-based poll tax, a sign of the subjugation of the religious minority, in an Islamic state. In this the authors also contradict their earlier claim that jihad is only defensive; now “those who do not wage war against Islam” are to be made to pay the jizya, which results from Muslims fighting the People of the Book: “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” (Qur’an 9:29)
Despite all this and more, Brad Sherman would likely be thrilled with this open letter. With so many infidels so eager to be fooled, the work of groups like CAIR and the Fiqh Council of North America is easy. But the great work that Sherman called for — a refutation of the Islamic State on Islamic grounds — that has still not appeared in any genuine form, and that in itself is telling.