August 15, 2006
Corruption of the Faith?By Andrew G. Bostom
Far too many people in the public eye mischaracterize the acts of terrorists and other villains as inconsistent with "mainstream" Islam, as a "corruption of the faith." While this belief is comforting, especially to those who know, work with, or must obtain cooperation from non—violent Muslims, it is historically and theologically ignorant.
An August 12 Washington Times editorial endorsed President Bush's use of the term 'Islamic Fascism' to denote the ideology of the jihad terrorists whose plot to slaughter thousands of airline passengers leaving Britain was thankfully disrupted. The editorialists characterized the jihadists ideology more specifically as
Ignoring the expected outpouring of complaints from apologists for jihad terror who cynically decried (for example here and here), any'Islamic' references, or other less pressing semantic concerns ( 'Islamism' versus 'Islamic fascism'), the Washington Times editorial, indirectly, raises this critical question: just what comprises 'mainstream' Islam ('of course'), as opposed to 'corruption of the faith'?
These pressing corollary questions arise as well: What is the origin of 'chauvinistic' concepts such as the treatment of non—Muslims as 'contemptible dhimmis and infidels' who are rightfully placed under 'severe social and economic restrictions'? Is it accurate to maintain that such discriminatory beliefs and practices merely derive from the very recent Taliban movement in (Pakistan and) Afghanistan, are unrelated to 'mainstream' Islam, and further, represent a 'corruption' of Islam? Is it really out of bounds to even consider that the heinous practice of suicide—homicide bombings may have profound Islamic religious justification?
In his seminal The Laws of Islamic Governance al—Mawardi (d. 1058), a renowned jurist of Baghdad, examined the regulations pertaining to the lands and infidel (i.e., non—Muslim) populations subjugated by jihad. This is the origin of the system of dhimmitude. The native infidel 'dhimmi' (which derives from both the word for 'pact', and also 'guilt'—guilty of religious errors) population had to recognize Islamic ownership of their land, submit to Islamic law, and accept payment of the Koranic poll tax (jizya), based on Koran 9:29. The 'contract of the jizya', or 'dhimma' encompassed other obligatory and recommended obligations for the conquered non—Muslim "dhimmi" peoples.
Collectively, these "obligations" formed the discriminatory system of dhimmitude imposed upon non—Muslims—Jews, Christians, [as well as Zoroastrians, Hindus, and Buddhists] — subjugated by jihad. Some of the more salient features of dhimmitude include: the prohibition of arms for the vanquished non—Muslims (dhimmis), and of church bells; restrictions concerning the building and restoration of churches, synagogues, and temples; inequality between Muslims and non—Muslims with regard to taxes and penal law; the refusal of dhimmi testimony by Muslim courts; a requirement that Jews, Christians, and other non—Muslims, including Zoroastrians and Hindus, wear special clothes; and the overall humiliation and abasement of non—Muslims.
It is important to note that these regulations and attitudes were institutionalized as permanent features of the sacred Islamic law, or Shari' a. The writings of the much lionized Sufi theologian and jurist al—Ghazali (d. 1111) highlight how the institution of dhimmitude was simply a normative, and prominent feature of the Shari'a:
The practical consequences of such a discriminatory system were summarized in both A.S. Tritton's 1930 book The Caliphs and their Non—Muslim Subjects, and Antoine Fattal's 1958 Le Statut Legal de Musulmans en Pays' d'Islam, pioneering treatises on the status of the dhimmis:
Thus when the Taliban ordered Afghanistan's tiny residual Hindu minority (as reported in 2001) to wear yellow badges inscribed with the words 'I am a Hindu', this action was in full accord with Islamic law. And a 1950 report from the American Jewish Committee (p.67) makes clear that in the pre—Taliban modern era discrimination as sanctioned by Islam was typical for Afghanistan's small Jewish minority community, now (having escaped via India to Israel) extinct:
Professor Franz Rosenthal, the great American scholar of Islam, who, 50 years ago, translated Ibn Khaldun's classic Introduction To History, also wrote a seminal essay entitled 'On Suicide in Islam' in 1946. Rosenthal's research confirmed how Islam extolled 'suicidal' martyrdom attacks:
These orthodox Islamic views have been reiterated by Yusuf Al Qaradawi—'spiritual' leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, head of the European Fatwa Council, and immensely popular Al—Jazeera television personality. Sheikh Qaradawi openly endorsed murderous Palestinian homicide bomber 'martyrdom' operations against innocent Israeli citizens (all of whom are considered 'combatants' who obstruct the 'call to Islam') during a fatwa council convened in the heart of Europe (in Stockholm, July, 2003).
For the past decade, Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi has served as Grand Imam of Al—Azhar University, the most prestigious center of Muslim learning in Sunni Islam. Sheikh Tantawi, who is the nearest equivalent to a Muslim Pope, has also confirmed the legitimacy of homicide bombing of Jews, characterizing these grisly attacks as
On July 25, 2005, historian David Littman attempted to deliver a prepared text in the joint names of three international NGOs, but was prevented from doing so by the intervention of Islamic members of the United Nations Sub—Commission on Human Rights. Following repeated interruptions he was unable to complete his speech. Littman was simply trying to support the argument that those who issue fatwas to kill innocent people in the name of Islam are not real Muslims and should be treated as apostates. But as he noted, just before the 7/7/05 London bombings a major conference of 170 Muslim scholars from 40 countries meeting in Amman, Jordan gave an opinion in a Final Communiqu�, dated July 6, 2005:
This unfortunate communiqu� clearly provides immutable protection to authentic Islamic advocates of homicide bombing—like the 'esteemed' clerics Yusuf Qaradawi and Al—Azhar Grand Imam Tantawi.
Given the vitality of destructive but sacralized Islamic doctrines (such as dhimmitude, and jihad martyrdom) that date from the religion's formative years, editorialists, policymakers, and theologians must avoid glib formulations and start addressing the uncomfortable realities of mainstream Islam
1 Franz. Rosenthal. 'On Suicide in Islam.' Journal of the American Oriental Society, 1946, Vol. 66, pp. 243, 256
Andrew Bostom is the author of The Legacy of Jihad and a frequent contributor to The American Thinker.