Response to Robert Small

Robert Small's latest essay didn't address any of the (irrefragable) arguments from my two prior evidence-based rebuttals (here, and here) -- as per relevant Western, not Islamic, Sharia-compliant standards --  about the Nadhlatul Ulema's (NU's) faux "moderation", and the ugly, living jihadist legacy wrought by the NU, as well other examples of "moderate" Indonesian Islam, within Indonesia. Now Small proffers the "lack of Indonesian Guantanamo (Gitmo) inmates" as somehow "proving" his (previously and thoroughly debunked) delusive fantasies about indigenous Indonesian Islam.

Conceding that my colleague Andrew C. McCarthy and I have (ever narrowing) differences about the propriety of the use of the term "Islamism", Small's current essay claims, wrongly, in my view, to be supporting broader arguments ostensibly made by McCarthy about "Islamism." I don't accept that premise because of Small's rather selective sampling of McCarthy's published views, as well as a very informative personal communication McCarthy sent to me, included below, by permission.  McCarthy states the following about Islamism,  Indonesian Islam/the NU, and the (lack of) relevance of Small's Gitmo data:

I agree with Mr. Small that it is appropriate to distinguish "Islamists" from "Islam." He appears more confident than I am about the strength of moderate Islam -- although he clearly recognizes that, like the rest of us, authentic moderates are besieged by a toxic combination of "Islamic violence and supremacist ideology" -- the latter is what he quotes Mustofa Bisri as calling "Wahhabi and Muslim Brotherhood ideology," which seeks to impose the authoritarian form of sharia. 

When I say he is more confident in moderate Islam's strength, I think, for example, he is overstating NU's. He's quite correct that I regard the modern NU as an authentic moderate organization. [Note by AB: On this point I disagree with my friend Andrew McCarthy as I noted earlier by citing, for example the NU's ongoing, current support for the misogynistic barbarity of female genital mutilation/clitorectomy -- now rampant in Indonesia, and the "relatively new", i.e., circa late 1990s NU support of anti-Christian jihadism in Indonesia]. But as he notes, I did suggest back in October that I find NU's theology less than compelling. When I said this was "beside the point," I meant it was not my place, as a non-Muslim, to tell them that they are wrong about what Islamic doctrine holds. But obviously, it is not "beside the point" if we are assessing NU's capacity to compete effectively with supremacist Islam. That is where I worry that it comes up short. On that score, it's noteworthy that when I talked about NU in The Grand Jihad, it was in the context of debunking the late [former Indonesian President] Abdurrahman Wahid's claims about the global strength of moderate Islam. That is, I was trying to show that Wahid's numbers (85-90% moderate, 10-15% "radical") were so wrong that it would be closer to the truth to reverse them. And even in Indonesia, which is markedly more moderate than most Arab Muslim countries, polling and other developments (e.g., Aceh installing sharia law) shows that supremacist Islam is making significant inroads -with about 50 percent of Indonesian Muslims indicating they'd like to see all Islamic countries unified under a global caliphate.

I'm not very persuaded by the inferences Mr. Small draws from the number of jihadists per country detained at Gitmo. Hambali was one of al Qaeda's very worst -- far more high-ranking than the vast majority of the detainees -- and he is Indonesian [Note by AB: Hambali was in fact imprisoned at Gitmo]. He headed an al Qaeda branch, Jemmah Islamia, which is one of the network's most ruthless, and JI is largely based in Indonesia (and, as Small's column notes, it is not the only Islamic terror organization that operates in Indonesia). We could easily have detained more JI members at Gitmo -- Gitmo never housed more than 800 terrorists, a bare fraction of the number of jihadists killed and  captured (and detained for some length of time) since 2001. That's why I am not much persuaded by a point made by my friend Holland Taylor, one of the Illusion authors on whom Mr. Small relies regarding Islam in Indonesia. Holland says that among the terrorists not at Gitmo are those "whose governments are capable of tracking them down and dealing with them." That is a dubious distinction when it comes to the point Mr. Small is trying to make. The fact that Indonesian authorities capture and deal with a lot of jihadis rather than dispatching them to Gitmo does not change the objective facts that there are plenty of jihadis in Indonesia and that they represent a significant threat -- a threat Mr. Small plainly recognizes, because his main point -- with which I emphatically agree -- is that the global threat of supremacist Islam (or "Islamists," if you will) could devour authentic moderates (our natural allies) if we do not try to help them. [Note by AB: As I elaborate at the conclusion of this essay in the context of the dubiously conceived, if oft-repeated "war within Islam", bona fide Muslim moderates are on the retreat as gauged by the success of the Muslim Brotherhood across North Africa, and the Talibanization of "Af-Pak"]   

Moreover, as I described at length earlier, regardless of the export of Indonesian jihadists, their longstanding, extensive indigenous jihad depredations -- against Christians and non-Muslim ethnic Chinese -- were odious enough illustration of Small's fallacious construct that "moderate Islam" somehow prevails within Indonesia.

Small compounds his latest repeat exercise in flimsy and non-sequitur "argumentation" with an odd, confused and confusing, but pathognomonic self-contradiction. On the one hand -- despite the insertion of a "not just" -- he acknowledges "that Islam is at war", i.e., the Judeo-Christian West (and I would add other non-Islamic civilizations, such as Hindu India, and animist Africa), absent any use of the modifier "Islamism". A few sentences later, Small decries those Westerners whom he accuses of somehow recklessly, "considering the whole of Islam to be the enemy." This is a hopelessly contradictory position to assume, let alone use as a rhetorical launching pad from which to spray defamatory allegations.

Small's new self-imposed conundrum is rooted, once again, in his stubborn refusal to grapple with living doctrinal and historical Islamic realities.  The late Samuel Huntington's seminal 1996 The Clash of Civilizations adduces convincing data in support of his contention that, "Wherever one looks along the perimeter of Islam, Muslims have problems living peaceably with their neighbors." He provides these germane observations which have been confirmed (one could argue even amplified), subsequently, in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S., and their aftermath, punctuated by an additional 18,207 jihadist attacks since 9/11.

 The overwhelming majority of fault line conflicts,...have taken place along the boundary looping across Eurasia and Africa that separates Muslims from non-Muslims....Intense antagonisms and violent conflicts are pervasive between local Muslim and non-Muslim peoples....Muslims make up about one-fifth of the world's population, but in the 1990s they have been far more involved in inter-group violence than the people of any other civilization. The evidence is overwhelming. There were, in short, three times as many inter-civilizational conflicts involving Muslims as there were between non-Muslim civilizations....Muslim states also have had a high propensity to resort to violence in international crises, employing it to resolve 76 crises out of a total of 142 in which they were involved between 1928 and 1979...When they did use violence, Muslim states used high-intensity violence, resorting to full-scale war in 41 percent of the cases where violence was used and engaging in major clashes in another 39 percent of the cases. While Muslim states resorted to violence in 53.5 percent, violence was used by the United Kingdom in only 1.5 percent, by the United States in 17.9 percent, and by the Soviet Union in 28.5 percent of the crises in which they were involved...Muslim bellicosity and violence are late-twentieth-century facts which neither Muslims nor non-Muslims can deny

Huntington concludes, without equivocation, that the problem for the West, and indeed all other non-Muslim societies, victimized by Islamic bellicosity, is Islam itself, not any radical variant of the creed.

The underlying problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture

The mainstream, doctrinal and historical Islamic context that Huntington grasped and re-stated within his own modern Weltanschauung is of course Islam's unique, eternal institution of jihad.  Huntington's data and lucid analyses should remind us that there is just one historically relevant meaning of jihad despite contemporary apologetics. Jahada, the root of the word Jihad, appears 40 times in the Koran -- under a variety of grammatical forms. With 4 exceptions, all the other 36 usages (in specific Koranic verses) are variations of the third form of the verb, i.e. Jahida. Jahida in the Koran and in subsequent Islamic understanding to both Muslim luminaries -- from the greatest jurists and scholars of classical Islam (including Abu Yusuf, Averroes, Ibn Khaldun, and Al Ghazzali), to ordinary people -- meant and means "he fought, warred or waged war against unbelievers and the like", as described by the seminal Arabic lexicographer E.W Lane. Indeed, Lane's, An Arabic English Lexicon (6 volumes, London, 1865) is still used to this day by Muslim and non-Muslim scholars for definitive Arabic to English translation. Thus Lane, who studied both the etymology and usage of the term jihad, observed, "Jihad came to be used by the Muslims to signify wag[ing] war, against unbelievers."

Muhammad himself waged a series of proto-jihad campaigns to subdue the Jews, Christians and pagans of Arabia. As numerous modern day pronouncements by leading Muslim theologians confirm (see for example, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi's, "The Prophet Muhammad as a Jihad Model"), Muhammad has been the major inspiration for jihadism, past and present. Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406), jurist, renowned philosopher, historian, and sociologist, summarized these consensus opinions from five centuries of prior Muslim jurisprudence with regard to the uniquely Islamic institution of jihad

In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of  the universalism of  the [Muslim] mission and [the obligation to] convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force... The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty for them, save only for purposes of defense... Islam is under obligation to gain power over other nations.

And this classical formulation of jihad is very much a living doctrine today. For example, read the openly espoused views, and sound Islamic arguments which conclude the contemporary work "Islam and Modernism," written by a respected modern Muslim scholar Justice Muhammad Taqi Usmani. Mr Usmani, now aged 68, sat for 20 years as a Sharia judge in Pakistan's Supreme Court (His father was the Grand Mufti of Pakistan). Currently Usmani is deputy of the Islamic Fiqh (Jurisprudence) Council of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (now Islamic Cooperation) -- the major international body of Islamic nations in the world, and serves as an adviser to several global Sharia-based Islamic financial institutions. Thus he is a leading contemporary figure in the world of mainstream Islamic jurisprudence. Mr. Usmani is also a regular visitor to Britain. During a visit there, he was interviewed by the Times of London, which published extracts from Usmani's writings on jihad, Saturday, September 8, 2007.  The concluding chapter of Usmani's "Islam and Modernism" was cited, and it rebuts those who believe that only defensive jihad (i.e., fighting to defend a Muslim land deemed under attack or occupation) is permissible in Islam. He also refutes the suggestion that jihad is unlawful against a non-Muslim state that freely permits the preaching of Islam (which, not surprisingly, was of some concern to The Times!).

For Mr Usmani, "the question is whether aggressive battle is by itself commendable or not." "If it is, why should the Muslims stop simply because territorial expansion in these days is regarded as bad? And if it is not commendable, but deplorable, why did Islam not stop it in the past?" He answers his own question as follows: "Even in those days . . . aggressive jihads were waged . . . because it was truly commendable for establishing the grandeur of the religion of Allah." Usmani argues that Muslims should live peacefully in countries such as Britain, where they have the freedom to practice Islam, only until they gain enough power to engage in battle.

Usmani explodes the myths that the creed of offensive, expansionist jihad represents a distortion of traditional Islamic thinking, or that this living institution is somehow irrelevant to our era. Robert Small's education on the jihad and its contemporary relevance should begin with a thorough reading of my own The Legacy of Jihad, and an honest assessment of Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations.

Finally, as I elucidated three years ago, Small's corollary argument about putative moderate Muslim Western allies drawn from a so-called war within Islam, is completely debunked by the behavior of the entire Muslim umma and its transnational representative body, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC; now known as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation).

I argue that the OIC -- currently headed by its Turkish representative Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu -- is uniquely suited to marshall the military and economic might to "enact the utmost severe punishment" for Al Qaeda and Taliban "perpetrators" of "anti-Islamic" acts of terrorism. Turkey and Egypt -- key OIC member states -- have large, modern, well-equipped armed forces (here; here; here), including air forces (here; here), and both nations are believed to have been victimized by Al Qaeda attacks (here; here; here; and here). These Muslim nations -- with formal, enthusiastic sanctioning by the OIC-should send large military contingents to reinforce the "150,000" of their Pakistani Muslim brethren under President Zadari already doggedly engaged in combating the "anti-Islamic" terrorists of Al Qaeda and the Taliban on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Three years since these words were written, the Arab Spring Muslim Brotherhood triumph in Egypt (and North Africa, in general), and the ever-increasing Talibanization of "Af-Pak" should demonstrate to all but the intractably delusive the hollow conceptual basis of the "war" -- as opposed to the growing "Sharia-based consensus" -- within Islam.

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