NATO in Libya challenging bin Laden's ideology - 05-19-2011, 08:54 AM
The effect on those around me was instant: They were angry and outraged. According to their particular understanding of Islam, anyone who allies with non-Muslims, the kuffar, to fight against Muslims was an apostate; and according to their takfiri rejectionist ideology, the Saudi rulers were quite simply no longer Muslims.
Over the next few months, I was involved in discussions among the emerging al-Qaeda leadership, including with the leaders of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad group (EIJ). From these debates emerged the ideology of al-Qaeda, which advocated that any Muslim, regardless of his intentions, who allied with the kuffar to fight against Muslims was an apostate who should be killed.
This intellectual framework provided the justification for many of al-Qaeda's subsequent actions, from the group's first attack on Saudi Arabia (the 1995 car-bombing against the Saudi National Guard in Riyadh) right up to the present day. Bin Laden himself said, in a 2002 statement, that "supporting kuffar against Muslims - even with just one word - is absolute apostasy, according to the Muslim scholars."
Last week, I met a group of Libyans jihadists and Islamists in London, including veterans of the fighting in Afghanistan, some of whom had been involved in those discussions in the early 1990s. While I myself had rejected jihadism and Islamism in the intervening years, many of them were still committed to the jihadist cause. Some had recently returned from fighting against Gaddafi in Libya.
I asked them what they thought of the ongoing fighting in Libya, our homeland, and of the rebels who had been seen on the media chanting in support of France, other Western countries and the United Nations. I was very surprised when these men unanimously said they supported the Libyan uprisings and backed the rebel forces.
"But how you can support the rebels?" I asked them. "According to your ideology they are apostates for accepting the help of NATO -- especially when NATO, as well as a mostly non-Muslim organisation under the name of ISAF [the International Security Assistance Force] is, in your own words, 'occupying' Afghanistan at present. And why were the Kuwaitis 'apostates' in 1991 for accepting Western help but the Libyan rebels today are not?''
They could not answer this question.
I then raised the issue of a mutual friend, Abu Urwa, a former shura council member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). He had recently been killed in Libya fighting against Gaddafi's soldiers, who are Muslims, while, overhead, NATO warplanes, piloted by the "kuffar," protected him and bombed his enemies.
"Was Abu Urwa a martyr or an apostate?" I asked, "Surely, according to your thinking, if he was fighting alongside the kuffar against Muslims, he was an apostate and a traitor to Islam?"
All the jihadists present said that he was not an apostate but a martyr. However, they could not explain the contradiction in their thinking.
The reason for this confusion is that the issues at stake go to the very heart of jihadist ideology. If a jihadist accepts that it is permissible in Islam for Muslims to support the NATO intervention in Libya and to fight against Gaddafi with NATO assistance, then they are essentially accepting that the rigid ideology of jihadism is imperfect and perhaps even wrong.
By admitting this, they are also potentially accepting that the original decision of Bin Laden and others in 1991 to denounce the Saudi and Kuwaiti governments could have been mistaken -- and even that al-Qaeda might have been wrong all along on this point.
Indeed, in the last month, Abu Yahya al-Libi, the al-Qaeda spokesman, endorsed the Libyan rebels even though they are working in conjunction with NATO. According to bin Laden's categorical 2002 statement, this would make Abu Yahya a defender of apostates, and thus an apostate himself. Either bin Laden was wrong, or one of the terror group's major public representatives is a traitor to Islam. Al-Qaeda and its supporters can't have it both ways.
One by-product of the West's intervention in Libya is that, together with the events of the Arab Spring, it has helped create a new broader regional narrative in which the West is seen as fighting alongside Muslims in defence of their freedoms, rather than fighting against them.
A less widely anticipated outcome of the West's intervention in Libya is that it is leading even committed jihadists to cautiously question and re-think core aspects of their ideology. This includes not only their understanding of takfir as outlined above but also their attitude to nationalism and to non-jihadist Muslims. For instance, Abu Urwa, the martyred former LIFG commander, was killed while leading the Omar Mukhtar Brigade, named after a sufi Libyan nationalist, while fighting under the orders of the secularist rebel council.
How this process develops depends on the progress of the fighting in Libya. A quick victory for Libya's western-backed democrats over Gaddafi would probably lead towards more positive reassessments of jihadist ideology. A protracted and bloody civil war, however, perhaps fought against a background of declining western interest in the conflict, could lead to jihadists becoming more entrenched in their old ways. At the same time, such developments show that apparently rigid jihadist ideals and ideologies are potentially malleable, and that Western actions in the Muslim world can help undermine the very narratives that have for the past few decades provoked so much violence around the globe.
Noman Benotman is a senior analyst at the Quilliam Foundation, a counter-extremism think-tank in London. He was previously a senior leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).
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05-20-2011, 01:40 AM
I think Benotman makes a few grave mistakes here.
1. He is attempting to deviate from the central premise of war: war is about killing. Whether it is war for secular ends, communist ends, Islamist ends, for Alexander's empire etc., war is about establishing dominance. Alexander's phalanx had its foundations in Roman maneuvers... yet none can fault him for utilizing it. The sword is not likely a Muslim invention. The gun is also not a Muslim invention. There is however, no theological injunction to avoid accessing or harnassing such technology to fight wars with. If there were, that would be a ludicrous proposition. Reverse engineering of any technology requires accessing it for the first time. That is exactly why the US SEALS blew up that helicopter in Abottabad... and why they routinely destroy any technology that falls into China's hands.
2. The Constitution of Medinah itself laid the groundwork for a cooperative war effort between Muslims, Jews, and Christians to fight together for a common goal if need be.
3. Its actually not a bad strategy at all... and I am surprised that this is lost on him. In the view of the Islamist members of the Eastern uprisings, Gaddafi is a western backed stooge that just happened to get on the bad side of the hand that feeds him (or at least he gave that hand the reason to turn on him to seek vengeance for his instransigence in the 1980s). So as the "kuffar" planes fly overhead and deal with Qaddafi's compounds and army installations the Islamists are hitting two birds with one stone: they are making the Western powers take on the absurd role of damaging their own interests while bogging them down in yet another economic war of attrition.
The proof for this is as follows:
"WikiLeaks cables, independent analysts and reporters have all identified supporters of Islamist causes among the opposition to Col Gaddafi's regime, particularly in the towns of Benghazi and Dernah.
An al-Qaeda leader of Libyan origin, Abu Yahya al-Libi, released a statement backing the insurrection a week ago, while Yusuf Qaradawi, the Qatar-based, Muslim Brotherhood-linked theologian issued a fatwa authorising Col Gaddafi's military entourage to assassinate him."
Or take Bin Ladin's last post humous audio tape that was released recently. Which conflict did Bin Ladin fail to mention? Who did he fail to ostracize? None other than Colonel Qaddafi. His silence mirrored the tactical silence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. He knew that the minute he threw his support behind the rebels, it would embolden the American media and others to critically analyze the campaign as working against American interests.
In fact, why would Mr. Bin Ladin want to turn the US away from yet another intervention? After all he had famously stated his strategy:
"We simply plant the flag and the Americans come and invade the most remote regions."
In this situation, the West had made the absurd gamble of intervening with the hope of eventually putting boots on the ground... because they know that airpower alone does not win wars.
Benotman also fails to see what the rest of the Muslim world actually perceives this as: which is a US led and US funded effort to involve itself in yet another Muslim country. As far as India, this is the perception that is building:
Pat Buchanon had predicted this outcome:
So in summary, the Islamists have played their cards well yet again, patiently remaining silent, with a strategic goal of driving two enemies (US"NATO" and Qaddafi) to batter one another while deriving great sympathy against the interventionalists all at the same time throughout the Muslim world.
05-20-2011, 02:17 AM
what I find most absurd is American/European theorists labeling the uprisings in the Middle East as the Arab Spring. This is yet another attempt to push Islam out of the picture, but a failed attempt. The Muslim uprisings in the Middle East have everything to do with Islam. It was the rallying call from Imams at Friday prayers in Cairo that spurred the masses to action, not the Britney Spears song playing at the local McDonalds in downtown Cairo. Why they attempt to disguise reality is puzzling? Besides healing their bruised and defeated ego, it serves no purpose at all.
The protesters are crying out for freedom with chants of Allah u Akbar, not with words from Britney Spears songs.
05-20-2011, 05:00 AM
i must note that initially i was pro rebel and anti ghadafi but now i am indifferent to the rebels and still anti gaddafi. what was once a national uprising has now been another nato adventure in war, with the rebels going with the flow.
i seriously doubt the taliban would of let him stay in afg if they known it would bring about the collapse of their regime.
- Malcolm X
05-20-2011, 08:51 PM
Thank you for your insightful comments. I respectfully disagree for the following reasons:
1) The initial militant action in Libya initiated after Qaddafi decided to strike at peaceful protesters. I do not blame him for doing what all governments and autocrats, including ours in the US would do to sustain power. However, the East/Benghazi rebels did not latch onto initial military action that NATO took first. NATO came in second and has even ended up hitting the rebel factions accidently.
2) The point I made about the constitution of medina is that there is no textual constraint at all on Muslims from A) buying Western arms B) recieving Western arms or C) utilizing strategy that pitts westerners against the regimes installed by their own hands.
The bottom line is that guerillas will utilize arms from where they can get them. FARC rebels in Colombia are also fighting with American M16s against an American backed regime. It does not deligitimize their claims of Yankee interventionalism in their turf.
3) The issue is not free trade with the western powers. Trade should occur and Islam does not place an embargo on selling or buying from the West. Mr. Bin Ladin, per Scheuer's superbly cited biography was already against the relationship with the US. Mr. Scheuer noted that the US actually opened a file on him when he refused to talk to Central Intelligence.
He had told confidants that he viewed both poles of the Bipolar world as threats to Islamic autonomy even while he was fighting the Russkies. So I do not view him as inconsistent. He however attempted peaceful measures to dissuade the Saudis from utilizing American troops against Iraq and would have done the Americans a massive favor as he offered the Saudis the chance to solve internicine disputes between Arabs with their own blood and treasure. This would have spared the US the massive blowback that is still emanating from its direct military presence on the peninsula.
4) Scheuer documents an evolution of Mr Bin Ladin's thought processes. The life of a revolutionary is not static Randolph. Neither Mr. Guevara nor Bin Ladin should be denied their right to evolve their views. It appears that initially Mr Bin Ladin had quiet bit of respect for Sheikh Bin Baaz. However, even a Muslim school child knows that the final testaments of the Prophet indicate that no non Muslim army is to step foot on the Arabian peninsula. When Bin Baaz generated a fatwa without basis and without merit, it would certainly have forced Mr. Bin Ladin to admit that the Sheikhs he grew up around were sycophants.
We do allow Moses the textual right to evolve a qualm with Pharoah, do we not?
The consistenty of his stances is affirmed here at 5 minutes into the interview:
YouTube - ‪Last Word: Micheal Scheuer, former Head of CIA's Bin Laden Unit 1/5‬‏[/URL]
5) Defensive doctrine is something that Abdul Azzam expounded on with a lot of his own literature and is enshrined in all the madhabs. The writings of Ibn Tammiyaah utilized primary Islamic sources to discuss this. It requires no Caliph to declare it. This doctrine is exactly what the central caucuses movement is also utilizing to fuel its activity.
6) You are correct about the Khilafaat concept. The evidence shows he paid lip service to it, but in general he is what was called a defensive jihaadist whose primary goal was to drive non Muslim armies about of formerly Muslim held territories. I would think that this is actually a practical viewpoint as the Khilafaat concept is about as realistic as the Christian Baptist "Kingdom on Earth" and "Rapture" concepts.
7) His silence on Yemen appears to be because the AQAP is also against the Yemenese Regime, so it falls straight into line with his likely hope that the US either has to dismantle its puppet... or that it is forced to spread its forces thin and intervene. However, the calls for a democratic Yemen and the human rights abuses are being advertized by Al Jazeera. It therefore, like the abuses in Syria, cannot be simply ignored (but it can be downplayed) by the Western media.
8) I am on the same page with you regarding cheerleading any side. Allow me to define my personal goals as an American Muslim. I think we are in the unique position to deviate from the Hamza Yusufian reality that is being trumpeted to fellow Americans. We have the duty to not lie to our compatriots here. With Mr. King's committees, Muslims have to brave the Lions Den and explain what truly motivates violence against Western interests (i.e. American interventionalism). It is unlikely that most will listen and it is very likely that anyone telling this truth is risking their careers and free life... but it does it a simulataneous service to both Muslims abroad and innocent American civilians that want no part in other people's thousand year long conflicts.
This notion that Mr. Yusuf is touting, regarding the idea that holy war is simply a struggle of the self has no textual basis. The concept of defensive warfare however has thousands of historical precedents and classical scholars from Ibn Kathir to Ibn Tamiyaah have written on this.
It is high time that American Muslims be honest with their fellow Americans regarding the answer to the question: "why do they hate us?"
The answer, per the data is not the length of Britney Spears's skirt, or because women are in the work place... the answer lies in interventionalism.
Toramana's commentary is generally unhelpful because he appears to say that a self interested global empire is improbable. I disagree. In the nuclear era, a detente is very possible.
Regarding economics, Mr. Baker turned out to be plain wrong. He stated that one of the reasons the US urged the Saudi regime to put the former anti Soviet Arabs into arrest was that he viewed the leadership of this party as detrimental to American intersts in terms of oil. He scoffed at the idea that the price of oil should be at market value, or above $100 a barrell.
When the one of the militant leaders heard this he laughed and said: "what will we do with the oil? drink it? We have to sell it."
Ironically, our actions abroad and the instability in the region have created the exact situation Mr. Baker foolishly sought to avoid.
Bottom line: Military detente and Economic detente.
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