These killers are us. They are our religion at its most extreme.
Condemnations are no longer sufficient. They were never enough in the first place and they never bore any weight except as an entry point to more advanced steps. They are not enough, especially when what follows them amounts to no more than idiotic expressions suggesting that a crime like the Charlie Hebdo massacre is not an expression of “true Islam.” In an effort to divorce Islam from responsibility for other crimes, some have said that the Islamic State (ISIS), Jabhat al-Nusra, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haqq, Hezbollah, Boko Haram, Somalia’s Al-Shabab, the Taliban and hundreds of other armed groups also do not represent true Islam.
So what is this true Islam that those who condemn crimes committed in the name of Islam are supposed to be bestowing upon us? Beyond condemnation, what confrontation with the criminals have the proponents of true Islam been engaged in since the defeat of the Mu’tazila — the defeat of rationality in Islam 1,100 years ago?
Condemnation alone is not enough. The people from the Sunni camp of contemporary Islam who carried out the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the Pakistani school massacre before it, the massacres by ISIS in Syria and Iraq, the 9/11 attacks and other atrocities all belong to true Islam. The same applies to the people in the Shiite camp of contemporary Islam who kidnapped and killed foreign journalists in Beirut, and issued and renewed the fatwa that said the blood of British writer Salman Rushdie could be spilt. They are a central part of true Islam and its many schools of jurisprudence.It doesn’t matter which Islamic text, whether it is a Qur’anic or jurisprudential text, or a text recounting the sayings of the Prophet Mohammad; the killers do not kill for nothing, they kill in the name of books, fatwas, ayahs and age-old tradition. All of these things are inseparable parts of true Islam. They will remain Muslims as long as they pronounce the shahada and as long as the religious institution doesn’t dare to modernize the criteria for being a Muslim.
These killers are us. They are our religion at its most extreme. They are our true Islam taken to its furthest extent and they are not beyond the scripture. If the West says in one united voice “we are Charlie” we should say “we are ISIS.”
As Muslims, what should we do with Ayat as-Sayf, the fifth verse of Surat at-Tawbah, one of the last Qur’anic chapters delivered to the Prophet in the city of Medina, and thus of central importance with regard to the structure of Islamic rulings and the system for the relationship with the other? The ayah says:
“Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! God is Forgiving, Merciful.”
With this in mind, was the ayah not instrumental in building Islam’s military glory? Didn’t Islam become a vast empire of might, dominion, high renown, money and power? Was this ayah not the central compass that directed the wars of the Muslims, from the preparations for the conquest of Mecca to jihadist pamphlet “The Neglected Duty,” by Muhammad abd-al-Salam Faraj, one of the clearest and most dangerous pieces of jihadist literature ever written? For those who are unfamiliar with Faraj, he was the emir of the Al-Jihad group that assassinated Anwar Sadat in the name of the very same true Islam. What kind of ruling can there be against “idolaters” in the 21st century and what should we make of the ruling to slay them “wherever [we] find them” now that we have international law and the nation state? Where do today’s Muslims draw the line between Islamic jurisprudence and law?
As Muslims, what should we do with the 20th verse of Surat at-Tawbah, which is dedicated to our relationship with Christians and Jews? The text is as follows:
“Fight those who do not believe in God or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what God and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture – [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled.”
Do these ayahs belong to the so-called ayahs of forgiveness that Muslims praise as evidence of Islam’s kindheartedness in conferences of flattery and social deception? Are they really all we have left of Islam in its latest incarnation?
What is the verdict on the fatwas of Sheikh ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah who still presides over the jurisprudence of jihad eight centuries after his death, from the Muslim Brotherhood to ISIS? What is his position, in view of who he is in the history of Islamic jihadist jurisprudence, in today’s Muslim world? Who will draw the borders between the jurisprudence of jihad as one of the Islamic sciences and the criminal jurisprudence that was practiced in Paris, especially as both of them are derived from the same original texts?
It was very telling that straight after the announcement of the Charlie Hebdo massacre people’s thoughts turned to Islamist extremists, despite the fact that the French magazine’s satire spared not Judaism, Christianity nor the French political establishment. This is because Islam’s relationship with the present is in crisis, and any group going through such a crisis is always the first suspect. In fact, Islam as a whole stands accused in advance, and not only its extremist fringe. The original texts that form an inseparable part of true Islam and inspire the ongoing crimes committed in its name are also guilty. This will be true as long as there is no central authority to reorganize the relationship between the Islamic text, as a piece of history, and the necessities of the present day, in the same way the Qur’anic text itself acclimatized as the ayahs were gradually sent down, with some new rulings replacing older ones.
The truth is that what the killers did in Paris has only reinforced the images drawn by the artists of Charlie Hebdo. The only difference between the actions of the artists and the killers is that the number of people who follow caricatures is far less than those who followed the international drama caused by the massacre. Nothing can insult Islam and Muslims as much as such crimes, and yet we still make do with saying that they do not represent true Islam, without providing a clear description of what true Islam is, beginning with our religious schools, some of which are factories for crime, to our constitutions which are rigged with the mines of Islamic jurisprudence and Sharia law.Nothing insults Islam more than the Charlie Hebdo massacre, which says, from the belly of true Islam itself: Those of us who love the Prophet most are our greatest criminals.
This commentary has been translated from the original Arabic by Ullin Hope.
Nadim Koteich is the host ofThe DNA Show on Future News. He tweets @NadimKoteich https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/commentary/564668-we-are-all-isis