Raymond Ibrahim: Al-Qaeda's 'Contradictory' Statements?
Raymond Ibrahim, whom I've previously cited for his report on the Coptic priest Father Zakaria, is better known for his published book, The Al Qaeda Reader, but has also recently published an article for The Middle East Review of International Affairs, "An Analysis of Al-Qaeda's Worldview: Reciprocal Treatment or Religious Obligation?" (asp, pdf, in Volume 12, No. 3, September 2008), in which he compares the vastly different justifications made by Al-Qaeda to Westerners and to Muslims, respectively, for the 9/11 attacks.
Ibrahim calls the statements made to Westerners "propaganda" and the statements made to Muslims "theology," and he characterizes these as contradictory. I'm not sure that, strictly speaking, these two categories are contradictory, for both can express Al-Qaeda's motives, but we'd have to look closely at Ibrahim's article to judge for ourselves concerning contradictions in specific statements. Let's therefore look:
Al-Qa'ida has maintained that its hostilities to the West have absolutely nothing to do with the latter's freedoms. Speaking to the Americans, bin Ladin asserted, "From the start, I tell you that security is an indispensable pillar of human life; free men do not underestimate their security -- contrary to [President George W.] Bush's claim that we hate freedom. If so, let him explain to us why we have not attacked Sweden, for instance." [The Al Qa'ida Reader, 214].On the evidence of these passages, Ibrahim would appear to be correct in claiming that Bin Ladin is expressing contradictory statements about Al-Qaeda's terrorism, justifying it to Westerners on the basis of "retaliation" and to Muslims on the basis of "jihad." I would bet, however, that Bin Ladin could reconcile the two justifications by arguing that since since infidels are in a state of rebellion against Allah, then every jihad is retaliation on Allah's behalf.
Speaking to the Europeans, bin Ladin tries to define terrorism: "[W]e inform you that your description of us as 'terrorists' and our actions as 'terrorism' necessarily means that you and your actions must be defined likewise. Our actions are merely reactions to yours . . . ." (The Al Qa'ida Reader, 234)
Finally, bin Ladin makes it quite clear that terrorism is used only in reciprocity since al-Qa'ida has no other choice: "Shall a man be blamed for protecting his own? Self-defense and punishing the wicked in kind -- are these shameful [acts of] 'terrorism'? And even if it is, we have no other option." (The Al Qa'ida Reader, 216)
Taken together, all these messages assert that the terror al-Qa'ida inflicts upon the West has nothing to do with Western freedoms and everything to do with reciprocal treatment. Moreover, by stating "we have no other option" than to engage in acts of terrorism, bin Ladin clearly implies that terrorism is being relied upon as a last resort out of desperation. Thus al-Qa'ida maintains that there is no correlation between Western freedoms and Islamic terrorism -- that the latter is never used simply to suppress the former.
This is not the case when addressing the Saudis. After they wrote to the Americans saying that Islam does not allow coercion in matters of religion, bin Ladin . . . revealed his true beliefs and ultimate goals. The Saudi intellectuals had declared, "It is not permitted to coerce anyone regarding his religion. Allah Most High said: 'There is no compulsion in religion' [Koran 2:256]. Thus Islam itself does not comport with coercion." (The Al Qa'ida Reader, 40) After explaining that this verse has to do with matters of the heart and not Islam's destiny to rule the whole world, bin Ladin quotes the Hadith:Whenever the Messenger of Allah appointed someone as leader of an army or detachment, he would especially exhort him to fear Allah and be good to the Muslims with him. Then he would say: "Attack in the name of Allah and in the path of Allah do battle with whoever rejects Allah. Attack! . . . If you happen upon your idolatrous enemies, call them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, accept it and stay yourself from them.  Call them to Islam: If they respond [i.e., convert], accept this and cease fighting them . . . .  If they refuse to accept Islam, demand of them the jizya: If they respond, accept it and cease fighting them.  But if they refuse, seek the aid of Allah and fight them." Thus our talks with the infidel West and our conflict with them ultimately revolve around one issue -- one that demands our total support, with power and determination, with one voice -- and it is: Does Islam, or does it not, force people by the power of the sword to submit to its authority corporeally if not spiritually? Yes. There are only three choices in Islam: either willing submission; or payment of the jizya, through physical though not spiritual, submission to the authority of Islam; or the sword -- for it is not right to let him [an infidel] live. The matter is summed up for every person alive: Either submit, or live under the suzerainty of Islam, or die. [The Al Qa'ida Reader, 41-42]
So -- to answer Bin Ladin's rhetorical question -- why hasn't Al-Qaeda attacked Sweden? Apparently, the time for that particular 'retaliation' hasn't yet arrived. But it will . . . unless the Swedes convert or pay the jizya. Either way, Bin Ladin would acknowledge, they will someday have to submit to Islam.
Incidentally, on some of my blog entries concerning Al-Qaeda's role in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I've had occasional comments posted by individuals who claim that 9/11 was planned and carried out by the US government. To say that I am skeptical about such a claim would be a vast understatement. Some readers might wonder why I don't take such claims seriously, and I suppose that I could devote a blog entry to my reasons for skepticism . . . except that I suspect that I would be wasting my time. Fortunately, a website exists that poses questions to those who claim that the US government planned and carried out the 9/11 attacks, so anyone who wants to know the sort of blog entry that I would post if I had to post one can go read the article at Counterknowledge.com.
Sorry about today's late post, by the way, but I was too run-down from my on-going, day-long grading to get up early this morning.