- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 2, 2003


In a truly free election in Saudi Arabia, with the royal family on the sidelines bereft of the divine right of kings, and Osama Bin Laden as a candidate for prime minister, the world's most wanted terrorist would win hands down. So spoke, albeit privately, one of the most important non-royals, who manages a big chunk of the royal family's financial portfolio.
Bin Laden, a member of a powerful and rich-as-Croesus non-royal family, is seen by countless millions of fundamentalist Muslims as the successor of several famous Islamic theologians going back all the way to Taqi al-Din ibn Taymiyya.
Born in A.D. 1269, Taymiyya wrote extensively on jihad (holy war) against transgressors of the word of Allah as conveyed by the Prophet. This contemporary of Dante elevated jihad to the same level as the "five pillars" of Islam prayer, pilgrimage, alms, faith ("No God but Allah and Muhammad is his Prophet"), and Ramadan.
Indeed, a survey of the various strains of radical Islam active in large swaths of the Muslim world presents much that is worrisome to a Western policy-maker.
"The Age of Sacred Terror" is a remarkable new book by two of the Clinton White House's counterterrorist directors that delves into the roots of militant Islam and its jihad duties. Anyone who opposes jihad is an enemy of God.
"By asserting that jihad against apostates within the realm of Islam is justified by turning jihad inward and reforging it into a weapon for use against Muslims as well as infidels [Taymiyya] planted a seed of revolutionary violence in the heart of Islamic thought," wrote co-authors Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon.
The two argue that it was precisely the weapon of jihad that heavily armed Muslim extremists turned to when they invaded and occupied the Grand Mosque in Mecca in November 1979. The House of Saud was momentarily paralyzed; they couldn't send security forces into the most sacred site in all of Islam with orders to shoot it out with the jihadists in the tunnels around the mosque. The royals turned to the French for help. The tunnels were flooded and high-voltage cables dropped into the water. Most of the jihadists drowned or were electrocuted.
Any leader of a Muslim country who does not rule according to a strict interpretation of the Islamic legal code known as Shariah is fair game for jihadists, as Taymiyya ordained. It was Taymiyya's fatwa (religious decree) in 1303 against Mongol invaders that turned the tide against Mongols who had converted to Islam.
If Taymiyya was Bin Laden's first role model, the second was Mohammed ibn Abd al-Wahhab, born in 1703 in Arabia, then a remote, neglected part of the Ottoman Empire. The works of Taymiyya became religious pillars of back-to-basics Wahhabism, as al-Wahhab's ideas came to be known. Its creed was that "innovation" was a grave sin against Islam. "Takfir" was proclaimed, which meant innovators were to be put to death.
Al-Wahhab, allied with a local sheik, Mohammed ibn Saud, fought to restore a strict interpretation of the faith. By the time he died in 1792, Wahhabism had conquered most of central Arabia.
The descendants of al-Wahhbab and Ibn Saud continued this close alliance of religious zeal and territorial conquest and forced the rest of the Arabian peninsula to comply.
Key modern-day literary firebrands on the side of Muslim revolutionary fervor included Abu al-Ala Maududi and Rashid Rida. They linked Islam with the rhetoric of communism and fascism, a linkage that helped fuel the success of Islamist extremists in the Oct. 10 elections in Pakistan.
A similar fusion occurred in Iran in the late 1970s when the ayatollahs and the underground Tudeh (Communist) party merged their efforts to undermine and overthrow the U.S.-backed shah of Iran.
On Jan. 26, 1952, the violent Muslim Brotherhood suddenly exploded on the Cairo scene by burning down some 300 buildings. King Farouk survived six more months until a military coup of "Free Officers," led by Gamal Abdel Nasser, abolished the monarchy and allowed the king to sail on his yacht into comfortable exile in Monte Carlo.
The chief theoretician of the Muslim Brotherhood was Sayyid Qutb, who wrote nonstop during his desert imprisonment by Nasser. Hanged in 1965, his books are still best-sellers throughout the Middle East. His manifesto, "Signposts," merged all the essential elements of revolutionary Islamism.
Qutb's views of America derived from his stay in Greeley, Colo., while working on a master's in education are widely shared today throughout radical Islam. Repelled by America's admiration for Israel, as well as the licentiousness and racism that he believed pervaded the country, he decried American culture as foul and empty.
From Yasser Arafat's attempt to overthrow Jordanian King Abdullah I in September 1970 to the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981, Sayyid Qutb's outpourings were cited by militants as the rationale to kill America's puppets.
The other branch of militant Islam sprang from anti-colonial sentiment in British-ruled India in the mid-19th century.
Known as Dar ul-Ulum (Realm of Learning), it took root at Deoband, in Uttar Pradesh. Deobandism, dedicated to a particular concept of Islam known as "salafi," and Wahhabism constitute the two main wings of Islamist fundamentalism that continue to vie for influence in present-day Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Ninety-nine percent of the world's 1.2 billion Muslims are moderate and see jihad as a self-cleansing process to get back on the path of spiritual excellence. Leaders such as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Pakistan's Gen. Pervez Musharraf, King Abdullah II of Jordan, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, King Mohammed VI of Morocco all have told this reporter in the past two years that Islamist extremists are no more than 1 percent of their population.
When Gen. Musharraf was reminded that 1 percent of Pakistan's population of 140 million is 1.4 million, he said, "You're right, but I'd never thought of it that way."
One percent of 1.2 billion Muslims worldwide is 12 million fanatics who believe America is the Great Satan, fount of all evil, to be attacked and demolished.
Islamist terrorist groups have plenty of places to hide the tri-border area of Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay, where camps have been reported; war-torn Colombia; Somalia in Africa; Sumatra in Indonesia; Mindanao in the Philippines; even remote areas of the United States.
Muslims are a majority in 63 countries. Of the 30 conflicts now under way in the world, 28 concern Muslim governments, communities, or both. Amir Taheri, an Iranian author and journalist, estimates that two-thirds of the world's political prisoners are held in Muslim countries, which also carry out 80 percent of all executions each year.
Many of the imams in America's 2,000-plus principal mosques (for a population of about 2 million Muslims) are recently naturalized U.S. citizens who were sent over as missionaries from both Iran and Saudi Arabia.
"We are spreading the good word of our faith in America," said the imam at the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights, Mich., who came over from Iran 10 years ago, "just as you send Christian missionaries to sub-Sahara Africa." He also chided his interlocutor for dismissing his contention that September 11 was a combined operation by the CIA and Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service.
Vatican sources concede Roman Catholic efforts have been steadily losing ground in Africa to "the Muslim penetration" for the past 30 years.
In Pakistan, fundamentalist Muslim clerics have resisted any reform of the madrassas, the Koranic schools that have been used to inculcate anti-U.S. and anti-Israeli views.
Among the teachings current in such schools: A great apocalyptic war is in the offing that will end in the Muslim conquest of Europe, and, in time, America as well. Some 750,000 young Pakistanis are presently in 11,000 madrassas where they are taught that jihad is the noblest of human endeavors.
Gen. Hamid Gul, a former Pakistani intelligence chief with pronounced anti-American views, boasts that a greater Islamic caliphate is fast approaching, one that will combine the oil riches of Saudi Arabia with the nuclear weapons of Pakistan, "which could then deal with America on an equal footing."
In Singapore, former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, said that the "greatest threat facing civilization over the next 10 years was an Islamist bomb and, mark my words, it will travel."
It is hard to escape the conclusion that a U.S. invasion of Iraq to topple Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein and replace him with a pro-American government will be seen throughout radical Islam, and large segments of moderate Islam as well, as yet another defeat that must be avenged. As the extremists read history, the defeat of the Ottomans at the gates of Vienna in 1683 triggered a reversal of Islam's fortunes that has continued ever since.
The radical Islamic strains put to a severe test President Bush's oft-repeated contention that Islam is "a faith based upon peace and love and compassion" committed to "morality and learning and tolerance."
Radical Islam is committed to jihad against the United States and Israel, or a war of civilizations between the Judeo-Christian West and the impoverished Muslim world. The Wahhabis and Deobandis hate all things American, and condemn all religions outside their own view of Islam.
Moderate Islam is yet to find a voice that will roll back the extremists, a sort of Islamic Martin Luther, or at least a Martin Luther King.

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