– Does CAIR Represent Most American Muslims?

(© Zubair Qamar 2014)


There has been much suspicion by many Americans about an organization called the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). CAIR, one of the largest organizations in the US that claims to promote civil advocacy on behalf of American Muslims, would like to represent most or all American Muslims in the United States, just as any other American Muslim advocacy organization would.

Perhaps due to CAIR’s wide presence in the US with national and local chapters spread across the country, and its alleged links to extremist groups, CAIR often attracts the attention of the media. CAIR representatives, for example, have frequently appeared in Fox News, including in the Bill O’Reilly show. This is not surprising considering the words of CAIR Executive Director, Nihad Awad, who in his own words in 1994 said that he was

 “in support of the Hamas movement more than the PLO.”

The above words of course do not necessarily mean Nihad Awad espouses the same view today as he did 20 years ago. Moreover, the posting of the video from Steve Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism website should not be construed as an agreement of all that Emerson projects about Islam and Muslims.

Emerson’s credentials, shoddy reporting, and alliances with Islamophobic “experts” are well known. While he has some useful information on his website, he mixes this information with false allegations, such as his portrayal of Muslim moderates like Hamza Yusuf and Zaid Shakir as extremists, and even describing a moderate, non-Muslim author and professor, John Esposito, as an apologist of Islamism.

As a result of media attention, CAIR is projected on television screens of millions of viewers.  This exposure has resulted in a mistaken image by many that CAIR is the representative of Muslims in the US, just as CAIR would like to be seen.

Any allegation, whether true or not, against CAIR for ties to extremism sheds a negative light on millions of Muslims. This causes many to erroneously paint CAIR and the Muslim masses, especially in the US, with the same brush as if their understandings of Islam and politics, as well as their goals, are the same. Muslim and Islam haters use this as fodder to confirm their wrong suspicions that Muslims in the US, through representatives such as CAIR, aim to infiltrate and/or take over the United States.

Who is to blame? Both the media and CAIR are at fault because, I believe, they feed on each other to attain their own respective aims and benefits while ignoring the views of America’s Muslim majority. This includes what the majority of Muslims in the US believe about the Muslim organizations that represent them. And this brings us to a very important question:

 Which Muslim organizations do American Muslims believe represent them?

To clear the confusion caused by both the media and CAIR, the answer to this question was fortunately answered in a Gallup Poll conducted from 2008 to 2011. The survey report, “Muslim Americans: Faith, Freedom, and the Future” was released by Gallup in August 2011.

In the report, American Muslims were asked:

Which American Muslim organization most represents your interests?

The results for CAIR, the organization of concern, are:

 CAIR: 12% males; 11% females

The results are clear that the vast majority of American Muslims do not believe that CAIR represents them. This means that one cannot paint CAIR and other American Muslims with the same brush, no matter what Fox News portrays or who CAIR says it represents.

But how do the majority of American Muslims feel they are represented by other Muslim organizations in the US? The results are just as interesting:

-Islamic Society of North American (ISNA): 4% males; 7% females

-Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC): 6% males; 1% females

-MAS: 0% males; 2% females

-Imam W.D. Muhammad Group: 3% males; 1% females

-Islamic Circle of North American (ICNA): 2% males; 0% females

-Other: 6% males; 20% females

-None: 55% males; 42% females

While CAIR has minimal support by American Muslims, other organizations are supported even less. This does not mean that CAIR represents American Muslims. It means that there is a crisis of leadership among Muslims in the United States – if the American Muslim majority even chooses to be represented by any organization.

The myth of American Muslims’ support for CAIR, as well as what the media and CAIR wrongly portray, has been laid bare. This is bad news to Muslim organizations that seem to pretend to represent the American Muslim majority when they actually do not, and also for media “pundits” and Islamophobes who do not educate and inform the American public, but contribute to magnifying a distorted and unrealistic understanding of what the majority of American Muslims really think.

– Sunnis Against Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).

(© Zubair Qamar 2013)



Professor Sohail Hashimi says:

“So far, no systematic work has been done by Muslim scholars on how nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons relate to the Islamic ethics of war. This is an astonishing fact in light of the development of nuclear technology by several Muslim countries and the repeated use of chemical weapons by Iraq.”

Even more unfortunate, the acquisition of WMDs was and is a goal of al-Qa’eda. Militant preachers were quick to recognize and fill in this gap.

Osama bin Laden in a 1998 Time interview with Rahimullah Yusufzai made that crystal clear, in which Rahimullah asked bin Laden,

“The U.S. says you are trying to acquire chemical and nuclear weapons. How would you use these?”

Osama bin Laden responded,

“Acquiring weapons for the defense of Muslims is a religious duty. If I have indeed acquired these weapons, then I thank God for enabling me to do so. And if I seek to acquire these weapons, I am carrying out a duty. It would be a sin for Muslims not to try to possess the weapons that would prevent the infidels from inflicting harm on Muslims.”

In a 2001 interview by Pakistani journalist, Hamid Mir, Osama reiterated this support. In the same interview, al-Zawahiri boasted,

“If you have $30 million, go to the black market in central Asia, contact any disgruntled Soviet scientist, and a lot of dozens of smart briefcase bombs are available. They have contacted us, we sent our people to Moscow to Tashkent to other central Asian states, and they negotiated and we purchased some suitcase bombs.”

Al-Zawahiri, known to be a braggadocio and manipulator, may have been overdramatic in this interview to stir fear in the masses. But his desire to acquire such weapons and harm the masses is real. It is to be noted that OBL explicitly advocated the possession of a nuclear weapon as a deterrent. However, one need not have an explicit statement from OBL that advocates usage. OBL clearly believes that killing Muslim and non-Muslim civilians is permissible.

OBL and other militants have never specified a limit or threshold of how many innocent Muslims can be killed as “collateral damage” in such attacks, which makes the use of nuclear weapons (and other WMD) – or any other weapon for that matter – perfectly valid from the militant perspective. As long as such weapons are used on “infidels,” that is what matters, no matter how many Muslims are massacred in the process.

Addressing the matter of “collateral damage” of innocents from the Sunni point of view is therefore a key argument against militants who have a distorted understanding of the matter.  (The manipulation of al-Tatarrus by al-Qa’eda, the “law on the use of human shields,” is discussed in another post.)

Because of this surprising gap in knowledge, and perhaps induced by al-Qa’eda’s repeated desire to acquire WMD, extremists capitalized on this by filling in the gap and producing perhaps the first in-depth “fatwa” on WMD in 2003 that “justified” its use from a militant perspective. The notorious pro-WMD fatwa was by the Saudi Wahhabi extremist, Nasir al-Fahd, who was a student of the late Hamoud al-Oqala al-Shu’aybi, who endorsed the September 11th 2001 attacks. Two other extremists of the “Shu’aybi school,” Ali al-Khudair and Ahmed al-Khaldi, also endorsed the pro-WMD fatwa. Though they later recanted, surely by pressure from Saudi authorities, militants nevertheless found the justification they needed for the use of WMD.

This was reflected in al-Zawahiri’s  Exoneration where he took from Nasir al-Fahd’s so-called fatwa and expanded on it to ensure that any use of such weapons was completely justified Islamically:

“Nasir al-Fahd’s 2003 fatwa is built in its entirety into Exoneration: the same ideas, thoughts, examples and scholars to justify equal retaliation—“repaying like for like”. The similarities between the two texts are nothing short of striking. Virtually every single cleric, scholar, and example used by al-Fahd to justify the use of WMD has been resurrected in near-symmetry throughout “Exoneration”. While a handful of the same individuals were cited by both al-Fahd and Zawahiri to justify different issues, nearly 30 authors were identically sourced with correlating content. Indeed, Zawahiri tended to expand on the thoughts and ideas of al-Fahd by diving into a more comprehensive justification with even further citations.”

(Source: Rolf Mowatt-Larssen. (January 2011). “Islam and the Bomb: Religious Justification for and Against Nuclear Weapons. Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Kennedy School of Government. p.35.)

Mufti Ali Gomaa’s Fatwa Against WMDs

Fortunately, Egypt’s Mufti, Ali Gomaa, gave a Fatwa against the use of WMD which can be used to counter al-Qa’eda and other militants.

Below are excerpts from a Fatwa by Mufti Ali Gomaa against the use of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).

(Beginning of quoted Fatwa excerpts from Mufti Ali Gomaa)

Recently, various sects and groups issued several publications asserting the permissibility of using weapons of mass destruction against non-Islamic countries claiming that their allegetions conform to Islamic law. They substantiate their claims with proof from some juristic texts, and on analogy to turs [En. human shield], tabyīt [En. surprising the enemy at night] and tahrīq [En. killing with fire] mentioned in some books of Islamic jurisprudence.

Possessing these kinds of weapons to deter enemies is a requirement of Islamic law. This is evidenced by the words of Allah: “And prepare against them whatever you are able of power and steeds of war by which you may terrify the enemy of Allah and your enemy”

In his interpretation of the verse, the luminary, al-Alusi, said: “Anything that can be used as a deterrence in war” [10/24 Dar al-Turath al-Arabi]. In the previous verse Allah commands Muslims to deter their enemies who may be inclined to attack Muslims. Apart from being a principle of Islamic law that factors in punishments and disciplinary actions, deterrence is also a legitimate political principle sanctioned by states in their defense policies and established in military strategies.

It is well known that acquiring and possessing WMDs creates strategic and military bal- ance between states and serves to deter any state that is tempted to launch a hostile attack against a Muslim country therefore preventing them from being dragged into an undesired war. This applies to acquiring WMDs and using them to deter enemies and oppressors. There is a difference between acquiring these weapons to deter potential aggressors and between initiating their use.

The scenario of initiating the use of WMDs which is based on the personal reasoning and opinions of individual sects, factions, and groups is prohibited by Islamic law. Any opinion that maintains its permissibility or attributes it to Islamic law and its scholars is a false claim and accusation against [sacred] law and religion. This is substantiated by the following:

The decision to declare war

The principle in war is that it should be launched with the authorization of the Muslim ruler; it is imperative that the decision to declare war be based on his own reasoning and his subjects must obey him. A ruler is authorized to declare war due to his knowledge of evident and hidden matters, the consequences of actions and the interest of his people. For this reason, a ruler is authorized to declare wars and hold domestic or international treaties as soon as he assumes office. In turn, he does not issue decisions based on [personal] whims. He declares a war only after consulting specialists in every relevant field such as technical specialists, military personnel, and political consultants who are indispensable in the military strategy.

A person or persons who independently determine the use of WMDs not only impose their opinion on their rulers but on the entire [Muslim] community. They give themselves the right to make decisions relating to the destiny of the entire community without recourse to ahl al-hall wal-’aqd [En. those who are qualified to elect or dispose of a ruler on behalf of the Muslim community] in matters that expose the country or people to great dangers.

Breach of international agreements and treaties

Islamic states must abide by the agreements and treaties that they acknowledged and entered into on their own accord; standing firmly with the international community towards achieving global peace and security [only] to the extent of the commitment of the signatory countries.

Using WMDs involves killing people and taking them by surprise

Abu Hurairra (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “A believer is not to kill [others]. Faith is a deterrent to killing”. Ibn al-Athir said: “Killing [here] means taking others by surprise and killing them while they are unprepared” [Al-Nihaya fi Gharib al-Hadith wa al-Athar 3/775]. The hadith means that faith is a deterrent to attacking others suddenly while they are unprepared. The Prophet’s words: “A believer is not to attack [others] by surprise” is a clear prohibition since it involves deception. Khubayb al-Ansarī (may Allah be pleased with him) was captured by the polytheists and sold in Mecca to Banī al-Hārith ibn ‘Amir ibn Nawfal ibn abd Manāf. It was Khubayb who killed al-Hārith ibn ‘Amir in the battle of Badr. He remained a prison- er with them for some time. Once, he asked the daughter of al-Harith for a razor to shave and placed her son on his lap. When she came upon this scene and saw Khubayb holding the razor in his hand and her son on his lap, she became scared. Thereupon, Khubayb said to her: “Are you afraid that I might kill him? I will never do that.” She said: “I never saw a captive better than Khubayb.” This is an example of a Muslim imprisoned by his enemies who plotted to kill him. In spite of being on the verge of death, he refrained from killing their son when he had the opportunity to do so. The manners of a Muslim are free from deception and killing others by surprise.

Killing and harming women and children

Al-Bukhari and Muslim reported through Abdullah ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both) that a woman was found dead in one of the battles fought by the Prophet. There- upon he condemned killing women and children. Another phrasing of the hadith states: “The messenger of Allah forbade killing women and children.” Imam al-Nawawi said: “There is a scholarly consensus on putting this hadith in practice as long as the women and children do not fight [the Muslims]. If they do, the majority of scholars maintain that they should be killed” [Sharh Muslim 12/48].

Killing and harming Muslim residents of the target countries

Targeting other countries with WMDs will endanger the lives of Muslims residents, natives or visitors. The noble Shari’ah honors the life of Muslims and warns against shedding their blood without right. Allah Almighty says: “But whoever kills a believer intentionally—his recompense is Hell, wherein he will abide eternally, and Allah has become angry with him and has cursed him and has prepared for him a great punishment.” [Al-Nisa`]

On that account: We ordained for the children of Israel that if any one kills a person—unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land—it would be as if he killed the whole people, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all people [Al-Maeda. Abdullah ibn ‘Amr (may Allah be pleased with them both) narrated that the Prophet said: “The perishing of this world is easier in the sight of Allah than taking a Muslim’s life” [Sunan al-Nassa’i].

The ramifications of using WMDs

Such a foolish act will bring about catastrophes not only upon Muslims but upon the entire world because the countries under attack may retaliate either in kind or in a more brutal manner. Moreover, the destructive effects of some of these weapons may exceed the targeted area and spread by wind to other countries not involved in the conflict. Hence, the immedi- ate and far reaching evils of WMDs are greater than the benefits, if any. It is worthy to men- tion at this point that preventing harm is among the principles of Islamic law. This is based on legal maxim, “Preventing harm takes precedence over gaining benefit.”

Consequences of using WMD

Some of these weapons damage individual and public properties, wasting wealth which is forbidden by Islamic law. The prohibition is greater if the wasted wealth belongs to the oppressed. Thus, this prohibition lies in violating Islamic law on the one hand and the rights of others on the other.

The use of some of these weapons may require the perpetrator to enter the target

Permission to enter a country is considered a non-verbal security agreement not to cause corruption in the host country.

Imam al-Khurqī said in his Mukhtasr: “Whoever enters enemy lands in safety is not allowed to cheat them of their money.” Commenting on this statement, Ibn Qudāma said that it is prohibited to betray them [non-Muslims in non-Muslim countries] because there is an unspoken covenant to enter in safety on the condition that the person who seeks permission to enter a foreign country does not betray or oppress them. So whoever enters our lands in safety and betrays us violates this security agreement. This is prohibited because it involves treachery which is forbidden in our religion. [Al-Mughni 9/237].

The legal and juristic texts used as evidence to spread this extreme idea are taken out of context. Using these texts in such a manner disturbs peace, ignoring the differences between states of war and peace, and the special rulings pertaining to each of them. This is a compel- ling difference that is inconsistent with using WMDs weapons based on textual evidence on the permissibility of tabīt and ramy al turs. It is a grave mistake to make this analogy even though they are valid in themselves within the context cited by the authors of these texts. It is dangerous to take these rulings from their context and apply them to different situations. Moreover, it is impermissible to derive a ruling permitting the use of WMDs against an op- pressor based on analogy since it is established that there is a difference between the rulings for repelling an aggressor and those of jihad [En. fighting for the cause of Allah]. These in- clude repelling the aggressor by the least violent means. If it is possible to resolve the conflict in a peaceful manner, it is prohibited to use weapons against the aggressor. Using WMDs against others is not consistent with Islamic values.

It is invalid to base the permissibility of using WMDs on analogy [Ar.qiyās] to tabyīt, using the catapult, or tahrīq

There are great and manifest differences between the two situations. The prophetic traditions mentioned on tahrīq, tabyīn, and the catapult were narrated in a state of war; there is a differ- ence between a state of war and peace. There is a great difference in the effects of throwing stones at the enemy using the catapult and between using WMDs. The effects of the catapult are relatively restricted as compared to the effects of WMDs. The above methods of warfare mentioned in the prophetic traditions were conducted with the approval of rulers. Giving a person, [other than a ruler], the right to declare war is a crime against the [Islamic] community and its rulers under the pretext of jihad.

Even if we assume the authenticity of these prophetic traditions, we must note that they refer to specific incidents and cannot be put into general practice. For this reason, some scholars maintained that the principle [in war] is to avoid tabyīt, tahrīq, and destruction; they base their opinion on the general religious texts which discuss the ethics of war.

Our opinion is that WMDs that cause fires must not be used due to the prohibition of burning. After ordering his troops to use fire, the prophet forbade its implementation as a weap- on even though the Muslims were in a state of war. Abū Hurayrah narrated that the prophet [pbuh] said: “Allah alone has the right to punish with fire” [Bukhārī]. It is known that many WMDs cause huge fires, therefore it is better to ban their use even in a state of war.

It is a mistake to base the issue of the use of WMDs on tabyit because scholars restricted its permissibility by the following: It must be implemented in a state of war. The enemy must be from among those whom Muslims are permitted to fight as compared to the enemy with whom Muslims have a truce. It is impermissible to attack the enemy under the cover of night because it is a violation of the security pact between them in terms of lives, wealth, and hon- or. If it is prohibited to attack under the cover of darkness the enemy with whom Muslims have a security pact, then it is even more prohibited to use such lethal weapons against them.

Human Shields

It is impermissible to use human shields save in state of war and under specific conditions detailed by jurists. [Bahr Ra`iq 80\5, Hashiyat ibn ‘Abī Dīn 223\3, Rawdat al Tablibīn 239\10, Mughnī al Muhtāj 223\4, Mughni ibn Qudāma 449\8, 386/10].

(end of quoted Fatwa excerpts from Mufti Ali Gomaa)

– Al-Tatarrus: Al-Qa’eda’s Manipulation of the “Law on Using Human Shields”.

(© Zubair Qamar 2013)

Al-Qa’eda and other militants manipulate the issue of human shields in Sunni Islam to justify their killing of masses of civilians. It is well-known that most of al-Qa’eda’s victims have been civilians. Their claim that such “collateral damage” is necessary belies the Sunni tradition they claim to follow.

Using classical Sunni sources, Egypt’s Mufti, Ali Gomaa, said,

“It is impermissible to use human shields save in state of war and under specific conditions detailed by jurists.”
[Bahr Ra`iq 80\5, Hashiyat ibn ‘Abī Dīn 223\3, Rawdat al Tablibīn 239\10, Mughnī al Muhtāj 223\4, Mughni ibn Qudāma 449\8, 386/10]

Classical Sunni jurists differed in their understanding of what these “conditions” were. Regarding “Muslim individuals, in general, or Muslim prisoners of war, or individuals from ahl al-dhimmah (non-Muslim citizens of the dar al-Islam), or any individuals” living in countries that have peace accords, Ahmed al-Dawoody in The Islamic Law of War (p.117) says, in regards to targeting them in a legitimately sanctioned war against the enemy:

“al-Awza’i, the Maliki jurists, al-Lu’lu’i, Abu Thawr, al-Layth, and Ahmed ibn Hanbal, it is impermissible to attack the enemy if they take as human shields Muslims, dhimmis, or any individuals who belong to a country which which Muslims have a peace accord.”

However, according to

“…the majority of… jurists, including Abu Hanifah, Abu Yusuf… and al-Thawri, advocate that it is permissible … to attack the enemy because of military necessity, provided that the Muslim army intends to direct its attack against the combatants and avoid the human shields.”

While Sunni jurists differ in their views of al-tattarus, their disagreements lay within the confines of their understandings of what constitutes a legitimate combative jihad. Many of these conditions, including having a ruler proclaim jihad, not killing civilians, having war between two armies (and not vigilante groups like al-Qa’eda) are violated by terrorists today. Therefore, the discussion of al-tattarus by terrorists is misplaced because it does not apply to the actions of terrorists who have violated conditions that are required for any discussion of al-tattarus and related aspects of war to take place. (Read this post to learn the differences between combative jihad and terrorism, and this post to understand how classical Sunni Islam is against terrorism.)

Moreover, Sayyed Imam al-Sharif, the radical who was considered a religious guide to al-Qa’eda, and who had a fallout with al-Zawahiri, also spoke against al-Qa’eda’s methods in regards to human shields. In describing Sayyed Imam’s understanding of the matter, researcher Marwan Shehadeh, says:

“The second concept that Sayyed Imam criticizes is al-tatarrus, an important concept in the context of the combative jihadist doctrine of al-Qaeda and the violent jihadist Salafist movement. Al-tatarrus refers to enemy soldiers’ practice of using in­nocent Muslim civilians as shields directly or indirectly during confrontation, which entails, in cases of clashes with non-Muslim soldiers, killing the civilians. Historically, Muslims experienced al-tatarrus in many battles, and therefore scholars determined precise conditions for permitting the killing of shielded soldiers. They also obligated military leaders not to expand the application of this concept themselves, i.e. not to use non-Muslim civilians as shields for Muslim soldiers in order to preserve human life. Scholars classified al-tatarrus under the “necessities” that can only be resorted to in cases of absolute need. However, al-tatarrus has been greatly abused by contempo­rary jihadist groups who ignored most of the constraints and conditions that scholars agreed upon unanimously. Killings started to target innocent civilians without ob­serving those restrictions and conditions or considering the preventions that guard against the spilling of “protected” blood based on insubstantial excuses and argu­ments. Perhaps all post Sept. 11 bombings involved lack of commitment on behalf of these groups to the concept of al-tatarrus and its constraints.”

Abdullah Warius and Jarret Brachman were on the mark and in line with traditional Sunni Islam when they explained the twisted understanding of al-Tatarrus by al-Qa’eda, and how it contradicted the understanding of 14 centuries of Islamic scholarship:

“In the course of defending al-Qa`ida against charges of unjustly killing innocent Muslims during his April 2, 2008 “open interview,” Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri reintroduced Hukm al-Tatarrus (the law on using human shields) into the debate. A relatively unfamiliar term to non-Muslims and Muslims alike, al-Tatarrus refers to God’s sanctioning of Muslim armies that are forced to kill other Muslims who are being used as human shields by an enemy during a time of war. Al-Tatarrus is a religiously legitimate, albeit obscure, Islamic concept that al-Qa`ida ideologues have been increasingly using in order to exculpate themselves from charges of apostasy. The method in which al-Qa`ida is promoting al-Tatarrus, however, seeks to facilitate the sacrifice of Muslim lives in contravention of 14 centuries of religious teachings. For instance, both al-Qa`ida in the Arabian Peninsula and the al-Qa`ida Organization in Yemen hid behind the protections offered by al-Tatarrus in their justification of terrorist attacks that resulted in significant Muslim casualties.”

Warius and Brachman continue to explain in detail how Abu Yahya al-Libi manipulated the traditional Islamic understanding of al-Tatarrus to serve his own (read: al-Qa’eda’s) nefarious ends:

“Abu Yahya begins his theological upheaval by explaining that…early thinkers [of Islam] were not specific enough in their discussions on the use of human shields nor did they adequately articulate the conditions under which it is permissible to shed Muslim blood in the course of warfare against a non-Muslim enemy when they take Muslims as human shields. This perceived historical failure of the early scholars to deal with al-Tatarrus honestly and comprehensively, whether due to their fear or embarrassment, he says, has led to a condition wherein the unjustified spilling of Muslim blood has become pervasive.”

The authors then explain the arrogant rejection of al-Qa’eda of the law of al-Tatarrus through their selective and manipulative understanding of Sunni tradition:

“As if criticizing 14 centuries of Islamic thought on the matter was not enough, Abu Yahya decides to reject the premise, saying, “I have never seen [al-Tatarrus as an explicit concept] mentioned in hadiths of the Prophet or in the biographies of the fighting companions in this same particular way that scholars have expressed it.” By calling the conditions placed on al-Tatarrus by Islamic scholars something “new” (and thus an “innovation”), he grants himself the religious authority to not only reject the entire body of Islamic literature (and accompanying restrictions) on the killing of innocent Muslims, but he positions himself as the sole arbiter of what constitutes “permissibility” with regard to killing.”

They go on to explain how Abu Yahya al-Libi chose to omit what did not serve his agenda. Namely, incorporating the human body in al-Tatturus but omitting property:

“Abu Yahya’s essay contains several major oversights that one can only believe are intentional given the depth of his knowledge on the issue. The first oversight is regarding the fact that al-Tatarrus is not limited to the human body, but is commonly extended to the enemy’s use of Muslim property, including buildings, infrastructure and vehicles as a deterrent in times of war. Abu Yahya’s decision to leave out Muslim property becomes clearer when viewed in the light of his second major oversight: compensation for damage caused.”

The authors then discuss how the issue of “compensation” is completely ignored by militants:

“Most discussions of al-Tatarrus during the past 14 centuries include reference to the necessary compensation required by God for damage caused to Muslim lives, property or wealth. The most blatant evidence of Abu Yahya’s intentional avoidance of compensatory damages appears in the peculiar way that he cites the Qur’an, noting: “Never should a believer kill a believer but (if it so happens) by mistake.” Had Abu Yahya continued his quote to the next verse of the sura, he would have been forced to reveal it as,

“Never should a believer kill a believer but if it so happens by mistake, compensation is due: If one so kills a believer, it is ordained that he should free a believing slave, and pay compensation to the deceased’s family, unless they remit it freely. If the deceased belonged to a people at war with you, and he was a believer, the freeing of a believing slave (is enough). If he belonged to a people with whom ye have treaty of Mutual alliance, compensation should be paid to his family, and a believing slave be freed. For those who find this beyond their means, is prescribe a fast for two months running: by way of repentance to Allah: for Allah hath all knowledge and all wisdom.”

“As the above verse suggests, there are two general forms of compensation that are relevant to the al-Tatarrus discussion. The first is kaffara, defined as the atonement to God or repayment made for some failure to act, or harm done to another. It usually mandates that the one who spilled Muslims’ blood either fast for a period of time (usually one or two months) or serve charitable acts (such as serving 60 poor Muslims food for a period of time). The second form of compensation is diyya (blood money), which is a monetary compensation paid as a fine to the next of kin of someone who was killed intentionally.”

This, in a nutshell, is the approach of militants: manipulating Sunni tradition to justify their terrorist actions.

– The Afghan Taliban and Drugs – an (Un)Islamic Partnership.



(© Zubair Qamar 2013)

Ahmed Rashid, the well known journalist and author of the book, “Taliban,” among other books, was told the “justification” by the Afghan Taliban of growing opium when they were in charge and running affairs in Afghanistan.

The then head of Taliban’s anti-drugs control force in Kandahar, Abdul Rashid, said he imposed strict bans on hashish

“because it is consumed by Afghans and Muslims”


“Opium is permissable because it is consumed by kafirs [unbelievers] in the West and not by Muslims or Afghans” (sic). (Taliban, p.118).

Then Governor Mohammed Hassan of the Taliban said that while “drugs are evil,” they would only think about substituting it with another crop if they received “international recognition.” (Taliban, p.118). The elusive, one-eyed Mullah Omar took that position for “[o]ver the next two years.”

Seems like international recognition was more important to them than following Islam properly. Neither of the reasons were a proper Islamic justification from any of the Sunni schools of jurisprudence. In this matter, the Taliban were less crooked when they first took over Kandahar. They wanted to eradicate drugs, which was in line with Islam.

However, after a few months passed, Shaytan got into their heads and they decided to do a one-hundred-and-eighty and support opium growth instead. Why? Because they realized they needed drugs for easy money and they did not want to upset the farmers who grew it.

But, again, these justifications are not Islamic at all. The Taliban depended on haraam income to establish themselves, and they were rather organized about it. They imposed a so-called  “Islamic tax” on “all dealers moving opium.” They could have at least been honest and called it a “haraam tax.”

On top of that, “individual commanders and provincial governors imposed their own taxes to keep their coffers full and their soldiers fed.” Some among the Taliban decided to become drug dealers and even involved their relatives to do haraam deeds.

“Some of them became substantial dealers in opium or used their relatives to act as middlemen” (Taliban, p.118).

Spreading sin cannot be “Islamic” from an Islamic perspective.

But eradicate the hashish they did, which was probably an attempt to take away a guilty conscience for promoting opium. All along, they pretended opium business was halaal, even though it was not. This sinful indulgence was a violation of the Qur’an and Sunnah. How could the Taliban have expected Allah to be happy with them for breathing, eating, and sleeping with opium? Were they unafraid that living and imposing Islam through sinful means would render their “good” deeds null and void and bring Allah’s Wrath on them?

This matter was undoubtedly tugging at them for a while. Seemingly it was too tempting for them to stop opium business so soon. After all, it ran their so-called “Islamic” Emirate.

If the Taliban were sincere Muslims, they would have done things differently. They chose material convenience over the religion they deceptively claimed to follow.

First, they had a double standard that it is okay to let non-Muslims become addicts, while it is prohibited for Muslims to become drug addicts. Sunni Muslim Yahya Birt has excellently noted that this is

“hypocritical and cynical. There is not one standard of upright conduct for Muslims and another for non-Muslims: our religion requires us to behave impeccably with both.”[1]

Second, the Taliban’s assumption that Muslims do not consume opium-derived drugs like heroin is to misunderstand the facts. This was a poor and sinful jurisprudential attempt by the Taliban to justify the promotion of something unlawful using an “Islamic” argument.  Birt gives them a reality check:

“And far from Muslims being unaffected by Afghani heroin, Pakistan now has the highest heroin addiction rate in the world. In 1979, Pakistan had no addicts, in 1986, it had 650,000 addicts, three million in 1992, while in 1999, government figures estimate a staggering figure of five million.”[2]

A joint report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) and the Government of Pakistan states that in Pakistan there was a

“100 percent increase in injecting drug use between 2000 and 2006.”[3]

The National Institute of Drug Abuse states,

“Heroin abuse is associated with serious health conditions, including fatal overdose, spontaneous abortion, and—particularly in users who inject the drug—infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. Chronic users may develop collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, and liver or kidney disease. Pulmonary complications, including various types of pneumonia, may result from the poor health of the abuser as well as from heroin’s depressing effects on respiration. In addition to the effects of the drug itself, street heroin often contains toxic contaminants or additives that can clog blood vessels leading to the lungs, liver, kidneys, or brain, causing permanent damage to vital organs.”[4]

Third, the use of intoxicants is categorically forbidden in Islam. Prophet Muhammad said,

“Every intoxicant is prohibited” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 4088).

Opium is an intoxicant. Therefore, it is forbidden. No ifs, ands, or buts.

Islam’s Prophet also said,

“If a large amount of anything causes intoxication, a small amount of it is prohibited” (Sunan Abu-Dawud, Drinks (Kitab Al-Ashribah), Book 26, Number 3673).

Seems the Taliban’s knowledge department lacks knowledge of the above hadeeth.

Fourth, the Taliban will be responsible for all sins associated with drug use by their promotion of opium. While the Taliban are currently ousted from power, the drugs they promoted under their leadership – while foolishly believing they were not affecting Muslims – are surely still spreading catastrophe, including among Muslims, in terms of health and other effects.

Fifth, even when the Taliban were later doing something right – hashish demolition – they mixed it with torture. Abdul Rashid of the Taliban said,

“When we catch hashish smugglers or addicts we interrogate and beat them mercilessly to find out the truth.”

He then said,

“Then we put them in cold water for many hours, two or three times a day. It’s a very good cure” (Taliban, pg.119).

“Good cure” from the Taliban perspective, but an utter disregard of the Qur’an and Sunnah that emphasize mercy. Prophet Muhammad said,

“The merciful ones will be shown mercy by the All-Merciful [Allah]. Be merciful to those on Earth, Allah will be merciful to you.”

Why sanction torture when Prophet Muhammad said to be merciful?

Continuous accumulation of sin for even dead Taliban will not stop if they were in any way responsible for promoting drugs when they were alive. The Messenger of Allah said:

“Whoever sets a good precedent in Islam will have the reward for that and the reward of those who do it after him, without that detracting from their reward in the slightest. And whoever sets a bad precedent in Islam will bear the burden of sin for that, and the burden of those who do it after him, without that detracting from their burden in the slightest.”[5]

The Taliban is therefore responsible for Muslims and non-Muslims who became addicts when they permitted and promoted the opium business in all of its manifestations. While the Taliban were propping up their “Islamic” Emirate with a foundation of drugs, addicts were on the increase locally, regionally, and globally.

From an Islamic standpoint, the Taliban will be held accountable for the burden of sins associated with the spread of opium, for violating the Qur’an and Sunnah, and for deceitfully promoting something haraam in Islam’s name through pseudo-Islamic jurisprudence.

[1] http://qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?HD=1&ID=192&CATE=13

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Illicit Drug Trends in Pakistan”. April 2008. Pg.7. “The Paris Pact Illicit Drug Trends Report for Pakistan was prepared by the Paris Pact Coordination and Analysis Unit (CAU) of the UNODC Country Office for Pakistan and benefited from the work and expertise of officials from the UNODC Regional Office for Central Asia” (pg. 3).

[4] http://www.nida.nih.gov/infofacts/heroin.html

[5] Narrated Muslim.

– What do Muslims Today Really Think?

(© Zubair Qamar 2013)

Assumptions of violent interpretations of Islam are different from what Muslims today actually believe and think. While blaming Islam’s scriptures for terrorism, Patrick Sookhdeo and Katharine Gorka — two Islamophobes — cast doubt and suspicion on the intentions of the Muslim majority.

In the their book, Fighting the Ideological War, and commenting on The 9/11 Commission Report’s statement, “Most Muslims prefer a peaceful and inclusive vision of their faith, not the violent extremism of Bin Laden,” Sookhdeo and K. Gorka say,

“Is that based on researched and documented fact, or on wishful thinking?” (p.5).

If most Muslims follow “the violent extremism of Bin Laden,” as the authors insinuate, then why is the overwhelming majority of the 1.6-billion Muslims today behaving non-violently? This question will be answered by well-known polls below that Sookhdeo, Katharine Gorka, and the other authors appear to be unaware of, as the results did not inform their analysis.

Published in 2007, Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think, is a study

“based on six years of research and more than 50,000 interviews representing 1.3 billion Muslims who reside in more than 35 nations that are predominantly Muslim or have sizable Muslim populations. Representing more than 90% of the world’s Muslim community, it makes this poll the largest, most comprehensive study of its kind.”[[i]]

The following are key findings of the poll that answer Sookhdeo’s and Katharine Gorka’s question:

a)     Do most Muslims support the 9/11 attacks?

Most Muslims condemn the 9/11 attacks.

b)    What is least liked by Muslims in their own societies?

Most Muslims least like extremism and terrorism. Esposito and Mugahid say,

“Far from being glorified by Muslims, the ‘terrorist fringe’ is rejected by citizens of Muslim majority countries.”

This majority is separated from the “7% who are ‘politically radicalized.’’ In other words, most Muslims worldwide are not politically radicalized. While 7% of politically radicalized Muslims is a large number, the authors note the comparison:

“In America, 6% of the public think that attacks in which civilians are targets are ‘completely justified.’”[[ii]]

c)     Are the 7% of “politically radicalized” Muslims motivated by religion? 

Authors of the study say,

“radicals use politics, not piety, to justify 9/11, while moderates argue against 9/11 using religious justifications.”

In other words, religion is used by the majority of Muslims to condemnnot support – the 9/11 attacks. Religion is not unique to the politically radicalized. “While most radicals – 90% – cite Islam as an important part of their daily lives (90%), most moderates – 94% – do as well.”[[iii]]

(In another poll of Arab countries from 2004 to 2010 by Shibley Telhami, the question was asked, “What aspect of Al Qaeda do you admire the most, if any?”

Explaining the results, Tehlami says,

“Those who embraced Al Qaeda because of its aims to establish a Taliban-like Islamic state or because they liked the group’s methods of operation were a small minority.”

He continues, “

…only 7 percent in 2004 and 3 percent in 2010 identified its methods; and 7 percent in both years identified its objective of an Islamic state. About one-quarter in both years said they did not admire any aspect of the group.”[[iv]]

Therefore, only a minority of Muslims today support the radicalism of militants. The vast majority of Muslims reject them.)

d)    What do moderate Muslims resent about the West?

The authors of the study say,

“Muslims resent what they perceive as a War on Islam in the West that equates their religion with terrorism and extremism.”[[v]]

This means that the recommendations of Sookhdeo and other Islamophobes who blame Islam for terrorism will make matters worse between the US and the Muslim world. This cannot be good for US national security or for America’s relations with the Muslim world.

e)     Do most Muslims support Shari’ah and theocracy?

The study’s authors say,

“The majority of Muslims admire the West’s political freedoms and value self-determination. However, Muslims do not appear to want secularism or to imitate Western democracies; instead, many Muslims, both male and female, state they want Sharia as at least one source of legislation”

and that

“many Muslims see no contradiction between democratic and Islamic principles.”

They say, Muslims

“wanting Sharia involved in politics does not translate into Muslims wanting theocracy. Majorities in many countries remarked that they do not want religious leaders to hold direct legislative or political power.”


“[M]any Muslims desire neither a democracy or theocracy, but instead a unique model incorporating both democratic and religious principles.”[[vi]]

f)     Do Muslims dream of doing combative jihad? 

The authors of the study say,

“When asked to describe their dreams for the future, Muslims don’t mention fighting in a jihad, but rather getting a better job.”[[vii]]

The Report: “The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics, and Society”

This Report[[viii]] is based on public surveys by the Pew Research Center between 2008 and 2012 in 39 countries and territories in Africa, Asia, and Europe. The surveys

“involved more than 38,000 face-to-face interviews in 80-plus languages and dialects, covering every country that has more than 10 million Muslims except for a handful (including China, India, Saudi Arabia and Syria) where political sensitivities or security concerns prevented opinion research among Muslims.”[[ix]]

The following are key findings of the poll:

a)     Shariah and its application

The authors of the study say,

“Although many Muslims around the world say sharia should be the law of the land in their country, the survey reveals divergent opinions about the precise application of Islamic law. Generally, supporters of sharia are most comfortable with its application in cases of family or property disputes. In most regions, fewer favor other specific aspects of sharia, such as cutting off the hands of thieves and executing people who convert from Islam to another faith.”[[x]]

b)    Do most Muslims think Shari’ah should apply to non-Muslims?

The authors of the study say,

“Among Muslims who support making sharia the law of the land, most do not believe that it should be applied to non-Muslims. Only in five of 21 countries where this follow-up question was asked do at least half say all citizens should be subject to Islamic law.”[[xi]]

c)     Do most Muslims support the death penalty for those who leave Islam?

The authors of the study say,

“Compared with attitudes toward applying sharia in the domestic or criminal spheres, Muslims in the countries surveyed are significantly less supportive of the death penalty for converts.”[[xii]]

d)    Do most Muslims oppose democracy and do they stop non-Muslims from freely  practicing their religion?

The authors of the study say,

“Muslims around the world express broad support for democracy and for people of other faiths being able to practice their religion freely.”

Regarding non-Muslims practicing their religion freely, “…among those who view non-Muslims as very free to practice their faith, the prevailing opinion is that this is a good thing.” Specifically, “[i]n 33 of the 38 countries where the question was asked at least half say people of other faiths are very free to practice their religion.” That is, “… three-quarters or more in each country say this is a good thing.”[[xiii]]

e)     Do most Muslims support Islamic militant groups?

The authors of the study say,

“Many Muslims express concern about religious extremist groups operating in their country. On balance, more Muslims are concerned about Islamic than Christian extremist groups.”[[xiv]]

f)     Do most Muslims support suicide bombings?

The authors of the study say,

“[T]he vast majority of Muslims in most countries say suicide bombing is rarely or never justified […].”[[xv]]


“In most of the 21 countries where the question was asked few Muslims endorse suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilian targets as a means of defending Islam against its enemies.”[[xvi]]

g)     Do most Muslims think religious leaders should have a large influence in politics?

The authors of the study say,

“With the notable exception of Afghanistan, fewer than half of Muslims in any country surveyed say religious leaders should have a large influence in politics.”[[xvii]]

h)    Do most Muslims support honor killings and are they driven by religion?

The authors of the study say,

“Across the countries surveyed, attitudes toward honor killings of women and men are not consistently linked to religious observance. In most countries, Muslims who pray several times a day are just as likely as those who pray less often to say that honor killings are never justified. There also are no consistent differences by age or gender.”[[xviii]]

i)      Do most Muslims oppose interfaith relations?

The authors of the study say,

“Few Muslims see conflict between religious groups as a very big national problem. In fact, most consider unemployment, crime and corruption as bigger national problems than religious conflict. Asked specifically about Christian-Muslim hostilities, few Muslims say hostilities are widespread.”[[xix]]

What do American Muslims Think?

In the Pew study above, the authors say,

“In their attitudes toward modern society and their relations with people of other faiths, U.S. Muslims sometimes more closely resemble other Americans than they do Muslims around the world.”[[xx]]

The same study found that

“[a] majority of U.S. Muslims (56%) believe that many religions can lead to eternal life.” “Most Americans (65%), including nearly two-thirds of American Christians (64%), share this view.”

In addition,

“Most U.S. Muslims (63%) say there is no inherent tension between being devout and living in a modern society. A nearly identical proportion of American Christians (64%) agree.”

In other findings,

“More than eight-in-ten American Muslims say suicide bombings and other forms of violence against civilian targets are never justified (81%) or rarely justified (5%) to defend Islam from its enemies.”

In another study by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding that was undertaken between 2006 and 2010,

“212 imams, social workers, therapists, lawyers, and divorced men and women were interviewed about their experiences of marriage and divorce” and “information was also collected on how they understood the influence of shari’a on their beliefs and lifestyle choices, the relationship between shari’a and the formal legal system, their recourse to the legal system in the event of marital conflict and divorce, and their use of  private conflict resolution drawing on shari’a principles.”

In addition, “Further data was acquired during larger group conversations held in mosques and islamic community centers.” The findings state that

“[m]isconceptions over the real meaning and effect of shari’a on the everyday lives of American Muslims are compounded by the often-repeated claim that Muslims want to impose and enforce ‘shari’a law’ in America via the courts. None of this study’s 212 participants agreed with this claim. Respondents consistently distinguished between God’s law (a matter of personal conscience rather than public adjudication) and the law of the land or “human law.” While many described the importance of being able to appeal to the formal legal system when necessary (particularly to enforce private agreements), respondents wanted continued access to their Islamic traditions in an informal family setting.”


“All understood their private family law-related choices as separate from the formal legal system. Even among imams, who sometimes complain that their advice can be easily disregarded since it cannot be enforced in courts, there is almost no support for a parallel Islamic tribunal system. The community appears content with a private informal system that offers spiritual, emotional, and social comfort for some of its members. Respondents also rejected the assumption that any Muslim support for shari’a-compliant behaviors represents an aggressive antagonism toward local laws and norms. Rather, they spoke about their strong attachment to their right to access formal legal institutions and their belief that identifying as Muslim does not diminish their identification as American citizens. In addition, almost all of them had obtained a civil marriage license when they signed their nikah, as well as a civil decree at or around the time of their quest for a religious divorce. These findings challenge the assertion that such practices somehow make them ‘disloyal’ citizens.”[[xxi]]

In January 2010, a study of Muslim communities in the United States by researchers at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill concluded,

“Muslim-American communities strongly reject radical jihadi ideology, are eager to contribute to the national counterterrorism effort, and are fiercely committed to integration within the mainstream of American social and economic life.”[[xxii]]

Contrary to the view of alarmists, American Muslims are not imposing Shari’a law on America and Americans, and there is no active Islamic extremist takeover over of the country or the world.

Knowing from the polls above that most Muslims worldwide desire peace and are against the minority fanatical fringe, a “thoroughgoing reform of Islam,” as Patrick Sookhdeo and other Islamophobes recommend, is irrelevant to reducing extremism, including terrorism.

Scholar Olivier Roy echoes this agreement in his views of the Arab Spring:

“But the outside world wrongly assumed that Islam would first have to experience a religious reformation before its followers could embark on political democratization – replicating the Christian experience when the Reformation gave birth to the Enlightenment and then to modern democracy.”[[xxiii]]

As discussed in the results of the polls above, most Muslims residing today who follow classical Sunni Islam are peaceful and do not support terrorism. The Islamophobe’s proposition  that Muslims need “reform” aims to resolve a “problem” that does not exist in the larger Sunni community.

[[i]] John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed, “Who Speaks For Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think,” March 8, 2008, accessed May 24, 2013,

[[ii]] John L. Esposito, and Dalia Mogahed. Who speaks for Islam What a Billion Muslims Really Think. New York, NY: Gallup Press, 2007. pg.7.

[[iii]] Ibid., pg.6.

[[iv]] Shibley Telhami. The World Through Arab Eyes Arab Public Opinion and the Reshaping of the Middle East. New York: Basic Books, 2013. p.117.

[[v]] J. Esposito and D. Mogahed, op. cit., pg.6.

[[vi]] Ibid., pg.5.

[[vii]] John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed, “Who Speaks For Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think,” March 8, 2008, accessed May 24, 2013,

[[viii]] “The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society (Full Report),” The Pew Forum on Religion and Social Life, April 30, 2013, accessed May 25, 2013,

[[ix]] Ibid.

[[x]] “The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society (Chapter-1: Beliefs About Sharia),” The Pew Forum on Religion and Social Life, April 30, 2013, accessed May 25, 2013,

[[xi]] Ibid.

[[xii]] Ibid.

[[xiii]] “The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society (Chapter-2: Religion and Politics),” The Pew Forum on Religion and Social Life, April 30, 2013, accessed May 25, 2013,

[[xiv]] Ibid.

[[xv]] Ibid.

[[xvi]] Ibid.

[[xvii]] Ibid.

[[xviii]] “The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society (Chapter-3: Morality),” The Pew Forum on Religion and Social Life, April 30, 2013, accessed May 25, 2013,

[[xix]] “The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society (Chapter-6: Interfaith Relations),” The Pew Forum on Religion and Social Life, April 30, 2013, accessed May 25, 2013,

[[xx]] “The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society (Appendix A: U.S. Muslims – Views on Religion and Society in a Global Context),” The Pew Forum on Religion and Social Life, April 30, 2013, accessed May 25, 2013,

[[xxi]] Julie, Macfarlane, “Shari’a Law: Coming To a Courthouse Near You? What Shari’a Really Means to American Muslims,” Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, January 2012, accessed May 23, 2013,

[[xxii]] David, Schanzer et al., “Terror Lessons of Muslim-Americans,” January 6, 2010, accessed May 12, 2013,

[[xxiii]] Robin Wright. (Ed.) The Islamists Are coming: Who They Really Are. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 2012. p.13.

– Overhyping the Threat of “Islamic” Terrorism in the US.


(© Zubair Qamar 2013)

Islamophobes are obsessed with exaggerating the “Islamic” threat.

In an April 2013 article in MotherJones, David Gilson says,

“While America has been fixated on the threat of Islamic terrorism for more than a decade, all but a few domestic terror plots have failed. Between September 11, 2001, and the end of 2012, there were no successful bomb plots by jihadist terrorists in the United States. Jihadists killed 17 people in the United States in four separate incidents during this time, according to data collected by journalist Peter Bergen and the New America Foundation. All four of these incidents involved guns, including Nidal Hassan’s shooting rampage at Fort Hood, which killed 13 people. In contrast, right-wing extremists killed 29 people during those 11 years.”[[i]]

Of the Boston Marathon attackers, Gilson says they are

“not evidence of the power of Islamist terrorism in post-9/11 America so much as a painful exception to its ineffectiveness.”[[ii]]

Islamophobes overhype the threat of terrorism by “Muslims” and represent the “painful exception” as the norm.

In another report published in 2010, Brian Michael Jenkins of the RAND Institute, said,

“There are more than 3 million Muslims in the United States, and few more than 100 have joined jihad – about one out of every 30,000 – suggesting an American Muslim population that remains hostile to jihadist ideology and its exhortations to violence. A mistrust of American Muslims by other Americans seems misplaced.”[[iii]]

Explaining the conclusions of a January 2010 study by researchers at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, CNN states,
“The terrorist threat posed by radicalized Muslim- Americans has been exaggerated…”
A TIME article illustrated highlights of the 2010 study:

• Of the 139 individuals linked to terrorist acts, only 40 successfully executed their plots, and most of those were overseas. In 70% of instances, law enforcement agencies were able to foil the plots before they even matured to a dangerous stage.

• Last year accounted for a high 41 cases, but the researchers note that it’s too early to say if the spike represents a trend.

• Seventy-eight of the American Muslims arrested were members of small groups that either traveled abroad for training or planned attacks in the U.S. This confirms the view of some terrorism experts that the radicalization process relies on a group dynamic.

• Sixty-three of the 139 were U.S.-born, 22 were naturalized citizens and 25 legal residents.

•There is no single hotbed of radicalization: 43 “offenders” were from the South, 38 from the Northeast, 30 from the Midwest, 23 from the West and three from the Southwest.

• Although the 139 were predominantly young men, with 90 being under the age of 30, they hailed from diverse ethnicities: 32 were Arabs, 24 African-Americans, 24 South Asians, 20 Somalis and 20 whites. The authors say there is no “single profile or a common warning sign that signifies a homegrown terrorist.”

Exaggerating claims of “Muslim” home-grown terrorism has negative implications at the policy level and in counter-terrorism efforts. In a June 2012 article in Cato Unbound, Risa Brooks explains some of these negative implications:

…overstating this threat could lead to the misallocation of increasingly scarce federal, state, and local law enforcement resources. As the United States enters an era of fiscal austerity, officials must evaluate the opportunity costs of investing in domestic counterterrorism versus other priorities.

…overstating the threat of Muslim homegrown terrorism could lead to the adoption of counterproductive counterterrorism methods. Methods commonly employed by law enforcement in Muslim communities, such as extensive surveillance and cultivation of informants, are inherently challenging for any segment of society to endure, even when agents treat them with care. And a careful approach is rarely encouraged by an atmosphere of suspicion.

Brooks then says,

“Controversies of this kind undermine the relationships of trust that form the basis for cooperation between Muslim communities and public officials. Yet these communities have demonstrated a willingness and a capacity to report signs of terrorist activity in their midst, and their help is both the most efficient and least invasive method of exposing aspiring militants. Alienating those who would provide such information will carry a heavy cost.”

She ends by saying,

“Finally, exaggerating the threat posed by homegrown Muslim terrorists leads to a distorted image of the nature of domestic terrorism in the United States that is harmful to the social fabric of the country. While small in number, acts of domestic terrorism in the United States involve individuals of diverse ideological extremes. Domestic terrorism may encompass violent splinters from the Occupy Movement, anti-government militants like the “Sovereign Citizens,” or Islamist jihadis—among others. Exaggerating threats from Islamist militancy at the expense of a more comprehensive discussion of domestic terrorism not only contributes to mistrust between Muslim Americans and other Americans, it is counter to the country’s long heritage of respecting people of diverse religions and backgrounds.”

Since 9/11, and especially since Obama became President, homegrown US right-wing terrorism has exceeded “Islamic” terrorism incidents. Yet, many national security experts are blind to the growing threat, and see the “Islamic threat” through tunnel lens vision as the only threat. It is best that they become realistic about terrorism trends, acknowledge that members among non-Muslims can also commit terrorism, and face this growing threat with the seriousness and importance it deserves.

[[i]] David, Gilson, “Charts: How Much Danger Do We Face From Homegrown Jihadist Terrorists?” MotherJones, April 24, 2013, accessed May 12, 2013,

[[ii]] David, Gilson, “Charts: How Much Danger Do We Face From Homegrown Jihadist Terrorists?” MotherJones, April 24, 2013, accessed May 12, 2013,

[[iii]] Brian, Jenkins, “Would-Be Warriors: Incidents of Jihadist Terrorist Radicalization in the United States Since September 11, 2001,” 2010, accessed June 1, 2013,

– Syed Qutb: Separating Fact from Fiction.


(© Zubair Qamar 2013)

In the book, Fighting the Ideological War (published by Westminster Institute), Robert Reilly says Syed Qutb is the

“chief Egyptian ideologue of the radical Islamist movement the Muslim Brotherhood, which seeks our destruction….The entire Islamist world revolves around the thinking of this man […]” (p.153).

He also says,

“You can be sure to find his writings at the foundation of any radical Muslim group today, including al Qaeda” (p.154).

Sebastian Gorka, another author in the book, and Islamophobe par excellence, says that Qutb’s “only way” of cleansing society from alleged jahiliyya “is through jihad, through holy war” (p.198), and then quotes Qutb as saying, “Islam is not a religion, it is a revolutionary party” (p.198).

However, Gorka seems unaware of the fact that there is debate on whether Qutb was calling for revolutionary violence or not. Extending linkages from Syed Qutb to the “entire Islamist world” is an exaggeration that has been addressed by scholars John Calvert, Fawaz Gerges, and William Shephard.

Reilly, it seems, follows the same strange logic in his explanation of Islamic history when he somehow links his understanding of the classical Sunni Ash’ari school of creed with the rise of Osama bin Laden.

John Calvert, author of “Sayyid Qutb and the Origins of Radical Islam,” says that present-day Islamists read Qutb differently: moderates (such as mainstream Muslim Brothers) downplay his revolutionary religio-political message, and radicals (such as al Qaeda members) exaggerate it:

“Yet, if the Al Qaeda threat has made Qutb a household name, it has also monopolized and distorted our understanding of his real contribution to contemporary Islamism. In the search for Al Qaeda’s origins, even well intentioned observers tend to focus on points of similarity between Qutb’s thought and that of Al Qaeda at the expense of significant anomalies between the two. Some have even suggested that the global jihad has remote origins in the Qutb’s uncomfortable experience at a church social in the conservative town of Greeley, Colorado in the late 1940s. Read backwards from the event of 9/11, these accounts enfold Qutb in the Al Qaeda mantle in an attempt to make the variegated history of the Islamic movement into a cohesive narrative.”

He continues,

“If some students of the jihad are careful to situate Qutb correctly in relation to Al Qaeda, still they often consign him to the position of opening act. Rarely do observers of the scene address Qutb’s singularity.”[[i]]

Calvert continues – and this is important:

“Yet in resorting to short cuts, we pass over a history that is as nuanced as any other. We run the danger of succumbing to a ‘neo-Orientalist’ trop that subordinates particulars to an essential and enduring identity, and ignores complexity in favor of simplicity. Just as it makes no sense to confuse the outlook of Hamas, an organization focused on redeeming land lost to Israel, with the pan-Islamism of Al Qaeda, so too is it unwise to assume a direct link between Sayyid Qutb and Usama bin Laden. Researchers need to study each on its own terms with reference to its distinctive environment and concerns”[[ii]]

Fawaz Gerges, best-selling author and al-Qa’eda scholar, says,

“After September 11, Western commentators and analysts suddenly discovered Qutb, and portrayed him as the ‘philosopher of terror,’ the spiritual and operational godfather to bin Laden and Zawahiri; they have drawn a direct, unbroken line between Qutb and al-Qaeda.”[[iii]]

Gerges continues,

“This connection fits perfectly with al-Qaeda’s own designs. The organization has engaged in a systematic effort to claim the Qutbian legacy.”

He says,

“Despite their claim of kinship, bin Laden and Zawahiri twisted Qutb’s idea to suit their purposes. According to Qutb’s contemporary followers, some of whom spent years with him in prison and underground, Qutb never called for a confrontation with the West and instead exhorted them to strike at Arab rulers who conspired with Islam’s external enemies and allowed them to infiltrate Muslim lands.”

Gerges continues,

“Contemporary followers maintain that he showed no interest in either the internationalization of jihad or the targeting of Western powers. Nonetheless Qutb essentially called on Muslims to defend dar al-Islam (the abode of Islam) against crusading intrusion and cultural invasion. Yet both bin Laden and his detractors have claimed that Qutb supplied the fuel that powered al-Qaeda’s transnational jihad.”[[iv]]

Gerges then says, “This could not be further from the truth,” and “None of the surviving chiefs of the Secret Apparatus” – Qutb’s organization – “whom I interviewed ever mentioned that Qutb had instructed them to attack the United States and its Western allies or had theorized the need to confront the enemy without.”

Quoting a close confidant of Qutb inside and outside prison, Sayyid Eid, who calls Qutb al-shahid, said,

“I do not ever recall al-shahid saying that we should wage war against America or Britain; rather he wanted us to be vigilant against the West’s cultural penetration of our societies.”[[v]]

“While Qutb’s diatribe against America has widely resonated among Islamists, al-Qaeda’s actions cannot be traced to his rhetoric. Indeed, transnational jihad took Qutb’s strategic priorities and turned them on their head” (italics added by reviewer).[[vi]]

Author and scholar William Shepard says,

“the ‘terrorism’ and the ‘martyrdom operations,’ which are seen as the particular trademarks of al-Qaeda and, to some extent, Hamas, have the least grounding in Qutb’s writings. We can say, however, that his dichotomous ‘Manichaeism’ and his theological absolutism do provide fertile ground for the seeds of ‘terrorism’ and ‘martyrdom operations,” even if they are initially alien to him. Any ideologue who feels certain about ultimate truth and perceives a clear and absolute distinction between right and wrong, good and evil, is capable of justifying even the most horrendous of actions. History illustrates this all too well. This far, but no further in my view, can we call Qutb an ideological father of Islamist violence[[vii]] ” (italics added by reviewer).

Reilly’s and Sebastian Gorka’s understanding of Qutb and links to al-Qa’eda lack the sophistication and scholarship needed for a more informed and realistic understanding.

[[i]] John Calvert. Sayyid Qutb and the Origins of Radical Islamism. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010.  p.7.

[[ii]] Ibid., p.8.

[[iii]] F. Gerges, op. cit.,pp.31-32.

[[iv]] Ibid., pp.31-32.

[[v]] Ibid., p.32.

[[vi]] Ibid., p.33.

[[vii]] Zaid Shakir, “Sayyid Qutb and Modern Islamist Violence,” Seasons Journal 4:1 (Autumn 2007): 36.

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