Jihad: a War Journal by Ari Sitas: Page 5 of 9
We have been blessed that in Durban a sizeable proportion of the Indian community is Muslim comprising a more than sizeable proportion of the local professional and intellectual classes. That a smaller proportion admittedly has been consistently at the helm of the popular democratic struggles of the Anti-Apartheid period and that through its run some of the most profound debates of global Islam. Such engagement burst through over the ARushdie debate" at a time when the executive of the Congress of South African Writers invited the author of the Satanic Verses for a visit. The pressure exerted by its networks, reversed the decision as a small minority promised to carry out the fatwa. Yet, the majority of writers and intellectuals of Muslim descent were seriously troubled about the reversal of freedoms that such world-views animated.
Once more, the 11th of September carnage following on the heels of the US withdrawal from the World Conference Against Racism and the prominensce the Palestinian Question was given in the NGO Conference and the demonstrations that flowed from it, have raised the local temperature. The Human Rights Foundation, a Muslim network was quick to take newspaper space to explain how the Ajihad" had been distorted beyond its original meaning. It explained how the word Ajihad" means Astriving", Aexerting oneself in any endeavour," Agoing the extra mile", Aendurance in the face of obstacles": AJihad is controllong ones own desires, controlling ones emotions of anger, jealousy, hatred and revenge...and, therefore Aunveiling the inner spirit of compassion, mercy, love, selflessness and kindness for all humanity." The sad thing is that they had to strive to Aexplain" such a view, at all.
That in some cases it is used as war, there is no doubt. Yet they quote: Athe best fighting (jihad) in the path of Allah is (to speak) a word of justice to an oppressive ruler" and Aagainst an oppressive government in self-defense." Even in war they quote the rophet's admonition: Ado not kill women and children or the aged, infirm person. Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees.Do not slaughter sheep or camels except for food. Do not burn bees or scatter them. Do not destroy an inhabited place. Do not steal from the booty and do not be cowardly." In that light. AThe kamikazee attack on the World Trade Centre where innocent civilians died in the planes and on land, is unholy and unethical." (47) But so have a host of other actions by the West in its many imputed crusades. Their conclusion is that Aall humanity has to embark on a global Jihad to bring peace to the world."
Bin Laden, the Taliban and the multiple networks of Pan-Islamists who urge for a radical reading of the Faith, who in the words of Eqbal Ahmad are promoting Aan Islamic order reduced to a penal code, stripped of its humanism, aesthetics and intellectual quests and spiritual devotion" (48) are not only a mere product of the CIA nor a mere Adisappointment with modernism." They are rather one version of modernity which, instead of striving for a global humanism , have negotiated ways of reinforcing it with steel, scripture and money. They expect the world to fold-in inside their side of the membrane.
Such negotiations with modernising flows are everywhere and run their strains through all religions, Christian, Muslim, and Hindu alike. Like the BJP's jihad for a uniform Hindutva- to blanket the poly-cultural, religious and diverse people of India in a pure Aus-ness", Pan-Islamism is inconceivable without modern means of communication and networks of accumulation. But they are also inconceivable without the geopolitical and distorted games of the West's Aself-interest". The ideological prowess of the World Muslim League and Muslim Brotherhood is embedded in history's recent entanglements, arrangements and opportunities.
The arrangements and entanglements were many: the post-colonial settlements of a divided Arab world in the age of a strategic resource like Oil; the ability of royals and sheiks to negotiate control over the boom's surpluses and their subject's insecurities in a bi-polar, cold war environment; the failure of secular national independence movements to deliver; the callous disregard of the Palestinian Question; the rapid re-establishment of Mecca and Medina as centres of enormous importance. There was no accident in the post-colonial entanglements that Bin Laden had come to admire Abdullah Azam (a Jordanian-Palestinian) at the University of Jeddah and no accident that later he was to follow him in Peshawar. Of course since 1979, the inspiration of the Iranian Revolution provided a remarlkable influence, despite the fact that later its Shiite basis was to be seen as hubristic by Sunni pan-Islamists. We can add to that, the entanglement of a modernity distorted by a geo-political gamesmanship by the United States, and of course, the entanglements of the Gulf War.
It is easy with money and guns to dream of Saladin and an unbending Path. The story has to tell of how between 1982 and 1992 how 35 000 believers from 43 Islamic countries from the Middle and Far East, from Central Asia and Africa were mobilised and galvanised under the mujahedeen to take part in the war against the Soviet Union and how Afghanistan and Pakistan emerged as the centres of this ferment- all with the support and collusion of a calculated foreign policy by the USA which never understood emotional arithmetic. As Ahmad again reminded us in his Columbus Day lecture on Terrorism more than ten years ago: AThese are the moral equivalent of America's founding fathers" declared Ronald Reagan outside the White House in 1985. AThese were the Afghan Mujahiddin. They were at the time, guns in hand, battling the Evil Empire." At that time as Eqbal Ahmad intoned, Athe US saw a God-sent opportunity to mobilise one billion Muslims against the Evil Empire" (49)
Enter Osama Bin Laden and the fury that the US, after the Iraq debacle continued its presence in Saudi Arabia. And then came the first declaration of a jihad against the US because of its refusal to leave the Holy Lands. This was followed in 1998 with the Al Quaida manifesto under the aegis of the Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders. As Ahmed Rashed also reminded us in his ATaliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia" (50) the manifesto read: Afor more than seven years the US has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian peninsular, plundering its riches, humiliating its people, terrorising its neighbours and turning its bases in the peninsular into a spearhead through which to fight the neighbouring Muslim people." The meeting also issued a fatwa"to kill the Americans and Jews alike- civilians and military- is an individual duty for every Muslim."
The Taliban, and the word denotes I am told, the Adevoted student", are everywhere: their sympathies and networks are within the Pakistani army from its highest levels to the private militia that establish the law of the street. Their influence permeates the 2500 Amadrassahs"- the training ground for a new style of Ascholar" created as a mobilising force. As Tariq Ali commented already in 1999: AAgents from the government's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) provided training and supervision and observed the development of the more promising students, or taliban, who were later picked out and sent for more specialised training at secret army camps, the better to fight the Aholy war" against the Communist unbelievers in Afghanistan." (51) similarly Pakistan's military were complicit in the unleashing of the Taliban to finally take over Afghanistan, backed by Pakistan's army commado units, seized the capital within two years." And Ali concludes: Athey dream of an Islamic Federation that will impose a Pax Talibana stretching from Lahore to Samakrand but avoiding the Shiite republic of Iran."And Ahmad warned: Athey wish to establish a theocratic state in Pakistan as the first step to theocratic states elsewhere. They are part of a generalised theocratic movement in the Muslim world today which was given a massive push and an armed character by the efforts of the US in Afghanistan" (52)
Are the Taliban and the networks of militant fighters entangled in there and entangling most of the Muslim world the sign that the world is Adevil-filled"? Then the devil was partly of America's making. Would the satellite technologies guiding smart and impact bombs, the Seals and the marines wearing night-vision glasses with stun grenades and automatic fire, the Special Forces and their long range and short-range weapons be the way that God's Atruth" would come to shine through America's act of retribution? Hardly.
In this light, Said's admonition that it is a time Ato reflect, examine sort out what it is we are dealing with in reality, the interconnectedness of innumerable lives, Aours" as well as Atheirs" has to be welcomed. (53)