By constantly projecting Western standards on Islamic jihadis, CIA head John Brennan has come to epitomize the U.S. intelligence community’s intellectual failures concerning the true sources of the jihad.
Last Friday, March 13, Brennan insisted that Islamic State members are not Islamic. Instead, “They are terrorists, they’re criminals. Most—many—of them are psychopathic thugs, murderers who use a religious concept and masquerade and mask themselves in that religious construct.”
Note his usage of terms familiar to Western people (“terrorists,” “criminals,” etc.). Islamic State jihadis may be all those things—including “psychopathic thugs”—from a Western paradigm, but the fact left out by Brennan is that, according to Islamic law and history, savage and psychopathic behavior is permissible, especially in the context of the jihad.
This March 11, 2014 file photo shows CIA Director John O. Brennan speaking in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
But perhaps Brennan knows all this and is simply being “strategic”? After all, the CIA head also “warned against ascribing ‘Islamic legitimacy’ to the overseas terrorist group, saying that allowing them to identify themselves with Islam does a disservice to Muslims around the world.”
Brennan of course is following Barack Obama’s lead; a month earlier the president said:
We must never accept the premise that they [Islamic State] put forward, because it is a lie, nor should we grant these terrorists the religious legitimacy that they seek. They are not religious leaders, they are terrorists. And we are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.
The problem is that, according to Western norms—built as they are atop Judeo-Christian principles—Islam has been “perverted” from day one. As far back as the eighth century, mere generations after Islam was born, Byzantine chronicler Theophanes wrote in his "Chrongraphia":
He [Islamic prophet Muhammad] taught those who gave ear to him that the one slaying the enemy—or being slain by the enemy—entered into paradise [e.g., Koran 9:111]. And he said paradise was carnal and sensual—orgies of eating, drinking, and women. Also, there was a river of wine … and the woman were of another sort, and the duration of sex greatly prolonged and its pleasure long-enduring [e.g., Koran 56: 7-40, 78:31, 55:70-77]. And all sorts of other nonsense.
More to the point, every atrocity Islamic State has committed—beheading, crucifying, raping, enslaving, or burning people alive—is legitimate according to Islamic law and the teachings and deeds of Muhammad, that most “perfect” and “moral” man (Koran 33:21, 68:4), as documented here.
Based on Islamic historical texts, Muhammad sent assassins to slaughter his critics—including poets and one old woman whose body was dismembered by her Muslim assailants; he had an “infidel” tortured to death with fire in order to reveal his tribe’s hidden treasure; he “married” that same man’s wife hours later (the woman, Safiya, later confessed that “Of all men, I hated the prophet the most—for he killed my husband, my brother, and my father”); and he reportedly used to visit and have sex with his nine wives in a single hour. (For more, read “The Perverse Sexual Habits of the Prophet.”)
Again, all this information is based on Islamic texts deemed reliable and regularly quoted by Muslim scholars and theologians—not fabrications by “Islamophobes.”
Even so, the point here is that, whatever the “truth” about Islam, its origins and founder, the premise that Brennan, Obama, etc., constantly put forth—that it would be counterproductive for “us” to confer any Islamic “legitimacy” on groups like the Islamic State—is fatuous at best. As I explained in a 2009 article titled “Words Matter in the War on Terror”:
Muslims are not waiting around for Americans or their government — that is, the misguided, the deluded, in a word, the infidel — to define Islam for them; much less will subtle word games and euphemisms emanating from the West manage to confer or take away Islamic legitimacy on the Islamists of the world. For Muslims, only Islamic law, the antithesis of international law, decides what is or is not legitimate, or in legal terminology, what is mubah or mahrum.
Furthermore, the U.S. government would do well to worry less about which words appease Muslims … and worry more about providing its own citizenry with accurate and meaningful terminology.
Words matter. Whom those words are directed at matters even more. The world’s Muslims aren’t holding their breath to hear what sort of Islamic legitimacy the U.S. government is about to confer on any given Islamist group, since it is not for non-Muslims — the despised infidels — to decide what is and is not Islamic in the first place. Americans, on the other hand, who still wonder “why they hate us,” are in desperate need of understanding. Using accurate terminology is the first step.
Indeed, for all of U.S. leadership’s fear that we “infidels” not “legitimize” the Islamic State, Al Azhar—perhaps the most “legitimate” of all Islamic institutions—refuses to delegitimize the jihadi terrorists. And little wonder, since Al Azhar’s curriculum teaches everything that IS is doing—including burning people alive.
Meanwhile, Brennan whitewashes and praises the jihad. Speaking back in 2010, the politically correct CIA chief said:
Nor do we describe our enemy as “jihadists” or “Islamists” because jihad is a holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam, meaning to purify oneself or one’s community, and there is nothing holy or legitimate or Islamic about murdering innocent men, women and children.
Inasmuch as he is correct that “jihad is a holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam, meaning to purify oneself or one’s community”—he greatly errs by again projecting Judeo-Christian notions of what constitutes “holy,” “legitimate,” and “innocent” onto Islam.
Jihad is nothing less than offensive warfare to spread Islamic rule, a cause seen as both “legitimate” and “holy” in Islam. (Read this “moderate” Muslim scholar’s “logic” on the (invisible) differences between jihad and terrorism.) Moreover, jihadis regularly seek to “purify” their communities by purging them of “infidels” and their influences. As for “innocence,” by simply being a non-Muslim, one is already guilty in Islam. And when Muhammad’s disciples warned him about attacking non-Muslim tribes in the night, since women and children might get killed accidentally, the prophet replied, “They are from among them” and proceeded with the raid.
All this leads to the following question: If the Islamic State and other jihadi organizations are not animated by Islam, then what, according to the CIA chief, is really fueling their jihad? Brennan spelled this out very clearly back in 2010 when he described Islamic terrorists as victims of “political, economic and social forces.”
In other words, the way to defeat the Islamic State is by offering its members better “job opportunities”—as so eloquently expressed by the State Department recently in the person of Mary Harf.
Ironically enough, Brennan’s invocation of “political, economic and social forces” brings to mind the fact that I warned against precisely these three pretexts, and in the same order, in the opening paragraph of mywritten testimony submitted to the US House of Representatives on February 12, 2009—since removed from their website—a year before Brennan invoked “political, economic and social forces” as the true sources of Islamic jihad.
I close with that opening paragraph as it appears more relevant now than it was over six years ago when I wrote it:
The greatest hurdle Americans need to get over in order to properly respond to the growing threat of radical Islam is purely intellectual in nature; specifically, it is epistemological, and revolves around the abstract realm of ‘knowledge.’ Before attempting to formulate a long-term strategy to counter radical Islam, Americans must first and foremost understand Islam, particularly its laws and doctrines, the same way Muslims understand it—without giving it undue Western (liberal) interpretations. This is apparently not as simple as expected: all peoples of whatever civilizations and religions tend to assume that other peoples more or less share in their worldview, which they assume is objective, including notions of right and wrong, good and bad. …. [T]he secular, Western experience has been such that people respond with violence primarily when they feel they are politically, economically, or socially oppressed. While true that many non-Western peoples may fit into this paradigm, the fact is, the ideologies of radical Islam have the intrinsic capacity to prompt Muslims to violence and intolerance vis-à-vis the ‘other,’ irrespective of grievances…. Being able to understand all this, being able to appreciate it without any conceptual or intellectual constraints is paramount for Americans to truly understand the nature of the enemy and his ultimate goals.
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