I began The Grand Jihad, my 2010 book on the Muslim Brotherhood, with what may, from the Western standpoint, be the most important verse of the Koran, sura 9:29. It commands:
Fight those who believe not
In Allah nor the Last Day,
Nor hold that forbidden
Which hath been forbidden
By Allah and His Messenger,
Nor acknowledge the Religion
Of Truth [i.e., Islam], from among
The People of the Book [i.e., Jews and Christians]
Until they pay the Jizya [which I’ll explain momentarily]
With willing submission,
And feel themselves subdued.
Jihadists are not overly concerned with your conversion to Islam; their obsession is your society’s adoption of sharia. We commonly refer to sharia as “Islamic law” but, to be more accurate, it is Islam’s totalitarian societal framework, aspiring to regulate every aspect of human life — from great public matters of governance and war down to picayune matters of personal hygiene.
KSM and his fellow terrorists want Islamic governance, not conversions. It is the implementation of sharia that is deemed to be the necessary precondition for establishing the caliphate — Islamic rule. Acting on the Koran’s injunction, the jihadists are not trying to convert you; they are trying to make you submit to the authority of sharia. As sura 9:29 makes clear, you can keep your non-Islamic religion as long as you pay the jizya willingly. The jizya is the tribute or poll tax that non-Muslims must pay to the Islamic authorities for the privilege of living under the latter’s protection.
This is known as dhimmitude. Dhimmis are non-Muslims who have submitted to sharia. While Islam allows them to remain non-Muslims, they learn, upon submitting to Islamic authority, that sharia discriminates severely against them and in favor of Muslims. By design, it makes life difficult for infidels, especially when it comes to worship. That is in fulfillment of sura 9:29’s closing edict that Muslims make sure non-Muslims “feel themselves subdued.”
You see, jihadists play an extortion game: You don’t need to coerce people into conversion if you so rig the system against non-Muslims that, eventually, most people will “voluntarily” see the good sense in converting. In the meantime, jihadists are not in a big rush to have you convert. Indeed, in the history of Muslim conquests, the jizya was vital to the financial health of the Islamic state. The caliphs were in no hurry to have everyone convert as long as they were submissive and paid up on time.
So how much has KSM actually changed? He says he is against violent conversions, but conversion was never what the violence was about in the first place. He says he believes people will accept Islam through peaceful persuasion, but the setting for that persuasion — jurisdictions where sharia rules — may be created by aggression. And, in another bit of legerdemain, his manifesto still favors “defensive” jihad when Islam is under attack by non-Muslims.
What you find with Islamic supremacists is that defense is in the eye of the beholder: Islam is “under attack” whenever it is merely subjected to critical analysis; when there are objections to its repressive, iniquitous laws; and whenever the thin-skinned supremacists feel insulted or put upon. It is not like an armed invasion and occupation are necessary to trigger “defensive” jihad. And the U.S. government, in its willful blindness to our enemies’ ideology, still does not grasp that what it sees as benevolent American occupations and interventions to try to make life better for Muslims are seen by many of those Muslims as “Islam under attack.”