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An Open Question to Osama Bin Laden — or Any Other Islamist

The arch-terrorist's real reason for waging jihad has nothing to do with Israel or U.S. foreign policy.

by
Raymond Ibrahim

Bio

October 7, 2009 - 12:35 am
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Now while most Muslims may not go around evoking Islam’s dichotomized worldview which pits Islam against the rest of the world — many may not even be aware of it — bin Laden, the “man of grievances,” has. (This, of course, has long been an al-Qaeda tactic: convince the West, which is generally ignorant of Islam’s bellicose doctrines, that jihad is a byproduct of foreign policy, while inciting Muslims to the jihad by stressing its obligatory nature.)

Back to bin Laden and his communiqués. For all his talk of Israel being the heart of the problem, he exposed his true position in the following excerpt, which he directed to fellow Arabic-speaking Muslims not long after the 9/11 strikes:

Our talks with the infidel West and our conflict with them ultimately revolve around one issue — one that demands our total support, with power and determination, with one voice — and it is: Does Islam, or does it not, force people by the power of the sword to submit to its authority corporeally if not spiritually?

So much for bin Laden’s insistence that Israel is the “reason for our conflict with you.” Now we see that the conflict ultimately revolves around whether Islam is obligated to dominate the world by force. Well, is it? Bin Laden continues:

Yes. There are only three choices in Islam: [1] either willing submission [conversion]; [2] or payment of the jizya, through physical, though not spiritual, submission to the authority of Islam; [3] or the sword — for it is not right to let him [an infidel] live. The matter is summed up for every person alive: Either submit, or live under the suzerainty of Islam, or die. (The Al Qaeda Reader, p. 42)

This threefold choice, then — conversion, subjugation, or the sword — is the ultimate source of problems. All Islamist talk of jihad being a product of U.S. foreign policy is, therefore, false. When bin Laden asserted in this last message that it is the “neocons” who “impose the wars upon you — not the mujahideen [i.e., jihadis],” he lied. Islamic law, as he himself delineated, imposed war between Muslims and non-Muslims well over a millennium before the “neocons” — let alone the state of Israel — came into being.

Thus to all of bin Laden’s grievances and questions, there is but one counter-question — one that, in the words of bin Laden, “demands our total support, with power and determination, with one voice” — and it is: even if all your grievances against Israel and America’s support for it were true, why come to us — your natural-born enemies, according to your own worldview — looking for any concessions?

To better appreciate this position, consider the following analogy: Say your weaker neighbor has a border dispute with you. At the same time, however, you know for a fact that he sees you as his “eternal” enemy for nothing less than your beliefs/lifestyle, and nothing short of your total acquiescence to his beliefs/lifestyle will change that. Finally, you know that the day he grows sufficiently strong, he will undoubtedly attack you in order to make you live according to his beliefs/lifestyle.

Surely in this context, whether his border dispute with you is legitimate or not, making concessions to him while knowing his hostility for you will never subside — but rather become more emboldened and augmented with contempt — is sheer suicide. Yet this is precisely what happens whenever the U.S. makes any concessions to Islamists.

In sum, we, the “infidels” — Americans and Israelis alike — are de facto enemies. It is in this context that the question of U.S. support for Israel should be examined. Being hated and deemed the enemy for temporal grievances of a political nature must be viewed as peripheral to being hated for fundamental differences of an existential nature.

When the latter, much more important issue is redressed, then — and only then — should the veracity of the former be open to debate or even consideration. In the meantime, all “political” complaints must be seen as absolutely moot. It’s a simple matter of priorities.

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Raymond Ibrahim, a Middle East and Islam specialist, is author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians (2013) and The Al Qaeda Reader (2007). His writings have appeared in a variety of media, including the Los Angeles Times, Washington Times, Jane’s Islamic Affairs Analyst, Middle East Quarterly, World Almanac of Islamism, and Chronicle of Higher Education; he has appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, C-SPAN, PBS, Reuters, Al-Jazeera, NPR, Blaze TV, and CBN. Ibrahim regularly speaks publicly, briefs governmental agencies, provides expert testimony for Islam-related lawsuits, and testifies before Congress. He is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center; Judith Friedman Rosen Writing Fellow, Middle East Forum; and a Media Fellow at the Hoover Institution, 2013. Ibrahim’s dual-background -- born and raised in the U.S. by Coptic Egyptian parents born and raised in the Middle East -- has provided him with unique advantages, from equal fluency in English and Arabic, to an equal understanding of the Western and Middle Eastern mindsets, positioning him to explain the latter to the former.
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