CounterPunch is a gang of hard-Left fantasists, but since their ideological kin run the world today, it’s worthwhile to look in on their fever dreams from time to time. On Friday, CounterPunch published an article entitled “The Privatization of ‘Jihad,’” alongside their usual fare: “If You Work in the U.S., You Don’t Know How Bad You Have It,” “Hungarian-Style Soft Fascism is the GOP’s Ruthless New Brand,” and the like.
The jihad article declares: “Modern jihad is exactly that—modern. It is not a revival of an ancient instruction from the Koran, nor is it even what the author of the Koran or its classical interpreters had in mind.” This confident and wholly unsupported statement is followed by the even more fanciful claim that modern jihad actually comes from the evil free market: “Instead, modern jihad as practiced by self-proclaimed Islamic organizations like Al-Queda [sic] and the Islamic State (ISIS) is a manifestation of this age of neoliberal capitalism.”
This “manifestation” apparently came about because “no longer is jihad carried out with an army of the Caliphate or even a state, but by a private group of individuals acting perhaps in concert, but just as likely as disconnected individuals angry at their lives and the society they exist in. Like those who shoot up high schools and those who murder dozens from hotel windows in Las Vegas or nightclubs in Orlando, the protagonist of this so-called jihad are symptoms of the economics and politics of their time and the atomized society of today.”
It is true that in classic Sunni theology and law, only the caliph is authorized to declare offensive jihad. However, the article ignores the distinction between offensive and defensive jihad. Only the caliph can declare offensive jihad, and that jihad is an obligation on the community as a whole (fard kifaya); an individual is released from it if others are taking it up. But all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence agree that when a non-Muslim force enters a Muslim land, defensive jihad becomes the individual obligation of every Muslim (fard ‘ayn) rather than a collective obligation of the entire umma, and need not be declared by anyone.
One manual of Islamic law, Bulghah al-Salik li-Aqrab al-Masalik fi madhhab al-Imam Malik (“The Sufficiency of the Traveller on the Best Path in the School of Imam Malik”), says this: “Jihad in the Path of Allah, to raise the word of Allah, is fard kifayah [obligatory on the community] once a year, so that if some perform it, the obligation falls from the rest. It becomes fard `ayn [obligatory on every Muslim individually], like salah and fasting, if the legitimate Muslim Imam declares it so, or if there is an attack by the enemy on an area of people.”
The Hanafi, Maliki, and Shafi’i schools of Sunni jurisprudence further declare that jihad, once it is fard ‘ayn, is no different from prayer and fasting — in other words, to engage in warfare with non-Muslims in that case is a religious devotion that cannot lawfully be evaded. Hashiyah Ibn Abidin, an authoritative text of the Hanafi school, says that jihad is “fard ‘ayn if the enemy has attacked part of the Islamic homeland. It thus becomes an obligation like salah [prayer] and fasting which cannot be abandoned.”
Today, in the absence of a caliph, jihadis cast all their jihads as defensive, and retail lists of grievances to justify them and bring them into accord with Islamic law, which only allows for defensive jihad without a caliph. Thus the terrorists, as long as they cast their jihads as defensive, need not have a declaration of war from any leader. Thus the jihads of al-Qaeda and ISIS and the rest are, unfortunately, perfectly justifiable within the strictures of traditional Islamic theology and law. Their advent has nothing to do with “neoliberal capitalism.”
CounterPunch, however, after laying responsibility for contemporary jihad terrorism at the feet of the capitalist system, goes on to bring “capitalism’s latest phase—neoliberalism” in for some of the blame. “As the reader most likely knows,” says the article (no! Do tell!), “the main features of neoliberalism involve the destruction of the social element of human civilization. Services provided by the state are either privatized or just terminated. The process begins with services provided to the poor. From there, other services follow. Universities once generously subsidized by the state find their budgets reduced, causing them to raise tuition, hire part-time instructors, and farm out their research resources to the very industries benefiting from the end of state-funded education. Roads and other infrastructure are left to disintegrate while private developments and their financiers build private roads while state governments push through more and more tolls on existing and new construction. The wealthiest few pay little or no taxes to the state, which now serves them to a degree never before seen in recorded history.”
And all that long twisted tale of woe somehow leads to jihad terrorism. Sure. The author of this nonsense is a certain Ron Jacobs, whose “latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.” Of course it is. “He lives in Vermont.” Of course he does.