Homeland Security

Priebus Calls Aspects of Islam ‘Problematic.’ Are They?

President-elect Trump’s new chief of staff Reince Preibus touched the political third rail Sunday when he enunciated a truth that is almost universally denied. Even those who know it to be true seldom dare speak it in public.

Aspects of Islam are … “problematic.”

Priebus uttered this momentous word when he was asked on ABC about remarks made by Trump’s choice for national security advisor, Michael Flynn, about political aspects of Islam. Priebus responded:

Clearly, there are some aspects of that faith that are problematic and we know them, we’ve seen it. It certainly isn’t a blanket for all people of that faith, but Mike Flynn is one of the most highly respected intelligence officers in America. Certainly no one can deny that.

Certainly not, but many people do deny that anything about Islam is “problematic.” Hillary Clinton famously declared the following in 2015:

Let’s be clear: Islam is not our adversary. Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.

Clinton wasn’t just stating her own opinion. She was repeating official Obama administration policy — and what certainly would have been the policy of her administration, had she become president.

Priebus’ “problematic” comment comes after a campaign during which Trump repeatedly criticized Clinton for refusing to name the enemy as “radical Islam.” Clearly, the Trump administration intends to take a new direction regarding the jihad threat.

We can be just as certain that the Leftist political establishment and media will excoriate Trump for supposedly alienating peaceful Muslims and driving them towards jihad by calling their religion “problematic.”

So, major policy decisions are about to turn on this question: is anything about Islam actually “problematic”?

Certainly, jihad terrorists routinely — or primarily — invoke the Qur’an and Muhammad’s example to justify their actions and to recruit peaceful Muslims.

Abdullah Azzam — who, along with Osama bin Laden, co-founded al-Qaeda — wrote in his book length exhortation to jihad, Join the Caravan, that “the Prophet (SAWS) was a master of the Mujahideen” who “used to go out on military expeditions or send out an army at least every two months.”

Are Muhammad’s “military expeditions” in any way “problematic”? Egyptian scholar Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd explains:

If we follow the rules of interpretation developed from the classical science of Koranic interpretation, it is NOT possible to condemn terrorism in religious terms.

It remains completely true to the classical rules in its evolution of sanctity for its own justification. This is where the secret of its theological strength lies.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his fellow 9/11 defendants, in their lengthy apologia for 9/11, explicitly depicted it as an Islamic jihad attack:

Many thanks to God, for his kind gesture, and choosing us to perform the act of Jihad for his cause and to defend Islam and Muslims. Therefore, killing you and fighting you, destroying you and terrorizing you, responding back to your attacks, are all considered to be great legitimate duty in our religion.

Indeed, Taliban terrorist Baitullah Mehsud declared:

Allah on 480 occasions in the Holy Koran extols Muslims to wage jihad. We only fulfill God’s orders. Only jihad can bring peace to the world.

So, these terrorist leaders certainly found Islam to be “problematic.” Are these terrorists “extremists”?

Well — even though they were all devout Muslims determined to follow their religion properly — we should first turn to the authoritative sources in Sunni Islam, the schools of Sunni jurisprudence (madhahib), to answer that question.

Shafi’i school:

A Shafi’i manual of Islamic law was certified in 1991 by the clerics at Al-Azhar University, perhaps the leading authority in the Islamic world, as a reliable guide to Sunni orthodoxy.

When discussing jihad, that manual stipulates that “the caliph makes war upon Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians … until they become Muslim or pay the non-Muslim poll tax.”

It added a comment from Sheikh Nuh Ali Salman, a Jordanian expert on Islamic jurisprudence: the caliph wages this war only “provided that he has first invited [Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians] to enter Islam in faith and practice, and if they will not, then invited them to enter the social order of Islam by paying the non-Muslim poll tax (jizya) … while remaining in their ancestral religions.” (Reliance of the Traveller, o9.8).

Of course, there is no caliph today, unless one accepts the claims of the Islamic State, and hence the oft-repeated claim that Osama, et al are waging jihad illegitimately, as no state authority has authorized their jihad.

However — they explain their actions in terms of defensive jihad. Defensive jihad needs no state authority to initiate it, and becomes “obligatory for everyone” (Reliance of the Traveller, o9.3) if a Muslim land is attacked.

And the defensive jihad is not declared over when peaceful coexistence with non-Muslims as equals is achieved. Reliance of the Traveller specifies that the warfare against non-Muslims must continue until “the final descent of Jesus.”

After that? “[N]othing but Islam will be accepted from them, for taking the poll tax is only effective until Jesus’ descent” (o9.8).

Sounds problematic.


Hanafi school: A Hanafi manual of Islamic law repeats the same injunctions.

It insists that people must be called to embrace Islam before being fought, “because the Prophet so instructed his commanders, directing them to call the infidels to the faith.” It emphasizes that jihad must not be waged for economic gain, but solely for religious reasons. From the call to Islam,

“ … the people will hence perceive that they are attacked for the sake of religion, and not for the sake of taking their property, or making slaves of their children, and on this consideration it is possible that they may be induced to agree to the call, in order to save themselves from the troubles of war.”


“[I]f the infidels, upon receiving the call, neither consent to it nor agree to pay capitation tax [jizya], it is then incumbent on the Muslims to call upon God for assistance, and to make war upon them, because God is the assistant of those who serve Him, and the destroyer of His enemies, the infidels, and it is necessary to implore His aid upon every occasion; the Prophet, moreover, commands us so to do.” (Al-Hidayah, II. 140)


Maliki school: Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), a pioneering historian and philosopher, was also a Maliki legal theorist. In his renowned Muqaddimah, the first work of historical theory, he notes:

“[In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the Muslim mission and (the obligation to) convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force.”

In Islam, the person in charge of religious affairs is concerned with “power politics,” because Islam is “under obligation to gain power over other nations.”


Hanbali school: The great medieval theorist of what is commonly known today as “radical” or “fundamentalist” Islam, Ibn Taymiyya (Taqi al-Din Ahmad Ibn Taymiyya, 1263-1328), was a Hanbali jurist.

He directed:

“[S]ince lawful warfare is essentially jihad and since its aim is that the religion is God’s entirely and God’s word is uppermost, therefore according to all Muslims, those who stand in the way of this aim must be fought.”

This is also taught by modern-day scholars of Islam. Majid Khadduri was an Iraqi scholar of Islamic law of international renown. In his book War and Peace in the Law of Islam, which was published in 1955 and remains one of the most lucid and illuminating works on the subject, Khadduri says this about jihad:

“The state which is regarded as the instrument for universalizing a certain religion must perforce be an ever expanding state. The Islamic state, whose principal function was to put God’s law into practice, sought to establish Islam as the dominant reigning ideology over the entire world

The jihad was therefore employed as an instrument for both the universalization of religion and the establishment of an imperial world state. (P. 51)”

Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee, is an assistant professor on the faculty of Shari’ah and Law of the International Islamic University in Islamabad. In his 1994 book The Methodology of Ijtihad, he quotes Twelfth Century Maliki jurist Ibn Rushd:

“Muslim jurists agreed that the purpose of fighting with the People of the Book (the Jews) … is one of two things: it is either their conversion to Islam or the payment of jizyah.”

Nyazee concludes:

“This leaves no doubt that the primary goal of the Muslim community, in the eyes of its jurists, is to spread the word of Allah through jihad, and the option of poll-tax [jizya] is to be exercised only after subjugation.”


The authoritative sources from these four schools of Islamic jurisprudence not only claim that Islam has “problematic” aspects, they claim that the “problematic” aspects are not “radical” commands — they are in fact central to Islam.

Further, this is to say nothing of the many, many passages of the Qur’an exhorting believers to wage war against unbelievers.

It would be illuminating if Hillary Clinton or John Kerry or Pope Francis or one of the others who maintain that Islam is a religion of peace produced some quotations from Muslim authorities they consider “authentic.”

Also, they would need to explain why the authorities I’ve quoted above, and others like them, are inauthentic.

While no single Muslim authority can proclaim what is “authentic” Islam, and thus it would be prudent not to make sweeping statements about what “authentic Islam” actually is, clearly many Muslims believe that authentic Islam sanctions violence against non-Muslims — and they can offer centuries of common, popular Islamic literature to back their belief.

That’s “problematic.” Priebus, and Trump, are right.

And — because the policies they formulate are likely to be based on their realistic appraisal of the jihad problem rather than the wishful thinking and fantasy that has hitherto prevailed — they have a greater chance of success against jihad terror.