New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has claimed that the Trump administration is “on a crusade against people who they do not consider original Americans.” That term was apparently fine, since even Catholics take for granted today that the Crusades were a bad thing. But then Cuomo mixed his historical analogies and crossed the line into offending the gods of multiculturalism: he said that the Trump administration was “on a jihad to deport as many people as they can who they believe are not in the United States legally.”
What? The Trump administration is on an interior spiritual struggle to deport people?
The irony here is that Cuomo, if confronted about Islamic jihad, would doubtless say that it’s a beautiful thing, a spiritual struggle, and that we all must avoid “Islamophobia.” But here he uses “jihad” in a way that shows he thinks of it in negative terms. Will the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) reprimand him? Or will CAIR give him a pass because he has been useful to the group?
In any case, Cuomo could find out how Muslims have actually understood “jihad” in my new book, The History of Jihad From Muhammad to ISIS. He might be surprised to discover that throughout the last 1,400 years, quite a large number of Muslims have understood jihad as meaning something quite different from an “interior spiritual struggle.” The understanding of jihad as a military struggle against unbelievers begins in Islamic tradition with Muhammad himself, who is depicted in a hadith telling the early Muslims:
Fight in the name of Allah and in the way of Allah. Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a holy war; do not embezzle the spoils; do not break your pledge; and do not mutilate (the dead) bodies; do not kill the children.
When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these you also accept it and withhold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them. … If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the jizya. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah’s help and fight them. (Sahih Muslim 4294)
Muslims took up this call throughout Islamic history. In 651, Muawiya, governor of Syria and later caliph, wrote to the Byzantine emperor Constantine the Bearded:
If you wish to live in peace … renounce your vain religion, in which you have been brought up since infancy. Renounce this Jesus and convert to the great God whom I serve, the God of our father Abraham. … If not, how will this Jesus whom you call Christ, who was not even able to save himself from the Jews, be able to save you from my hands?
Such threats were issued throughout Islamic history, all over the world, and the warriors of jihad followed through on them. The 16th century Muslim historian Firishta recounted what occurred at Kondapalli in India in 1481:
The Hindus, according to custom, when they saw their chief destroyed, fled in the utmost disorder from the field, and were pursued by the allies with such success that the river was dyed red with their blood. It is computed by the best authorities that above one hundred thousand infidels were slain during the action and the pursuit.
Once conquered, the infidels were subjugated. Around the turn of the 14th century, the Delhi sultan Alauddin Khalji asked the Islamic scholar Qazi Mughisuddin about the legal status of the Hindus within his domains and the permissibility of conferring dhimmi status upon them. The qazi directed that the Muslims must treat the Hindus this way:
If the officer throws dirt in their mouths, they must without reluctance open their mouths wide to receive it. … The due subordination of the Dhimmi is exhibited in this humble payment, and by this throwing of dirt in their mouths.
The glorification of Islam is a duty, and contempt for religion is vain. Allah holds them in contempt, for he says, “Keep them in subjection.”
To keep the Hindus in abasement is especially a religious duty.
The religious duty of jihad to place Hindus and other non-Muslims in a state of abasement has not been reformed or rejected by any sect of Islam. Jihadis carrying it out today point to the Qur’an, Muhammad’s example, and Islamic history to justify their actions and gain recruits among peaceful Muslims.
If Cuomo knew all this, he might stop using this word so carelessly, but not for the reasons for which CAIR would want him to stop. He would also have to reexamine many of his bedrock assumptions about both foreign and domestic policy. Would Andrew Cuomo dare?
Not a chance. But it is crucial for open-minded and clear-thinking policymakers to do so.