The Al Qaeda Reader
by Raymond Ibrahim
New York: Doubleday, 2007. 352 pp. $15.95, paper.
Reviewed by Janet Levy
Recently, a shoeless President George Bush accompanied by female aides in makeshift hijabs (Islamic prayer scarves) spoke at the rededication of the Islamic Center of Washington. The president sang the praises of a “religion of peace,” despite the fact that the Center is a Saudi-funded promulgator of Wahhabism, a strict form of Islam that critics say has spawned Muslim fundamentalism and extremism. He extolled a “faith that has enriched civilization for centuries” as he stood surrounded by representatives from the
Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Islamic Society of North America, organizations that fund the Muslim Brotherhood and affiliated Islamic terrorist groups. Bush emphasized America’s solidarity with Muslims in the fight to preserve religious freedom and liberty and to combat terrorism. In his speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Islamic Center, Bush thanked Muslim leaders who oppose extremism and railed against “radical extremists who use the veneer of Islamic belief to support and fund acts of violence.”
Yet, this public reassurance by Bush amidst the apologists and supporters of jihad belies new evidence of just how closely Islamic extremism derives its strength and core beliefs from the basic tenets of the Islamic faith itself. A recently translated collection of Al Qaeda treatises, The Al-Qaeda Reader, calls into question many of the operating conceptions the Western world holds about the religion of Mohammed and its attitudes toward the West. Written by Osama Bin Laden and Ayman Al Zawahiri, the #1 and #2 Al Qaeda leaders, and translated by Raymond Ibrahim, a Middle East and Islam historian who works for the Library of Congress,The Al-Qaeda Reader contains exhortations and religious exegeses directed to Muslims, as well as propaganda tracts and warnings to non-Muslims of their imminent defeat and the consequences they will suffer for their perfidious actions, plus, invitations to embrace Islam. A timely and critically important collection, it provides a clearer picture of our enemies and casts serious doubt on the President’s assumptions of shared Muslim/Western aims.
In their entreaties to fellow Muslims, Bin Laden and Al Zawahiri pronounce the requirements of their faith. They base their beliefs on the Koran’s delineation of a world with two camps: the Dar-al-Harb, the world of the infidel or the world of war, and the Dar-al-Islam, the domain of peace inhabited by faithful Muslims. Bin Laden and Zawahiri declare the obligation of Muslims is to follow the only authentic sources of Islamic jurisprudence: the Koran, the Sunna (the codified legal and social practices of Islam) and the rulings of religious leaders, the ulema. Their treatises include strict definitions of true Islam which prohibits relationships and peaceful coexistence with non-Muslims or kuffirs. They denounce separation of church and state, condemn democracy and affirm the sanctity of jihad.
Moderate Islam Rejected
In his description of authentic Islam, Osama Bin Laden informs Muslims that their return to past glory and the end of their enslavement by infidels is incumbent upon their adherence to the true word of Allah. So-called “moderate” constructs of Islam, employed merely to appease non-believers, must be rejected. Zawahiri cautions that moderate Islam is not true Islam and that the primary goal of Islam is to wage jihad against non-Muslims and establish a worldwide caliphate under the sharia, or Islamic principles of law. Anything less is considered antithetical to Islam and thereby constitutes apostasy. Any modifications to Islamic doctrine as defined in the Koran and the Sunna is strictly prohibited, rendering impossible any moderate interpretations of Islam. In summary, the very foundations of the religion must be carefully followed without deviation and the word of Allah deemed timeless and immutable.
Coexistence with Non-Muslims Prohibited
Zawahiri and Bin Laden enjoin their Muslim brethren from befriending or engaging in peaceful coexistence with non-Muslims. Followers are reminded to abide by the precepts of the “Doctrine of Loyalty and Enmity” found in Koranic teachings and interpretations and to emulate the example of Mohammed who attacked and subjugated infidels. Any expression of friendship with non-believers indicates a lack of faith and insufficient love for Allah. It is impossible to befriend someone who opposes Allah. Fraternizing with infidels is evil, defiles the soul and jeopardizes the relationship with Allah. It is also forbidden to assist non-believers, fight for them or join them in any military endeavors. Muslims must establish their superiority to non-Muslims to engender the necessary hostility to effectively wage jihad, according to the interpretations of Islamic belief given by Zawahiri and Bin Laden.
Separation of Church & State Outlawed
These Al-Qaeda leaders state emphatically to fellow Muslims in their fatwas, or rulings on Islamic law, that no separation of church and state is possible under Islam. For example, they quote: “Whatever the subject of your disputes, the final decision rests in Allah alone” [42:10] and “It is not fitting for true believers – men or women – to take their choice in affairs if Allah and His Messenger have decreed otherwise” [33:36].
The concept here is that Islam is more than a religion; it is an all-encompassing way of life that governs all social, economic, political and personal matters. The concept of “leaving to Caesar what is Caesar’s” is blasphemous in Islam. The concept of a nation state that presides over secular affairs contradicts the teachings of Islam and threatens the overriding exclusive loyalty of Muslims to the Umma, or community of Muslims. Zawahiri and Bin Laden caution against this form of apostasy and emphasize the Muslim obligation to impose their religion on all spheres of life.
The translation of Zawahiri’s extracts on the subject of sharia and democracy expose the fact that democracy is antithetical to Islam. These writings clearly state that Allah is the only legislator and that those who don’t adhere to the sharia are infidels.
Democracy is not permitted in Islam as its very existence would make the state, its rulers and laws equivalent to Mohammed and his sharia, which is completely unacceptable to faithful Muslims. Ruling is the exclusive province of Allah and “infidels are those who set up equals with their Lord” [6:1]. Furthermore, the principles of democracy such as freedom of religion, civil rights, equality under the law, voting and justice run counter to Muslim doctrine. As Islam is viewed as the only true religion, religious freedom is apostasy punishable by death. Subjugation, conversion or death are the only choices for infidels and the injunction that “all men are created equal under the law” runs counter to the Koran-required jizya (tax on non-Muslims), the dhimmitude (the discriminatory Islamic system of governing non-Muslim and conquered populations), and accompanying social restrictions for non-believers.
In addition, the democratic concept of equality abrogates man’s domination of women, abolishes sanctions for homosexuality and puts Muslims on an equal plane with non-believers, all of which violate Islamic beliefs. Similarly, the act of voting is strictly forbidden as it denotes acceptance of democracy. Further, justice for devout Muslims is defined as bringing someone to the righteousness of Islam. Oppression is the act of leaving non-Muslims in a state of unbelief and not employing jihad to bring them into Islam.
The crowning glory of Zawahiri’s translated treatises in The Al-Qaeda Reader, are his pronouncements on “jihad, martyrdom, and the killing of innocents.” As proclaimed in Muslim theology, Islam is for the common good and it must be spread by the sword. Jihad is an obligation of Muslims and opposing acts of terrorism is equivalent to apostasy. Zawahiri explains that as the basic tenet of Islam is love for Allah, the highest form of demonstrating this love and the sure route to salvation is in the glory of jihad.
“You are obligated to fight, though you may hate it. For it may well be that you hate that which is good for you and love that which is evil for you. Allah knows [best]; you do not know” [2:216].
Martyrdom operations are obligatory against those who fight the Muslims, those who befriend the infidels and those who govern without sharia, even fellow Muslims. The death of a martyr is viewed as a victory for Islam and Muslim casualties are permissible if they ultimately benefit the religion and are necessary for defense.
The West Deliberately Misled
In the propaganda tracts and warnings to non-Muslims by the Al Qaeda leadership found in The Al-Qaeda Reader, non-believers are admonished for their foreign policy and for their perceived hostility toward Islam. The West is viewed as being at war with Islam rather than fighting to protect its cherished freedoms and way of life from attack. In their communications with the West, Zawahiri and Bin Laden offer open invitations to embrace Islam. They portray the religion as peaceful. Hostility to the West is blamed on U.S. support for Israel, the war in Iraq and U.S. support for oppressive regimes. Any mention of the obligation of Muslims to fight the infidels into submission and establish the caliphate under the sharia is avoided. Missives to the West exclude any references to offensive jihad, dhimmitude and the doctrine of Loyalty and Enmity which denounces peaceful co-existence with non-believers.
Thus, in this important collection of key Al Qaeda texts, Mr. Ibrahim has provided us with a glimpse of incendiary doctrine and convictions that clearly expose the reality of the enemy we are facing. It’s high time to heed the messages in these disturbing documents and counter this politico-religious movement that is anything but peaceful. We must acknowledge that for increasing numbers of Islamists the word of Allah to subjugate women, stone homosexuals, dhimmitize non-Muslims and institute totalitarian rule under a barbaric code, holds more appeal than liberty and justice for all. We must understand that we are engaged in a serious global struggle for our very existence, fueled, not by a response to Western policies, but driven by Islamic religious fanaticism to establish a worldwide caliphate under sharia. The sooner the Western world realizes this reality, the safer we will all be.
Janet Levy is the founder of ESG Consulting, an organization that offers project management, fundraising, promotion, event organizing and planning services for conservative political causes and issues related to terrorism and national security.