If you want to understand the challenge Western liberalism faces from Islamic supremacism, take six minutes to watch this extraordinary interview of Ayad Jamal al-Din, a Shiite cleric, Iraqi intellectual, and former member of the Iraqi parliament who campaigns for a democratic Iraq that separates mosque and state. Mr. al-Din was in Washington for the October 17 interview by al-Iraqiya TV in Iraq, and the interview with English subtitles (which I’ve reproduced as a transcript below) was publicized on Monday by the invaluable MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute).
While President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry, and Prime Minister Cameron absurdly contend that the Islamic State, or ISIS, is not Islamic, al-Din – an authentic moderate Muslim who regards the Islamic State as the enemy – patiently explains that the jihadist organization adheres to a firmly established interpretation of Islam that is based on sharia and fiqh (jurisprudence).
I have repeatedly argued that classical, mainstream sharia is repressive, discriminatory, and anti-democratic, and thus that it was self-defeating for the United States to sponsor new constitutions in Iraq and Afghanistan that attempted to meld Western democratic principles with sharia (see here, here, and here). It is especially gratifying to hear a passionate, articulate explanation of the incompatibility of Western democracy and Islamic jurisprudence from someone who reveres the former, is steeped in the latter, and understands the stakes.
Moreover, for those of us who frequently point out that mosques – which Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna described as the “axis” of his ideological movement in every city and town – are often centers for jihadist incitement, recruitment, training and fundraising, it is refreshing to hear someone intimately familiar with this phenomenon explain that there are mosques throughout the world directly and indirectly championing the Islamic State by glorifying jihad and the caliphate.
Our national security will not be well served until the United States government ends its futile search for “moderate Islamists” and realizes our allies in the Muslim community are the real moderates, meaning pro-Western democrats who reject the imposition of sharia on civil society. Supporting our enemies only undermines our friends.
Here is the transcript:
AL-DIN: ISIS is just the tip of the iceberg. ISIS has support. It is one of many groups. ISIS is based upon a certain ideology, upon a certain interpretation of religion, and upon a certain fiqh [Islamic jurisprudence]. Unfortunately, what happened to the Yazidis and others in northern Iraq is to be found in the fiqh of Shiites and Sunnis alike. Unless we are careful in the use of fiqh – in my opinion, the fiqh is more dangerous than nuclear technology.
Therefore, we in Iraq are facing two choices: Either we establish a civil state which relies on man-made law, based on equality between citizens, or else we establish a state based on fiqh and on religious law [ACM: Islamic “religious law” is sharia]. If we establish a state based on fiqh, partitioning into a Shiite state, a Sunni state, and a Kurdish state is inevitable. Alternative, we could establish a civil state, in which all citizens are equal in the eyes of the law.
As I have said, ISIS is a phenomenon with extensions all over the world, not just in Muslim countries. Even here in the U.S., there are many ISIS mosques. There are thousands of mosques that are preparing people to join ISIS. Imagine: young people from Florida join the ranks of ISIS to fight, and so do young people from Britain, Australia, Russia, China, and elsewhere. How could a young university student leave Florida to fight for ISIS if not for a mosque that incited him to do so?
I am not talking about a handful of mosques or about just a few people. No, we are talking about thousands of such mosques, or even more, in all countries of the world, from South America to North America, Africa, Asia, and Europe. These mosques are calling, day in and day out, for the revival of the caliphate. There are school curricula that glorify the caliphate, saying that the past of the Muslims is better than their present.
I believe that the opposite is true. Who says that our past is better than our present? We live in the era of electricity, of the Internet, of satellite TV, of modern medicine, telecommunications, awareness – even our understanding of religion is much better. . . .
AL-DIN: You cannot defeat ISIS through sectarianism. Only through patriotism. If the Shiites, Sunnis, Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Yazidis, Christians, and Sabeans cannot agree among themselves to unite under the banner of a single Iraq, ISIS will not be defeated. It is necessary to establish a national army and national unity, not merely in speeches but in daily life.
If we raise the [Shiite] banners of Hussein on the tanks, we will be inadvertently strengthening ISIS. They will say that this is a Safavid army, not an Iraqi one, and this will drive the Sunnis to rally around ISIS. . . .
AL-DIN: Both the Shiite and Sunni fiqh say that the Yazidis should be killed.
HOST: You are talking about the fiqh of ISIS, of course.
AL-DIN: The Christians and the Jews are considered the People of the Book, and some include the Zoroastrians and the Sabeans. But as for the Buddhists, they should all be killed. This is according to both Shiite and Sunni fiqh. The problem lies with our fiqh, and therefore I say that either we follow the fiqh, in which case ISIS is more or less right, or else we follow man-made, civil enlightened law, according to which the Yazidis are citizens just like Shiite and Sunni Muslims.
That is why ISIS are saying that they have not invented anything new but are merely following the fiqh: The Yazidis can either become Muslims or be sold on the market as slaves. Both the Shiite and the Sunni fiqh are in agreement on this.
We must make a decision whether to follow man-made civil law, legislated by the Iraqi parliament, or whether to follow the fatwas issued by Islamic jurisprudents. We must no embellish things and say that Islam is a religion of compassion, peace and rose water, and that everything is fine. Brother, your Islamic history is full of wars, raids – from Tunisia along, one million boys were taken as slaves to Damascus –
HOST: [Interrupting] Don’t you believe Islam is a religion of compassion and peace?
AL-DIN: [Pause] It is, but there is an interpretation of Islam that goes back 1,400 years. Islam has been politicized and is used as a sword. “The Koran calls and the sword protects” is the slogan of the Muslim Brotherhood and of all the Islamic political parties. [ACM: See the emblem of the Muslim Brotherhood, here, showing a Koran above two crossed swords.]