A recent MEMRI report titled "Arab Columnists: Stop Talking About Offensive Jihad," alludes to the ultimate problem between Islam and the non-Muslim world: offensive jihad, or jihad al-talab — the Islamic imperative to subjugate the world. The report opens by saying "One dominant theme during Ramadan in the Arab world is the discussion, in the media and in religious circles, of the commandment of jihad and the obligation therein to wage war against the infidels." It then focuses on two recent op-eds, written by Arab-Muslims, that discuss the need to suppress Muslim talk of offensive jihad.
One writer, Khaled Al-Ghanami, states that the "wiser" supporters of offensive jihad believe that Muslims "must sit and wait until the era of our strength returns." In the meantime, according to these Muslims, "there is nothing shameful about taqiyya [deception] until the time is ripe." Al-Ghanami bemoans the fact that such Muslims operate naively "on the assumption that the world doesn't read, doesn't monitor… and is not paying attention to the calls for killing, tyranny, and aggression that we are spreading."
Similarly, Abdallah Al-Naggar writes: "Today, the Muslims' circumstances are different [i.e., they are weak], and talk of this aspect [of jihad] requires a smart approach, one that stresses the aspect of self defense, instead of aggression and onslaught," since discussing offensive jihad "arouses the enmity of people"; thus, "there is a need for wisdom [i.e., kitman] in our impassioned discussions of war and battles."
These writers are insightful enough to understand that Islam's imperative for Muslims to wage offensive jihad is the one insurmountable obstacle for peace between Muslims and non-Muslims. Best not to keep reminding the infidel world, then.
Consider: most of the things Islam gets criticized for — lack of democracy, male-female relations, draconian punishments, etc. —are intra-civilizational to Islam; that is, they affect Muslims alone. As such, it is for Muslims to decide on their utility; for it is the responsibility of every civilization to reform itself from the inside, not through outside "help" or coercion, the former mistrusted, the latter resented. Modern democracy in the West developed only after the people of the West wanted it bad enough to fight for it themselves, and only after centuries of bloody — but internal — conflicts. Feminism was not forcefully imported from some alien civilization but homegrown in the West. Pragmatically speaking, then, so long as sharia's mandates affect Muslims alone, non-Muslims have no legitimate grievances.
And this is the dividing line: what one civilization maintains as "right" and "normal" for itself is acceptable. However, when one civilization tries to apply, through force, those same principles onto other civilizations — whether the West trying to import liberalism to Islam, or Islam trying to spread sharia-style fascism to the West — that is objectively wrong. After all, the age-old argument that "we must supplant your ways, with our ways, for your own good," works both ways, and in fact has been an oft cited justification for offensive jihad since the 7th century.
Or would the reader be surprised to learn that jihadists (i.e., terrorists) regularly posit their war as an expression of altruism to "liberate" Westerners from their self-imposed "delusions"? Even Al Qaeda partially justifies its jihad against America for being "a nation that exploits women like consumer products"; for not rejecting the "immoral acts of fornication, homosexuality, intoxicants, gambling, and usury." In short, if the "white man's burden" is to "civilize" Muslims, the "Muslim man's burden" has long been to "civilize" Westerners, namely, by enforcing sharia law. To justify the one is to make allowance for the other.
Yet while civilizations continue to quarrel over the philosophical position of man, one fact remains: all humans — secular or religious, Muslim or non-Muslim, from antiquity to today — agree that being forced to uphold a particular lifestyle against their will is wrong, bringing us right back to our topic: the purpose of offensive jihad is to do just that — forcefully impose a particular way of life on non-Muslims, culminating with dhimmitude for those who, after being conquered, refuse to convert.
Worse, offensive jihad is part and parcel of Islam; it is no less codified than, say, Islam's Five Pillars, which no Muslim rejects. The Encyclopaedia of Islam's entry for "jihad" states that the "spread of Islam by arms is a religious duty upon Muslims in general … Jihad must continue to be done until the whole world is under the rule of Islam … Islam must completely be made over before the doctrine of jihad can be eliminated." Scholar Majid Khadurri (1909-2007), after defining jihad as warfare, writes that jihad "is regarded by all jurists, with almost no exception, as a collective obligation of the whole Muslim community."
Even that chronic complainer Osama bin Laden makes it clear that offensive jihad is the root problem: "Our talks with the infidel West and our conflict with them ultimately revolve around one issue… Does Islam, or does it not, force people by the power of the sword to submit to its authority corporeally if not spiritually? Yes. There are only three choices in Islam... Either submit, or live under the suzerainty of Islam, or die."
Clearly, then, it is in the Muslim world's interest to keep the West ignorant of the fact that, irrespective of all Muslim grievances — real or feigned — nothing less than Islamic law itself mandates a state of constant hostility. Indeed, if the implications of offensive jihad were fully embraced, humanity might be compelled to view the Muslim world as a perpetual, existentialist threat, in need of preemptive containment. That said, and considering the willful ignorance of the West's political elite — who are guided less by objective facts and more by their "feel-good" ideals — Muslim talk of offensive jihad, no matter how loud or ubiquitous, will likely continue to fall on deaf ears.
Raymond Ibrahim is associate director of the Middle East Forum, author of The Al Qaeda Reader, and guest lecturer at the National Defense Intelligence College.