The Declaration of Peaceful Intent
We often hear from Islamic apologists, Muslim and non-Muslim, that the calls to jihad in the Koran are merely “contextual” ie that they relate specifically to the situation Mohammed found himself in during his time in Medina, after which they lapsed.
There is also the “universalist” interpretation to be found throughout the Islamic tradition. The Islamic historian Bernard Lewis puts it like this:
“The basis of the obligation of jihad is the universality of the Muslim revelation. God’s words and God’s message is for all mankind; it is the duty of those who have accepted them to strive (jihada) unceasingly to convert or at least subjugate those who have not. This obligation is without limit of time or space. It must continue until the whole world has either accepted the Islamic faith or submitted to the power of the Islamic state.”
It does not take a genius to work out that Muslims who espouse the latter interpretation are likely to pose a lethal threat to any non-Muslim society, while those who espouse the former are not. The problem is how to distinguish between them. When a Muslim claims to believe the contextual interpretation how can we ever know whether he is genuine or just duping us?
In Australia Harry Richardson has come up with a practical test, asking Muslims to sign a statement to the effect that the verses calling for violence are no longer relevant:
The Declaration of Peaceful Intent
Renunciation of the Quran’s Violent Commands as not applicable for today:
understand that there are commands in the Quran which compel Muslims to kill, behead, crucify or commit unprovoked violence against non-Muslims, Jews, Christians, atheists or apostates from Islam. I fully, completely, unequivocally, 100% reject, and refuse to practice or teach any of these commands. I believe these commands from Allah are not applicable, not relevant and should not be practiced in any form in today’s world by anyone.
Before you ask, yes he has produced a similar statement for Christians and Jews.
I must admit to having reservations about the texts.
Firstly, the phrase “which compel” is in the present tense. A genuinely peaceful Muslim could legitimately object that the Declaration is assuming the universalist interpretation by referring to the present. Also, the words “command” and “compel” are quite strong in themselves. Do they not invite the “My Lord who gave me free will does not command or compel…” sort of quibble? How about a more neutral phrasing such as “…there are verses in the Quran calling on Muslims to kill…etc”.
Secondly, no supporter of jihad ever thinks violence towards non-Muslims is unprovoked. In their thinking merely rejecting Allah is a provocation deserving death. Why not just leave out the word “unprovoked”?
Thirdly, there is the question of balance. While the Declaration for Muslims throws the kitchen sink at the Koran, the Declaration for Jews and Christians goes surprisingly easy on the Bible. It mentions only the commands to kill non-Israelites. Presumably this refers to the genocidal attacks on tribes who happened to be in the Israelites’ way at the time such as the Canaanites and Amalekites. Any suggestion that these commands might be seen as still being operative today can be easily dismissed for the simple reason that the Israelites generally left no survivors to worry about in perpetuity.
On the other hand a cursory look through the Old Testament will reveal commands to kill various other groups of people including sorceresses, adulterers, those who curse their parents, and worshippers of other gods. There are still plenty of them about. Don’t they count?
As a trivial aside, I wonder why Richardson spells “practised” the American rather than the Australian/British way.
Here is an interview he had with a local Muslim community leader, Ali Kadri:
No doubt many people would expect the interviewee to accept the Declaration whether he agreed with it or not (taqiyya and all that), but the surprising thing is that he didn’t. Instead he squirmed this way and that to avoid agreeing to what, details apart, should be an uncontroversial statement. He is after all receiving Australian tax dollars to de-radicalise jihadis in prison. We have to wonder what he is telling them.
Richardson goes further, suggesting that the Declaration could form the basis of a Statutory Declaration, giving it some legal force:
Would it be unreasonable to expect any imam, any Muslim immigrant, any Muslim teacher, any Muslim prison chaplain or any Muslim involved in government de-radicalisation programmes to sign it, or something like it? Why should any peace loving Muslim object?
This approach is not going to be applied any time soon but perhaps, after enough atrocities have forced our leaders to seriously address the problem of how to tell peaceful Muslims from dangerous ones, they will get over their reluctance to discriminate against a religion which discriminates against us.
Here is how the “Stat Dec” might be used as part of a rational response to Global Jihad. If someone is unwilling to sign it then off they would go to somewhere far from our Christmas markets, pop concerts and nuclear power stations until such time that any one of 57 OIC states will accept them.
On the other hand if someone is willing to sign it then any later action clearly showing that they dissembled, for instance praying for “victory over the kuffar” at their local mosque, would qualify them to join the other group.
Here is another example. The Saudi backed Hilali Khan translation of the Koran (aka the Wahhabi Koran) is widely disseminated throughout the western world, courtesy of all those Saudi funded mosques. Any imam or individual using it must surely be under the impression that jihad is “without limit of time or space”, and would therefore also qualify.
Here are two verses from it with the translators’ interpolations showing why:
“And make ready against them all you can of power, including steeds of war (tanks, planes, missiles, artillery, etc.) to threaten the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others besides whom, you may not know but whom Allah does know. And whatever you shall spend in the Cause of Allah shall be repaid unto you, and you shall not be treated unjustly.” (8:60)
”And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and polytheism: i.e. worshipping others besides Allah) and the religion (worship) will all be for Allah Alone [in the whole of the world]. But if they cease (worshipping others besides Allah), then certainly, Allah is All-Seer of what they do.” (8:39)
And, putting the matter beyond doubt, here is a footnote to verse 2:190 to be found in the paper edition (note the present tense throughout):
”Al-Jihad (holy fighting) in Allah’s Cause (with full force of numbers and weaponry) is given the utmost importance in Islam and is one of its pillars (on which it stands). By Jihad Islam is established. Allah’s Word is made superior, (His Word being La ilaha illaliah which means none has the right to be worshipped but Allah), and His Religion (Islam) is propagated. By abandoning Jihad (may Allah protect us from that) Islam is destroyed and the Muslims fall into an inferior position; their honour is lost, their lands are stolen, their rule and authority vanish. Jihad is an obligatory duty in Islam on every Muslim, and he who tries to escape from this duty, or does not in his innermost heart wish to fulfil this duty, dies with one of the qualities of a hypocrite.”
Stepping back from discriminatory legal remedies, are there other ways in which the idea of the Declaration could be used to good effect right now? How about creating a cut down version applicable to all religions (with an option to allow for Buddhists and Jains); something as simple as this:
that there are no calls to violence in the scriptures of my faith [ ]
that any calls to violence in the scriptures of my faith are purely of historical interest and carry no prescriptive force today [ ]
Could any religious leader in the world object to signing that? Perhaps it should be a necessary requirement for engaging in interfaith dialogue groups. If the rabbi and the priest turn up with theirs and only one participant won’t sign, that would be an eye opener for all concerned, including well meaning but possibly naive lay people in the wider world.
If, on the other hand, Muslim leaders readily agree to sign then it would go some way towards creating the atmosphere of real trust which is so sorely missing today.