Bleeding for Allah:Why Islam will Conquer the Free World. What Americans Need to Know.
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The jihadist discourse has multiple functions: It legitimizes and drives many militias in their fight against the regime while also shaping their daily lives, perceptions, and motivations. It contains two decisive sub-discourses: the takfir and the apocalyptic discourse. The fatwa by the Sunni reformist scholar Ibn Taymiyyah died against the Nusayris is a prominent early indication of sectarian sentiments against the young Alawi community.
While its religious roots lie within Twelver Shia Islam, it shares many elements with Christian belief and further regional Neoplatonic cults. While the Alawi faith relates to Islamic tradition, it is at the same time different. Both the similarities and dissimilarities to Islam contribute to the image of the Alawi community as infidels and heretics.
Among the defied urban elite were many members of the ikhwan. Driven by their sudden political marginalization by a group of parvenus, they engaged in opposition activities against the new regime. Qutb The riots peaked in , when the regime declared its intentions to drop the constitutional clause of Islam as the religion of the president and the source of jurisprudence Porat Since the institutional legitimization by a symbolic order is never complete, as Berger and Luckmann elaborate, a certain space for deviant symbolic orders resp.
Berger and Luckmann describe those counter-discourses as consisting of three layers. A fundamental layer comprises the legends and myths of the desolate Alawi living in remote rural areas and acts of unusual worship. Consequently, when the leader of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, Abu al-Nasr al-Bayanuni, called for jihad of holy warriors against the heretical regime in , the response was substantial.
He established the Islamic Front as a means to engage in this armed struggle. The manifesto of this group described a division between believers and heretics in order to legitimize its armed resistance. In addition to that, the document highlighted the sectarian nature of the regime and stated that a minority should not rule over a majority Porat , pp. Every dominating discourse is self-maintaining until it becomes problematic, according to Berger and Luckmann.
It becomes problematic if an alternative discourse emerges that is shared by a societal group. In the end, which discourse prevails is a question of power rather than reason Berger and Luckmann , pp. Consequently, after the regime cracked down on its armed opposition in , the majority of the Muslim Brothers gave up the radical path of jihad. Still, dominant symbolic systems cannot prevent deviant discourses from emerging. Thus, experts have to maintain the discourse, as Berger and Luckmann , pp.
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His ideas of sectarian and apocalyptic jihad provided the backbone of al-Qaeda. In addition to that, the openly sectarian ideology and practices of various Gulf-funded jihadist salafist groups like Jaish al-Islam, Islamic State, and Jabhat al-Nusra added to the domestic sectarian jihadist discourse Phillips a, pp. Eventually, the international support for anti-regime militia provided an ideological and financial source for the maintenance of the anti-regime jihadist takfir discourse.
They are all here as promised by the Prophet. This is the war he promised—it is the Grand Battle […]. Karouny Similar to the takfir discourse, the apocalyptic jihadist discourse opposes the regime and its profane nationalist discourse. However, the apocalyptic discourse transcends the worldly political dimension of the takfir discourse by tapping into the divine domain of prophecy. Since apocalyptic notions in Islam are not as important as they are in Judaism and Christianity, there are only a limited number of Quranic references to apocalypse.
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Eventually, the apocalyptic traces within Quran and the Hadith merged with obscure ideas from science fiction and pop culture Filiu , pp. According to a survey from , 83 percent of people interviewed in Afghanistan were convinced that the Mahdi would return in their lifetime, closely followed by 72 percent of Iraqis Pew For many Muslims, the unrest in various countries following the Arab Spring was an indication of the immediate end of days. Berger and Luckmann describe a subject as a domain of permanent interaction. That can happen through choosing another outside world or the internalization of another main discourse Berger and Luckmann , pp.
Given the lack of hope that the situation will improve, many people tuned to a jihadist apocalyptic discourse. The authors predict that similar developments will emerge in Syria Rich and Conduit , pp. Accordingly, many jihadist fighters in Syria believe in the imminent apocalypse. They are convinced that their actions will contribute to its advent by realizing certain signs that are mentioned in Islamic tradition: Muslim groups fighting each other, atrocities committed against Muslims, the spread of disbelief and apostasy, the increase of extramarital sex, the reintroduction of slavery, and many more.
Thus, indirectly, believing in the apocalypse legitimizes various practices like savagery against Muslims or sex slavery, which are commonly considered sins in Islam.
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Together, these signs shall usher in the appearance of the Mahdi, the redeemer of Islam, who will lead the Muslim armies into the great final battle against the Romans e. The Syrian city of Dabiq is mentioned as one of two sites for the confrontation. In the course of their actions, they put a lot of effort into adjusting the outside world to the apocalyptic discourse in order to support its internalization.
This outside affirmation of the self-image as an apocalyptic fighter serves as an exceptional source of motivation for jihadis 16 Stern and Berger , pp. After all, they make sense not only in semantic, but also existential ways. Accordingly, every form of religion provides a consistent model of how the world is and ought to be.
While this approach represents a limited understanding of religion as a whole, it can nevertheless become a source of conflict. Namely, if religious teachings are invoked to criticize a current state of affairs, they can divide a population Frazer and Friedli , pp. After all, this dimension of religion constitutes the dominant understanding of religion among various Islamist activists, who have often raised Islamic concepts of statehood as a counter-model that opposes secular autocratic regimes Cesari , p.
Accordingly, this section focuses on instrumentalist conflict dynamics. In doing so, it is less interested in explaining the reasons for different and conflicting teachings, rather in introducing differing normative conceptions of religion and politics in their role for conflict dynamics in the current Syrian war. Based on the Islamic belief that God revealed his will to Muhammad about how to arrange human life as a whole, Muslim intellectuals and activists elaborated on the implications of Islamic prerogatives for the concept of statehood. Although, with the exception of Iran, Islamists failed to establish Islamic states 19 , their ideas have been influential ever since.
In any case, the proclamation of an Islamic caliphate in Syria and Iraq in by the Islamic State militia exceeded any previous expectation of a true Islamic state. However, the dividing line in this regard does not run along those who support an Islamic state and those who reject it. Post-Islamism refers to a significant decoupling of religion from its traditional institutions.
In opposition to Islamism, Post-Islamism is less interested in shaping day-to-day politics than in private piety. Accordingly, when demonstrations against the Syrian regime began, many protesters framed their concerns in religious terms.
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Nevertheless, they had no interest in the Islamic reconstruction of the state. However, various protesters also called for the introduction of the civil state, dawla madaniyyah. Thus, the civil state provides a concept that fulfills the central demand of the secular state autonomous sphere of politics 27 while not rejecting the primal and fundamental role of Islam Feder Whereas the concept of the civil state represents a compromise between two opposing claims, many Islamists outwardly reject it.
This antagonism is also present in opposition movements and organizations. While many Islamist militias like the Islamic State and Hayat Tahrir as-Sham reject any concept of state that is not genuinely Islamic, others accepted the concept of the civil state as a compromise. The commitment to the civil state was made obligatory for admission to the Syrian National Council ibid.
In this regard, the ikhwan was always close to Post-Islamist principles: Politics might still be of interest for Post-Islamists.
Yet, due to individual obligations nurtured by religious concerns for justice, it is not perceived as a genuine Islamic project Bayat ; Roy Consequently, concerns emerge about defining the autonomy of the political sphere and the involvement of religion. In this regard, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood resembles old-fashioned Islamists. While the elaborations on religion as community and as a discourse were more interested in the structural foundations of conflict, this and the following part also raise the issue of agency. This section introduced a variety of opinions about the role of Islam in politics, which as a repertoire of diverging opinions maintain a potential for conflict.
Referring to paradigms for the progression of conflict by John Paul Lederach and Adam Curie, the existence of diverging and conflicting opinions in a society introduces the dimension of the political. A political authority that suppresses such conflicts will maintain a static but not sustainable societal situation that might lead to violent conflict one day.
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Instead, in order to progress towards a sustainable, balanced, and peaceful society, the governing authority has to maintain the preconditions for such a diversity to exist: Opinions that are allowed to be reflected on and discussed do not foster social cleavages Lederach , pp. While Post-Islamism provides the cultural preconditions for the coexistence of a diversity of opinions, the concept of the civil state can serve as the political and legal foundation for it.
The previous dimensions focused on religion as a dependent variable that causally relates to political, social, cultural, or historical dynamics. By describing religion as a dependent variable, the above elaborations sought not to overstate religion as a conflict factor, as they related to respective underlying social dynamics.
However, religion also constitutes an immediate reality for the subject.
As such, it is irreducible to other phenomena and therefore claims to be an independent variable. Including it in an elaboration on the influence of religion on the conflict in Syria, we make sure not to understate its relevance as a shallow projection of societal dynamics. In doing so, this section explicitly deals with the issue of religious agency in conflict. Scott Appleby describes this approach towards religion in its irreducibility to other phenomena as strong religion in opposition to weak religion Appleby , pp.
He refers to Rudolf Otto, who introduces the sacred or the numinous as the core of every religious experience. It becomes manifest as the ultimate experience. The sacred is beyond categories of good and evil. Thus, the experience of the sacred becomes an end in itself beyond any other aspect of everyday life and can be pursued by any possible means of asceticism Otto , pp.
However, for a certain subject, jihad can also constitute a purely spiritual dimension beyond any political, social, and sectarian reference. After all, jihad is a spiritual duty for the devout. Any act on the path of jihad may also represent an act of dedication to the sacred and thereby constitute a spiritual act. However, that does not indicate a moral valuation. Referring to Otto, Appleby highlights the sacred dimension of acts that are committed in the name of God, even if they involve mass killings and other atrocities Appleby , pp.
Giving an account of a divine experience is only possible to a certain extent.