Holy War and Anti War: An Axis against Nature
By Walid Phares
The oddest of all factional relationships is the open alliance between the
Jihadists and the so-called "antiwar" neo-Left movement in the West. The jumble
of causes thrown together is mind-bending: globalization hobnobs with the
caliphate, class struggle with Wahabism, proletariat with infidels, and North
Korea with Palestine.
While still shedding each others' blood, the Reds (neo-Left) and the Dark Greens (Islamists) are conducting a joint offensive against both democracy-pushing America and the democracy-craving Middle East. They are not letting old or new grudges get in their way.
The Wahabis fiercely fought the Soviet Communists in Afghanistan;
the Muslim Brotherhood and the Marxists have been at each other's throats for decades;
the Salafists butchered left-wing intellectuals in Algeria and assassinated progressive bureaucrats in central Asia after the Soviet collapse;
the Taliban killed socialists and shut down art institutions;
the Khumeinist regime in Iran decimated the Tudeh Communist Party in the 1980's.
Despite all the mutual mayhem across the Mediterranean and throughout the Middle East, an unnatural alliance was established by elites of the two camps, even while blood was being shed in the 1990's. Setting ideologies and history aside, the Islamist tacticians and Left pragmatists gradually converged on a two-lane path against liberal democracies and the specter of a free market and pluralist Middle East.
The Jihadi concern with Western involvement in the region is logical: free societies in the Arab and Muslim world, joined finally to the international community, would shatter fundamentalism's control of the region's political cultures. To have Arab and Iranian youths, in addition to minorities, hooking up directly with the peaceful and prosperous societies of the West would leave the Islamists without a base to recruit from.
Jihadism is joined with the antiwar movement even while promoting "holy war," which is the essence of their rissala (mission). The ideology of the Salafists and Khumeinists is to prepare for, mobilize for, incite, and engage in a constant war of jihad against the infidels, who are supposed to be all those who aren't Islamists, including moderate Muslims.
Theoretically, the jihadi connection to the antiwar concept is impossible. But in the realm of reality, it does occur, mainly because of the mutating "pragmatism" of both of the antidemocratic movements. The radical Islamists, as I argued in Future Jihad, have undergone a strategic mutation that has allowed them to coalesce tactically with ideological foes, among them Baathists, Neo-Marxists, and anarchists.
The last group, under an international neo-Left umbrella in the West, created the anti-war movement, which is reminiscent of the old Cold War Communist-controlled "peace movement."
Islamists found it easier to insert themselves as partners in an "antiwar" movement than a "peace" movement. Effectively, in the jihadi aqida (doctrine), seeking permanent peace with others is a non issue, given that jihad is constant, regardless of its form. Jihadism cannot accommodate a peace movement in principle.
However jurisprudence based on al Haja (necessity) would allow the jihadists to accept an interim cessation of war and work in more sophisticated ways to stop wars that they cannot win. Thus it is in the interest of the radical Islamists to stop a war that can't be won by them, at least until the balance of power is restored and a winnable war becomes possible again. They are against the West's war for tactical reasons. But they are not at all in favor of peace until they win.
In the case of the War on Terror, the "political Islamists" joined the "no war" crowd in order to stop the military efforts of the United States and its allies against the terrorist forces of the jihadists. Hence Islamic militants marched in the demonstrations against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as a way to give respite to the Taliban and al Qaeda. The antiwar movement exposed its broken rationale when it marched against some but not all wars. It demonstrated against the military efforts to overthrow the Taliban and Saddam but ignored the wars waged by the Sudanese regime against the African peoples in the south and Darfur; it marched against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, but ignored the Syrian occupation of Lebanon.
Worse, in the eyes of millions of Middle Easterners, were the highly publicized "red buses" filled with antiwar militants who headed to Iraq to "support" dictator Saddam Hussein. They traveled from London, Berlin, and Rome through Eastern Europe without a word in remembrance of its struggle against the Soviet occupation, and crossed Syria without comforting the thousands of political prisoners tortured and assassinated by the Baathist regime.
And for an apex of irony, the buses rolled through sinister Halabja, a Kurdish town gassed by Saddam in 1988, and past the Shiites' mass graves, stopping only to "shield" Saddam's castles, built from oil revenues that rented the buses and lodged their occupants in fancy hotels. This antiwar movement was convenient for the jihadists, as it was a form of war against the rise of democracies in the region. For the movement, mostly bourgeois in nature, never showed up in Darfur, among Berbers in Algeria or Lebanese under Syrian occupation, or to shield women under the Taliban.
Hence it wasn't surprising for viewers around the world to see the Islamist militants in Europe taking to the streets alongside the "bourgeois Neo-Marxists" to protest the governments that supported the War on Terror. In Europe, the most revealing action of the Islamist militants was when -- in the same year as the red buses -- they marched in support of the French government against U.S. intervention in Iraq, and then burned shops and cars in 200 French cities and towns during a "French intifada."
The jihadi manipulation of the bourgeois-Neo-Marxist "struggle" has played a central role in the so-called "mass demonstrations" in the West since 2002, and the demonstrations themselves are an important component of the War of Ideas against democracy. On campuses, both in North America and Western Europe, the jihadi-antiwar axis has planted deep roots, and thanks to the skills of university-based anarchist groups, the jihadists have found a cover they can hide under, instead of simply becoming members of the typical Muslim Student Unions.
But this "marriage of convenience" with the extreme left has not deterred jihadists from conducting another, simultaneous, wedding with the extreme right. But that's another story.
***Dr Walid Phares is a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and a visiting scholar at the European Foundation for Democracy. He is the author of War of Ideas.