Michael Scheuer claims on BBC Radio International (675 AM Hong Kong) that there is no "corpus of rhetoric" to show that Osama bin Laden “hates the West’s liberty, freedom or our way of life”. If we address Islamic grievances (Palestine, Iraq war, abandon Israel, and so forth) we shall be able to coexist in peace.
In this he is demonstrably wrong. Worse: he is willfully –and therefore deceitfully – wrong for he knows that such writings exist.
In bin Laden’s essay (a “letter”) of May 2002, directed at Saudi sheiks (that is, for Islamic-eyes only), titled “Moderate Islam is a Prostration to the West” 1, bin Laden says:
On freedom, liberty and the West’s way of life:
“For practically everything valued by the immoral West is condemned under Sharia law.” (p.37)
“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 willing submission; or payment of the jizya [tax on non-Muslims]…; or the sword – for it is not right to let the infidel live. The matter is summed up for every person alive: Either submit, or live under the suzerainty of Islam; or die”. (p.42)
In case we miss the point:
“In fact, Muslims are obligated to raid the lands of the infidels, occupy them and exchange their systems of governance for an Islamic system, barring any practice that contradicts the Sharia from being publicly voiced among the people…”. (p.51)
These are clear and unequivocal statements by al-Qaeda, and there are many, many more, authorized or written by bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri. Why does Mr. Scheuer say they “don’t exist”??
Willfully wrong: it would be one thing if Scheuer were ignorant of bin Laden’s writings. But he is not, as evidenced by the debate, in late 2008, with Raymond Ibrahim here. Scheuer says Ibrahim has been “selective”. Well, of course one has to be selective in any “Reader”…. But, as Ibrahim points out, the Reader quotes writings and speeches from al-Qaeda which are directed both at the Muslim world and those directed at the West. In any case, whatever the selectivity, to say that there is no evidence of al-Qaeda hating the West’s freedom (“hating our MacDonalds” as Scheuer cutely puts it), is clearly false and it is equally clear that Scheuer knows of these writings.
This is too important a topic to leave the last word to Scheuer and his deceit. As Scheuer himself says, it’s a matter of “knowing one’s enemy”. Are al-Qaeda after settling grievances (Palestine, the Iraq and Afghani wars, etc), or are they after world domination of Islamic Sharia? Clearly the former does not preclude the latter. And clearly the latter – suzerainty of Islamic Sharia – is of overarching importance to al-Qaeda and their fellow travellers. To say that it’s only the former (Islamic grievances), as does Scheuer and to ignore the latter (Islamic suzerainty) is surely propagating a dangerous misconception.
I urge the BBC to invite Raymond Ibrahim to put the case that the world view of bin Laden and his cronies includes world-wide Islamic caliphate, under Sharia law.
1. The Al Qaeda Reader, Raymond Ibrahim, Doubleday, NY, 2007, p22 et. seq.