Thursday, 29 December 2011

"Jihad" means war in the name of Islam.... and the clash of civilisations

PS: I've got into various arguments with people here in Hong Kong, including those in the Islamic community and local political types, in the press and elsewhere, about the meaning of the word "Jihad", which they take to mean "struggle" and only struggle. Of course it does mean that, but it also has another meaning, namely "holy war".  This is by far its more common meaning.  I have quoted authoritative sources on the issue, including the classic manual of Islamic Jurisprudence (The Umdat Al-Salik).  So what's quoted below is in support of my contention re the meaning of "jihad" as commonly understood in Islamic circles today.
It's by noted Islamic scholar Andrew Bostom:
"... there is just one historically relevant meaning of jihad despite contemporary apologetics. Jahada, the root of the word Jihad, appears 40 times in the Koran—under a variety of grammatical forms. With 4 exceptions, all the other 36 usages (in specific Koranic verses) are variations of the third form of the verb, i.e. Jahida. Jahida in the Koran and in subsequent Islamic understanding to both Muslim luminaries—from the greatest jurists and scholars of classical Islam (including Abu Yusuf, Averroes, Ibn Khaldun, and Al Ghazzali), to ordinary people—meant and means “he fought, warred or waged war against unbelievers and the like”, as described by the seminal Arabic lexicographer E.W Lane. Indeed, Lane’s, An Arabic English Lexicon (6 volumes, London, 1865) is still used to this day by Muslim and non-Muslim scholars for definitive Arabic to English translation. Thus Lane, who studied both the etymology and usage of the term jihad, observed, “Jihad came to be used by the Muslims to signify wag[ing] war, against unbelievers.”"
[Emphasis added]
And, earlier in Bostom's piece, a quote from Huntington's "Clash of Civilisations", a view I hold to, rather...
"The overwhelming majority of fault line conflicts,…have taken place along the boundary looping across Eurasia and Africa that separates Muslims from non-Muslims….Intense antagonisms and violent conflicts are pervasive between local Muslim and non-Muslim peoples….Muslims make up about one-fifth of the world’s population, but in the 1990s they have been far more involved in inter-group violence than the people of any other civilization. The evidence is overwhelming. There were, in short, three times as many inter-civilizational conflicts involving Muslims as there were between non-Muslim civilizations….Muslim states also have had a high propensity to resort to violence in international crises, employing it to resolve 76 crises out of a total of 142 in which they were involved between 1928 and 1979…When they did use violence, Muslim states used high-intensity violence, resorting to full-scale war in 41 percent of the cases where violence was used and engaging in major clashes in another 39 percent of the cases. While Muslim states resorted to violence in 53.5 percent, violence was used the United Kingdom in only 1.5 percent, by the United States in 17.9 percent, and by the Soviet Union in 28.5 percent of the crises in which they were involved…Muslim bellicosity and violence are late-twentieth-century facts which neither Muslims nor non-Muslims can deny."
Says Bostom: 
"The underlying problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture."
[Though of course, it can make tactical and strategic sense to act as though there are moderate versions of Islam.]