Islam and Jihad

The truth about Islam and war and the way fundamentalists have manipulated the term 'Jihad'

Islam has been the subject of considerable controversy. One of the accusations made against it is that it is inherently violent with the term jihad translated as ‘holy war’. The term ‘holy war’ originates from Christian crusaders who first used the term to justify a battle for land and trade routes.

In Islam, war is never holy. It can only be just or unjust. War is only considered just if it is in self defence or to prevent injustice. "Fight in the way of God those who fight you, but do not begin hostilities; God does not like the aggressor" 2.190 "if the [enemy] desists, then you must also cease hostilities" 2.193.

Peaceful resolution is Islam’s default position. Jihad literally means ‘a struggle‘ or ‘a striving’, and refers primarily to the spiritual struggle against the ego. Modern day Islamist fundamentalists have manipulated the term Jihad for political ends so it resonates with the Christian meaning of holy war and violence.

With the advent of Islam came rules of how to conduct war that for the first time in the history of warfare drew a distinction between combatants and non-combatants. The modern day Geneva convention on human rights can trace it’s origins back to Islam. How ironic is it therefore that today’s Muslim terrorists have usurped this principle and turned it on its head. Not only justifying the slaughter of non-combatants, but considering it an Islamic duty.

So where are today’s moderate Muslims to reclaim jihad? Well they exist - they just don’t make the news. So let me quote here from a recent letter from the world’s leading Islamic scholars clarifying for the Pope’s benefit the Islamic rules of war: 1) Non-combatants are not permitted or legitimate targets. This was emphasized explicitly time and again by the Prophet, his Companions, and by the learned tradition since then. 2) Religious belief alone does not make anyone the object of attack. The original Muslim community was fighting against pagans who had also expelled them from their homes, persecuted, tortured, and murdered them. Thereafter, the Islamic conquests were political in nature. 3) Muslims can and should live peacefully with their neighbours. "And if they incline to peace, do thou incline to it; and put thy trust in God (al-Anfal 8.61)." However, this does not exclude legitimate self-defence and maintenance of sovereignty."

The full text of the letter and signatories can be viewed here

I should add that the Pope's apparent reversal in some of his views with his recent comments in Turkey are to be welcomed as a step in the right direction.

Extremism within Muslim societies is a result of the decline in Muslim scholarship. Ignorant people are easily manipulated by charlatans. The west’s display of aggression against certain parts of the Muslim world have been used by those that are opposed to any constructive engagement with the west and an appreciation of it socio-political advancements as a recruiting sergeant for their vision of a disengaged future.

Asim Siddiqui is Chairman of the City Circle, which provides a place for British Muslim and non-Muslim communities to engage. More details can be found on www.thecitycircle.com. He works as a forensic accountant.
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Will Euroscepticism prove an unbeatable advantage in the Conservative leadership race?

Conservative members who are eager for Brexit are still searching for a heavyweight champion - and they could yet inherit the earth.

Put your money on Liam Fox? The former Defence Secretary has been given a boost by the news that ConservativeHome’s rolling survey of party members preferences for the next Conservative leader. Jeremy Wilson at BusinessInsider and James Millar at the Sunday Post have both tipped Fox for the top job.

Are they right? The expectation among Conservative MPs is that there will be several candidates from the Tory right: Dominic Raab, Priti Patel and potentially Owen Paterson could all be candidates, while Boris Johnson, in the words of one: “rides both horses – is he the candidate of the left, of the right, or both?”

MPs will whittle down the field of candidates to a top two, who will then be voted on by the membership.  (As Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee, notes in his interview with my colleague George Eaton, Conservative MPs could choose to offer a wider field if they so desired, but would be unlikely to surrender more power to party activists.)

The extreme likelihood is that that contest will be between two candidates: George Osborne and not-George Osborne.  “We know that the Chancellor has a bye to the final,” one minister observes, “But once you’re in the final – well, then it’s anyone’s game.”

Could “not-George Osborne” be Liam Fox? Well, the difficulty, as one MP observes, is we don’t really know what the Conservative leadership election is about:

“We don’t even know what the questions are to which the candidates will attempt to present themselves as the answer. Usually, that question would be: who can win us the election? But now that Labour have Corbyn, that question is taken care of.”

So what’s the question that MPs will be asking? We simply don’t know – and it may be that they come to a very different conclusion to their members, just as in 2001, when Ken Clarke won among MPs – before being defeated in a landslide by Conservative activists.

Much depends not only on the outcome of the European referendum, but also on its conduct. If the contest is particularly bruising, it may be that MPs are looking for a candidate who will “heal and settle”, in the words of one. That would disadvantage Fox, who will likely be a combative presence in the European referendum, and could benefit Boris Johnson, who, as one MP put it, “rides both horses” and will be less intimately linked with the referendum and its outcome than Osborne.

But equally, it could be that Euroscepticism proves to be a less powerful card than we currently expect. Ignoring the not inconsiderable organisational hurdles that have to be cleared to beat Theresa May, Boris Johnson, and potentially any or all of the “next generation” of Sajid Javid, Nicky Morgan or Stephen Crabb, we simply don’t know what the reaction of Conservative members to the In-Out referendum will be.

Firstly, there’s a non-trivial possibility that Leave could still win, despite its difficulties at centre-forward. The incentive to “reward” an Outer will be smaller. But if Britain votes to Remain – and if that vote is seen by Conservative members as the result of “dirty tricks” by the Conservative leadership – it could be that many members, far from sticking around for another three to four years to vote in the election, simply decide to leave. The last time that Cameron went against the dearest instincts of many of his party grassroots, the result was victory for the Prime Minister – and an activist base that, as the result of defections to Ukip and cancelled membership fees, is more socially liberal and more sympathetic to Cameron than it was before. Don’t forget that, for all the worry about “entryism” in the Labour leadership, it was “exitism” – of Labour members who supported David Miliband and liked the New Labour years  - that shifted that party towards Jeremy Corbyn.

It could be that if – as Brady predicts in this week’s New Statesman – the final two is an Inner and an Outer, the Eurosceptic candidate finds that the members who might have backed them are simply no longer around.

It comes back to the biggest known unknown in the race to succeed Cameron: Conservative members. For the first time in British political history, a Prime Minister will be chosen, not by MPs with an electoral mandate of their own or by voters at a general election but by an entirelyself-selecting group: party members. And we simply don't know enough about what they feel - yet. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog. He usually writes about politics.