Heritage and terrorism, any responsibility?

    All terrorist movements have clear heritage prints, from the enslavement of Yazidi and Christian women to the establishment of the Islamic State. All the monstrosity and savagery that it displays has been attributed to it in heritage, both in terms of theory and in terms of historical practice. All those who today accuse it of exaggeration and ignorance do not disagree that many of these practices are Sharia law, or have at least a Islamic law side, they differ only in the logic of interest, corruption, timing, and style.

   The question of terrorism and heritage, despite all its boldness, cannot be turned a blind eye on but must be taken with great firmness and depth. A number of scholars of the terrorist file believe that the dire economic situation and fragile social background have a key role to play in the production of terrorism, while others believe that Britain, America and political events since the Balfour Declaration, have a role to play in creating the terrorist situation.

   I do not deny that these things together have some useful bases for a partial interpretation of the terrorist phenomenon. However, it would be wrong to lose sight of the foundations of the closed identity structure that would later become fatal, especially if we recall Samuel Huntington’s sincere observation, “which is that most of the fundamentalist movements in all religions are university degree holders and belong to the middle classes.”

   The social and economic situation is not very helpful in interpreting the phenomenon. These analysts are missing dozens of poor countries that do not know of an explosion in the terrorist phenomenon. They also miss the large numbers of those who joined from the world’s richest countries: “Over 20,000 fighters from Europe, hundreds of them from Scandinavia, the richest country in the world.”

I go back to asking: Do the sheikhs, jurists, and preachers recognize that there is some problem with traditional religious interpretation?

   In fact, as a whole, they never admit… They don’t see the traditional system that teaches in the morning and evening the door of enslavement, the rulings of the people of dhimmis, the abandonment of the innovator, the jihad of demand, the intolerant effects that count in the hundreds, if not in the thousands, narrated by many jurists, the many doors of atonement in the books of doctrinal jurisprudence, the Hanbali rooting of the doors of infidelity and faith adopted by contemporary jihadist currents, and all that long list of unacceptable interpretations against women, and the jurisprudential chapters that perpetuate the heritage worldview: Dar Harb and Dar Islam, and the violent and pretentious interpretations of the verses of jihad in the books of interpretation… They don’t see all this as a matter of review, and it’s somehow responsible for recreating the current violence.

   Rather, any abuse of the religious text is more than that God Almighty says in the Qur’an: “And We have honoured the children of Adam.” Then the commentators come after that and say: God honoured man, and then the infidel chose to humiliate himself by his lack of faith, so he does not deserve to be honoured. These scholars speak with a frequent cosmetic tone, and wholesale accusations to all those affiliated with jihadist movements that they are Kharijites and that they are ignorant. It’s all this is in the pursuit of creating a perfect picture of this heritage.

   ISIS is a Sunni band. It has emerged from a Sunni womb, its literature is Sunni, and those who joined it were brought up in a Sunni country. They did not come from the country of Mzab in Algeria. If the organization were to adopt the doctrine of the Kharijites, it would not have had any supporters or followers in the Sunni class.

   All in the matter is that ISIS, like all Islamic groups, was selecting from within the Sunni heritage what was consistent with its purposes, interests, and psychological motives. Therefore, running away from practising self-criticism doubles the bill for all of us. It should be recognized that part of our jurisprudential and historical heritage bears the imprints of hostility towards others, with a narrow chest in accepting and dealing with the other opinion.

   The general jurists today practice an improper approach to jurisprudence and reality. All that they do not like about the legacy and the jurisprudence of the past imams, or are difficult to apply today, are fleeing it towards loose and general rules, such as the rule of interest, and that the reality today is not appropriate for these matters, or they say that the time of slavery – for example – is over.

The danger in this jurisprudential perception is due to two things:

  • One: They magnify the heritage in the eyes of people and young people to such an extent that the jurisprudence of former imams is raised to unthinkable positions of veneration, with young people later adopting the entire heritage system without discrimination. It is no secret that hundreds of thousands of young people today believe in the need to return to the age of slavery and servitude, dreaming of “yellow girls” from the blondes of Germany, Sweden and New Zealand, believing in reshaping another country different from this… Faith state! They believe in all the heritage provisions about Christians and Jews and the need to humiliate them as established in the books of jurisprudence. “They believe in the necessity of conquest and that there will be a day when Muslims will regain their military ability to declare war on all unbelievers.
  • The second, which is based on the first: When the jurists encounter the obstacle of reality in a case of jurisprudence that is unacceptable today, they do not discuss the problem of the conflict of many heritage with modern times, with an explicit call for a complete renewal of the doctrinal system, but are divided into two groups: “A team says that those provisions are valid when the Islamic State returns”, and “a team says that the interest required that we not take those provisions today”.

   In both cases, the status of heritage in the collective mind does not budge, especially with the prevailing glorification tone, the absence of any critical behaviour, or internal readings that place heritage in the balance of objective research and systematic criticism, which, as a logical result, has produced a generation of minds that glorifies heritage. So traditional texts became a standard for judging contemporary jurisprudence, as if we were forced to live our bodies in the 21st century and our minds in the 7th century.

By Mohamed Abdelwahab Rafiki, is a Moroccan thinker and researcher in Islamic studies specializing in issues of extremism, terrorism and religious reform, human rights and community activist, writer and TV and radio presenter.