In George Orwell’s landmark novel 1984, Big Brother’s dictatorial state uses “newspeak” and its Ministry of Truth to turn falsehood into manufactured “truth” and reality into lies. The administration’s explanation of what drives the terrorists responsible for 9/11, the Fort Hood shooting, and the Boston bombing sounds everyday more and more like a product of The Ministry of Truth.
This weekend, the President gave an interview on CNN in which he made several categorical assertions about the terrorists that have endangered America and her allies and, most recently, beheaded a Japanese hostage in the Middle East. As Breitbart has reported, the Commander-in-Chief explicitly “rejected the notion” that the war on terrorism is any kind of “religious war” against radical Islam. President Obama went on to explain how groups such as Al Qaeda and The Islamic State are not in fact Islamic but simply nihilists.
This message is not new or unique to the chief executive, since in fact, back in 2011, the administration banned any mention of Islam or even “Jihad” in counterterrorism training for the Department of Justice – to include the FBI – and the Department of Defense, to include all our armed forces. Since that time, the official line has been that religion, and specifically Islam, has nothing to do with events such as the Boston Bombing or the rise of ISIS.
But what are the facts?
Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, the Al Nusra Front, and ISIS all share the same goal and ideology. They all want to reestablish the theocratic empire of Islam – The Caliphate – that was dissolved in 1924, and they all see Holy War, or Jihad, as the only way to do so. Where does this ideology come from? Just like America and the Western military world, the Global Jihadist Movement (GJM) has its grand strategic thinkers, their own Clausewitzs and Mackinders. The three most important are the Egyptian, Sayyid Qutb; the Palestinian Jordanian, Abdulah Azzam; and the Pakistani Brigadier S.K. Malik. What did these three founders of the GJM have to say about Islam’s relationship to terrorism?
- Qutb is perhaps the most important person to the Muslim Brotherhood after its founder, Hassan al Banna. After spending two years in the US and deciding that we are a heretical nation that must be destroyed, Qutb wrote his guide to Jihad, the manual on how to destroy us. Entitled Milestones, this text has been found on high-value terrorist targets killed or captured in every theater that jihad is currently being fought in. In it, Qutb is explicit: Muslims have lost their way, Islam must be purged of ignorance of Allah (jahiliyyah), and the only way to do so is through a jihad in which the infidel (kuffar) is subdued or killed. Qutb added that all democracies must be destroyed because in any system in which men make the laws, the sovereignty of Allah has been undermined. The Koran is the only constitution a Muslim needs or is allowed to follow.
- Next there is Abdullah Azzam, Osama bin Laden’s boss and spiritual guide. After the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviets in 1979, Azzam issued a fatwa, or religious decree with the title: Defense of Muslim Lands. In it, he stated that, since the Caliphate had been dissolved in 1924 and that there was no longer an Islamic Emperor who could declare war against such invaders, Jihad was now fard ‘ayn, or an individual and universal obligation upon all followers of the Muslim faith. Importantly, because Azzam held a PhD in Islamic jurisprudence from the Al Azhar in Cairo, the most important Sunni theological institution in the world, he was fully qualified to issue such a decree, and it was duly endorsed by the greatest names in the Sunni religious establishment. Azzam is not only important because of his making Holy War a duty for all Muslims, but because he created an organization called the Services Bureau (MAK in Arabic) which recruited Muslims from around the world to come fight the infidels in Afghanistan. Not long after its founding, Azzam hired bin Laden as his deputy and it was bin Laden who would inherit the MAK upon Azzam’s death and rename it Al Qaeda.
- The last and most important Jihadi strategist is the late Brigadier Malik. Also interestingly in 1979, Malik wrote a book which has become the most influential treatise on why Jihad is necessary and how it must be fought. The Quranic Concept of War is a long text on what the faithful Muslim can learn from the way Mohammad fought the infidels and non-believers when he established the empire of Islam. In it, Malik states three things: i) All war must only serve the realization of Allah’s sovereignty on this Earth through the reestablishment of the Caliphate. ii) The only target that matters in warfare is the soul of the infidel: the kuffar must be converted to Islam or be killed. iii) Because the soul is the only target that matters, terror is the best mode of warfare. In other words, it is events like 9/11, the Charlie Hebdo shootings, or the Fort Hood massacre that are the best way to defeat the infidel. (Note this wasn’t a fringe text when it was published – nor is it now – given that the introduction was written by the equivalent of the Attorney General of Pakistan and the preface which endorsed all that was in the book, was signed by none other than General Zia ul Haq, the Commander of all Pakistan’s Armed Forces and at the same time the President of Pakistan.
In other words, the greatest minds behind the threat groups we face today, the authors that shaped the ideology behind the atrocities we witness day in and day out, are all in agreement: Islam has lost its way and Jihad must be used to cleanse the world of disbelief until the theocratic empire reigns supreme.
Whatever the President and his newspeak cadre believe, it is clear what Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the head of ISIS/The Islamic State believes. Last September 11th, I was invited to brief an element of the US Intelligence Community that stills holds to the professional standard that one has to be honest about what the enemy says and what they are doing. In the brief, I took the speech Abu Bakr made earlier in the Summer of 2014 from the pulpit of the Grand Mosque in Mosul, in which he declared the reestablishment of the Caliphate, and represent it as a “word cloud,” the visual representation of a text in which words are given a larger size and put closer to the center of the diagram the more often they are used.
This is the result:
Sebastian Gorka PhD is the Matthew C. Horner Distinguished Chair of Military Theory at the Marine Corps University and also adjunct professor at the Institute of World Politics. You can follow on Twitter at: @SebGorka.