The Jihad Trap

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The Jihad Trap

The war America is engaged in after the attacks on the WTC, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania is a war for the hearts and minds of average Muslims around the world. Bin Laden, if indeed he is the mastermind behind the attacks, has set a trap for the US into which it must not fall. By attacking the US as part of a jihad ("a holy war"), Bin Laden is in fact claiming to Muslims to represent their grievances and to represent real Islam. He is in effect saying: "Muslims, I share your grievances unlike your corrupt and authoritarian governments; I am the only one doing something about it. I have destroyed the symbols of American capitalism and stopped the heartbeat of world finance which the US dominates."

The US, as well as moderate Muslims the world over, must unite and deny him this symbolic victory and must not accept to engage him in combat on these terms. We should not let him define the terms of our intellectual and symbolic battle. As a professor of Islamic law I have researched the law of jihad and can state unequivocally that the war Bin Laden has engaged us in cannot be labeled a jihad. Furthermore, I believe a strong case can be made that he has acted contrary to the tenets of Islam and can be ostracized from the community of believing Muslims. Moderate Muslims will agree with me, certainly, as they are horrified by this attack and are desperate to have it disassociated from their religion. The West must provide moderate Muslims a way out of Bin Laden's trap.

According to Islamic law there are at least six reasons why Bin Laden's barbaric violence cannot fall under the rubric of jihad:

1. Individuals and organizations cannot declare a jihad, only states can;

2. One cannot kill innocent women and children when conducting a jihad;

3. One cannot kill Muslims in a jihad;

4. One cannot fight a jihad against a country in which Muslims can freely practice their religion and proselytize Islam;

5. Prominent Muslim jurists around the world have condemned these attacks and their condemnation forms a juristic consensus (ijma`) against Bin Laden's actions. This consensus renders his actions un-Islamic;

6. The welfare and interest of the Muslim community (maslaha) is being harmed by Bin Laden's actions and this equally makes them un-Islamic.
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