October 13, 2012 by Bruce Wallace, 121Contact
Thoughts after a presentation by Sohail Hashimi, professor of political science at Mt. Holyoke College.
In the twisted logic of some who have taken what they believe to be more important than the lives of innocent people there has arisen a ‘justification’ for attacks on the U.S. based in the Koran. Surat At-Tawbah, K9:123, to be exact: “O you who believe! Fight the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find harshness in you.” [Abu Yahya al-Libi’s translation]
How this Koranic verse, given after a military expedition in 630 (only two years before Mohammed’s death), calling followers to fight hypocrites and troublemakers within their midst (the near) became a justification for attacking the U.S. population (the far) is a long story.
The short of it: At one time the State of Israel was ‘the far’ enemy. There was dissension among radical Islamists as to whether they should be attacked directly and many saw the real threat to be closer to home: the secular governments installed to replace the European occupiers. It was even postulated that these local apostate leaders were using Israel as a red herring to defer attention from their own corruption. Here was a near enemy that many, especially Salafists, thought should be cleansed first. The assassination of Sadat was the tip of this movement.
In the eyes of the Islamists, as the secular governments came to power many were supported by the U.S. who came to be regarded as not only a supporter of Israel, but an enabler for the apostate leaders of these new regimes. The U.S. was becoming a target of great anger.
Osama Bin Laden’s 1996 proclamation called out the U.S. and its Saudi allies insisting that Jihad must be directed at the U.S.-the root; the main enemy. He later enlisted Abu Yahya al-Libi to formulate the justification for ‘the near’ becoming ‘the far.’ Al-Libbi writing speaks of the current conflicts not being ‘normal Jihad’. He points to the fact that the enemy is far only when it is difficult to fight from a distance. When telecommunications, troops on sacred ground, missiles, and drones enter your lands then there is no distance that defines a difference, therefore the far becomes the near.
And what of the Koran’s admonitions to Peace, mercy, and justice? For the parts that indicate the wrongfulness of killing innocents? Because 9:123 was written so late in the life of the Prophet, so the radical interpretation goes, the earlier verses do not apply.
It’s a facile and twisted logic, to be sure, but it was evidently easy to sell to a large number of modern Jihadists, and the justification exists today in the minds of many.