Wednesday, 31 October 2007


Hijazi and Salafi-Resistance relations
Sunday, October 28, 2007


Akram Hijazi, described as a writer and university professor,
someone Marc Lynch tells us is a frequent and apparently influential
contributor to the jihadi forums, has a recent post entitled "Slow down there!
This speech [of Osama bin Laden] wasn't a confessional, it was a call to arms".
Marc gives us a head start by locating this in the context of one of
Hijazi's themes, namely the important difference between the
fundamentally religious "salafi jihadi" approach and that of the non-
salafi resistance groups, the idea being that any "mistakes"
referred to in the Bin Laden speech are mistakes in the application
of Islamic religious law, not "mistakes" in the sense of political
errors. Hijazi sees the need to really harp on the point at the
present time, because otherwise there are those who will interpret
the Bin Laden speech as a specific criticism of the Islamic State of
Iraq in political terms, maybe even suggesting it should be
dissolved. A grave misreading, says Hijazi.

And with this as a legup thanks to the Abu Aardvark blog, let's see
where this takes us in the question of jihadi-resistance relations.
Because even after admitting the radical difference between salafi
jihadi groups that refer only to religious law and their allies who
recognize in some sense positive law as well, the fact remains that
the Bin Laden speech raised for the first time (from the AQ side)
the idea of points of contact, and Hijazi seems to recognize that,
albeit in a very roundabout and tendentious way.

I think it's worth getting into the tall reeds here, because of the
importance of the underlying question about the relationship between
the salafi jihadis and the non-salafi Iraqi resistance.

We know that Bin Laden spoke about the necessary unity of
the "honest groups" and about the damage that "taassub" or absolute
and narrow devotion to a particular group and its leadership. Hijazi
asks: "...whether the unity Bin Laden calls for among the jihadi
groups is the unity of creed, or whether on the other hand is it a
general political unity?" He says if you read the speech from the
standpoint of positive law and existing political arrangements, then
the reading is likely to be that a focus on the idea that AlQaeda
for the first time admitted mistakes in Iraq, and then
"[T]he initial gist of our conclusion will be that AlQaeda is intent
on dissolving he Islamic State of Iraq, on the basis it is the
biggest mistake leading to "the crisis it is undergoing, which
centers essentially on the loss of a popular supporting environment
for it, and the alienation of a good part of the masses from it
after it tried to impose its views on the other groups and set up
the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and requiring everyone to pledge
allegiance to its leader." But does this reading, and that result,
actually correspond to the essence of what Bin Laden was saying, and
to the essence of the mistakes he was talking about?
(The part I italicized is something that Hijazi encloses in
quotation marks. I don't know who he is quoting, but clearly it is
meant to be representative of what he considers to be the
unacceptable conclusion from a non-religious mis-reading of the

Hijazi's answer is obviously no. That isn't the right reading. But
my point here is that he says it isn't the right reading because it
leads to an unacceptable conclusion, as a form of reduction ad
absurdum. The right reading, and the one that doesn't lead to the
danger of thinking about dissolving the ISI or anything like that,
is the careful reading that puts the whole speech in its religious
context, where mistakes are universal and human, to be corrected by
the application of religious law by persons who are qualified to do
so. In support of this Hijazi quotes the religious texts that are
the source of ideas like human fallibility, and he shows how
glorifying the orders of your own group as if they were infallible
is one type of error, and participating in democratic forms of
government is another. So from that point of view too, the Bin Laden
speech clearly wasn't intended as a political criticism, veiled or
otherwise, of the ISI.

Of course, Hijazi's choice between "unity of creed" and "general
political unity" is quite limiting. And in a way the arguments are
spurious in other ways: No political unity is possible outside of
unity of creed, but the person saying that defines "creed" as he
sees fit. Or to put it another way, the aim of jihad is the actual
implementation of transnational Islamic justice, and therefore this
particular Islamic State (Omar al-Baghdadi's) is not to be
specifically criticized in a political sense. He hides the political
reality of the ISI behind an argument that the whole idea isn't
political but religious.

Fine. Now, having limbered up by practicing how to differentiate
between two different readings of the Bin Laden text, let's return
to the question of the relationship between the salafi jihadis and
what Bin Laden referred to as the "honest groups", because the
latter expression is clearly intended to refer to a group broader in
scope than the former, raising in many minds the question of
jihadi/resistance unification. Here's how Hijazi treats the
question. In his concluding section he lists points to be taken from
the Bin Laden speech, and the first four have to do broadly with the
question of admitting error among jihadis, dealing with error, and
not confusing that with declaring war on jihad itself. The fifth and
sixth points are as follows:
Fifth: There was a new term in the speech, namely "the honest groups
(jama'at al-sadiqa)", and it appears to have been a definitive and
clear reply to those who promote the expression "the honorable
resistance and the resistance that isn't honorable". Because in
shariah there are distinctions between the believers and those who
lie, and between the honest and those who lie, between believers and
non-believers, between believers and muslims, between unity and poly
[theism], but there isn't [any equivalent specific differentiation]
between honorable and non-honorable. This is a good example of the
need to interpret salafi jihadi discourse based on religion and not
based on political reality.

Sixth: People refer to statements by Sheikh Harith al-Dhari a few
days ago where he said that 90% of AlQaeda in Iraq are Iraqis, and
consequently they are of us and we are of them, and it isn't
permitted to fight against them on the basis of mistakes they make.
[Hijazi refers to an essay of his own dating from August, apparently
taking up the same point, about the local-Iraqi nature of AQ in
Iraq, and he continues], but nobody took up that point, and
meanwhile the storm raged and it hasn't calmed down yet...[but in
any event] the statement [of Al-Dhari] was the first from an Iraqi,
and it means that the idea of fighting AlQaeda as an extraneous
group has disappeared not to return. And does this have the meaning
of a lead-in to the expression about "honest groups" capable of
achieving a "year of the group", and the elimination of the war-
cries like those about "honorable resistance" and "non-honorable
resistance"? Or [the talk about] the "mistakes of AlQaeda" or about
the "awakening councils", particularly after hitting a number of
their leaders?

Obviously a one-way street, you will say. People of good will like
Al-Dhari help to discourage the idea of fighting against AQ and the
ISI, but what do they get in return, beyond an implied designation
from Bin Laden as part of the universe of "honest groups"? The
answer could be: First, given the "scholastic" nature of the whole
discussion, the distinction is an important one from the point of
view of mutual respect. And second, as I tried to indicate, Hijazi
seems focused in this little essay on fending off an anti-ISI
interpretation of the Bin Laden speech, so it is highly polemical,
and for that reason not conducive to being generous to the other

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