Thursday, November 18, 2010

Al Qaeda will have to go outside Islam to justify use of WMD….


The West is raising the threat of possible use of Strategic Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) by bin Laden brigade since bin Laden and his deputy have issued edicts to justify the use on the basis of certain interpretations of Quran and Hadith. Journal of International Security Affairs was probably the first to give an in-depth analysis of Islamic reaching and the designs of al Qaeda duo to acquire and use WMD. As far as their edict is concerned, they do not qualify to issue edicts as per Islamic teachings. It is, however, clear from their edict that they could not find any clear justification from Islamic traditions and basic injunctions; they only twisted some historic events in support of their designs. The last sermon delivered on the conclusion of Hajj this week clearly issued a formal edict that terrorist activities are not sanctioned by Islam and that those who indulge themselves in the acts of terror cease to be Muslims. This should take away the justification, whatsoever that al Qaeda duo have in support of their designs.

The world should understand the fact that the only way to render al Qaeda ineffective is to strip it of the justification it carries for its acts of slaughtering innocent citizens; unjust support by USA of Israel at the cost of Palestinians and of autocratic rulers in the Muslim world. It was discussed separately while listing down 7Deadly Scenarios that USA will always remain exposed to the risk of troubles due to its failure to recognize that its international meddling has unintended consequences. Basil & Spice in its review of the book on 7 Deadly Scenarios urges USA to recognize that Israel has already brought it the Arab Oil Embargo of the 1970s and 9/11, and repeatedly embarrassed the U.S. by its abuse of the Palestinians. Similarly, USA’s nuclear support for India to 'balance' China and Pakistan creates new trip-wire risks of serious military conflict.

An article appeared in the latest issue of Foreign Policy Magazine saying that evidence for al Qaeda’s intentions aren't hidden in encoded communications or classified intelligence. Quite the opposite: They're hidden in plain sight. Just as Osama bin Laden issued a fatwa to declare war on the United States in 1998, his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, issued a fatwa a decade later to herald a prospective next stage in the conflict. If we take him at his word, some day jihadists will use weapons of mass destruction to change history once and for all.  Of course, al Qaeda leaders have spoken of acquiring weapons of mass destruction for well over a decade. They have had little observable success in achieving their goals of producing a nuclear bomb or biological weapon capable of producing mass casualties. Fortunately, it is extremely difficult, but not impossible, for a terrorist group to acquire a strategic weapon of mass destruction (WMD). Nonetheless, the al Qaeda core has kept at it over the years, in the hopes that time and opportunity will enable it to overcome the daunting challenges in this regard.

According to the article Zawahiri chose to release a book in 2008 titled Exoneration. In it, he resurrects a fatwa issued by senior Saudi cleric Nasir al-Fahd in May 2003 -- notoriously, the only such treatise that ever endorsed the use of WMD. Zawahiri adopts Fahd's ideas wholesale. He uses the same ideas, thoughts, examples, and scholarly citations to reach the same conclusion: The use of nuclear weapons would be justified as an act of equal retaliation, "repaying like for like."
Zawahiri raises key Quranic themes to sweep away all potential objections to the use of WMD. He offers answers to questions about the legality of killing women, children, and the elderly; the justice of environmental destruction; the morality of harming noncombatants; the tactical prudence of attacking at night; and analyses of deterrence. Zawahiri adopts Fahd's examples verbatim: The Prophet Mohammed's attack on the village of al-Taif using a catapult, for instance, permits the use of weapons of "general destruction" incapable of distinguishing between innocent civilians and combatants.

The take-away from Zawahiri's book is that the use of weapons of mass destruction should be judged on intent rather than on results; if the intent to use WMD is judged to be consistent with the Quran, then the results are justifiable, even if they clearly violate specific prohibitions under Islam. The same reasoning is applied in a detailed explanation of such matters as loyalty to the state, contracts, obligations, and treaties; the permissibility of espionage; and deception and trickery. For example, on the topic of Muslims killed in combat unintentionally in the fight against infidels: "When Muslims fight nonbelievers, any Muslim who is killed is a martyr."

The article goes on to say that Zawahiri is at pains to prove his judiciousness. He cites a variety of viewpoints from the Quran and hadiths (sayings of the Prophet Mohammed), some of which support his judgments, others which do not. At times, he dramatically prefaces his conclusion with the words "I say ..." to draw attention to the fact that his judgments digress from the views held by some Islamic scholars; it is also a way for Zawahiri -- a medical doctor, not a religious scholar by training -- to assume authority for himself as an arbiter of Islamic law. Second, al Qaeda has reckoned with the horrific scale of a nuclear attack; indeed, Zawahiri sees mass casualties as a point in WMDs' favor. Zawahiri's book explicitly justifies a potential attack that could kill 10 million Americans. Again, that enormous figure is not merely tossed off casually by Zawahiri. He believes that such a plan requires justification, and he is satisfied, at the conclusion of his book, that he has done so.

It is notable that Zawahiri repeatedly uses the phrase "artillery bombardment" in the context of discussing the wide-scale destruction of a WMD attack. For al Qaeda, it seems, modern weapons of mass destruction are simply a form of weapon that cannot distinguish between civilians and combatants. Nuclear weapons, Zawahiri wants to argue, are no more morally significant than the catapult often cited in the Quran and hadiths. Here Zawahiri quotes Fahd once again: "If a bomb were dropped on them, destroying 10 million of them and burning as much of their land as they have burned of Muslim land,  that would be permissible without any need to mention any other proof."

Needless to say, Zawahiri's approach goes against all Western theories of just war and Islamic ethics of war. He will have to find his justification for use of WMD outside the teachings of Islam.

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