By Liaquat Ali Khan
A potentially perilous pattern of militancy is developing in response to the Western war on terror. Muslim militants across the world are confederating to assist each other. A few days after the French forces attacked Mali militants, a band of Muslim militants captured Western workers at an Algerian natural gas complex owned by British and Norwegian oil companies. While the French soldiers, receiving assistance from the Germans and the British, were killing Muslim militants in Mali, Muslim militants of various nationalities were threatening to kill Western hostages at the Algerian gas complex. This is not the first time Muslim militants have confederated to counter Western attacks. The Taliban of Pakistan and the Taliban of Afghanistan, along with Arabs, Chechens, and others, reinforce each other in fighting Western troops. The philosophy of al Qaeda, the mother of modern militancy, privatizes military jihad but also unites Muslim militants of all national stripes into a confederation. As the West aggregates its resources to collectively fight Muslim militants whether they are in Afghanistan, Mali, or elsewhere, Muslim militants are similarly confederating to fight the West at various hotspots. Increasingly, Muslim militancy mirrors and reciprocates the Western combat policy.
Western Combat Policy
It is no secret that the Western nations have developed a highly coordinated combat policy to fight unfriendly rulers and militants in the Muslim world, a fact that does not go unnoticed among militancy circles. For example, the United States, Canada, Western Europe, and Australia, all joined forces to fight al Qaeda and overthrow the Taliban government in Afghanistan. The NATO combat mission to kill Muammar Gaddafi, an entrenched Arab ruler who sponsored militancy for decades, was highly coordinated among the key Western powers. Earlier, the Western combat mission to remove Saddam Husain, without approval of the U.N. Security Council, was coordinated among the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Poland, the nations that supplied troops for the invasion of Iraq. The continuing combat mission to unseat Bashar Assad of Syria, despite the opposition of China and Russia, has been hatched, funded, and supported by Western nations. The French attack on Mali militants is by no means a mere colonial intervention by a lone state. Germany, the United Kingdom, and Canada are providing logistical support and ideological legitimacy to the combat mission. The Western combat policy to nullify the Iranian clerical rule is not yet successful but the policy persists at the expense of inflicting intolerable pain on the Iranian people.
The Western combat policy, framed as a national security paradigm, is gathering legitimacy in part because Muslim rulers, mostly undemocratic, and many of whom despise each other, are more than willing to endorse, and sometimes solicit, Western invasions and targeted assassinations in Muslim lands. The U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen are perpetrated with the approval of local and regional governments. The governments of Morocco and Algeria opened their airspace for the French aircrafts to fly through and attack Mali militants. Some Muslim governments are assisting the Western nations in overthrowing Syria's Bashar Assad and undermining Iran's clerical rule. Unfortunately, the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), an inter-governmental organization of 57 Muslim states, has been unable to unite the Muslim world into any meaningful union. Trapped in leadership frictions and the Shia-Sunni strains, the OIC member states could not develop effective strategies to control militancy, democratize political systems, protect human rights, and defend Muslim lands against foreign assaults. Almost every Muslim state is confronting internal militancy.
Furthermore, a perception reigns among militancy circles that the West has employed myriad international institutions to undergird its combat policy. The International Criminal Court (ICC), located in the Netherlands, is viewed as a choking tool to strangulate Muslim rulers who might oppose the Western combat policy. This view is strengthened when the ICC prosecutors declare the defiant Muslim rulers as international criminals. Similarly, the U.N. Security Council, with three Western states as its permanent members, is viewed as a premier international body that conceives, formulates, and enforces cruel economic sanctions against Muslim communities. The superior economic power of Western nations, asserted through the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, is viewed as economic hegemony that snares many Muslim states into huge debts and the attendant dependence. Everything the West does in relation to the Muslim world is seen as yet another phase in a grand but ugly conspiracy.
The perception of an ever-tightening Western noose around unfriendly Muslim rulers, communities, and nations, does not deter but provokes the Islamic concept of military jihad. The siege mentality supplies the catalyst for Muslim militants to "fight and kill the disbelievers wherever you find them, take them captive, harass them, lie in wait and ambush them using every stratagem of war." Unless the Quran is expunged from human memory, something impossible, Muslim militants will continue to draw inspiration from their holy book to engage in military jihad. True, Islam is a peaceful religion but only in peaceful times. Islam is not a pacifist but a martial religion that carries a vigorous law of war. Because there is no one religious or temporal authority that controls the Muslim world, the military jihad is more and more manifested through confederated battlefields.
Under the Islamic law of war, a call for military jihad is mandatory when (a) a Muslim community is under siege; (b) the ruler is unable to vacate the siege through peaceful means; (c) the enemy is identifiable, and; (d) the oppression is intolerable. Under these conditions, the enemy's superior might is a non-factor. The classical rule of Islamic law requires that the Muslim ruler declare military jihad. This requirement, however, is no longer operational because the Muslim world is too large, too fragmented, many Muslim militants are poorly educated in the Islamic law of war, and many Muslim rulers as well as Islamic scholars are seen as foreign puppets rather than authentic leaders and jurists. Hence, the militancy circles scattered in the Muslim world conduct their own analyses, devise their own strategies, obtain their own weapons, and open battlefields of their own choosing. The confederated battlefields may or may not follow the Islamic law of war. The killing of non-combatant civilians and destroying places of worship, among other things, are strictly prohibited. Regrettably, the violations of Islamic law are multiplying.
The Western combat policy to punish and kill hostile Muslim rulers and militants, undermine unfriendly Muslim governments, and impose stiff economic sanctions on Muslim communities does not deter but provokes Muslim militants to engage in military jihad. Muslim militants fighting in various battlefields see the Western states as a monolithic enemy. They support each other's cause, duplicating the Western combat policy. The West and Muslim militancy are interlocked in a spiral of violence, threatening international peace and security. There has to be a way out other than more violence.
Liaquat Ali Khan is a Legal Scholar and Professor of Law