McMaster is proceeding on the theory, which is almost universally taken for granted by the foreign policy establishment, that showing respect for the Qur’an and Islam will take the teeth out of the jihadi claim that the U.S. is at war with Islam, and win hearts and minds, resulting in reciprocal gestures of respect.
But in reality, jihadis see this solicitude for the Qur’an as a sign that the Infidels know that Islam is true, and that Allah is granting the Muslims victory over them. And they look with contempt upon American weakness.
This is the kind of thinking that Trump seemed to have promised to sweep out.
Instead, it is more entrenched than ever.
“H.R. McMaster Endorsed Book That Advocates Quran-Kissing Apology Ceremonies,” by Aaron Klein, Breitbart, August 20, 2017:
TEL AVIV — A book on terrorism endorsed and touted by H.R. McMaster, the embattled White House National Security Adviser, calls on the U.S. military to respond to any “desecrations” of the Quran by service members with an apology ceremony, and advocates kissing a new copy of the Quran before presenting the Islamic text to the local Muslim public.
The book’s author further demanded that any American soldier who “desecrates” the Quran be ejected from the foreign country of deployment, relieved of duty and turned over to a military judge for “punishment.”
“Desecration” of the Quran, according to the McMaster-endorsed book, includes such acts as “letting the Quran fall to the ground during a search, or more blatant instances.”
The book, reviewed in full by this reporter, was authored by U.S. military officer Youssef H. Aboul-Enein and is titled Militant Islamist Ideology: Understanding the Global Threat.
McMaster provided a glowing blurb for the book jacket, referring to Aboul-Enein’s book as “an excellent starting point” for understanding terrorist ideology.
McMaster also promoted the book in ARMOR, the journal of the U.S. Army’s Armor Branch, published at Fort Benning, Georgia, where McMaster served as commanding general at the Ft. Benning Maneuver Center of Excellence.
McMaster wrote in his blurb for the book: “Militant Islamist Ideology deserves a wide readership among all those concerned with the problem of transnational terrorism, their ideology, and our efforts to combat those organizations that pose a serious threat to current and future generations of Muslims and non-Muslims alike.”
In the blurb, McMaster revealed his own views on terrorism, claiming that “terrorist organizations use a narrow and irreligious ideology to recruit undereducated and disenfranchised people to their cause.”
Aboul-Enein is listed as a senior adviser and analyst at the Joint Intelligence Task Force for Combating Terrorism at the Defense Intelligence Agency, a position that he also held under the Obama administration. He is an officer in the Navy Medical Service Corps and Middle East Foreign Officer, and an adjunct military professor and chair of Islamic studies at the National Defense University.
Besides endorsing Militant Islamist Ideology, McMaster also wrote a forward for another Aboul-Enein book, this one titled Iraq in Turmoil: Historical Perspectives of Dr. Ali al-Wardi, From the Ottoman Empire to King Feisal.
In the book, Aboul-Enein warned that “incidents of desecrating the Quran, such as letting the Quran fall to the ground during a search, or more blatant instances, allow our adversary to capitalize on outrage and to score points in the arena of public opinion.”
Any such “desecration” of the Quran, the author wrote, “would be considered an offense not only by Militant Islamists but by Islamists and wider Muslim community as well.”
Aboul-Enein recommended that “desecrations” of the Quran should be “quickly acknowledged, with unconditional apologies and reassurances to the public that the accused do not represent the United States or its military, that they have been ejected from the country and referred to their service’s judge advocate general for punishment.”
Besides ejecting the service member from the country of deployment and turning the soldier over to a judge for “punishment,” Aboul-Enein pointed to a May 2008 incident in which a U.S. Army sniper reportedly used the Quran for target practice. He upheld the response by Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Hammond, commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad, as forming, in Aboul-Enein’s opinion, the minimal official U.S. military reaction to such desecrations.
The response included an “apology ceremony” at which a U.S. official kissed a copy of the Quran before presenting the text to the local community as a “humble gift.”
Aboul-Enein writes that Hammond took the following steps, “which in my opinion formed the basis by which American officials and Iraqi tribal leaders fighting al-Qaida can at least alleviate the emotionalism of such an event”:
- Hammond held “an apology ceremony, not a press conference, and he issued this statement, flanked by Iraqi Sunni leaders of the Radwaniyah District, where the incident had happened: ‘I come before you here seeking your forgiveness, in the most humble manner I look in your eyes today, and I say please forgive me and my soldiers.’”
- A U.S. official “kissed a new copy of the Quran and ceremoniously presented it to the tribal leaders.”
- Hammond read the following letter from the shooter: “I sincerely hope that my actions have not diminished the partnership that our two nations have developed together. … My actions were shortsighted, very reckless and irresponsible, but in my heart [the actions] were not malicious.”
- The offending sniper was “relieved of duty and reassigned.”
- Hammond himself commented, “The actions of one soldier were nothing more than criminal behavior. … I’ve come to this land to protect you, to support you—not to harm you—and the behavior of this soldier was nothing short of wrong and unacceptable.”
The section on Quran “desecration” is not the only controversial part of the book. Breitbart News reported last week that Aboul-Enein’s book also calls Hamas an “Islamist political group” while failing to categorize the deadly organization as a terrorist group, and refers to al-Qaida attacks and anti-Israel terrorism as “resistance.”
The work frames jihad as a largely peaceful “means to struggle or exert effort,” such as waking up early in the morning to recite prayers. It argues that groups like al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations have hijacked the concept of jihad to wage war using such tactics as suicide bombings.
Hamas an ‘Islamist Political Group’
Throughout the McMaster-endorsed Militant Islamist Ideology book, Aboul-Enein struggles to properly categorize Hamas; but at no point does he call Gaza’s murderous Islamist rulers a terrorist organization.
Hamas is a terrorist group responsible for scores of deadly suicide bombings, shootings and rocket attacks targeting Israeli civilians. Hamas’s official charter calls for the obliteration of the Jewish state, and proclaims that there is “no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad.” Hamas leaders routinely demand the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews.
Yet Aboul-Enein struggles to properly classify Hamas. At one point, Aboul-Enein differentiates between “militant Islamists” and Hamas, grouping the latter among “Islamist political groups.”
In the book’s introduction, he writes:
Militant Islamists alienate not only the United States but even Islamist political groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. It is time for a more nuanced definition of the threat.
At another point, the author calls Hamas an “Islamist” group. He writes (page 131): “For instance, Zawahiri condemns Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas for participating in the electoral process.”
Despite its clear terrorist activities, Aboul-Enein suggests (page 2) that Hamas does not “fit into a neat category.” He asks an open question about whether Hamas “is an Islamist or Militant Islamist group,” but he does not provide an answer.
He writes (page 3):
There are also Islamists who do not fit into a neat category, such as the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas. On one hand, Hamas provides social services, won 44 percent of the electorate in 2006, and is the government of the Palestinian territories. On the other hand, it has failed to compromise effectively with other Palestinian rejectionist and secular groups to form a governing coalition, and it has failed to provide social services for a wider Palestinian populace. In addition, it has conducted suicide operations directed against Israeli civilians – though it has not widened its campaign beyond targeting Israel. Further, al-Qaida senior leaders have viciously attacked Hamas for participating in electoral politics. The question for Americans is whether Hamas is an Islamist or Militant Islamist group.
Aboul-Enein fails to note that the U.S. government already answered that so-called question, designating Hamas as a foreign terrorist group.
In another section of the book, Aboul-Enein defines (page 193) Hamas as straddling “the Islamist and Militant Islamist divide, using its proficiency in suicide-bomber operations to strike at Israeli targets, yet it is currently in government.” He also writes (page 215) that Hamas “is a Palestinian Sunni Islamist militant organization and political party.”
Al-Qaida, Palestinian ‘Resistance’
In the book, Aboul-Enein refers to the deadly terrorism of al-Qaida in Iraq as “resistance.” Besides its worldwide mayhem, Al-Qaida has been responsible for countless terrorist attacks across Iraq that have targeted civilians, U.S. troops and Iraqi government institutions.
Aboul-Enein relates a struggle between the goals of al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI) and those of the Islamic Army of Iraq (IAI) in terms of “resistance” locally versus a global fight against the West.
Aboul-Enein writes (page 101):
In post-Saddam Iraq, among the Sunni insurgency there are other stressors that undermine al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI), such as the tensions between the Islamic Army of Iraq (IAI) and al-Qaida in Iraq. The IAI struggles with AQI over the concept of this fight being for Iraq’s Sunnis and not a wider pan-Islamist struggle; the IAI has narrower objectives than AQI. It is a tension between Jihad as muqawama (resistance) and Jihad for a wider pan-Islamist objective.
He refers to support for “resistance” against the U.S. presence in Iraq. He does so when documenting the rise of Muslim Brotherhood political parties and public criticism of an al-Qaida hotel bombing in 2005 in Amman, Jordan.
He writes (page 46):
This has split the Muslim Brotherhood, as there is deep hostility toward the U.S. presence in Iraq, support for muqawama (resistance) and for the Muslim Brotherhood concept of wasatiyah (moderation), and recognition of the need for grassroots representation of the Ahl-al-Sunnah (formal term for Sunni Muslims).
Aboul-Enein also categorizes deadly terrorist raids on Jewish settlements in the 1930s as “resistance,” even though those operations targeted and killed civilians.
He states: (page 138)
No study of Militant Islamist ideologues and the cleavages between Militant Islamist and Islamist groups can be complete without delving into the life, actions, theories, and legacy of Abdullah Azzam. Militant Islamist operatives take the nom de guerre “Abu Azzam” in his honor. A witness to increased Jewish immigration into Palestine in World War II, Azzam was reared on the stories of resistance by the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade, which led guerrilla raids against the British and then Jewish settlers.
The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades is currently the namesake of Hamas’s so-called military wing. Aboul-Enein was referring to deadly attacks carried out by the original Brigade, founded around 1930 by Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, a Syrian Muslim cleric who popularized the concept of jihad against Jews during the British civil administration of Palestine.
“Islamist” vs. “Militant Islamist”
The core of Aboul-Enein’s endeavor, and one that may help to elucidate McMaster’s views, is to differentiate between what he terms “Islamist” and “Militant Islamist,” and to show that “militant Islamists” present a distorted, dishonest view of Islam. The thesis might clarify McMaster’s aversion to using the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism.”
In seeking to differentiate between “Islam,” “Islamist,” and “Militant Islamist,” Aboul-Enein comes up with the following basic definitions:
- Islam is “the religious faith of Muslims, involving (as defined in Merriam-Webster’s) belief in Allah as the sole deity and in Muhammad as his prophet.”
- He defines Islamist as “a group or individual advocating Islam as a political as well as a religious system. Chief Islamist objectives include implementing sharia (Islamic) law as the basis of all statutory issues and living as did the earliest adherents to Islam. Many Islamists also assert that implementation of sharia law requires the elimination of all non-Islamic influences in social, political, economic, and military spheres of life.”
- Militant Islamists, Aboul-Enein claims, consist of a “group or individual advocating Islamist ideological goals, principally by violent means. Militant Islamists call for the strictest possible interpretation of both the Quran (Muslim book of divine revelation) and the hadith (the Prophet Muhammad’s actions and deeds). This narrow interpretation opposes the beliefs of Muslims and non-Muslims alike; Militant Islamists stand against Western democracies, Middle Eastern institutions of government, and Islamist political parties that participate nonviolently in elections.”
Aboul-Enein frames jihad as a largely peaceful “means to struggle or exert effort,” a term that has been hijacked by “militant Islamists” to wage extremist warfare.
Aboul-Enein posits, for example, that jihad “can be as simple as struggling to get up in the early morning to say your dawn prayers or struggling to learn and improve yourself spiritually or intellectually. It also can mean struggling in the path of God, which does not necessarily mean engaging in warfare but might be making time to teach Islam to children or providing financial support for an Islamic project.”
Jihad, in other words, is a struggle to fulfill one’s obligations to Allah, according to the author.
Islamists, he states, define jihad as a “means to expend every effort fighting against the disbelievers.” However, Aboul-Enein attempts to cloak this violent struggle in the shroud of morality.
He writes (page 34): “Islamists delineate who can fight and when; unlike Militant Islamists, they generally set rules and limits for engaging in fighting in the name of God. … It makes Jihad obligatory upon all Muslims only if the enemy has entered Muslim lands and if the imam calls for Jihad.”
Some Islamists, he relates, “prescribe a protocol of warfare in which a noble Muslim warrior should be free of arrogance and conceit,” and espouse “etiquette” such as “warnings not to kill noncombatant women and children.”
Aboul-Enein describes the seemingly legitimate, moderate jihad as different from the jihadist views advocated by “militant Islamists,” who “use women, children, and the mentally infirm as suicide bombers, who reduce Jihad to fighting or supporting the fighting through financial means, and who make Jihad incumbent upon all Muslims, with no distinction between communal and individual responsibility.”
Islam experts, meanwhile, have pointed out that mainstream Islamic scripture advocates a violent jihad to spread Islam worldwide….
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