Note: the photo used to illustrate this article is from an Arab newspaper (full article here) that published the result of an opinion poll in 2014 with this result “92% of Saudis are in the view that ISIS is in agreement with Islam teachings”
It’s matter of perspective. Terrorism is seen as jihad. If you ask a terrorist, he is not going to define himself as a terrorist but as a jihadist.
Jihad, kids are taught, is a war against infidels. Who are infidels? All non Muslims and also Muslims who are not Muslim enough. [Most Muslims think that they are safe because “Muslim enough” for the purpose of the jihadism. They wake up – usually too late – only when they are themselves targeted by terrorism. They then invert the accusation by labelling terrorists as “not good Muslims”.]
The important point to know is the following: jihad is actually a peculiar type of obligation called “Fardh Kifaya”. This means that it’s not an obligation for each and every Muslim, but just one Muslim has to do it in the name of his community / group / tribe / family. That’s why, jihadists are supported. Many feel that the jihadist is attacking on their behalf, he will be blessed by Allah and they can share this blessing if they support the attack.
Let’s read some Ibn Qodama in his book “Al Moghni”, volume 13, page 6. This is one of the largest sharia books and I don’t think it’s translated out of Arabic.
It says: “Jihad is a kifaya obligation. If a group does it, it’s no longer an obligation for the rest”.
He elaborates further: “the meaning of kifaya obligation is that if it’s not performed by enough people, the people as a whole would be cursed. But if some people do it, it’s no longer an obligation for the rest”.
Later down the page he cites a Hadith narrated by Abu Hurayra who said “the prophet said that someone who dies without ever participating to a raid or never had the wish to participate to a raid dies as an hypocrite”. [raids or razzias is what we call in English “terrorist attacks”. They involve killing and – when possible – looting. Sharing and managing that loot is a “science” in Sunni Islam and many chapters / books are dedicated just to that.]
Abu Hurayra is a highly trusted source of narration in Sunni Islam. He was a homeless man and used to sleep outside the mosque of the prophet during the last 2 years of the prophet’s life. He narrated 6000 Hadith! Just to put it in perspective, the Koran has about 6200 verses and many people who were close to the prophet of Islam and spent decades with him narrated only a few Hadith. Abu Hurayra died as a very rich man. He got close to the political establishment of his time and probably made Hadiths on demand for their purposes. Still critical thinking is totally absent from Islamic societies as they venerate ancient political leaders (caliphs) and anyone who worked for them.
Many Muslims believe that best path to salvation is jihad. They have been taught that for ages by their leaders who wanted more and more to die in wars to make these leaders richer and more powerful. The caliph would launch a jihad once a year and each family would have to give a man for the war. They go to attack other peoples in order to bring back loot, slaves and captive women for the caliph and his close servants [so their can fornicate in harems]. If the jihadist dies, the family is promised an ever lasting paradise because their son died in the “path of Allah”. If you look at it from the comparative History point of view, you realise that jihad is nothing more than a religious transcription of a feudal obligation that was common even in Medieval Europe. The “right of ost” was a right given to a Lord that entitled him to take a man from each family in order to wage war. This obligation wasn’t for each and every single person to participate in the personal war of their Lord but each family has to give one man. Jihad follows exactly the same pattern but the ignorance of History in Muslim societies makes people still believe in these thing in 2017. Just imagine if a French guy attacks a Belgian town in 2017 because he believes that his duty is to die for his Lord who is at war with this town. It sounds totally crazy but people who are stuck in the past can do that.
As you can see, it’s possible to destroy or shed doubt on the extremist narrative using its own texts. However, the establishment in Western countries doesn’t allow us to do that. For them, anyone who criticizes Islam is a vile islamophobic and must be silenced. How can we ever hope to reform Islam if we can’t criticize it in first place?