Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders

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Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders

"Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders"

Written by the World Islamic Front
Published in
Al-Quds al-Arabi, February 23, 1998

"All these crimes and sins committed by the Americans are a clear declaration of war on Allah, his messenger, and Muslims."

For hundreds of years, Arabs in the Middle East did not hold full control over their own countries and governments. Under the Ottoman Empire (1288–1918; a vast empire of southwest Asia through northeast Africa that was ruled mainly from Turkey and was heavily influenced by the Islamic religion), they had been forced to report to governors in the capital city of Constantinople. When the Ottoman Empire collapsed during World War I (1914–18; war in which Great Britain, France, the United States, and their allies defeated Germany, Austria-Hungary, and their allies), Arabs hoped they would achieve political independence. Instead, Great Britain and France divided the region into separate states and ruled them as if they were colonies. As the twentieth century progressed, these states all gained political independence. Still, many Arabs felt that their countries were unduly influenced by the demands of other countries, either in the West (the United States, Great Britain, and France, for example) or in the East (the Soviet Union). Whether they admired Pan-Arabism (a belief that Arab countries in the Middle East would be economically and politically stronger if they combined resources and functioned as a single country) promoted by Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918–1970) or took part in the Islamic Revolution achieved by Iran in 1979, Arabs throughout the Middle East sought ways to limit outside influences and establish local control of their government and society.

Religion has always played an enormous role in shaping Arabs' visions of their society. Unlike the West, where institutions of religion and government are set up to have unconnected roles in society, many countries in the Middle East are occupied by groups and individuals who want religion to directly influence governmental policy and law. Saudi Arabia, for example, has used Islamic religious law, or Sharia, as its legal system ever since its founding in 1932, and Iran adopted Sharia after its revolution in 1979 where the Iranian people overthrew the secular, or non-religious, government and installed religious leaders as lawmakers. But many of the governments established in Middle Eastern countries did not fully incorporate Islamic holy law into their governments, preferring to remain secular. Beginning in the 1960s, but gathering momentum especially after the 1980s, many Muslims in these countries began to call for Islam to play a greater role in society. No one has been more vocal in those calls than the Saudi Arabian Osama bin Laden (1957–).

In the West, Osama bin Laden has been labeled as an Islamic fundamentalist (someone who believes in a strict or literal interpretation of religious teachings) and also as a terrorist (someone who uses violence against civilian targets to accomplish a goal, often for political reason). He is known for the numerous attacks that his organization, Al Qaeda, has made, especially on American targets, such as the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Yet to his followers, bin Laden is a hero. By expressing his hatred of Western influences, his desire to destroy the Jewish nation of Israel, and his goal of establishing Sharia as law in every predominantly Muslim nation, bin Laden has become a figurehead for those who would like to permanently rid the Middle East of non-Islamic influences.

In 1998 bin Laden joined with several other Muslim clerics to issue a statement declaring their principles. This group called itself the World Islamic Front, though it is widely believed that this was merely a front for bin Laden's organization Al Qaeda. In the statement, reproduced below, the World Islamic Front tells Muslims that they have a duty to kill Americans. The statement was issued as a fatwa, a statement of religious law issued by an Islamic cleric and intended to instruct devout Muslims.

Things to remember while reading the "Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders"

  • Though Osama bin Laden, one of the heads of the World Islamic Front, is a member of a wealthy Saudi Arabian family, he has been banned from his native country since 1991. He lived for a time in Sudan, and went into hiding after the bombings of the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001.
  • Al Qaeda has conducted attacks against U.S. targets since 1992, when it bombed hotels holding U.S. soldiers in Yemen. It attacked U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. Since the United States occupied Iraq in 2003, many U.S. government officials suspect that attacks on U.S. troops stationed in Iraq have been linked to Al Qaeda, although no solid proof of this had surfaced by early 2005.
  • U.S. troops have had a presence in the Middle East ever since 1990, when they were stationed in Saudi Arabia just before the start of the first Gulf War, a war where the United States stopped Iraq from overtaking Kuwait, another Middle Eastern country.
  • The other clerics who signed the statement are leaders of Islamic groups within their country.

"Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders"

23 February 1998

Shaykh Usamah Bin-Muhammad Bin-Ladin, Ayman al-Zawahiri, amir of the Jihad Group in Egypt, Abu-Yasir Rifa'i Ahmad Taha, Egyptian Islamic Group, Shaykh Mir Hamzah, secretary of the Jamiatul-Ulema-e-Pakistan, Fazlur Rahman, amir of the Jihad Movement in Bangladesh.

Praise be to Allah , who revealed the Book , controls the clouds, defeats factionalism , and says in His Book: "But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them, seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war)"; and peace be upon our Prophet, Muhammad Bin-'Abdallah , who said: I have been sent with the sword between my hands to ensure that no one but Allah is worshipped, Allah who put my livelihood under the shadow of my spear and who inflicts humiliation and scorn on those who disobey my orders.

The Arabian Peninsula has never—since Allah made it flat, created its desert, and encircled it with seas—been stormed by any forces like the crusader armies spreading in it like locusts, eating its riches and wiping out its plantations. All this is happening at a time in which nations are attacking Muslims like people fighting over a plate of food. In the light of the grave situation and the lack of support, we and you are obliged to discuss current events, and we should all agree on how to settle the matter.

No one argues today about three facts that are known to everyone; we will list them, in order to remind everyone:

First, for over seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizingits neighbors, and turning its bases in the Peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples.

If some people have in the past argued about the fact of the occupation, all the people of the Peninsula have now acknowledged it. The best proof of this is the Americans' continuing aggression against the Iraqi people using the Peninsula as a staging post, even though all its rulers are against their territories being used to that end, but they are helpless.

Second, despite the great devastation inflicted on the Iraqi people by the crusader-Zionist alliance, and despite the huge number of those killed, which has exceeded 1 million ... despite all this, the Americans are once against trying to repeat the horrific massacres, as though they are not content with the protracted blockade imposed after the ferocious war or the fragmentation and devastation.

So here they come to annihilate what is left of this people and to humiliate their Muslim neighbors.

Third, if the Americans' aims behind these wars are religious and economic, the aim is also to serve the Jews' petty state Israel and divert attention from its occupation of Jerusalem and murder of Muslims there. The best proof of this is their eagerness to destroy Iraq, the strongest neighboring Arab state, and their endeavor to fragment all the states of the region such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Sudan into paper statelets and through their disunion and weakness to guarantee Israel's survival and the continuation of the brutal crusade occupation of the Peninsula.

All these crimes and sins committed by the Americans are a clear declaration of war on Allah, his messenger, and Muslims. And ulema have throughout Islamic history unanimously agreed that the jihad is an individual duty if the enemy destroys the Muslim countries. This was revealed by Imam Bin-Qadamah in "Al-Mughni," Imam al-Kisa'i in "Al-Bada'i," al-Qurtubi in his interpretation, and the shaykh of al-Islam in his books, where he said: "As for the fighting to repulse an enemy, it is aimed at defending sanctity and religion, and it is a duty as agreed by the ulema. Nothing is more sacred than belief except repulsing an enemy who is attacking religion and life."

On that basis, and in compliance with Allah's order, we issue the following fatwa to all Muslims:

The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies—civilians and military—is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate the al-Aqsa Mosque and the holy mosque in Mecca from their grip, and in order fortheir armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim. This is in accordance with the words of Almighty Allah, "and fight the pagans all together as they fight you all together," and "fight them until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah."

This is in addition to the words of Almighty Allah: "And why should ye not fight in the cause of Allah and of those who, being weak, are illtreated (and oppressed)?—women and children, whose cry is: 'Our Lord, rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from thee one who will help!"'

We—with Allah's help—call on every Muslim who believes in Allah and wishes to be rewarded to comply with Allah's order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it. We also call on Muslim ulema, leaders, youths, and soldiers to launch the raid on Satan's U.S. troops and the devil's supporters allying with them, and to displace those who are behind them so that they may learn a lesson.

Almighty Allah said: "O ye who believe, give your response to Allah and His Apostle, when He calleth you to that which will give you life. And know that Allah cometh between a man and his heart, and that it is He to whom ye shall all be gathered."

Almighty Allah also says: "O ye who believe, what is the matter with you, that when ye are asked to go forth in the cause of Allah, ye cling so heavily to the earth! Do ye prefer the life of this world to the hereafter? But little is the comfort of this life, as compared with the hereafter. Unless ye go forth, He will punish you with a grievous penalty, and put others in your place; but Him ye would not harm in the least. For Allah hath power over all things."

Almighty Allah also says: "So lose no heart, nor fall into despair. For ye must gain mastery if ye are true in faith."

What happened next ...

Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda followed through on their threats to use violence against the United States wherever they could. Al Qaeda militants bombed a U.S. Navy destroyer, the USS Cole, in Yemen on October 12, 2000, killing seventeen American soldiers. The most dramatic attack occurred on September 11, 2001, when Al Qaeda operatives hijacked four American jets and piloted them into targets that included the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. These attacks claimed more than three thousand American lives. The attacks, however, only increased the U.S. presence in the Muslim world. President George W. Bush (1946–) sent American troops to remove from power the Islamic government of Afghanistan, which had been harboring Osama bin Laden and thus supported the terrorist attacks. President Bush also ordered U.S. troops into a war against Iraq, based on that country's alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction.

In this and various other pronouncements and fatwas, bin Laden tried to inspire Muslims to rise up against all Western influences, including Israel, in order to create an Islamic world free of outside interference and dedicated to Islamic values. The name for his approach is Islamism, and it became the dominant revolutionary ideology in the Middle East—and in every country with a majority Muslim population—beginning in the 1990s. Islamist groups challenged government power in Algeria, Sudan, and Nigeria in the 1990s, and the Islamist Taliban group took power in Afghanistan in the late 1990s. Many Western observers suspect Saudi Arabia, despite its political ties to the West, of secretly supporting Islamist causes.

By the early 2000s, it was still not clear how powerful the Islamist view would be in shaping events in the Middle East. To some, bin Laden and other Islamists represent an extremist fringe that will disappear once established Middle Eastern governments devoted themselves to removing terrorist groups from within their country. Others believe that these acts of terrorism will help Islamism gain a following, and that the Muslim peoples in the Middle East will eventually rise up in support of Islamist goals. One clear influence that Islamism has had is in providing support for the idea that Muslim terrorists are serving Allah when they participate in suicide attacks. In Palestinian attacks against Israel, in Iraqi rebel attacks against U.S. forces in that country, and in Al Qaeda strikes against Western targets, suicide bombers are considered heroic martyrs, or people who give their lives for a holy cause.

Did you know ...

  • The Taliban, a strict Islamist group, held power in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. They banned all television and music in their country, restricted laughing in public, and used strict punishments such as cutting off hands and feet or stoning people to death to enforce government laws. Under Taliban rule, women could not obtain the same education as men, nor could they show their faces in public.
  • In Turkey, an Islamist group called the Justice and Development Party has modified its views to try to bring Islamic religious values into a democratic political system.
  • Saudi Arabia follows a version of Islam called Wahhabism, which urges its followers to live as the prophet Muhammad lived in the seventh century. Yet as one of the world's leading oil producers, Saudi Arabia has tried to maintain political friendships with the United States and other large, oil-consuming nations.

Consider the following ...

  • Think about bin Laden's call for Muslims to kill Americans. Is there any way to justify such a command from a religious leader? Are there any other instances where religious or political leaders have made such demands?
  • Using the arguments put forth in the World Islamic Front statement, explain how the Islamist approach to Middle East politics offers solutions to the problems of the region. Then, consider whether there might be more moderate ways to solve those problems.
  • Compare and contrast the World Islamic Front document to one or more of the other documents in this section of the book. How do these visions for the Middle East differ? Are they compatible or contrary to each other? To what extent do these visions still shape politics in the region?

Shaykh: An Arab chief (also spelled sheik).

Amir: A ruler or commander in Islamic countries (also spelled emir).

Allah: The supreme being of Islam.

Book: Koran, the key Islamic holy book.

Factionalism: Infighting among groups.

Pagans: People with little or no religion.

Beleaguer: Harass or persecute.

Muhammad Bin-'Abdallah: The prophet of Islam, through whom it is said Allah spoke.

Crusader armies: American soldiers directly, but also the Christian soldiers, called crusaders, who fought against Muslims in the Middle Ages.

Crusader-Zionist: A reference to Israel, which was formed by Zionists, who wanted to create a Jewish national homeland in Palestine.

Ulema: The community of Islamic scholars.

Jihad: Holy war waged on behalf of Islamic religious duty.

Sanctity: Holiness.

Fatwa: Islamic religious decree.

Mecca: The holiest site in Islam, found in Saudi Arabia.

For More Information


Bergen, Peter. Holy War, Inc. New York: Touchstone, 2002.

Burke, Jason. Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror. New York and London: I.B. Tauris, 2003.

Loehfelm, Bill. Osama bin Laden. Farmington Hills, MI: Lucent Books, 2003.

Randal, Jonathan. Osama: The Making of a Terrorist. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004.


World Islamic Front. "Jihad against Jews and Crusaders." Al-Quds al-Arabi, February 23, 1998.

Web Sites

Burke, Jason. "The Making of Osama bin Laden." Salon.http://dir.salon.com/news/feature/2001/11/01/osama_profile/index.html (accessed on June 24, 2005).

"Hunting Bin Laden." PBS Frontline.http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/binladen/ (accessed on June 24, 2005).

"Is Islamism a Threat?: A Debate." The Middle East Quarterly (December 1999). http://www.meforum.org/article/447 (accessed on June 24, 2005).

"Patterns of Global Terrorism." U.S. Department of State.http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/pgtrpt/ (accessed on June 24, 2005).