An Open Question to Osama Bin Laden–or Any Other Islamist

by Raymond Ibrahim

PJ Media

Ever since 9/11, when Osama bin Laden was thrust into the spotlight, he has made it a point to occasionally submit questions to Americans — questions which he apparently thinks are unanswerable.

In his last message [1] “commemorating” 9/11, for instance, after rehashing the storyline that the jihad on America wholly revolves around U.S. support for Israel — former grievances cited throughout the years include America’s “exploitation” of women and failure to sign the environmental Kyoto Protocol — bin Laden concluded with the following musing: “You should ask yourselves whether your security, your blood, your sons, your money, your jobs, your homes, your economy, and your reputation are more dear to you than the security and economy of the Israelis.”

In fact, bin Laden et al. have made it perfectly clear that should U.S. support for Israel cease, so too would Islamic terrorism cease. Hence, in this last communiqué: “Let me say that we have declared many times, over more than two and a half decades, that the reason for our conflict with you is your support for your Israeli allies, who are occupying our land of Palestine [emphasis added].”

Fair enough. Yet before responding to Osama, it must be noted that, in and of themselves, his communiqués beg a simple, logical question — one that, as shall be seen, renders all his observations and questions moot.

Before articulating this question, let us first establish much-needed context: As clearly demonstrated by Islam’s doctrines and history — the former regularly manifesting themselves in the course of the latter — it is a historic factthat Islamic hostility for and aggression against non-Muslims transcends any and all temporal “grievances.” In short, Islam, according to the classical — not “radical” — schools of jurisprudence, is obligated to subjugate the world.

From a traditional Muslim point of view, this troubling assertion is as open to debate or interpretation as is the notion that Muslims are obligated to pray. This is also why prudent non-Muslims have for centuries been finding the question of achieving permanent peace with the Islamic world a vexatious problem. Professor of law James Lorimer (1818-90) succinctly stated the problem over a century ago:

So long as Islam endures, the reconciliation of its adherents, even with Jews and Christians, and still more with the rest of mankind, must continue to be an insoluble problem. … For an indefinite future, however reluctantly, we must confine our political recognition to the professors of those religions which … preach the doctrine of “live and let live” (The Institutes of the Law of Nations [2], p. 124).

In other words, political recognition — with all the attendant negotiations and diplomacy that come with it — should be granted to all major religions/civilizations except Islam, which does not recognize the notion of “live and let live,” as evinced by, among other stipulations, the Koran’s commands to its adherents to “enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong,” (e.g., Koran 3:110), that is, enforce Sharia law upon the earth.

Now while most Muslims may not go around evoking Islam’s dichotomized worldview which pits Islam against the rest of the world — many may not even be aware of it — bin Laden, the “man of grievances,” has. (This, of course, has long been an al-Qaeda tactic [3]: convince the West, which is generally ignorant of Islam’s bellicose doctrines, that jihad is a byproduct of foreign policy, while inciting Muslims to the jihad by stressing its obligatory nature.)

Back to bin Laden and his communiqués. For all his talk of Israel being the heart of the problem, he exposed his true position in the following excerpt, which he directed to fellow Arabic-speaking Muslims not long after the 9/11 strikes:

Our talks with the infidel West and our conflict with themultimately revolve around one issue — one that demands our total support, with power and determination, with one voice — and it is: Does Islam, or does it not, force people by the power of the sword to submit to its authority corporeally if not spiritually?

So much for bin Laden’s insistence that Israel is the “reason for our conflict with you.” Now we see that the conflict ultimately revolves around whether Islam is obligated to dominate the world by force. Well, is it? Bin Laden continues:

Yes. There are only three choices in Islam: [1] either willing submission [conversion]; [2] or payment of the jizya, through physical, though not spiritual, submission to the authority of Islam; [3] or the sword — for it is not right to let him [an infidel] live. The matter is summed up for every person alive: Either submit, or live under the suzerainty of Islam, or die. (The Al Qaeda Reader[4], p. 42)

This threefold choice, then — conversion, subjugation, or the sword — is the ultimate source of problems. All Islamist talk of jihad being a product of U.S. foreign policy is, therefore, false. When bin Laden asserted in this last message that it is the “neocons” who “impose the wars upon you — not the mujahideen[i.e., jihadis],” he lied. Islamic law, as he himself delineated, imposed war between Muslims and non-Muslims well over a millennium before the “neocons” — let alone the state of Israel — came into being.

Thus to all of bin Laden’s grievances and questions, there is but one counter-question — one that, in the words of bin Laden, “demands our total support, with power and determination, with one voice” — and it is: even if all your grievances against Israel and America’s support for it were true, why come to us — your natural-born enemies, according to your own worldview — looking for any concessions?

To better appreciate this position, consider the following analogy: Say your weaker neighbor has a border dispute with you. At the same time, however, you know for a fact that he sees you as his “eternal” enemy for nothing less than your beliefs/lifestyle, and nothing short of your total acquiescence to his beliefs/lifestyle will change that. Finally, you know that the day he grows sufficiently strong, he will undoubtedly attack you in order to make you live according to his beliefs/lifestyle.

Surely in this context, whether his border dispute with you is legitimate or not, making concessions to him while knowing his hostility for you will never subside — but rather become more emboldened and augmented with contempt — is sheer suicide. Yet this is precisely what happens whenever the U.S. makes any concessions to Islamists.

In sum, we, the “infidels” — Americans and Israelis alike — are de factoenemies. It is in this context that the question of U.S. support for Israel should be examined. Being hated and deemed the enemy for temporal grievances of a political nature must be viewed as peripheral to being hated for fundamental differences of an existential nature.

When the latter, much more important issue is redressed, then — and only then — should the veracity of the former be open to debate or even consideration. In the meantime, all “political” complaints must be seen as absolutely moot. It’s a simple matter of priorities.

Raymond Ibrahim is the associate director of the Middle East Forum and the author of The Al Qaeda Reader, translations of religious texts and propaganda.
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