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Knowing the Enemy

Knowing the Enemy: Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror

Mary R. Habeck
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Knowing the Enemy
    Book Description:

    After September 11, Americans agonized over why nineteen men hated the United States enough to kill three thousand civilians in an unprovoked assault. Analysts have offered a wide variety of explanations for the attack, but the one voice missing is that of the terrorists themselves. This penetrating book is the first to present the inner logic of al-Qa'ida and like-minded extremist groups by which they justify September 11 and other terrorist attacks.

    Mary Habeck explains that these extremist groups belong to a new movement-known as jihadism-with a specific ideology based on the thought of Muhammad ibn Abd al- Wahhab, Hasan al-Banna, and Sayyid Qutb. Jihadist ideology contains new definitions of the unity of God and of jihad, which allow members to call for the destruction of democracy and the United States and to murder innocent men, women, and children. Habeck also suggests how the United States might defeat the jihadis, using their own ideology against them.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13069-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. 1 Why They Did It
    (pp. 1-16)

    Immediately after September 11, 2001, Americans agonized over the reason why nineteen men hated the United States enough to kill three thousand civilians in an unprovoked assault. The list of explanations offered by analysts and scholars was long and varied—U.S. policies in the Middle East (most especially America’s support for Israel), globalization, U.S. arrogance, imperialism (cultural, political, and economic), and the poverty and oppression endemic in many Arab countries were all blamed as the root causes for the attacks. Other observers, like President George W. Bush, argued that it was the very existence of the United States that led...

  4. 2 Historical Context
    (pp. 17-40)

    The ideas supported by the jihadis did not spring from a void, nor are all of them the marginal opinions of a few fanatics. The principle dogmas that they assert—that Islam is the one true faith that will dominate the world; that Muslim rulers need to govern by the shari‘a alone; that the Qur’an and hadith contain the whole truth for determining the righteous life; that there is no separation between religion and the rest of life; and that Muslims are in a state of conflict with the unbelievers—have roots in discussions about Islamic law and theology that...

  5. 3 The Qur’an Is Our Constitution
    (pp. 41-56)

    None of these theorists could have had any impact in the Islamic world if their arguments had not found some sort of resonance in the religion of Islam. More specifically, it could be argued that if Muslims had been confronted by a system of beliefs that had absolutely no foundation in earlier interpretations of their religion, or was not somehow based on the sacred texts that form the bedrock of Islam, they would not have gained a hearing. One reason that al-Banna, Mawdudi, and Qutb would win over followers was their shrewd use of the Qur’an and hadith—as well...

  6. 4 Our ‘Aqida
    (pp. 57-82)

    With the Qur’an and the hadith as their only sources, the various jihadist groups believe they have all they need to discover the comprehensive ideology that Islam contains. And jihadis see that as their duty. They sincerely believe that as Islam has demands on all of life, it also has the answers for all of life. Their goal is to discover what these answers are through the sacred texts alone and then to link them into a coherent and all-embracing worldview. The three most important ideologues of the movement, al-Banna, Mawdudi, and Qutb, provided the intellectual groundwork and the basic...

  7. 5 The Clash of Civilizations, Part I: THE AMERICAN CAMPAIGN TO SUPPRESS ISLAM
    (pp. 83-106)

    The conflict that jihadis believe is inevitable has nothing to do with Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations.” Instead it is a fusion of their views of liberalism as the ultimate evil with medieval Islamic theories that divided the world into two hostile factions: the House of Islam and the House of War.¹ The House of Islam (dar al-Islam) included all territory under the rule of Islam, while the House of War (dar al-harb) was the rest of the world that refused to recognize the authority of Islam and therefore was open to warfare. Unlike most Muslims today, jihadis accept this...

  8. 6 The Clash of Civilizations, Part II: JIHAD ON THE PATH OF GOD
    (pp. 107-134)

    To jihadis, the aggression of the unbelievers, their ideological assault, and the military conflicts that they have begun, justify open warfare with them. The term that the extremists use for this warfare,jihad,has been discussed earlier, but there are details about the concept that need further clarification. As we have seen, the majority of theahadith(plural of hadith) and verses in the Qur’an that deal with the topic refer to jihad as fighting (qital). There is also a well-developed body of work within Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) that treats jihad as fighting and elaborates a legal framework for this...

    (pp. 135-160)

    We should step back now and examine the daunting task that the jihadis have set for themselves. Not only do they believe that the “attack” by the West and other unbelievers requires a violent response, but by declaring that offensive jihad is lawful, the extremists are in effect stating that the only resolution to their problems they will accept is a world ruled by their version of Islam. They must, therefore, defeat a stunning array of enemies: the West, the Jews, the Christians, the Hindus, the “agent rulers,” and any Muslims who do not agree with their form of Islam—...

  10. 8 Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror
    (pp. 161-178)

    It should now be obvious why the United States had to be attacked on September 11. Inspired by their distinctive ideology, certain extremists decided that the United States had to be destroyed. There are two central innovations in the ideology that allow—even demand—the destruction of the United States and the murder of thousands of innocents: an aberrant definition of tawhid, and a concentration on violence as the core of their religion. Unlike the vast majority of the Islamic world, the extremists give tawhid political implications and use it to justify all their violent acts. They assert that tawhid...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 179-232)
  12. Glossary
    (pp. 233-236)
  13. Index
    (pp. 237-244)