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The Globalization of Jihad: From Islamist Resistance to War Against the West - Jihad and Class War

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JIHAD AND CLASS WAR

Increasingly, the ideologues of the global jihadist movement are adopting the rhetoric of anti-capitalism and class war as means of expanding the conflict outside the religious realm. The consequences of such efforts had already been seen in the riots that spread so rapidly throughout France.

Those riots occurred because the North African immigrants felt trapped in the lower levels of French society. They felt left out of the French mainstream and denied its opportunities. This feeling and the conditions of poverty in which they live fueled their hatred of the French state and the symbols of its wealth. The extremists were able to exploit this situation and transform it into a conflict between Muslims and Europeans, even though it was entirely devoid of any religious overtones or context.

Knowing that such conditions of poverty and disenfranchisement are widespread in immigrant communities, the extremists have begun to focus more of their propaganda on this sore point. In a leaflet date June 9, 2005, Hizb ut-Tahrir cast the conflict between the United States and the Islamic world in classic Marxist terms:

As for the 'freedom' that they want, it is the freedom of capitalism … It is the freedom of exploitation, greed and concentration of the wealth in the hands of the capitalist class, besides their control of the affairs of authority. It is the freedom of colonising (sic) the peoples and stealing their resources, as well as their suppression and starvation.[2]

This excerpt seeks to create a conflict between the West and the Islamic world in an economic rather than religious framework:

As for the 'economic development of the region', in their view it means to rob the wealth of the Ummah, sink the region in debts and then shackle it with the poisonous prescriptions of the IMF.[3]

Having redefined the terms of the struggle, Hizb ut-Tahrir goes on to call for military action by the same secular states that the Islamists have historically opposed for their religiosity:

What are your armies waiting for? What are the influential people amongst you waiting for? Are you waiting till America has implemented its project for the Middle East, the great one and the small one, and thus your countries become full of prisons more than just Abu Ghuraib?[4]

Even the war in Iraq is now being framed in economic, rather than religious, terms:

The West’s vision for Iraq is a package of political and economic freedoms based on Capitalism and free-market policies.[5]

The Lebanese Brotherhood ideologue Fathi Yakan stated:

The groundwork for the French Revolution was laid by Rousseau, Voltaire and Montesquieu; the Communist Revolution realized plans set by Marx, Engels and Lenin....The same holds true for us as well.[6]

Such communistic ideas run counter to the basic principles of Islam, which accepts the right of the wealthy to their wealth while at the same time advocating care for the poor. Their willingness to reject such fundamental principles of the faith and embrace the language of atheistic Marxism unmasks the extremists, revealing them for what they are: revolutionaries who have found in Islam a convenient pole around which to rally support for their war against the West.

The Muslim Brotherhood was born as anti-imperialist movement and has always been focused as much on winning political power for its own sake as it has been on anything having to do with the religion of Islam. Today, that emphasis has only increased, and we now see the Brotherhood – along with the many other national movements it has spawned over the years – expressing more and more enmity for the West.

It is in part by promoting such anti-Western sentiments that Hamas, effectively the Palestinian branch of the Brotherhood, was able to generate so much support in the recent Palestine elections, just as its own anti-Western rhetoric helped the Brotherhood itself at the polls in Egypt.

The people who respond to such rhetoric are not religious people. Rather, they are motivated by socioeconomic concerns.

It is true that poverty and socioeconomic inequity are very real problems in many parts of the Muslim world today. The extremists are cleverly exploiting these problems. Wherever people are living in poverty, extremism is bound to find fertile ground. Therefore, addressing these problems is one way of undermining the influence of the extremists.

As Fareed Zakaria recently wrote in Newsweek:

… the forces of moderation thrive in an atmosphere of success.

Two Muslim societies in which there is little extremism are Turkey and Malaysia. Both are open politically and thriving economically. Compare Pakistan today growing at 8 percent a year with General Zia's country, and you can see why, for all the noise, fundamentalism there is waning. If you are comfortable with the modern world, you are less likely to want to blow it up.[7]

As long as the economic gulf between the Muslim world and the West is allowed to persist, hatred will increase and the radicals will be there to tap it. The more we narrow the gap between the West and the Muslim world, the more we undermine this avenue of recruitment and extinguish this animosity.