Normative Islam and Osama

There’s so much interesting journalism happening in the aftermath of the Osama bin Laden killing. You can learn more about everything from War Dogs to secret helicopters.

I was intrigued by one story that appeared on CNN.com headlined “Bin Laden’s theology a radical break with traditional Islam.” It basically asserts that, well, Bin Laden’s theology is a radical break with traditional Islam. I began with an inclination to agree but I was a bit confused by it. Here’s how it begins:

Osama bin Laden wore the mantle of a religious leader. He looked the part and talked a good game, but his theology was a radical departure from traditional orthodox Islam.

The pitch to join al Qaeda did not start with an invitation to put on a suicide vest but, like other religious splinter groups and cults, took advantage of disenfranchisement and poverty.

Bin Laden had no official religious training but developed his own theology of Islam.

To begin with, I’d simply like more substantiation on all these points. I mean, how many more well-heeled Al Qaeda terrorists do we have to meet before that “poverty breeds terror” theory is put to rest? Or at least not included without support in a story? And the other points are debatable, at least.

We hear from Ebrahim Moosa, a Duke University professor of religion, who says that Osama was influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood more than “orthodox Islamic teachings.” I’d like to learn more about how those two compare and contrast. And for what it’s worth, the story does give specifics about how some American Muslim scholars believe that Osama deviates from traditional Islam. Here’s one thing Moosa says:

“He takes scriptural imperatives at their face value and believes this is the only instruction and command God has given him – unmediated by history, unmediated by understanding, unmediated by human experience. Now that’s a difference between Muslim orthodoxy and what I would call uber- or hyperscripturalists,” Moosa said.

The vast majority of Islamic scholars and imams say the teaching of the Prophet Mohammed happened in historical context that needs to be understood when reading and interpreting the Quran.

Hmm. That second paragraph is really where I’m confused. What does it mean? Obviously the assertion that the “vast majority” of Islamic scholars say you need to know history doesn’t mean that they embrace the historical critical method, does it? Of course not. But, on the other hand, everyone understands that you need to understand history when reading the Quran. What you do with that understanding is where the debate surely lies. Where people are in that debate we undoubtedly don’t know. I haven’t heard of any global survey of scholars and imams that tell us about Muslim embrace of historical criticism or other methods of historical interpretation. Have you? So how are we quantifying this?

And then we get this:

“If the likes of bin Laden, if they had spent one day or maybe one month possibly, in a madrassa (Muslim religious school) and understood how the canonical tradition is interpreted, they would not go onto this kind of destructive path they go on,” Moosa said.

In the entire leadership structure of al Qaeda, “no one has had any sort of formal religious training from any seminary,” said Aftab Malik, a global expert on Muslim affairs at the United Nations Alliance of Civilization. He is researching a Ph.D. on al Qaeda.

“What you had was an engineer and a doctor leading a global jihad against the whole world,” Malik said. “That would never happen in normative Islam. It’s just such an aberration.”

There’s no question that there’s a “reputation deficit” among al Qaeda leaders when it comes to formal religious education. But what I’d like here is someone who could argue from a different perspective. I mean, take the Taliban’s Mullah Omar. He certainly spent some time attending and teaching in a madrassa. He’s “the likes of bin Laden” and he’s gone on a destructive path. Are we really supposed to believe — contra evidence — that exposure to a madrassa will heal the terrorism out of an individual?

Anyway, there are also quotes from Georgetown University professor John Esposito and Aftab Malik, a global expert on Muslim affairs at the United Nations Alliance of Civilization. Malik says that one of the most important deviations of Osama bin Laden from traditional theology is that he thinks anyone who doesn’t want to implement sharia is an apostate deserving of death, and:

“The second major deviation is the targeting of noncombatants. Even when you read in the Quran there are injunctions for fighting. But before and after the injunctions for fighting are calls for restraint. ‘Do not attack monks, do not attack women, do not attack children.’ And these are numerated heavily in the Hadith, which are uncontested,” Malik said, referring to the sayings of the prophet and his close companions.

“What bin Laden has done is ignored those injunctions,” he said. “The reason he has ignored them, in Osama bin Laden’s theology it’s basically a theology of anarchy.

“Once you let the genie out of the bottle you can’t put it back in, and that’s the big difference between al Qaeda theology and normative Islam. Normative Islam has heavy constraints – very, very heavy.”

But this isn’t true. It’s not true that bin Laden “ignored” those injunctions. Back in 2002, al Qaeda leaders — partly in response to that reputation deficit mentioned above — released a comprehensive defense of why they deemed it permissible to attack protected classes. I can’t find a link to the document (oddly) but it’s excerpted with great analysis here. Basically the document lays out seven reasons why it’s permissible:

First: It is allowed for Muslims to kill protected ones among unbelievers as an act of reciprocity.
Second: It is allowed for Muslims to kill protected ones among unbelievers in the event of an attack against them in which it is not possible to differentiate the protected ones from the combatants or from the strongholds.
Third: It is allowed for Muslims to kill protected ones among unbelievers on the condition that the protected ones have assisted in combat, whether in deed, word, mind, or any other form of assistance, according to the prophetic command.
Fourth: It is allowed for Muslims to kill protected ones among unbelievers in the event of a need to burn the strongholds or fields of the enemy so as to weaken its strength in order to conquer the stronghold or topple the state.
Fifth: It is allowed for Muslims to kill protected ones among unbelievers when they are using heavy weapons that do not distinguish between combatants and protected ones, as the Prophet did in Taif when he attacked its people with catapults.
Sixth: It is allowed for Muslims to kill protected ones among unbelievers when the enemy is shielded by their women or children.
Seventh: It is allowed for Muslims to kill protected ones among unbelievers if the people of a treaty violate their treaty and the leader must kill them in order to teach them a lesson.

Each of the reasons has an accompanying description and there’s also a part devoted to the killing of Muslims in terror attacks and how that can be justified. So, you see, far from ignoring these injunctions, he went out of his way to defend his actions. He argued that al Qaeda was behaving as better Muslims than those who disagreed.

It’s also worth noting that the theology of attacking non-combatants is not limited to al Qaeda in either time or place. It’s not like Osama bin Laden or al Qaeda are the only Muslims to have ever attacked children or bombed a bus. Heck, they’re not even the only ones to have done that in recent weeks. This isn’t exactly a limited approach.

At the end, we’re told that bin Laden’s theology is waning, particularly in light of the revolts against various dictators. Egypt is cited as an example. But, again, I wonder if that’s not also confusing. I mean, no one knows what’s going to happen in Egypt but we do know that the Muslim Brotherhood there is on the rise. The New York Times recently highlighted the growth of Salafiya there. So on what basis are we saying that this theology has waning influence in Egypt?

It’s not news that bin Laden’s theology differs, at times, from other Muslims. And I so appreciate a story attempting to explain how. But I think this particular story could have used more input from defenders of al Qaeda’s theology or, at least, people more familiar with it.

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  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Don’t forget that the other day we learned that the Egyptian Brotherhood is now so normative that the word “fundamentalist” doesn’t even apply.

    http://www.getreligion.org/2011/04/truthiness-in-that-egyptian-poll/

  • Ryan K.

    Great write up here. The narrative most of the media is either rooting for or just pushing hard seems not to align with the facts, in regards to Egypt. This recent poll show that 60% of Egyptians favor Sharia law and the limiting religious freedoms for minority groups.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/egypt-sharia-law-israel-poll-2011-4

    In addition, if Bin Laden is/was such an aberration in theological beliefs from the rest of the Arab world than why would he garner so much popular support from the people. I know the numbers here have varied but even if 30% of the Arab world finds him to be an inspirational figure, than I think it is a distortion of the facts to act like Bin Laden’s theology is so far off the reservation for his context.

    Not to mention, for every Imam and Muslim scholar you can find that would say Bin Laden’s actions are a distortion of Islam, you can also find one in the Arab world who would find them to be in harmony with the teaching of the Koran.

    To act like all the Muslim leaders in Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, and many mosques in Iraq and other Arab nations are just laymen doing poor theology is just false.

    I really wish I could understand why so many stories I read in the media seem to be bent on pushing a narrative that is to simplistic and just overall false.

  • sallyr

    The more I learn about Islam the more it seems that the idea of “normative Islam” is very, very limited. There is no central authority that defines theology and there are many differing schools of thought on many topics.

    While there are plenty of people who would read the Quran and Haddith as imposing these limiting requirements to the use of violence, there is really no authority which can reject an interpretation that reads those same authorities as imposing a violent and unrestricted interpretation of the very same texts.

    One of the most confusing aspects of this is that there are elements of both the Quran and Haddith that offer contradictory duties. You must slay the unbeliever – you must not slay them. There’s a whole universe of interpreters who explain why or when one set of injunctions cancels out the contradicting set of injunctions. And basically, Muslims just choose which set of interpreters they want to follow, or they mix and match to suit their sense of what Islam means.

    Then those on the conflicting sides of some of these issues call each other “Un-Islamic” and quite frequently resort to violence among themselves.

    Given the nature of how this works, I really can’t see how one group can really say that another is violating “normative Islam” – since there really doesn’t seem to be any such thing (at least when viewed from the outside). If someone made a really outlandish claim – that Muslims should worship many gods, or that Muhammed was not a prophet — then you could say they aren’t representing Islam. But when they are all reading the same texts and traditions it seems like any interpretation counts as just as “Islamic” as any other.

  • http://www.post-gazette.com Ann Rodgers

    It seems to me that this story does a pretty good job of trying to explain, in lay terms, why Bin Laden isn’t representative of Islamic theology. Yes, some of the quotes needed more explanation. But, frankly, you could take a lot of them and apply them to conversations about Protestant evangelicalism and say, Westboro Baptist Church, and it they would follow similar paths.
    It’s true that Islam has no central authority, just as evangelicalism doesn’t. But it’s also true that Islam has several historic schools of theological interpretation — just as evangelicalism does. And Bin Laden eschews all of them.
    Understanding scripture in historical context has little to do with the historical-critical method (which sometimes rips it brutally out of context). One of the first lessons taught in mainstream evangelical seminaries (think Dallas, Gordon-Conwell, Fuller) is that you cannot understand a passage unless you understand the context in which it was first written or spoken.
    The fact that preachers with no theological training sometimes gain significant legions of followers is no surprise, but it doesn’t make those leaders “theologians.” Note the parade of engineers and other tech-types who have written books predicting the rapture.
    Osama bin Laden was an engineer, not a trained theologian. It’s important to point that out, and this story did so.

  • Harold

    But, frankly, you could take a lot of them and apply them to conversations about Protestant evangelicalism and say, Westboro Baptist Church, and it they would follow similar paths.

    This. I wonder if there would be a call for “people who agree with them” quotes if we were talking about the Christian Identity movement or Westboro Baptist? Or would we allow Christian scholars to speak authoritatively in their efforts to distance orthodox Christianity from fringes?

    Don’t forget that the other day we learned that the Egyptian Brotherhood is now so normative that the word “fundamentalist” doesn’t even apply.

    Again, I’m curious why we assume Egyptians are incapable of making judgments about the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and where they fall on the spectrum of extremism? I know that there is a perception about the Muslim Brotherhood, as interpreted by Christians and political conservatives in the U.S., but it seems likely that Egyptians may be better at evaluating that group than inside-the-Beltway Islamo-skeptics.

    Which really underscores the problem with journalism on Islam. It isn’t the kind of religion that many Christian elites or Americans generally are used to. So reporting on Islam requires not only letting Muslims tell their stories, but all of it has to be done with a filter of Americans who have lots of preconceived notions of terms like “sharia” and the such that are not borne out in reality.

  • http://www.thebigdaddyweave.com BDW

    We hear from Ebrahim Moosa, a Duke University professor of religion, who says that Obama was influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood more than “orthodox Islamic teachings.”

    Osama not Obama.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Of COURSE there should be quotes from people in Christian Identity or Westboro (or their defenders) in stories about said movements! Is that really in question?

    And just because we can all agree that OBL is bad doesn’t mean we should include untruths (such as that he “ignored” teachings on killing protected classes).

    I thought this story had some good qualities, I really did. But I think it avoided some difficulties by quoting a narrow range of folks.

    And back to the historical thing — I just frankly didn’t understand what was being claimed. What, exactly, are we claiming the Osama approach was? What, exactly, is the vie that a “majority” of Muslim scholars hold that is different from the al Qaeda approach? I honestly just didn’t even begin to understand the distinction. It’s not that I doubt that there is one.

  • Harold

    Is that really in question?

    Actually, yes. I don’t recall a similar request that Phelps clan be intereviewed when there are calls here to disassociate “Westboro Baptist” and “Baptists” generally. I think Phelps (and Bin Laden’s) actions are evident enough that they don’t need an explainer. And who would you suggest should be interviewed in the U.S. press to defend Bin Laden’s theology?

  • Harold

    Osama not Obama

  • http://goodintentionsbook.com bob smietana

    Basically the document lays out seven reasons why it’s permissible:

    Don’t mean to nitpick, but that document lays out 7 reasons why bin Laden and al Qaeda believe that killing civilians was acceptable.

    The piece from the Middle East Policy Counci Journal reports that al Qaeda’s interpretation has little credibility.


    The jihadi scholars who nurture al-Qaeda and provide religious cover for acts of violence suffer from a “reputation deficit.” Many are self-taught, new Islamist intellectuals with little formal religious training. Others have spent their lives studying Islam, but a dearth of resources, sponsors and fora for communication limits their capacity to develop a reputation. There are a few classically trained jihadi scholars with global notoriety, such as Omar Abdul Rahman (the Azharite shaikh and former mufti of several radical Egyptian groups, now in jail in New York), but these are the exceptions. This is in contrast to the training of the non-violent Salafi scholars, many who hold PhDs from established Islamic universities in Saudi Arabia and are considered part of the ulama in the kingdom. Non-violent Salafis thus find ample opportunity to dismiss the jihadis as unknowledgeable or ignorant, a pejorative insult among Salafis, who pride themselves as students of learning. ”

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    I fixed the typo, thanks BDW (and Harold). And just an hour prior I was thinking how odd it is that I’d yet to make that mistake considering how many hundreds of times I’d used the names since Sunday …

    Anyway, I don’t really understand what you’re arguing for. Are you saying that in a story about how one group is more normative or legit than another group, only one side should be presented? I just don’t see the journalistic case there at all.

    As for who to quote, you could begin by quoting the same documents I did. It’s not like Al Qaeda hasn’t waged a gigantic PR offensive when it comes to this intra-Muslim battle over who is right. They’ve been arguing their case for YEARS and there’s no need to publish an untruth and say they’ve “ignored” the issues they haven’t.

  • http://go.to/islamhistory Historyscoper

    Is Osama bin Laden a true Muslim or a revolutionary apostate? The best way to decide is to study Islam’s history and see how it started out in the 7th century. Master every detail at your own pace free with the Historyscoper’s online Islam history course at: http://go.to/islamhistory

  • http://goodintentionsbook.com bob smietana

    It’s probably fair to report by observation that since most Muslim do not routinely murder innocents civilians on a regular basis that bin Laden’s interpetation is not normative.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Bob Smietana,

    I don’t get what you’re nitpicking. I said that Al Qaeda released a defense of killing protected classes, giving seven reasons why they argue it’s OK. You seem to agree that Al Qaeda released a defense of killing protected classes, giving seven reasons why they argue it’s OK.

    As for that article I linked to, which I thought was an excellent description of the intramural battle, I’m not sure what you’re saying with that excerpt. The article, if I recall correctly, is about why Al Qaeda has gone to such lengths to defend its doctrinal purity — precisely because of the reputation deficit, right? Just like was mentioned in my post? Or what?

    In fact, while that article is “old news” as these things go, I think it did a great job of laying out the theological differences between violent and non-violent Salafis. Not that non-violent Salafism is the “normative Islam” that is being positioned against al Qaeda in the CNN article, but it’s still helpful to read, in my opinion.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    bob smietana,

    Even most full on al Qaeda members “do not routinely murder innocent civilians on a regular basis.” That most other Muslims don’t isn’t really a terribly helpful point to make, is it?

    Perhaps it’s helpful to remember that Pew survey from last year. In it, only six countries with large Muslim populations were surveyed. And yet even in these six countries, over 150 million Muslims said they liked al Qaeda. That in no way suggests “membership” but just support.

    Probably an infinitesimally small percentage of these al Qaeda supporters in these six countries would actually murder innocent civilians, much less routinely or on a regular basis. But to say then that it’s of no consequence seems silly.

  • Harold

    over 150 million Muslims said they liked al Qaeda.

    That can’t be right, unless they surveyed over 150 million people which even the Pew folks couldn’t pull off.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Harold, yes, of course. The percentage of people surveyed in each country who affirmed support of al Qaeda worked out to 150 million. Sorry for being unclear.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    And just, by way of example, I came across this Reuters story about crowds of militants (or their supporters, I should say) in Pakistan holding prayers for bin Laden. It quotes Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, who is a leader of a terror group there. One considered to be an arm of Al Qaeda, in fact. And he’s not without formal education in Islam.

    It’s not surprising that some might argue that there is no formal Islamic education among terrorists. It’s just that this view is most certainly not agreed to by all — and not just those within the terror community. That should be included in a story that attempts to dismiss them all as uneducated rubes. It would be as silly as saying — for the Christian world — that only Catholic clergy have formal seminary training. There are certainly variances in the seminary training of Protestants (with my church body being at the end that requires quite a bit of formal training) and the lack of training does play a tremendously large role in many of the non-normative approaches that some clergy on one side of the ledger might take. But it’s way more complicated than the assertion “our side highly educated, their side completely uneducated.” Isn’t it?

  • http://goodintentionsbook.com bob smietana

    Mollie:

    I don’t get what you’re nitpicking. I said that Al Qaeda released a defense of killing protected classes, giving seven reasons why they argue it’s OK. You seem to agree that Al Qaeda released a defense of killing protected classes, giving seven reasons why they argue it’s OK.

    I was nit picking your summary line: “Basically the document lays out seven reasons why it’s permissible” – when the document lays out seven reasons why bin Laden believed it’s permission.” (was probably being too nit-picking”

    As to the “like” al Qaeda poll question – that means 90% don’t like al Qaeda– which lends credence to the “normative Islam” label. And as you point out, almost none of the “like” folks are terrorists.

    bin Laden thought he was doing God’s will. He made that clear. It’s also pretty clear that he wasn’t normative.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    It’s also pretty clear that he wasn’t normative.

    Absolutely. It’s just important that we understand precisely what’s not normative about the views as well as what it means to not be normative — does it mean you’re a lone wolf or that you have hundreds of millions of likeminded followers?

    I keep thinking of it in terms of other religions. Like, what in Protestantism is normative and what isn’t? What does that even mean? We really have to be specific when discussing these things. Like, it’s absolutely helpful to understand the differences in formal education. Even more helpful to understand the harder stance on sharia and apostasy. But we need to know more about what the lighter stances on those things are. Very difficult questions to answer but I do believe that precision is key.

    (And now I get the point about the al Qaeda document.)

  • http://goodintentionsbook.com bob smietana

    This might be more nit picking, but the CNN story is about 700 words long. This critique post is about 1400 words long. If the reporter had that much space, the story would likely have been better. But the reality of religion journalism today is that there’s never enough space for the nuances.

  • Jerry

    Mollie, to me you’re asking a question that just can’t be answered in a news story. You’re asking what is normative, standard, in Islamic jurisprudence, Fiqh. So the first question is normative in the sense of those who know Islam very well or normative in the eyes of the Islamic street. This is equivalent to asking what theologians agree on versus what typical Christians believe. There is a gap, perhaps even a chasm, in some cases on this point.

    And you’re asking what is authoritative which could be compared to authoritarian, al Quaeda’s model. The Catholic church makes authoritative statements about theology but does not kill those who disagree. At one point, though, heretics were killed but now justice is left to God in the afterlife.

    The distinction between authoritative and authoritarian is one that I found quite compelling in Khaled Abou Ed Fadl’s book Speaking in God’s Name: Islamic Law, Authority and Women. I found that book singularly useful in understanding how Islamic scholars have historically approached trying to understand the Quran and Hadith.

  • Jettboy

    I guess its because I come from a tradition that believes that official religious training means nothing, but I don’t care what school he comes from or not. A study of religion just ends up with a more sophisticated (not to be confused with true) indoctrination. Theology is not history even if you use history.

    Reading about “normative” Islam makes me skeptical that such a thing exists. If you define normative by numbers, then Protestantism in Christianity is not normative in comparison with Catholicism even in the United States. In fact, by the numbers in the U.S., Mormonism becomes normative Christianity as the forth largest Church that claims the term. Even if discounting the self-identifying numbers, I don’t think Al Qaeda is a religion that demands followers adhere to the name. He hasn’t existed without significant numbers of outside support, like the Taliban. I’ll believe that Al Qaeda is not normative when I see Muslims in large numbers speak out against them in no uncertain terms. I mean hundreds or thousands of Muslims chanting and demonstrating against them like you see the anti-Americans doing.

  • ReligionIssue

    I think this post helps some people understand that not all Muslims are horrible murderous people like people all over the world believe.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Mollie, to me you’re asking a question that just can’t be answered in a news story. You’re asking what is normative, standard, in Islamic jurisprudence, Fiqh.

    Actually, I’m not. I’m all for placing OBL’s theology in the context of other Muslim teachings — but I’m not sure how helpful the “normative” nomenclature is.

    But as for the authoritative/authoritarian nomenclature — there was an interesting discussing in that paper discussed above about offensive and defensive jihad around those authoritative/authoritarian lines. Might be worth checking out.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    So this just came across my desk (per Esposito’s claim that events in Egypt prove that OBL’s influence is declining) from Reuters:

    Egyptian Salafists honor bin Laden with death prayer

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby

    This might be more nit picking, but the CNN story is about 700 words long. This critique post is about 1400 words long. If the reporter had that much space, the story would likely have been better. But the reality of religion journalism today is that there’s never enough space for the nuances.

    As long as we’re nitpicking, that argument would seem more appropriate if we were talking about a story printed on a dead tree. :-) As far as I know, the World Wide Web is full of wide open space.

  • sky7i

    Mollie,

    You’ll find a very useful article here:
    http://www.islamfortoday.com/murad04.htm

    There are more technical articles at:
    http://www.masud.co.uk/ISLAM/ahm/

    In particular, “Understanding the Four Maddhabs” (dealing with orthodoxy and scholarship) and “Bombing Without Moonlight: The Origins of Suicidal Terrorism”.

  • http://www.ephesians4-15.blogspot.com/ Randy

    Malik says that one of the most important deviations of Osama bin Laden from traditional theology is that he thinks anyone who doesn’t want to implement sharia is an apostate deserving of death

    So what is traditional theology? Do they think an apostate is deserving of death? It sounds like it. They just have a different definition of who is apostate. But is the definition of apostate the problem? Just the fact that they feel they have any right to declare somebody deserving death based on any kind of religious view. I would say that is already a big problem. That is not unique to OBL? That is traditional Muslim teaching?

  • http://fkclinic.blogspot.com tioedong

    “…Anyway, there are also quotes from Georgetown University professor John Esposito…”

    Does it mention he’s from the think tank started at Georgetown with a gift of couple million dollars from the Saudis? And how many other “experts” in the article are paid for by the Saudis to whitewash the connection of Middle Eastern “charities”, Saudi funded madrasses and terrorist recruitment?

  • Jerry

    So this just came across my desk (per Esposito’s claim that events in Egypt prove that OBL’s influence is declining) from Reuters:

    Egyptian Salafists honor bin Laden with death prayer

    The word was DECLINING not GONE. The unanswered and unanswerable question is what kind of reaction would there have been last year or 5 years ago.

    And one incident does not equal a trend. Trends are an outcome of statistics and one data point doth not a trend make.

  • Bill

    In this piece from the Express in the UK, they refer to those threatening retaliation as “supporters of bin Laden,” while those who oppose them are described as “extremists.”

    http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/245148/

    Granted that not all Muslims support al Qaeda, but many do. Noticing this is not Islamophobia.

  • bob

    I always want to point out because I assume it’s frequently missed, that “protected” people are people who either are under complete submission to Muslim overlords or who ought to be. Or ought to know better than not to be, right? That is, “protected” in the sense that any slave is protected; owned by someone superior to them. Once you get that straight (and press items rarely define the terms) the rest is seen in a new light. If you go down that list of seven “conditions” you’ll have to try and find *one* situation when it is NOT allowable to kill a “protected” person. The only other context of “protected” you’ll find as comforting is the “protection” had by paying off the mob.

  • R9

    Bill, careful, the EDL are not someone you want to stand up for.

  • R9

    Well okay, to let people make their own minds up here’s the wiki page. But I think extremist is a fair enough term for them. Actually they look like a fairly scary bunch.

    I appreciate the call for consistency. But the Express piece does at least refer to Bin Laden fans as “Radicals” and Extremists are referred to down the bottom.

  • Johan Tristan Aslim

    As Abdal Hakim Murad said: “If we look at the famous fatwa of Bin Laden against Jews and Crusaders,
    for instance, which authorizes every Muslim to kill any American
    combatant or non-combatant is phrased is baseless in terms of
    traditional Islamic argumentation, but all he had to do to spread his
    idea, was to throw his fatwa on the internet. This is something the
    traditional scholarship can’t really cope with because that scholarship
    is so non-hierarchical.” The rest of his conversation with the Halal Monk offers quite a lot of answers to the initial questions in this opinion piece. See: http://www.halalmonk.com/abdal-hakim-murad-authority-within-islam