Just to follow up with some more thoughts on the Yemeni link I posted yesterday. The story is kinda old but looks like the CSJ piece is getting kicked around the ole watering holes. Brian Whitaker wrote about this last year when Hamoud Abdulhamid al-Hitar was asked by British counter-terrorism folks to come and give a talk to them. The program, itself, debuted in the fall of 2002. Al-Hitar, heads the Yemeni Human Rights Organization, set up the Theological Dialogue Committee, with 20 members, to engage the trained jihadists as well as the dillusional cases in one-on-one and group dicussion sessions. Using Quran, the Constitution of Medina, and Hadith, the qadis and clerics debate the tenets of jihadists that cast the world in eternal turmoil making the killings of innocent civilians a valid tactic of war. They are also given vocational training for life after. Once the judges believe that the jihadist has seen the light, and that they were not charged with any crime, they are released. Qadi al-Hitar puts the success rate at 90% - 346 members of various jihadist outfits have been released. The dialogues with the jihadists are continuing.
The best piece about Yemen post 9/11 efforts and al-Hitar's contribution that I have seen is Gregory Johnsen's article in WorldView mag.
There is a fundamental truth about Islamic fundamentalism according to the US administration. They are evil. They have no reasons. They have no objectives besides fear [and hating freedom]. Eternal categories that exist in the primordial soup with no temporal or spatial boundaries. In this framework, the only way to combat jihadists is to, well, kill them. Iraq is a success because it acts as the fly-paper to these evil-doers. As Hannity was screaming last night, "We are killing them there so we don't have to fight them here" The banality of such declarations leave me stunned most of time. There is no dialogue because that only happens between sentient beings. There is no humanity in them - no venue for thought, for dialogue. Heck, the most sympathetic portrayal of jihadists in US media is on 24 and I am dead serious when I say that.
I have never believed that terrorism is a religious problem - it is a political one. However, that does not mean that the "language" or the "discourse" itself is not religious. Specific Qur'anic verses play a pivotal role in the worldview of jihadists -as do other notions of law and state within the Islamic framework. It makes absolute sense that the Qur'an itself should be used to challenge the jihadists. All goes back to local context. Islamic banking makes absolutely no sense to me but it makes perfect sense to the hundreds of millions who use such banks. Last I checked, capitalism had no religion but it will get one, if thats what the customers want.
The best thing for the jihadists is if we [Muslims in general or the US] receded from the religious sphere. But engaging them on religion, doesn't mean we have to secularize them or convert them to an enlightened religion such as Christianity. It means we take note of and fight their rhetoric on its own terms. If the WoT was indeed being fought as the struggle for the hearts and minds of Muslims, we would be opening Islamic seminaries here to comprehend and utilize that discourse. The US, though, has not commentated publicly on this and has shown little interest in pursuing them. The flypaper is working for now. Until it stops working, i.e.
Eck. Too heavy for a friday, no? Doom and gloom and it is FREEZING outside. Why Chicago? Go unwind and listen to CM official band Magnus at the Metro tonight. They are headlining the best unsigned band show. Free tix at the website. Win a CM shirt if you shout "Accruals!" at the bassist. Or go read some of Ebert's reviews and see a movie he liked. Above all, have a good weekend, gentle readers.
The same applies in domestic debates with the Religious Right. Many speak of American Christians as just plain wingnuts, but that too keeps real dialogue from taking place. "But engaging them on religion, doesn't mean we have to secularize them. ... It means we take note of and fight their rhetoric on its own terms." Ditto for Christians we disagree with.