“Cogent Religious Instruction”: A Response to the Phenomenon of Radical Islamist Terrorism in Australia
… the total over the past 15 years has now reached approximately 13 plots or actual attacks involving some 47 jihadists. More such cases are awaiting determination by the courts. This number of convicted Islamic terrorists whose offences span 15 years, all inspired by the same ideology and with the same objective, constitutes a significant phenomenon.(pp. 30–31)
2. Religion and Terrorism
The jihadist propaganda on Bayda’s laptop and hard drive (particularly the IS and al-Qaeda magazines) also relies upon the Prophet’s example of waging religious war in the 7th Century. The articles invoke the duty of Muslims to follow the Prophet’s example in all things as a central tenet of Islam. Writings of other Islamic scholars, ancient and modern, are quoted to substantiate that the war-making of IS in the Middle East against everyone except Sunni Muslims and the extension of this violence against Western communities are the fulfilment of all Muslims’ religious duty.
The offender planned an attack not merely to attract attention to a specific issue concerning his religion. He aimed for complete overthrow of Australia’s system of law and government and to replace it by Islamic rule under a caliph, according to sharia law. The unreality of his thinking that the country could be intimidated into abandoning democracy and surrendering the peace and freedoms which it preserves, in favour of his theocratic alternative, is a measure of the grip of the religious ideology upon his faculties.
In all of these cases the “cause” underlying the offence, although described by the courts in a variety of ways, has been that of furthering Islamic ideology by force and fear through indiscriminate killing of non-Muslims.
… to my mind beyond doubt, that verses of the Medinan suras [chapters] are the ones he drew upon. The ideas he expressed of religious violence, martyrdom and Muslim supremacism correspond closely with these parts of the Quran.
If the offender has thought at all about parts of the Quran which run counter to the Medinan suras [chapters] he presumably considers that the conciliatory parts are either abrogated by the later-revealed violent passages or in some other way negated. What is conspicuously lacking from the offender’s case on sentence is any evidence that he has received and is at least willing to consider an authoritative refutation, from within the scholarship of his own religion, of the verses of the Quran in which he found justification for planning a terrorist attack. In his devout frame of mind it would seem that only a disavowal of those verses by respected Islamic scholars or clerics would have any prospect of causing him to change his own view of Muslim scripture.
The fact that you were prepared to offend in the way in which you did because of a belief in matters that you value above compliance with the laws of this country indicates that specific deterrence must be given some significant weight. You also valued your beliefs over the safety and lives of people who live and work in this community.
The judge in Khaja’s case found that there was an absence of a realistic prospect that he would abandon his religiously based hatred of non-Muslims and of Australia’s democratic institutions and he was likely to remain a danger to the community, and that, therefore, personal deterrence was a strong factor.
Neither from him nor from any other source has there been any attempt to show that the offender can be offered cogent religious instruction that the verses upon which he relied are cancelled and that killing non-Muslims and destruction of democratic government are not decreed by Allah.
3. Time-Period Effects
… there is a distinction between the faith of Islam and the religionized politics of Islamism, which employs religious symbols for political ends. Many will deny this distinction, including most prominent Islamists themselves. There is no doubt that many Islamists hold the sincere conviction that their Islamism is the true Islam. In fact, however, Islamism emanates from a political interpretation of Islam: it is based not on the religious faith of Islam but on an ideological use of religion within the political realm.
The boom in Saudi proselytism around the world—through the construction of grand mosques, the circulation of millions of free Wahhabi prayer books, and the dispatching of missionaries and imams—was funded by petrodollars at an estimated expense of more than $85 billion between 1975 and 2005, reflecting a determined effort to establish spiritual and political hegemony over Muslim practice. King Fahd (1982–2005) personally financed the building of 210 Islamic centres and supported more than 1500 mosques and 202 colleges and almost 2000 schools for educating Muslim children in non-Islamic countries.(p. 54)
The scholars differed concerning the ruling on attending celebrations of the non-Muslims on their special occasions such as marriage, recovering from sickness and return from travel. The most correct scholarly opinion is that it is permissible on condition that it serves a legitimate shar‘i interest, such as opening their hearts to Islam or calling them to the faith.
3.3. Western Military Interventions
- “The UK went to war without the explicit authorization which it had sought from the [United Nations] Security Council” (Chilcot 2016, p. 47);
- “diplomatic options had not at that stage [early March 2003] been exhausted [and] Military action was therefore not a last resort” (p. 6);
- In November 2001, the JIC [Joint Intelligence Committee] assessed that Iraq had played no role in the 9/11 attacks on the US and that practical co-operation between Iraq and Al Qaida was “unlikely” (p. 10); and
- In the week prior to the invasion, the United Nations inspection team (UNMOVIC) led by Dr Hans Blix “still lacked clear evidence that Iraq possessed any WMD” (p. 31).
… Al Qaida and associated groups will continue to represent by far the greatest terrorist threat to Western interests, and that threat will be heightened by military action against Iraq. The broader threat from Islamist terrorists will also increase in the event of war, reflecting intensified anti-US/anti-Western sentiment in the Muslim world, including among Muslim communities in the West.
… it is more difficult for Islamists to renounce their ideology because they consider the precepts of the ideology to be religious obligations. On the other hand, since Islamist radicals are motivated by an ideology that is rooted in a major world religion, there is an opportunity to leverage mainstream Islam to challenge extremist interpretations of the religion. This could facilitate the deradicalization of radical Muslims by making it possible for extremists to renounce extremism without also renouncing their faith.(p. 4)
The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.
5. “Cogent Religious Instruction”
… providing information on Islam through classes or access to religious texts so that the militants, who often have a shallow and truncated understanding of Islam, can gain a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the religion. In the same vein, a program may make information on alternative interpretations available to encourage debate among the militants as a way of indirectly undermining extremism.
the overly legalistic tendency which the latter-day Muslim jurists (mutakhkhirun) have embraced at the expense sometimes of the spirit of Islam, its moral and devotional teachings on matters of personal conduct. This tendency is manifested in the way authors have expounded the relationship of law and religion so that the Shariah is often presented as the core and kernel of religion and the essence of Islam itself … the tendency to over-legalise Islam is common across the board in the writings of both Muslims and orientalists.
… there is no evidence the Prophet used the term [shariah] frequently, let alone in the sense of a set of laws or a legal system. Although several leading collections, including Sahih al-Bukhārī, also contain Athar narrations (statements of the companions and some of their followers the Tabiyeen) in addition to the Prophetic Hadiths, in neither case is the Sharīʿah mentioned in a single instance. Looking through the prism of the Hadith literature spanning the 4th and 5th centuries AH [after hijra in 622] confirms there is hardly any mention of the Sharīʿah at all. In the collections dating to the 2nd and 3rd centuries, there is no mention of it whatsoever.(p. 23)
The word shariah does not seem to have been used even by the Pious Caliphs following the demise of the Prophet, nor have they used its equivalent fiqh in the sense of a legal code. These terminologies emerged much later and consist mainly of juristic designations that found currency when a body of juristic doctrine was developed over a period of time … identifying Shariah in the sense of a legal code as the defining element of an Islamic society or state, which became commonplace in subsequent juristic writings, does not find a strong footing in the source evidence [Quran and hadith].
Shariah is based on wisdom and achieving people’s welfare in this life and the afterlife. Shariah is all about justice, mercy, wisdom, and good. Thus, any ruling that replaces justice with injustice, mercy with its opposite, common good with mischief, or wisdom with nonsense, is a ruling that does not belong to the Shariah, even if it is claimed to be so according to some interpretation.(cited in Auda 2008, pp. xxi–xxii)
If there were one single evidence in the Quran, these scholars would have never hesitated to refer to it and praise it. Or even if there were in the Noble Book what resembled an evidence for wujub al-Imamah, someone among the supporters of Khilafah would have tried to turn any such resemblance into evidence. However, the fair scholars failed to find hujah or evidence in favour of their opinion in God’s Book. Thus they left the Book and went to find evidence in the claim of Ijma’ [consensus among legal scholars or jurists] at times, and Qiyas (reasoning by way of analogy), at other times.(cited in Ali 2009, p. 73)
… attention to context (siyāq) is essential to proper understanding and translation of the Qur’an. However, in much tafsīr writing, and in most of the translations of the Qur’an into English, as well as more general discussion of the Qur’an, we come across examples where insufficient regard to the context seriously mars understanding and results in misrepresentation of the Qur’an’s message. The study of context has a central place in rhetoric (balāgha) and in Qur’anic studies in Arabic, but is hardly mentioned in Qur’anic studies undertaken in English.(p. 47)
And so when the sacred months are over, slay the idolaters wherever you may come upon them, and take them captive, and besiege them, and lie in wait for them at every conceivable place. Yet if they repent and take to prayer, and render the purifying dues, let them go their way, for God is much forgiving, a dispenser of grace.(Quran 9:5)
And if any of the idol worshipers seek your protection, grant them protection, so that they might hear the word of God. And thereupon convey them to a place where they can feel secure.(Quran 9:6)
If they let you be, and do not make war on you, and offer you peace, God does not allow you to harm them(Quran 4:90)
If they [the enemy] incline toward peace, you should incline toward peace also and trust in God. Verily He also is all-seeing, all-knowing. Should they seek to deceive you with their show of peace, God is sufficient for you(Quran 8:61)
It may be that God will grant love and friendship between you and those you now hold as enemies for God has power over all things. God is oft-forgiving, most merciful. God does not forbid you from dealing kindly and justly with those who do not fight you nor drive you out of your homes. For God loves those who are just(Quran 60:7–8)
There shall be no compulsion in religion(Quran 2:256)
Indeed, those who believe, and those who are Jews, Christians and Sebeans—whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does righteous deeds—shall have their rewards is with their Lord, and no fear need they have and nor shall they grieve(Quran 2:62)
Say: O followers of the earlier revelations! Come to a common word we and you hold: that we worship none but God, we shall not ascribe divinity to aught besides God and we shall not take human beings for our Lord besides God(Quran 3:64)
Say: O you who reject the truth. I do not worship what you worship and you do not worship what I worship … Unto you your way and unto me mine.(Quran 109: 1–6)
5.4. Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad
Permission [to fight] has been given to those who are being fought, because they were wronged. And indeed, Allah is competent to give them victory. [They are] those who have been evicted from their homes without right only because they say, ‘Our Lord is Allah.’ And were it not that Allah checks the people, some by means of others, there would have been demolished monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of Allah is much mentioned. And Allah will surely support those who support Him. Indeed, Allah is Powerful and Exalted in Might.(Quran 22:39–40)
- The Muslims would protect the churches and monasteries of the Christians. They would not demolish any church property either to build mosques or to build houses for the Muslims;
- All ecclesiastical property of the Christians would be exempt from every tax;
- No ecclesiastical authority would ever be forced by the Muslims to abandon his post;
- No Christian would ever be forced by the Muslims to become a convert to Islam;
- If a Christian woman married a Muslim, she would have full freedom to follow her own religion (p. 276).
… the covenants of the Prophet with (1) the Christians of Najran, (2) the Monks of Mount Sinai, (3) the Armenian Christians, (4) the one written on Monday 29 Rabi al-Thani 4 AH, (5) the 1538 reproduction with the Christians of the World, (6) with the Jews of Khaybar and Maqna and (7) with the Samaritans—are all essentially authentic. The same applies to the covenants of Umar with (8) the Christians of Jerusalem and (9) the Christians of Mesopotamia, as well as (10) Ali’s covenant with the Armenian Christians. This gives us a total of seven authentic covenants that can be traced back to the Prophet and two that can be traced back to Umar, and one that can be traced back to Ali.(pp. 332–33)
Not only, as you know, do they not oppose Christianity. Rather, they are givers of praise to our faith, givers of honor to our Lord’s priests and holy ones, and givers of aid to churches and monasteries.(cited in Penn 2015, p. 60)
The covenant of protection imposes upon us certain obligations toward ahl adh-dhimmah. They are our neighbors, under our shelter and protection upon the guarantee of Allah, His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) and the religion of Islam. Whoever violates these obligations against anyone of them, by damaging his reputation, or by doing him some injury, has breached the Covenant of Allah, His Messenger, and his conduct runs counter to the teachings of Islam.(cited in Al-Qaradawi 2006)
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The population of Muslims in Australia increased from 2704 in 1947 to 22,311 in 1971, with the repeal of the Immigration Restriction Act 1901 in 1959. Today, Muslims number 604,200, which is 2.6% of the total Australian population according to the 2016 census.
See court transcript of R v Bayda; R v Namoa (No 8) 2019, paragraph 80: “The apparent message of these verses is not answered by non-specific and unelaborated suggestions, from various quarters, that ‘there are other verses’ or that ‘it is an interpretive religion’ or that the hostile passages are ‘cherry picked’. Assurances are from time to time offered to Western communities that ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ and that the faith of Muslims requires them to obey the laws of a country in which they are in a minority. But in the absence of express public disavowal of verses which convey Allah’s command for violence, as quoted in the jihadist literature tendered in this case, such assurances are apparently contradicted. Certainly that is how the matter is seen by jihadi propagandists and those who have followed them, including these offenders” (p. 22).
Bar News: The Journal of the New South Wales Bar Association  (Winter), p. 86. Online: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/NSWBarAssocNews/2015/104.pdf.
Islam Question and Answer states: “Jihad against the munaafiqeen (hypocrites), kaafirs (disbelievers) and leaders of oppression and innovation is obligatory upon the community as a whole. Physical jihad (i.e., fighting) against the kaafirs may become an individual obligation upon everyone who is able to do it in certain circumstances” such as: “(1) When the Muslim is present in a jihad situation; (2) When the enemy has come and attacked a Muslim land; (3) When the ruler mobilizes the people, they must respond; and (4) When a person is needed and no one else can do the task except him.” <https://islamqa.info/en/answers/20214/ruling-on-jihad-and-kinds-of-jihad>.
Declare Muslims to be non-Muslims.
Based on the discovery and analysis of very early Quranic manuscripts found in Yemen, Sadeghi and Goudarzi (2012) conclude: “Analysis resolves a fundamental question about the early history of the Qur’ān: who joined the existing verses to form the sūras (chapters) and when? Many scholars and some early reports hold that this was accomplished after the death of the Prophet by the committee that ‘Uthmān charged with the task of standardizing the Qur’ān. Some other early reports however indicate that this was done already by the Prophet himself. This last view is now found to be better supported…With only a few exceptions, the differences among the codices are at the level of morphemes, words, and phrases—not at the level of sentences or verses” (pp. 22–23).
In reference to the ongoing research on the Covenants, it should be noted that we find only very indirect references to them in the biographies of the Prophet (sira) and the sayings attributed to the Prophet (hadith) (Thomas and Roggema 2009). That we do not find any details about the writing, witnessing, contents or issuing the Covenants in these sources raises important questions that researchers will need to answer, part of which may relate to the acceptance of alternate, contradictory ‘compacts’ by later caliphs and jurists that appeared in jurisprudential texts during the late 8th and 9th centuries when the sira and hadith were also compiled.
Among those recently involved in terrorism-related activities are many whose passports were canceled on account of their attempt to join the Islamic State or other militant group in Syria and subsequently directed their “jihad” towards fellow Australian citizens (ABC News 2018; P. Wood 2018). This raises a very important question about the need for effective counter extremism and deradicalization programs, which it appears these offenders were not provided.
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Rane, H. “Cogent Religious Instruction”: A Response to the Phenomenon of Radical Islamist Terrorism in Australia. Religions 2019, 10, 246. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10040246
Rane H. “Cogent Religious Instruction”: A Response to the Phenomenon of Radical Islamist Terrorism in Australia. Religions. 2019; 10(4):246. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10040246Chicago/Turabian Style
Rane, Halim. 2019. "“Cogent Religious Instruction”: A Response to the Phenomenon of Radical Islamist Terrorism in Australia" Religions 10, no. 4: 246. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10040246