Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
Was the Capitol building attack—where one police officer was killed and another injured—last Good Friday, by Noah Green, a Nation of Islam member, a jihad attack?
Most would say no: the Nation of Islam, they would argue, is a heterodox group that has little to do with mainstream Islam but rather focuses on placing a wedge between “superior” blacks (Allah’s people) and “inferior” whites (Satan’s people).
While this is largely true, it also overlooks two important facts: the Nation of Islam, as well as countless other groups regularly dismissed as out of the Muslim mainstream, traces its origins to Islam; more importantly, the fundamental aspect of almost all of these “fringe” groups—namely, the “us vs. them” element—is entirely Islamic.
This is significant and requires some explanation.
For starters, countless have been the groups throughout Islamic history that not only see themselves as Islamic, but often as the only “true” Muslims—even as others, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, accuse them of being pseudo-Muslims. In fact, the first of these groups—the Khawarij, they who “exit [the mainstream]”—came into being nearly 1,400 years ago, just two decades after the death of Muhammad.
This group, which is today dismissed as un-Islamic—and which modern day terrorists of the ISIS variety are regularly likened to—believed that any Muslim not upholding the totality of Islamic law, shari‘a, should be eliminated as an apostate; and they acted on this impulse, including by slaughtering Muslim women and children (particularly the Azariqa Khawarij).
This is just one example; the Hashashin—who gave us the word “Assassin”—are another. Although they too are regularly dismissed as being un-Islamic, the reality is that they emphasized some aspects of Islam—assassinating opponents and looking forward to a houri-filled paradise—over others.
The point here is that, just because an unsavory group does not follow mainstream Islam, does not mean that the most unsavory aspects of that group are not Islamic. Both the Khawarij and their modern day counterparts—ISIS, et al.—find backing in Islamic teachings which call for the slaughter of infidels. The difference between the “radicals” and the average Muslim is that the former are so wedded to this principle that even fellow Muslims who are insufficiently Islamic become fair game. While that might be a “radical” interpretation, it would not exist—nor would the radicals themselves, past (Khawarij) or present (ISIS)—if the Koran, Allah, and Muhammad did not call for violence against and the slaughter of infidels in the first place.
The same can be said of the Hashashin: the three things they are most notorious for—assassinating their opponents, getting killed for it, and then being welcomed by supernatural sex slaves in paradise—are entirely Islamic: Muhammad himself called for the assassination of his opponents, including women, and he/Allah regularly entice their followers to do violence in order to gain entry to a hedonistic paradise.
In short, whatever liberties all these heterodox Muslim groups take, their worst aspects tend to be orthodox—especially their dichotomized worldview of “us vs. them.” This is entirely Islamic, tracing back to the doctrine of al-wala’ w’al bara’ (“loyalty and enmity”), which teaches Muslims to hate and fight all non-Muslims, while showing loyalty and cooperation to fellow Muslims.
It is this teaching that inspired the first Muslim sectarian group, the fanatical Khawarij, to break away from and slaughter mainstream Muslims on the accusation that they were not “true” Muslims. And it is this impetus that inspires one of the most recent sectarian groups, the Nation of Islam, to be loyal to and help fellow blacks while hating and seeking to undermine whites.
In both cases, the dichotomy of hate for and violence against the “other” is based on mainstream Islamic teachings. These heterodox Muslim groups diverge only in that they rearticulate the Islamic meaning of “other” from its original definition—non-Muslim, kafir, infidel—to something else (being not Islamic enough, being white, etc.). But the hate for the other—which is the root problem—is reliably Islamic.
In this context, Noah Green’s murderous assault on the Capitol building takes on the guise of a jihad, if only because the hate for the other behind it—including the belief that “The U.S. Government is the #1 enemy of Black people!”—is wholly informed by Islam’s dichotomized worldview, even if modified to suit Green’s purposes.