Archive for July, 2010

Alms for Jihad: Background on Charities and Islamic Revolutions

July 29, 2010

Alms for Jihad: The Link Between Charities and Terrorism

Zakat (obligatory almsgiving) is the third of the five pillars of Islam, the other four being Shahadaha (profession of faith), Salah (prayers), Sawm (fasting), and the Hajj (pilgrimage to the Grand Mosque in Mecca at least once in one’s lifetime). Many Muslims believe that to fail to fulfill these five pillars is tantamount to apostasy.

Zakat is a required yearly payment for every Muslim with at least a minimum of personal wealth. By tradition, payment of the zakat is strictly the business of the individual and not the state: it is between the Muslim and Allah (and some imams threaten that Allah will punish those who fail to pay zakat).

Because it is not generally or (historically) a matter for the state to be involved in, as if it were simply another tax, many governments in Muslim countries do not keep or request records of what Muslims donate. The recipients of funds have also been outside of government ovesight.

There are thousands of legitimate Islamic charities that receive zakat donations and use them for humanitarian or religious purposes. Alms for Jihad goes to great lengths to stress that most charities are legitimate. However, there are also charities that radicals have infiltrated, who have funneled money for terrorist activities without the donors’ knowledge. On the other hand, some charities have been established only for funding terrorism. Alms for Jihad focuses on those charities that “have been used as fronts to launder money and assets in order to finance Jihadists who believe that only terror will result in the establishment of the Islamic state.” The number of these charities is small in comparison to the total number of Islamic charities worldwide. By 2004, only 14 were proven to have links to Al Qaeda.

There are doubtless more charities with these aims, but they are most likely very small in size and funding capability.

Especially since 9/11, many countries have started to monitor their charities (or at least establish agencies to accomplish this task) and hold them accountable, stemming the flow of money that had been going on for at least a decade.

The charities supporting Al Qaeda are among the wealthiest, and therefore, though few, have a disproportionate impact. For those charities in question, the goal is “to sponsor terrorism with the aim of bringing about the Islamist state” in whatever country terrorists may be operating.

Qur’an verses:
3:151 – We will put terror into the hearts of unbelievers.
7:4-5 – Our terror came unto them. No plea had they, when Our terror came unto them,
save that they said: Lo! We were wrong-doers.
8:12 – When thy Lord inspired the angels, (saying): I am with you. So make those who
believe stand firm. I will throw fear into the hearts of those who disbelieve.
8:60 – Make ready for them all thou canst of (armed) force and of horses tethered, that
thereby ye may dismay the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others beside
them whom ye know not. Allah knoweth them. Whatsoever ye spend in the way
of Allah it will be repaid to you in full, and ye will not be wronged.

the “way of Allah” is a common phrase in the Qur’an. It means jihad, strictly referring to war against infidels. And whatever one “spends in jihad”, according to Qur’an 8:60, will be “repaid”.

The 9/11 terrorists were all members of Al Qaeda, an international Islamic revolutionary movement of mujahideen (holy warriors), founded in Afghanistan in 1988. The leaders of Al Qaeda were mostly men who had received a Western secular education; they could have probably earned good salaries in any number of careers. But they were able to use the modern weapons, instruments of organization, technology, communication, and finance.

Most terrorist funding has come directly from individuals’ donations to Muslim charities. Many of these people did not know that much of their donations were used for terrorist activities all over the world – in Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Afghanistan, Israel, Kuwait, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Albania, Kosovo, Chechnya, Saudi Arabia, Bosnia, the former Soviet bloc, Georgia, Thailand, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, UK, Neatherlands, Belgium, Denmark, the USA, Canada, Russia, Algeria, and more.

Most donors thought their donations would go to assist the needy (especially locally) and “promote Islam” in the form of new mosques, repairing mosques, distributing copies of the Qur’an, and opening Islamic schools (madrasas). However, some donors (and some that established their own charities), had different goals in mind. They were “committed to the establishment of Islamist states in the Muslim world and the conversion of the kafirim (infidels or unbelievers) in non-Islamic countries.” A religious mission had become a political cause, in which crimes against humanity were simply a means to obtain the establishment of the Islamist state of True Believers.

The periodic Islamic revolutions throughout history trace their roots to Salafism. The term “Salafi” is derived from al-salaf (“forefathers”), and refers to the companions of Mohammad. Salafists are “defenders of a tradition over 14 centuries old to reform and renew Islam to its original purity practiced by Muhammad and his followers.” Salafists stress “keeping the faith” with the early generations of Muslims through piety. Modern Salafist leaders are Hasan al-Turabi (Sudan), Osama bin Laden (Saudi Arabia), Ayman al-Zawahiri (Egypt), Rashid al-Ganmushi (Tunisia) and the Salafi Brigade for Call and Combat (Algeria).

Salafists see themselves as direct descendants of “the best of people” – that is, from the founding of Islam. As Muhammad established his community of believers, he proclaimed them superior to all others. In Qur’an 3:110, “Ye are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah…”

Salafists blame the House of Saud (royal family of Saudia Arabia) for having corrupted the teaching of the 18th-century purifier and founder of Wahhabism, Shaykh Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792). King Abdelaziz, the founder of Saudi Arabia and follower of al-Wahhab, had found that, after 1920, he had to pull back the group of raiders, called the Ikhwan (Brotherhood), that had helped him conquer the Arabian Peninsula in the first place. The Ikhwan, who got their living off of raiding cities and plundering travelers and pilgrims, discovered that their king was no longer supporting them. The king wanted to be recognized as the protector of the Muslim “holy cities” of Mecca and Medina: this meant that the Ikhwan could no longer go on their raids – Muslim pilgrims were to be protected so they could come to Mecca annually on the hajj. There is also an economic reason to encourage the hajj; most of Mecca and Medina’s income depend on it.

Many countries by this time, like Iraq, Jordan, and Kuwait, were now protected by Britain. Wanting to attack Shi’ite Iraq, the Ikhwan defied King Abdelazziz in 1927 and attacked anyway. The Ikhwan saw the king’s refusal to attack the Shi’ite infidels as a betrayal. Abdelazziz agreed to let the British Royal Air Force conduct bombing sorties against Ikhwan camps. In a final confrontation, the Ikhwan and loyal troops of Abdelazziz fought in battle, each side crying Allahu akbar (God is greatest). The machine guns of the king (no doubt from Britain) mowed down the ranks of the Ikhwan. They were crushed, their chiefs imprisoned, and their women and children left to languish. One of the Ikhwan, a veteran of the battle, went home to a village north of Riyadh. He had a son, and named him Juhayman, who would grow up and lead, in the next Islamic revolutionary movement against this same royal family, an armed group to occupy the Grand Mosque in Mecca – the holiest shrine in all Islam – in 1979. This was also the same year that the Ayatollah Khomeini rose to power in Iran.

Thus, the royal house of Saud, from the very beginning, was not only reluctant to wage war against infidels (as Mohammad had commanded), but also became a partner with the West, enjoying oil revenue and Western inventions like the telephone, the airplane, and television. In 1945, Franklin Roosevelt met with the Saudi king on the USS Quincy and began the close ties between the US dollar and Saudi Arabia’s oil to this day. The income from oil allowed Saudi Arabia to install infrastructure, and therefore the king brought in many foreigners to design and build in his newly prosperous kingdom. This also contradicted the strict teachings of the Salafists, for “the Prophet had commanded that all non-Mulsims be expelled from the Arabian Peninsula.”

The 18th century had seen Wahhabism spread throughout the Muslim world, and the 19th century saw the Mahdist revolution in the Sudan. The 20th century would see yet another generation of Salafists attempt to “purify” Muslim society by “returning it to the original ideas of Islam”. Sayyid Qutb gave the ideology for the 20th century version of the Salafist revolution, and the Muslim Brotherhood (note that the Arabic word for brotherhood is Ikhwan) served as its instrument. Founded in Egypt in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood was the basis and catalyst of the Islamic terrorism we have seen in our time. It was also the recipient of vast sums given as charity, and it used these to carry out its political mission to establish Muslim states throughout the world. This last revolution is unique in that it has extended far beyond Muslim borders, and due to modern travel and technology, has radicalized whole populations of Muslims in the heart of Western (and even Asian and former Soviet) societies.

Since the charities have experienced a crackdown in regulation and oversight, the flow of funds in these channels has all but dried up. The question to ask now may be the following: What might the 21st century revolution look like, and where will it obtain the men, material, and funding to carry itself out?

Alms for Jihad: Intro

July 25, 2010