My new book (I finished God is Not Great, and I just don't care enough about it to talk about it. Blah) is Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West by Benazir Bhutto. This is the book she was working on when she was assassinated in December, 2007.
So far I've only read the introduction (written by her co-author for the book, Mark A. Siegel), first chapter, and started on the second. I know I'm an emotional sap, but there were a few times I was tearing up reading the introduction and first chapter. The first chapter is written in the first person and it's her describing her homecoming in October of 2007, and the assassination attempt that failed to kill her, but did kill 179 innocent supporters of hers, many who had formed a human shield around her vehicle to try and keep assassins from her. I cried, not just for the men who died for nothing other than wanting freedom, but also knowing that shortly the people who wanted her dead would succeed.
In the second chapter, she's discussing the 'battle within Islam'. So far it's been taken up with what 'jihad' really means (she claims that it's not the violent wars and terrorism that we know and associate it with), that it's meant to be an internal struggle of the Muslim against their own desires and failings. She asserts that, as in Christianity and Judaism, Muslims are only supposed to fight 'just wars'. But, of course, you have to acknowledge, who defines what war is just? Certainly, we in the West don't feel that the Muslims have any reason to wage war on us, and yet those Muslims who do so feel that their war is just. She has, at this point, named three Muslim 'scholars' that extremists turn to to support their desires for death and destruction of everyone who is not 'them' - Ahmad Ibn Taymiyya (a medieval Muslim scholar) who wanted the ummah to return to the ideals of the first Muslim community at Medina. 'He drew a sharp line between Muslims and nonbelievers and asserted that, "Muslim citizens thus have the right, indeed duty, to revolt against them [nonbelievers], to wage jihad."' This dictum has been copied by many groups, al Qaeda being just one - they draw a sharp line between believers (Muslims who follow their exact flavor of Islam) and nonbelievers (everyone else). Maulana Maudoodi (founder of the extremist group Jamaat-i-Islami in South Asia) believed that Muslim identity was threatened by a sense of nationalism, which he saw as a 'Western threat' - in order to 'protect' the ummah against it, he felt that the West, and all it's ideology had to be destroyed. And, of course, she cites Sayyid Qutb, who believed that the entire world was still jahiliyyah, and that the spread of the Western ideals needed to be stopped in order for Islam to spread (and, you know, fix everything - since it's done so well in making the world a shiny, happy place where it has clawed it's way to the top).
These, she says, are just examples of the mindset that is prevalent in the Islamic world now. 'Using mistaken interpretations of the Quran, they believe that they can justify acts of violence against innocents, people of the Book, and even fellow Muslims in order to achieve their goals. Clearly the Quran does not support the teachings of these reactionary clerics. They may provide an intellectual infrastructure for the terrorist movement, but it is a house of false cards and twisted logic. Fanatics will use every rationalization to justify their terror, and this has traditionally been true for religious extremists.'
Here's a short passage showing why she believes that terrorism is forbidden by the Qur'an, and Islam: 'Certainly, the Quran and the hadith argue for dying for a just cause. Two hadith examples are illustrative. Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj (d. 875 c.E) and Ibn Maja (d. 887) gave reports that claim that God forgives martyrs for all sin but debt. Abd al-Razzaq al-San'ani (d. 826) quotes the Prophet: "When one of you stands within the battle ranks, then that is better than the worship of a man for sixty years." These verses do support God's forgiveness for those who die in just causes. However, later jurists and extremists who allege that the Quran supports the actions of terrorists who take their life to kill innocents do not have textual support. Suicide-murder is specifically and unambiguously prohibited in the Holy Book: On that account:
For this reason did We prescribe to the children of Israel that whoever slays a soul, unless it be for manslaughter or for mischief in the land, it is as though he slew all men; and whoever keeps it alive, it is as though he kept alive all men; and certainly Our messengers came to them with dear arguments, but even after that many of them certainly act extravagantly in the land.
Thus, in the Quran, preserving life is a central moral value. The Quran once again shows God's preference for life over death in this next verse: "He who disbelieves in Allah after his having believed, not he who is compelled while his heart is at rest on account of faith, but he who opens (his) breast to disbelief—on these is the wrath of Allah, and they shall have a grievous chastisement."
The Quran holds saving one's life in such high regard that it allows one to renounce his faith if he is under duress, as long he keeps his true faith in his heart (that is, he does not actually renounce it).
These verses demonstrate the value the Quran puts on life; it does not permit suicide but demands the preservation of life: "And spend in the way of Allah and cast not yourselves to perdition with your own hands, and do good (to others); surely Allah loves the doers of good." The Holy Book goes on to give another specific prohibition of suicide (although on the group level): "O you who believe! do not devour your property among yourselves falsely, except that it be trading by your mutual consent; and do not kill your people; surely Allah is Merciful to you." The Quran is thus explicit in denying the validity of murder-suicide in its teachings.
Let us look specifically at the issue of terrorism. Muslim jurists developed a specific body of laws called siyar that interprets and analyzes the just causes for war. Part of the law indicates that "those who unilaterally and thus illegally declare a call to war, attack unarmed civilians and recklessly destroy property are in flagrant violation of the Islamic juristic conception of bellum justum. Islamic law has a name for such rogue militants, muharibun. A modern definition of muharibun would very closely parallel the contemporary meaning of `terrorists.' The acts that these muharibun commit would be called hiraba ('terrorism'). Thus all terrorism is wrong. There is no `good terrorism' and `bad terrorism.'" Osama bin Laden's creed that "the terrorism we practice is of the commendable kind" is an invented rationalization for murder and mayhem. In Islam, no terrorism—the reckless slaughter of innocents—is ever justified.'
So far, I really love this book. I'll probably be posting more as I keep reading.