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Know Thy Enemy

Reprinted from NewsMax.com
Philip V. Brennan
Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2007

[COMMENT:  Some helpful history on Islam.    E. Fox]

A couple of weeks ago I wrote that one of our biggest failings in the war on Islamic terrorism was our ignoring Sun Tsu's counsel that in war it is vital that one know one's enemy.

Aside from the fact that an increasing number of my fellow Americans not only are ignorant of the nature of our enemy, and seem convinced that we don't have a foe intent on destroying us whatever it takes, that lack of knowledge is going to be deadly to our future.

The media writes about the struggle in Iraq between Shiites and Sunnis, acting as if this was merely a sideshow in a war they want us to believe has been a terrible mistake from the very beginning. Listening to the chattering class gabble about the inter-religious strife between the two Islamic factions one couldn't be blamed for thinking that the struggle is local in nature when it is in fact part of a battle between the two main sects of Islam that's been going on since the 7th century.

Ask the average American to describe the differences that separate Sunni Muslims for Shiite Muslims and you'll get a blank stare. This despite the fact that huge numbers of both sects continue to tell us that they want us either dead or living in the chains of Sharia law in a state of near slavery they call dhimitude.

We don't quite understand that threat, if we believe it exists at all.

I don't know what President Bush is going to recommend Wednesday night but it appears that his new tactics will include beefing up the troops in Iraq with the aim of quashing the sectarian violence along with a jobs program designed to find jobs for young unemployed Iraqi's currently filling their idle time by toting AK-47s around and setting off IEDs to kill Americans and hordes of their fellow Iraqis.

The youngsters with the IEDs aren't looking for work, however they are too busy pursuing their sectarian goals of driving the infidels out of Iraq so that their brand of Islam can get on with the business of subduing the West and imposing sharia on the world's entire population.

Getting back to the need to know the enemy, it's important to grasp a few facts about Sunnis and Shiites, their history who they are, what they seek and where they are at the present moment in their united belief that the West must die so that true Islam can live and rule. I am indebted for much of the following to an article in Tuesday's Opinion Journal written by Peter Wehner, deputy assistant to the president and director of the White House's Office of Strategic Initiatives.

Fact 1: Quoting William J. Bennett writing in his 2002 book "Why We Fight," that "vast and varied and runs the gamut from the Iran of the ayatollahs to secular and largely westernized Turkey," Peter Wehner, writes that "The overwhelming majority of Muslims are Sunnites, or "traditionalists"; they comprise 83 percent of the Muslim world, or 934 million people.

It is the dominant faith in countries like Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan. It has traditionally been the more virulent form of Islam. Shiites, on the other hand, make up around just 16 percent of the Muslim world, or about 180 million people. It is the dominant faith in Iraq and Iran, and the single largest religious sect in Lebanon and has not until now shared the fanatic militancy of the Sunnis.

The Shia for most of their history have been largely powerless, marginalized, and oppressed often by Sunnis.

"Shia history," the Middle East scholar Fouad Ajami has written, "is about lamentations." That was the case in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, a Sunni where the Sunnis a mere 20 percent of the population ran the government and subjugated and brutalized the Shiites, the other 80 percent. Today, as we are seeing in the so-called sectarian violence, its not inter-religious strife over doctrine, it is pay-back time for the Shia.

Fact 2. The two principal sects of Islam both trace their roots to the tumultuous period after the death of Muhammad in 632, when the issue was over who would be his rightful successor.

The Shia believe that Muhammad named Ali, his son-in-law and cousin, as his successor; and believe that God couldn't have left undecided the question of who would take over after he was gone and insisted that only the prophet's intimates could know the true meaning of the Quran and carry on his prophetic tradition. Moreover, if it was left to the Muslim community to choose their own leader, it opened the possibility that the wrong person would be picked.

On the other hand, most Muslims, namely the Sunnis, insisted that Muhammad had deliberately left open the question of his successor, holding that there is a "sanctity of the consensus of the community." "My community will never agree in error" said the prophet. Instead the Sunnis claim he conferred on his community the very infallibility that the Shi`is ascribe to their chosen Imams," according to Hamid Enayat, in his book "Modern Islamic Political Thought."

Off and on over the last 14 centuries, the two sects have been at each others throats. Today that seems not to be the case except for the sectarian violence in Iraq which has more to do with past politics than religion.

Shias, thanks to the emergence of Iran as the center of that faith, are today as warlike as the Sunnis and largely united with their cause.

The only difference is how to get there.

"Across the Middle East Shias and Sunnis have often rallied around the same political causes and even fought together in the same trenches," wrote professor Vali Nasr, author of "The Shia Revival."

He points out however, that "followers of each sect are divided by language, ethnicity, geography, and class. There are also disagreements within each group over politics, theology, and religious law . . ." noting that "[a]nti-Shiism is embedded in the ideology of Sunni militancy that has risen to prominence across the region in the last decade."

Fact 3.Despite doctrinal differences, both sects are wedded to the waging of the Jihad the holy war that seeks to establish Islam as the world's dominant creed.

The Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, which Wehner writes "seeks to reunite religion and politics, implement sharia (the body of Islamic laws derived from the Quran), and views the struggle for an Islamic state as a Muslim duty."

Both sects await the return of the 12th Mahdi who will bring lasting peace under Islamic rule. They differ only in respect as to how to bring that return about. The Shia, in the words of professor Hamid Enayat agree with the Sunnis that Muslim history since the era of the four Rightly-Guided Caliphs ". . . has been for the most part a tale of woe. But whereas for the Sunnis the course of history since then has been a movement away from the ideal state, for the Shi`is it is a movement towards it."

The Sunnis recognize several major schools of religious thought, including Wahhabism, which is based on the teachings of the 18th century Islamic scholar Mohammed ibn Abd Wahhab whose movement was a puritanical reaction to European modernism and what he believed was the corruption of Muslim theology and an insufficient fidelity to Islamic law. Jihad, or "holy war," had a prominent place in his teachings.

Wahhabism, what Wehner calls a xenophobic, puritanical version of Sunni Islam, became the reigning theology in modern Saudi Arabia and is the strand of Sunni faith in which Osama bin Laden was raised and with which he associates himself. It is also spread worldwide through schools known as madrasses, largely financed by the Saudis. It is believed that these schools are a hot bed of terrorist recruitment and training.

The Sunni idea of a political utopia was Afghanistan under the Taliban, which Wehner describes as "a land of almost unfathomable cruelty where the Taliban sought to control every sphere of human life and crush individuality and human creativity. Moreover Afghanistan became a safe haven and launching pad for terrorists including al-Qaida.

As my friend Alan Caruba has written, "Islam is not just a so-called religion; it is a form of political power and control administered by Koranic clerics, not elected representatives."

The Shia until now with the advent of the Islamic Republic of Iran, has not been seen as bent on seeing Jihad as an active open war on Western civilization. All that changed with the rise to power in Iran in 1979 of the radical Shia cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Khomeini believed that the legendary 12th Imam, or Mahdi will emerge only when the believers have vanquished evil. To speed up the Mahdi's return, Muslims had to shake off their torpor and fight," according to according to Matthias Kuntzel writing in the New Republic last April.

In other words, the most powerful branch of historically politically quiescent Shia has now become as bellicose, if not more so, than the belligerent Sunnis.

According to Kuntzel, Khomeini's activism is a break with Shia tradition and, in fact, tracks more closely with the militancy of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, which seeks to reunite religion and politics, implement sharia (the body of Islamic laws derived from the Koran), and views the struggle for an Islamic state as a Muslim duty.

In a radio address in November 1979 Khomeini's said that the storming of the American embassy represented a "war between Muslims and pagans. The Muslims must rise up in this struggle, which is more a struggle between unbelievers and Islam than one between Iran and America: between all unbelievers and Muslims. The Muslims must rise up and triumph in this struggle."

A year later, Kuntzel recalls, in a speech in Qom, Khomeini said "We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah. For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land [Iran] burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world."

"Whether or not they share Teheran's Shiite orientation," Joshua Muravchik and Jeffrey Gedmin wrote in 1997 in Commentary magazine, "the various Islamist movements take inspiration (and in many cases material assistance) from the Islamic Republic of Iran."

According to Wehner, Iran, today the most active state sponsor of terrorism in the world, founded, directs, and supplies funds and arms to Hezbollah, a Shia terrorist organization which he recalls has killed more Americans than any terrorist organization except al-Qaida. Hezbollah was behind the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 Americans and marked the advent of suicide bombing as a weapon of choice among Islamic radicals.

According to Hezbollah's leader, the publicity-wise and photogenic Hassan Nasrallah, "Let the entire world hear me. Our hostility to the Great Satan [America] is absolute . . . Regardless of how the world has changed after 11 September, Death to America will remain our reverberating and powerful slogan: Death to America."

Last October, Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared "open your eyes and see the fate of pharaoh . . . if you do not abandon the path of falsehood . . . your doomed destiny will be annihilation." Later he warned, "The anger of Muslims may reach an explosion point soon. If such a day comes [America and the West] should know that the waves of the blast will not remain within the boundaries of our region."

He also said, "If you would like to have good relations with the Iranian nation in the future . . . bow down before the greatness of the Iranian nation and surrender. If you don't accept [to do this], the Iranian nation will . . . force you to surrender and bow down."

That's Iran, on the verge of acquiring nukes.

In the forefront of the Sunni Jihad is Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. Bin Laden, Wehner writes, sees himself as the new caliph; referring to himself as the "commander of the faithful." He is seeking to unify all of Islam and resume a jihad against the unbelievers.

According to Mary Habeck of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University: "Jihadis thus neither recognize national boundaries within the Islamic lands nor do they believe that the coming Islamic state, when it is created, should have permanent borders with the unbelievers. The recognition of such boundaries would end the expansion of Islam and stop offensive jihad, both of which are transgressions against the laws of God that command jihad to last until Judgment Day or until the entire earth is under the rule of Islamic law."

Al-Qaida and its terrorist allies now wage war on several continents.

They have killed innocent people in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, the Far East, and the United States, writes Wehner. "They will try to overthrow governments and seize power where they can and where they cannot, they will attempt to inflict fear and destruction by disrupting settled ways of life. They will employ every weapon they can: assassinations, car bombs, airplanes, and, if they can secure them, biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons."

Said Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the late leader of al-Qaida in Iraq "Anyone who stands in the way of our struggle is our enemy and target of the swords." Osama bin Laden put it this way: "Death is better than living on this Earth with the unbelievers among us."

This is dangerous and this is real and the American people are being lulled into thinking that we can avoid all this by leaving Iraq to the tender mercies of the jihadists. Giving them Iraq, they believe will satisfy them and get them off our backs.

Fat chance.

These people are out to conquer the world. They have declared war on us and the American people are ignoring it. They already pose a deadly threat to Europe where their numbers are huge and growing. What was once the center of Christendom is now the center of nothingdom. And as they will learn, you can't beat something with nothing.

Dismiss it as administration propaganda, but if we leave Iraq without finishing the job, the Middle East will be in flames. When that happens don't bother pulling up to the gas pump or calling your fuel oil supplier. They be out of gas for good. And our economy will tank. As Wehner concludes, "All of us would prefer years of repose to years of conflict. But history will not allow it. And so it once again rests with this remarkable republic to do what we have done in the past: our duty." Phil Brennan is a veteran journalist who writes for NewsMax.com. He is editor and publisher of Wednesday on the Web (http://www.pvbr.com) and was Washington columnist for National Review magazine in the 1960s.

He also served as a staff aide for the House Republican Policy Committee and helped handle the Washington public relations operation for the Alaska Statehood Committee which won statehood for Alaska. He is also a trustee of the Lincoln Heritage Institute and a member of the Association For Intelligence Officers.

He can be reached at pvb@pvbr.com.

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