• Hi Guest: Welcome to TRIBE, the online home of TRIBE MAGAZINE. If you'd like to post here, or reply to existing posts on TRIBE, you first have to register. Join us!

An Alternative to Jihadism: 'Hirabah'


TRIBE Member
Got this from Stratfor just now,

Strategic Forecasting said:
A Place for 'Hirabah' in the Lexicon on Terrorism
There have been calls from certain Muslim and Western quarters that militant Islamism be identified as "hirabah" (Arabic for "terrorism") instead of jihadism, and that militant Islamists be called "irhabiyoun" ("terrorists"). The argument is that the use of terminology derived from the word "jihad" accords these militant actors a degree of legitimacy.

The Muslims and non-Muslims calling for the use of "hirabah" terminology have unique motivations for doing so. For Muslims, the terminology allows them to make the case that militant Islamists constitute a fringe that has nothing to do with Islam. The non-Muslims in favor of this language see such terms as more precise labels that will sharpen the differences between the militant Islamists and the rest of the world.

On the surface, it seems fairly simple to make the case that Islamist militants' actions amount to terrorism and should be called such -- and that adopting the Arabic equivalents would make the point more precise. Adopting "hirabah" and "irhabiyoun" should, in the realm of public discourse, result in the isolation of non-state actors who employ the use of ad hoc violence against noncombatants -- and public discourse often has physical results. But as events have shown since the global war on terrorism began, things have not been that simple.

The key reason for these linguistic complications is the confusion on both sides of the conflict regarding the nature of militant Islamist forces and the nature of the conflict itself. For starters, a great many Muslims view the U.S.-led war against terrorism as a war against Islam and Muslims.

Moreover, there is an utter lack of clarity regarding the nature of al Qaeda and of the attacks attributed to al Qaeda-affiliated operatives. There a near-total absence of a counterterrorism ethic among Muslims; the idea of terrorism itself is unclear because of the difficulty in distinguishing between the right to rebel against perceived injustice and indiscriminate acts of violence. That said, al Qaeda militants are attacking Muslim targets more often -- a development that will clarify the notion and definition of terrorism among Muslims and even lead to the development of a counterterrorism culture.

This situation has reinforced stereotypes in the West about Islam and Islamic peoples' perceived proclivity to engage in violence, which then contributes to the use of Islamic terminology -- as opposed to secular Arabic terminology -- in identifying the militants. And then there will always be those who will not distinguish between moderate and radical Muslims.

Even though there is a great push from within certain U.S. quarters to promote the "hirabah" terminology, the Bush administration has not shown any interest in adopting it. In his Oct. 6 speech at the National Endowment for Democracy, Bush referred to al Qaeda's ideology as a radical Islamic vision to create an empire from Spain to Indonesia. U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, in his Nov. 21 speech at the American Enterprise Institute, also used the term "radical Islamic ideology" when speaking about the insurgency in Iraq. Most important, however, were the remarks from U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in which he warned that if the terrorists were not defeated in Iraq they could turn the country into a launching pad for a transnational Islamic caliphate. So even though Washington is trying to counter the idea that the war on terrorism is not a war on Islam, it is still very much attached to the use of religious phraseology to describe the war, which undercuts its efforts.

Besides Muslims' lack of agreement on a common terminology for Islamist militants and their ideology, Muslims also have a disproportionate tendency to view Western taxonomy with suspicion. Just as the U.S.-funded Al Hurra television and Radio Sawa are seen as instruments of Washington's propaganda, the "hirabah" terminology -- which has found most of its support in the West, specifically the United States -- is viewed in the same light. In other words, many Muslims do not follow Washington's terminology that identified the Islamists fighting against the Soviet military and communist proxy regime in Afghanistan in the 1980s as "mujahideen," but that calls those fighting U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq "irhabiyoun."

A significant number of Muslims even consider the word "jihadist," which has not been formally accepted into Western lexicons, as a Western attempt to attack the Islamic notion of jihad and discredit it as a form of terrorism. Thus, attempts from the West, even by Western Muslims, to promote a language surrounding the notion of terrorism will continue to be a very difficult task made even more complicated by radical and militant Islamists' relative success in appropriating the notion of jihad in their own discourse.

Essentially, the contention over terminology surrounding militant Islamists and their action is a psychological and rhetorical battle between moderates and radicals who are trying to win over the mainstream.

The contents of this article do not necessarily reflect my beleifs or opinons.