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In order to understand the events we are experiencing in the Middle East in general and in Israel in particular, we must take a moment and look at the history of war as a definition and analyze its characteristics and the changes that have taken place regarding its character. Both Judaism and Christianity has seen its share of religious wars, but over the years, people were divided into nation-states and abandoned religious wars to a point where a motive for wars is mostly based on political and national interests. Only in the nations of Islam did this change faile to take place and religion remained a central element in wars to this very day.
Muslims did not, even for a moment, stop from executing religious wars throughout a history of over a thousand and four hundred years. Since there was no Islamic religious reform movement, religious wars in Islam never stopped. On the contrary – it is safe to say that throughout the past fifteen decades, except for a few rare occasions, all Muslim wars have been religious ones.
Since part of the mentality of Islam is soaked in pure religious thought, they cannot imagine any other form of war other than a religious one. Therefore they cancel the circumstances and inject every war with a religious character, or describe it as religious wars against Islam and the Muslims.
If we focus on religious wars in Islamic history, we shall see that they have completely and utterly to interpret the terms “Jihad” and “Shahid”, terms that must be excluded from the Islamic dictionary for the good of mankind. When prominent Arab press replaces the words “slain person” for the word “Shahid” and “war” for “invasion” – there you have a perfect recipe for religious wars, when hot-headed religious followers are enlisting for the cause. Hence, the war in Iraq: Although Saddam started a war, and despite him being secular, he used religion for the cause, declaring Americans who interfered for Kuwait as invaders who came to battle Islam and Muslims in Iraq. Many took up arms for the Jihad war and to this day Jihadists’ bases are spread all over Iraq as well as Algeria, Afghanistan, Egypt, and Syria.
Whoever follows Islamic history, from the time of the Caliphate to today’s wars in Syria and Iraq, will find several remarks worth focusing on.
1. If the conflict between a Muslim side and a non-Muslim side, Jihad is instantly declared in order to recruit forces for the Muslim side – even if it isn’t just and headed by a corrupt dictator such as Saddam Hussein. On the other side, such as in the case of a country like Egypt which was invaded by a large number of Muslim such as the Ayyubid dynasty, the Fatimid Caliphate, the Mamluks, and the Ottomans, as it was a Muslim invader conquering another Muslim invader, the matter of Jihad was never brought forth, as it was when Egypt was conquered by France and then by England. The thing that is amazing is that while the Ottoman conquest is defined in Egypt textbooks as “The Ottoman freeing of Egypt”, the French conquest is thought to be an occupation. This despite the fact that the Ottoman conquest lasted nearly four hundred years during which it destroyed all the elements of the Egyptian society. Only Napoleon’s soldiers entering with their horses to Al-Azhar remains engraved in Egyptian consciousness.
2. Muslim history is filled with assistance of foreign powers in battles against other Muslims. I will only mention a few examples:
- The alliance between Harun al-Rashid and Charlemagne in France was created in order to vanquish the Umayyad Caliphate in Andalusia, due to his wish to return to the Abbasid Caliphate.
- King Al-Kamil of Egypt was disturbed by his brother’s alliance with the commander of the Hakkari Kurdish regiment. His solution was to offer in 1229 an alliance with Frederick II, “the Franks”, and offered to release Jerusalem for the alliance.
- The Ottoman Caliph was assisted by the Russians against Muhammad Ali, and many more such examples are known throughout history.
3. The number of Muslims killed by Muslims is double that of those killed in wars of Muslims against non-Muslims. The greatest destruction to have befallen Syria was by Timur – a destruction that has reached such levels of humiliation that he and his soldiers raped Muslim women in the Mosque of Aleppo.Now it seems that Assad is following in his footsteps.
4. When a war takes place between two Muslim sides, whoever has won will be presented as the true Muslim, regardless of the side who was right during the war. In all such cases, religion was exploited in the very worst way in order to justify the inhumane acts, and Sharia rulings which came of it use religion and weaken its purpose in order to deceive the commoners.
The whole world is looking to the past, to religious wars in its history and sees in it a low, humiliating period, and only Muslims are proud of their religious wars and long for that period to return. As mentioned, history froze in the Arab world and refuses to change its ways towards progress, hence the threat of Abu Mazen who, in his statements, hints to a declaration of a religious war. Hence the method of Raed Salah of declaring that Al Aqsa is in danger, as that is his way of raising millions of dollars to fund his activity against Israel. That way he also raises large support of his movement’s activity, even from Muslims who define their political identity as being communist.
Raed Salah and the Islamic movement which he heads leave a fingerprint in every event or demonstration taking place mostly inside Israel’s territory, but also in the West Bank territories controlled by the Palestinian authority, as well as other countries in the world. While he visits these countries, timed with his lectures of hate and incitement against Israel, he calls the Arab world to invade Jerusalem and to free Al Aqsa, as he calls it. His activity doesn’t end here, as a thorough examination will to his and his organization’s connection to terror organizations.
Mendi Safadi is a political and strategic advisor at the center for diplomacy and international relations, an expert on Syria and a lecturer on Islam and terror.