The Somali pirates are simply acting on centuries-old doctrines of Islamic warfare.
From Muhammad’s 7th-century caravan raids to modern-day Somali piracy, so long as jihadi doctrines continue providing the base proclivities of man with a veneer of respectability, so long will such behavior be endemic to the lands -- and waterways -- of the jihad.
During the recent Somali pirate standoff with U.S. forces, when American sea captain Richard Phillips was being held hostage, Fox News analyst Charles Krauthammer confidently concluded that “the good news is that these [pirates] are not jihadists. If it’s a jihadist holding a hostage, there is going to be a lot of death. These guys are interested not in martyrdom but in money.”
In fact, the only good news is that Richard Phillips has been rescued. The bad news is that what appears to have been a bunch of lawless, plunder-seeking Somalis “yo-hoing” on the high seas is, in fact, a manifestation of the jihad -- as attested to by both Islamic history and doctrine.
Indeed, the first jihad a newborn U.S. encountered was of a pirate nature: the Barbary Wars off the coast of North Africa (beginning 1801, exactly 200 years before September 11, 2001). Writing in the Middle East Quarterly a year before Somali piracy made headlines, U.S. sea captain Melvin E. Lee -- who knows in theory what Captain Phillips may have learned in practice -- writes:
What Americans and Europeans saw as piracy, Barbary leaders justified as legitimate jihad. [President Thomas] Jefferson related a conversation he had in Paris with Ambassador Abdrahaman of Tripoli, who told him that all Christians are sinners in the context of the Koran and that it was a Muslim’s “right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to enslave as many as they could take as prisoners.”
Lee goes on to reflect:
“One of the greatest challenges facing strategic leaders today is objectively examining the centuries-old roots of Islamic jihadism and developing a strategy that will lead to a lasting solution to the Western conflict with it. …This inability to grasp the root of Islamic jihadism is the result of a moral relativism prominent in modern Western liberal thought.”
This last point is especially poignant. While U.S. leadership is capable of mouthing history, so too is it in the habit of distorting history through such “moral relativism.” Hillary Clinton, for example, in a press conference about the Somali kidnapping crisis, put an interesting spin on the Barbary Wars when she said -- in between fits of hysterical and inexplicable laughter -- that America and Morocco worked “together to end piracy off the coast of Morocco all those years ago, and, uh, we’re going to work together to end, uh, this kind of, uh, criminal activity anywhere on the high seas.”
Historical anecdotes aside, it need be acknowledged that, doctrinally speaking, the jihad has various manifestations; it is not limited to bearded, “Allah Akbar”-screaming mujahidin fighting in Afghanistan and lurking in caves. Along with jihad al-lissan and jihad al-qalam (jihad of the tongue and pen, respectively, i.e., propaganda jihad), one of the most important forms of jihad is known as jihad al-mal -- or “money jihad.”
The money jihad is fulfilled whenever a Muslim financially supports the more familiar violent jihad. The Koran itself declares: “Go forth, light-armed and heavy-armed, and strive with your wealth and your lives in the way of Allah! That is best for you if you but knew” (9:41).
Several other verses (see 9:20, 9:60, 49:15, and 61:10-11) make the same assertion and, more importantly, in the same order: striving with one’s wealth almost always precedes striving with one’s life, thereby prioritizing the former over the latter, at least according to a number of jurists and mufasirin.
Muhammad himself, according to a canonical hadith (collected by al-Tirmidhi), said: “He who equips a raider [i.e., mujahid] so he can wage jihad in Allah’s path…is himself a raider [i.e., achieves the same status of mujahid].”
Moreover, the seafaring jihadist -- or, in Western parlance, the “pirate” -- is forgiven all sins upon setting foot in a boat to wage war upon infidels; he receives double the reward of his terrestrial counterpart -- which is saying much considering the martyred mujahid is, of all Muslims, guaranteed the highest celestial rewards (see Majid Khadduri’s magisterial War and Peace in the Law of Islam, p. 113).
There’s more. Islamic law (Sharia), what mainland Somali Islamists have been successfully waging a jihad to implement, has much to say about kidnapping, ransom demands, and slavery. U.S. leadership should keep this in mind if and when they consider the plight of the other 200 hostages in Somalia. According to Sharia, there are only four ways to deal with infidel hostages: 1) execution, 2) enslavement, 3) exchange for Muslim prisoners, or 4) exchange for ransom. Those hostages who have not been executed are therefore currently living as slaves to their Somali overlords.
This is clearly the case of Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout, for whom the Somalis are demanding $2.5 million in ransom. Eight months ago, she was abducted, raped, and impregnated by Somali Islamists and is currently “owned” by them -- or, in the words of the Koran (e.g., 4:3), she is ma malakat aymankum, i.e., human “property” conquered and possessed by jihadi force:
The term spoil (ghanima) is applied specifically to property acquired by force from non-Muslims. It includes, however, not only property (movable and immovable) but also persons, whether in the capacity of asra (prisoners of war) or sabi (women and children).…If the slave were a woman, the master was permitted to have sexual connection with her as a concubine (Khadduri, p. 119, 131).
Finally, for those readers who refuse to interpret modern-day events in light of “antiquated” history or religious doctrine, here’s an August 2008 Reuters report revealing that what top news analysts are now dismissing as a bunch of random pirates scouring the coast of Somalia are directly related to the mainland, if not international, jihad:
An explosion of piracy this month off the coast of Somalia is funding a growing insurgency onshore as the hijackers funnel hefty ransom payments to Islamist rebels.…According to our information, the money they make from piracy and ransoms goes to support al-Shabaab activities onshore.
Al-Shabaab (”the youth”), of course, are the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamists currently taking over Somalia.
Thus, in the words of Krauthammer, whereas “these guys are interested not in martyrdom but in money,” the facts remain: this money funds the greater jihad; and those “pirates” slain by U.S. (”infidel”) firearms are indeed being portrayed as martyrs, as having achieved the highest pinnacle of paradise.
Does this mean that all pirates who happen to be Muslim are funding the jihad and fervently seeking after “martyrdom”? No. But it is a reminder that what may appear to Americans as “um, criminal activities” (in the memorable hilarities of Hillary) have a long pedigree and, within an Islamist context, have much method to their madness. From Muhammad’s 7th-century caravan raids (which were also motivated by plunder), to modern-day Somali piracy, so long as jihadi doctrines continue providing the base proclivities of man with a veneer of respectability, indeed, piety, so long will such behavior be endemic to the lands -- and waterways -- of the jihad, irrespective of true motivation.
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