At the very beginning of this paper, it is important to state that this paper is not an attack on Muslims.  The vast majority of Muslims worldwide is peaceful and most imams of most sects of Islam teach that Mohammad was a peaceful man who used violence as a last resort to protect family and community.  There are many tenets of Islam that are peaceful and socially positive such as giving alms (zakat), personal piety through daily prayer (salah) and fasting (sawm), and familial and cultural loyalty.  There are many Qur’an verses that are quoted by Muslims to defend the peaceful aspects of their faith, i.e. “There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion” (2:256) and to provide food for the needy, the orphan, and the captive without expecting gratitude or repayment (76:8-9).  Many Muslims are men and women of character, integrity, and incredible work ethics, and like most Christians in Western culture, do not study for themselves the inner workings of their holy books.

However, one cannot deny the existence of ISIS, al Qaeda, al Shabaab, and individual radicalized terrorists throughout the world and throughout history.  The question of whether the jihadi worldview comes from sound interpretation of Islam or not is debated endlessly on the internet and in social media.  The purpose of this paper is not to enter the debate of whether it is legitimate to interpret Islam in such a way to adopt a violent Islamic Supremacist worldview.  Rather, it is to explore what jihadi terrorists themselves claim as the justification for their ideology.

Afterward, this paper will examine one of the most effective, large-scale and long-term strategies of global jihad: demographic shift.  Using Muhammad’s life and how he approached the spread of Islam as a model, a few Muslim leaders are taking refugees from self-inflicted conflicts within the Muslim world and disseminating millions of Muslims throughout the Western world, taking advantage of Western governments’ lack of acknowledgement of the cultural tendency of Muslim families not to assimilate into the cultures of the host countries.  Erdogan and Rouhani, in particular, understand that birth rates of Western countries are low and dropping while the fertility rates of Muslim women around the world are significantly higher.  Once a country’s population has a large enough percentage of Muslims, the unassimilated Islamic culture in that country will politically demand that self-governance, using Sharia courts and law enforcement outside of the host country’s own jurisdiction, be allowed.  Once Sharia-compliant enclaves are established and grow while the population without continues to shrink, eventually a new Iran or Saudi Arabia is born.

Last is an examination of some possible domestic and foreign policy shifts that would keep at bay the growing influence of radical seeds that are embedded within Islamic culture and religion.  This commitment to (a) a type of Jeffersonian “Empire of Liberty” doctrine and (b) embracing strong stances on protecting Western culture around the world are crucial to keeping Muslim majorities from forming in the US and around the world.  Again, this is not an attack on any individual adherent to Islam nor is it an endorsement of any kind of internment program a la the Japanese following World War II.  This section of the paper simply takes a pragmatic look at the consequences of the growth of Muslim populations in the West and how to combat the subsequent growth of jihadi ideology within those communities.

I. Understanding the Islamic Roots of Jihad

The term jihad has many definitions, including “fight,” “holy war,” “struggle,” etc.  It is not necessary to discuss the specific word itself in this paper; rather, the key to understanding jihad comes more from understanding the mindset of those who claim to be waging Islamic jihad.

To begin, the Qur’an states that devout Muslims are to follow the conduct and character of Muhammad as their model (33:21, 68:4, 4:80, etc.).  This modeling of the Prophet, or sunnah, are taken from the hadith (recorded sayings of Mohammed not part of the Qur’an), the sira (biographies of Muhammad), the tafsir (early commentaries on the Qur’an), the Qur’an itself.  These documents provide historical, textual, and literary context for the Qur’anic surahs (chapters).

Looking at these documents that make up the sunnah, Muslim scholars have pieced together a comprehensive picture of what kind of life Muhammad led and how Islam grew from the very beginning.  Muslims looking to model their lives on Muhammad’s example are tasked with sifting through thousands and thousands of traditions, sayings, and laws, many of which are contradictory literally as well as the spirit.  The progression of Islam and Muhammad’s life demonstrates a clear trajectory toward more and more violent treatment of Muslims and non-Muslims alike.  However, for every violent verse or tradition you find in the Qur’an and the hadith, you can find just as many peaceful or diplomatic ones from earlier in Islam’s development.  To make sense of this, the Qur’an provides a doctrinal method to resolve these issues called abrogation.

The doctrine of abrogation (naskh) in classical Islamic scholarship is based upon a couple ayat (verses) in the Qur’an.  Qur’an 16:101 says that if something is changed in what is revealed to Mohammad, it is because Allah knows best and should be trusted with the change.  Additionally, Qur’an 2:106 says that when something is caused to be forgotten or changed, Allah provides Mohammad with a better revelation.  Abrogation then means that later Surahs or hadith are to be considered more authoritative than earlier ones if they provide conflicting instructions or doctrines.  The majority of classical Muslim scholars support the doctrine of abrogation, though modern scholars disagree on what extent abrogation is to be used and in what situations.  [1]

As an example, in Qur’an 109:1-6, Allah tells Muhammad to tell others that they will have their own religion and he’ll have his.  These ayat are quoted by apologists as proof that Islam is a religion of peace and that jihadists are distorting Islam for their own purposes.  However, Surah 109 is one of the earliest Surahs (#18 out of 114) and was from the Meccan period when Mohammad had few followers and not yet a military power.  Surah 9, the second to last surah, contains the ayah “And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush.  But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give zakah, let them [go] on their way.  Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.”  (Qur’an 9:5)  This is referred to as the “verse of the sword” by Muslim scholars and clearly contradicts older, peaceful verses.

Once a devout Muslim learns of the concept of abrogation, he or she is then confronted with a difficult decision.  Either they will decide not to pursue further and stick to culturally accepted versions of Islam which focus mainly on the early teachings of Islam or follow the doctrine into the more violent, more authoritative version of Islam.  The vast majority of Muslims around the world choose the first option, as there are certain moral, cultural, and social pressures to do so, especially in the West.  However, to become more orthodox, which the West consider “radical,” some will follow Muhammad’s last marching orders found in the last surahs and hadith.  This is the source of violent ideology in Islam.

Continuing in the investigation of the sunnah that an orthodox Muslim will follow, they will learn that, based on the life of Muhammad and his progressive revelations of the Qur’an, there are three main stages of jihad in order to establish a Caliphate.

Stage One – When Muslims are in minority, proclaim message of peace (Qur’an 109 was from the beginning of Muhammad’s journey in Mecca when he had just 100 followers).  Based on early years in Mecca; they left because they were small in numbers and were being persecuted.

This is where taqiyya, or deception, is used the most in order to misdirect future foes’ concerns with claims of peace and tolerance.   Muslims have permission within Islam to use this deception to further their cause.  Qur’an 3:28 states, “Let not believers take disbelievers as allies rather than believers.  And whoever [of you] does that has nothing with Allah, except when taking precaution against them in prudence.  And Allah warns you of Himself, and to Allah is the [final] destination.” [emphasis added]  Also, in Sahih Bukhari 49:857 [2] records Muhammad saying “He who makes peace between the people by inventing good information or saying good things, is not a liar.”  Sahih Bukhari, the most respected hadith in Islam, records many other instances of Mohammad using deception and broken treaties to defeat his enemies.

One clear example of Muhammad planning the subjugation of his neighbors very early on while still living in Mecca as a young prophet can be found in The History of al-Tabari, Volume VI, on page 95 (or 96, depending on the edition).  [3] Muhammad was speaking to his uncle Abu Talib concerning what he wanted the elders of his tribe, the Quraysh, to do since they were upset with him for denouncing their pantheon of gods in public.  Muhammad said that if they but declare that Allah is the only God, they would see that “the Arabs will submit to them and they will rule over the non-Arabs.”  This is long before he ever had an army or even a large following, yet Muhammad clearly had designs for conquest of the Arabian Peninsula and beyond.

Stage Two – When Muslims increased in numbers or developed enclaves within a territory, Qur’an 22:39-40 allows for “defensive” jihad, allowing Muslims to fight back against any oppression or attacks on Islam.  This stage developed when Mohammad had 1000s of followers and alliances throughout Arabia.  Their home base at this time was in Medina and Muhammad’s political power had grown significantly.

Defense against attacks on Islam included speaking out against Allah or Muhammad, such as writing poetry, making jokes, etc.  As Mohammad’s power grew in Medina, his followers would brutally murder anyone who criticized Islam or the Prophet.  Eventually, the three main Jewish tribes that had initially helped him in his flight from Mecca were subjugated or killed.  Muhammad had conquered Medina from the inside out as he gained political power.

Stage Three – Once Muslims were in the majority, they were to engage in “offensive” jihad.  Surah 9:29 instructs Muslims to fight anyone who does not believe in Allah or hold to the teachings of Allah.  These last Surahs (5 and 9) were given to Mohammad when he’d conquered Mecca and was in firm control of the entire surrounding territory in the Arabian Peninsula.

The people that Muhammad conquered had few choices.  They were to be killed, pay the jizyah (submission tax), or leave.  Sahih Muslim 4366 indicates that Muhammad said, “I will expel the Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula and will not leave any but Muslims.” As part of the sunnah which an orthodox Muslim is emulating, this model of behavior and governance is a clear indication that the goal of jihad is to establish a Caliphate under a supreme Islamic rule.

As indicated above, violent ideology to secure Islamic control of an area is acceptable and justifiable according to the doctrines and tenets of Islam.  The next section will explore one particular method of global jihad that is based on these three stages of Islam.


Click here for policy recommendations in Part 2.