Holy War and Anti War: An Axis
By Walid Phares
The oddest of all factional relationships is the open
alliance between the Jihadists and the so-called "antiwar"
neo-Left movement in the West. The jumble of causes
thrown together is mind-bending: globalization hobnobs
with the caliphate, class struggle with Wahabism,
proletariat with infidels, and North Korea with
While still shedding each others' blood, the Reds (neo-Left)
and the Dark Greens (Islamists) are conducting a joint
offensive against both democracy-pushing America and the
democracy-craving Middle East. They are not letting old
or new grudges get in their way.
The Wahabis fiercely fought the Soviet Communists in
the Muslim Brotherhood and the Marxists have been at
each other's throats for decades;
the Salafists butchered left-wing intellectuals in
Algeria and assassinated progressive bureaucrats in
central Asia after the Soviet collapse;
the Taliban killed socialists and shut down art
the Khumeinist regime in Iran decimated the Tudeh
Communist Party in the 1980's.
Despite all the mutual mayhem across the Mediterranean
and throughout the Middle East, an unnatural alliance
was established by elites of the two camps, even while
blood was being shed in the 1990's. Setting ideologies
and history aside, the Islamist tacticians and Left
pragmatists gradually converged on a two-lane path
against liberal democracies and the specter of a free
market and pluralist Middle East.
The Jihadi concern with Western involvement in the
region is logical: free societies in the Arab and Muslim
world, joined finally to the international community,
would shatter fundamentalism's control of the region's
political cultures. To have Arab and Iranian youths, in
addition to minorities, hooking up directly with the
peaceful and prosperous societies of the West would
leave the Islamists without a base to recruit from.
Jihadism is joined with the antiwar movement even while
promoting "holy war," which is the essence of their
rissala (mission). The ideology of the Salafists and
Khumeinists is to prepare for, mobilize for, incite, and
engage in a constant war of jihad against the infidels,
who are supposed to be all those who aren't Islamists,
including moderate Muslims.
Theoretically, the jihadi connection to the antiwar
concept is impossible. But in the realm of reality, it
does occur, mainly because of the mutating "pragmatism"
of both of the antidemocratic movements. The radical
Islamists, as I argued in Future Jihad, have undergone a
strategic mutation that has allowed them to coalesce
tactically with ideological foes, among them Baathists,
Neo-Marxists, and anarchists.
The last group, under an international neo-Left umbrella
in the West, created the anti-war movement, which is
reminiscent of the old Cold War Communist-controlled "peace
Islamists found it easier to insert themselves as
partners in an "antiwar" movement than a "peace"
movement. Effectively, in the jihadi aqida (doctrine),
seeking permanent peace with others is a non issue,
given that jihad is constant, regardless of its form.
Jihadism cannot accommodate a peace movement in
However jurisprudence based on al Haja (necessity) would
allow the jihadists to accept an interim cessation of
war and work in more sophisticated ways to stop wars
that they cannot win. Thus it is in the interest of the
radical Islamists to stop a war that can't be won by
them, at least until the balance of power is restored
and a winnable war becomes possible again. They are
against the West's war for tactical reasons. But they
are not at all in favor of peace until they win.
In the case of the War on Terror, the "political
Islamists" joined the "no war" crowd in order to stop
the military efforts of the United States and its allies
against the terrorist forces of the jihadists. Hence
Islamic militants marched in the demonstrations against
the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as a way to give
respite to the Taliban and al Qaeda. The antiwar
movement exposed its broken rationale when it marched
against some but not all wars. It demonstrated against
the military efforts to overthrow the Taliban and Saddam
but ignored the wars waged by the Sudanese regime
against the African peoples in the south and Darfur; it
marched against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank,
but ignored the Syrian occupation of Lebanon.
Worse, in the eyes of millions of Middle Easterners,
were the highly publicized "red buses" filled with
antiwar militants who headed to Iraq to "support"
dictator Saddam Hussein. They traveled from London,
Berlin, and Rome through Eastern Europe without a word
in remembrance of its struggle against the Soviet
occupation, and crossed Syria without comforting the
thousands of political prisoners tortured and
assassinated by the Baathist regime.
And for an apex of irony, the buses rolled through
sinister Halabja, a Kurdish town gassed by Saddam in
1988, and past the Shiites' mass graves, stopping only
to "shield" Saddam's castles, built from oil revenues
that rented the buses and lodged their occupants in
fancy hotels. This antiwar movement was convenient for
the jihadists, as it was a form of war against the rise
of democracies in the region. For the movement, mostly
bourgeois in nature, never showed up in Darfur, among
Berbers in Algeria or Lebanese under Syrian occupation,
or to shield women under the Taliban.
Hence it wasn't surprising for viewers around the world
to see the Islamist militants in Europe taking to the
streets alongside the "bourgeois Neo-Marxists" to
protest the governments that supported the War on
Terror. In Europe, the most revealing action of the
Islamist militants was when -- in the same year as the
red buses -- they marched in support of the French
government against U.S. intervention in Iraq, and then
burned shops and cars in 200 French cities and towns
during a "French intifada."
The jihadi manipulation of the bourgeois-Neo-Marxist "struggle"
has played a central role in the so-called "mass
demonstrations" in the West since 2002, and the
demonstrations themselves are an important component of
the War of Ideas against democracy. On campuses, both in
North America and Western Europe, the jihadi-antiwar
axis has planted deep roots, and thanks to the skills of
university-based anarchist groups, the jihadists have
found a cover they can hide under, instead of simply
becoming members of the typical Muslim Student Unions.
But this "marriage of convenience" with the extreme left
has not deterred jihadists from conducting another,
simultaneous, wedding with the extreme right. But that's
***Dr Walid Phares is a senior fellow at the Foundation
for the Defense of Democracies and a visiting scholar at
the European Foundation for Democracy. He is the author
of War of Ideas.