True Jihad After The Tragedy
Bruce B. Lawrence

24 September 2001

It is not quite two weeks since The Tragedy, and we still find no moral compass to move us beyond its horror. Most of what is emitted
through the mainstream media has a numbing sameness: we as a nation have been assaulted, the President has responded with resolve, yet he has no
clear enemy, only a prime suspect. He has mobilized the military, yet they have no definable target. The buzz of uncertainty lingers. It makes
grade school children ask if they will have a safe future. It prompts teenagers to wonder when they will be drafted. It makes adults recoil at
the thought of flying, or even of leaving home, fearful of what unforeseen and undetected dangers lurk just ahead.

Grappling with Islam figures in almost all accounts. While President George W. Bush has said Muslims are good, peace loving folk, and that
Islam is not to be blamed for The Tragedy, there is another message. Afghanistan is a likely military target, Pakistan will have to assist,
along with Turkey, and possibly also Iran. How do the people of those Muslim countries feel about American military retaliation? Conflicted,
with the man (and woman) on the street uncertain that America has a moral superiority to match its military, as also economic and political,
dominance in the 21st century. Some are not conflicted; they are outraged, feeling that America has produced this outcome through
misguided foreign policy decisions of the past 50 years, but especially the past 10. Some others - a very few, mostly elites, mostly those in
power - assert that America has the right to capture or kill the terrorists, and also to punish those who have harbored and/or support them.

A double fear grips America in the aftermath of The Tragedy. There is fear of inaction, or the wrong action, but also fear that the
terrorists will strike again, in a way as unimaginable as before, but with a consequence equally destructive and perhaps even more unnerving
because it will irritate the still raw wound of The Tragedy.

In place of the drone of speculation and casting blame, I propose a contrarian solution. It rests on a double strategy. The first is to
build a coalition of Muslim and non-Muslim partners in the long term war against terrorism, but also to ask each partner to account for how it
measures the trust of its citizens and attempts to meet the needs of those identified as minority or marginal groups. In the case of Muslim
states, this would require attention to their own lack of democratic procedures, their frequent resort to authoritarian measures to solve
problems of security and legitimacy. Neither the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia nor Egypt nor Kuwait could be, or should be, exempt from this mandate.

The second, complementary strategy is to cultivate among non-Muslims as well as Muslims a civil virtue known as jihad. Jihad? Yes,
jihad. Not the jihad that calls for war against infidels. Not the jihad that was a response to the Crusades nor a jihad that was invoked against
colonial invaders in the 19th century or their successors in the 20th. No, a jihad that would be a genuine struggle against our own myopia and
neglect as much as it is against outside others who condemn or hate us for what we do, not for what we are.

One of the shrillest and most shortsighted of recent shibboleths has been the war cry etched in cultural slogans. They hate us, we are
told, because they can not have our material prosperity, they do not share our love for freedom, they do not embrace either diversity or
tolerance; instead, they seize on political pretexts such as the Arab-Israeli conflict, or the Gulf War, or the tilt toward India when it
is really our way of life that they oppose, and since we cannot change that, we have no way of convincing them; we must instead go on fighting
them until they all are defeated.

The retort to this reflexive but shortsighted national pride is to invoke jihad as a universal, collective effort. Yes, jihad will still
retain its nasty, limited connotation of a Holy War', but in time jihad will regain its primary connotation of a massive struggle, a struggle
that engages the whole field of human labor and explores the fullest repertoire of social/political actions. For us Americans, the greater
jihad would mean that we must review US domestic and foreign policies in a world that currently exhibits little signs of promoting justice for
all. The inequities are evident to any one who either travels beyond the USA or goes to our own inner cities. How can we produce a new Marshall
Plan that will reprioritize our national will at the same time that it punishes those directly responsible for The Tragedy of 11 September?

Among concrete steps that could and should be taken, the first would be to reinstate the draft for all Americans 18 and over, with an exemption
for college but not graduate or professional school, and at the same time, provide for National Service as a respectable, and honored,
alternative to Military Service.

For those who opt to pursue Military Service, the federal government could also provide a strong incentive to consider intelligence gathering
work that includes looking at other nations, such as Israel, Russia , India and Japan, where major security crises and/or terrorist threats
have been addressed during the past decade. Also, one could, and should, make the fair treatment of refugees world wide a military objective,
acknowledging that the continued, involuntary migration of numerous peoples on a large scale has reduced the chances for a global order that
will mark and undergird the 21st century.

As for those who choose National Service, one could, and should, apply massive federal, and state, resources to targeting those segments
of our society most in need of help, and then enlisting businesses and charitable organizations (yes, faith-based charities) to help provide the
infrastructure needed for the effective labor of a professional Youth Corps, in both rural and urban regions, but especially in the major
pockets of racial unrest that dot our landscape.

These are the easy steps: they tap a reservoir of loyalty, and now a will to respond and contribute, among our youngest citizens, just at the
point when they are coming of age in a world reshaped by The Tragedy, the unspeakable abomination of 11 September.

Other harder steps to take involve looking at our own national production of harmful exports. One is certainly arms. We are the leader
in the annual sales of deadly weapons of mass destruction, many of them going to the Gulf Region of the Arab world. We need to mobilize the
American public to be wary of continuing this unsavory leadership role. Another, equally tough step is to review the untrammeled freedom of
Hollywood and the movie/TV industry. How can we construct a higher standard of moral value, one that no longer poisons cultures of other
countries and at the same time raises the quality of our own?

A further, very difficult but necessary step, is to review the High Tech sector that is increasingly redefining our political and commercial
life. Bureaucratic structures in all walks of life are vulnerable to the viruses that are generated by malicious, if not subversive, hackers.
There are alternative technologies that could make it more difficult for hackers to succeed, and there should be an imaginative plan that finds
ways to apply them, in government and education as well as industry, without restricting the benefits of the World Wide Web.

President Bush was right last Monday (17 September) when he went to the Islamic Center in DC and told his largely Muslim audience that he
appreciated their commitment to peace. He condemned the terrorists because they "don't represent peace. They represent evil and war." But
President Bush could also commit his administration to following the practical steps that will ensure peace with justice in the aftermath of
The Tragedy. Peace with justice would require a greater jihad that finally defeats not just the terrorists of Tuesday 11 September but all
who would commit suicide while killing the innocent and wreaking havoc on humanity in the name of a futile cause. That is a jihad worth waging.
It requires non-Muslims along with Muslims to be its combatants, and the outcome holds the best hope for humankind in a century already marked at
its outset by the worst excesses of rage, cunning and misguided zealotry.



Bruce B. Lawrence
Professor of Islamic Studies
Duke University
&
Author of Shattering the Myth: Islam beyond Violence
_______________________________________________________________________
Bruce B. Lawrence, Nancy and Jeffrey Marcus Professor of Religion
Chair, Department of Religion
Duke University
Email: bruce.lawrence@duke.edu
Phone: (919) 660-3506
FAX: (919) 660-3530

 

 

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