Western Islamists and Afghanistan
The American withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s declaration of victory have inspired Islamists across the world. The Taliban announced its intent to enforce strict Islamic sharia law on Afghans.
But the joy of seeing Afghanistan fall back into the grasp of Taliban rule hasn’t yet led Western Islamists to express any intention of moving there.
The Taliban’s recent posturing on women’s rights was a “good start,” Islamic Council scholar Khola Hasan told BBC Radio 4 last month, and “every single person that I know, as a Muslim” was “celebrating” their return.
“May Allah bless and give continuous victory to those who establish the Sharia of Allah on this earth, despite the fact that the kuffar (infidels) and the hypocrites hate it. You make the Ummah (nation) proud!,” wrote Houston-based cleric Daniel Haqiqatjou, founder of the Muslim Skeptic group. Twitter banned Haqiqatjou for saying someone should be flogged for insulting another poster’s mother.
After a US drone strike following the terrorist attack on the Kabul airport killed civilians by mistake, Haqiqatjou prayed that “Allah protect the Afghan Muslims from the evil that Western ‘Kuffar’ continue to inflict upon them.”
On a similar note, Colorado-based radical Salafi cleric Karim Abu Zaid criticized those who condemned the Taliban forcing women to wear the hijab. “Why is there so much hypocrisy in the world now? Why not accept the Taliban as conquering rulers? You know, why you don’t raise any concerns when France’s [President] Macron decided to force Muslim women out of hijab,” Abu Zaid said in a video clip. “The hijab is an element of Islam, of the sharia. Now, you should love for the law of Allah to be established, through the legal lawful channels, without violating the laws of the land.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Houston chapter issued a statement on August 18, urging politicians and media outlets to refrain from following what they called the anti-Muslim tropes and misuse of Islamic terms.
“As we witness the shocking aftermath of 20 years of American military involvement in Afghanistan, we must remain vigilant here at home in documenting and resisting media outlets and elected officials who use inflammatory Islamophobic tropes or misuse Islamic terms to describe events or advance their political agendas” said CAIR-Houston President John Floyd.
But these so-called tropes are exactly the practical application of what Islamists attempted to apply in some Western societies, such as the Sharia Board of New York (SBNY), or Muslim patrols in Europe and even New York and Minneapolis under the pretext of protecting the Muslim community.
Shadi Hamid, author of the controversial Islamist propaganda book “Islamic Exceptionalism,” argued in The Atlantic that the Taliban “often provided better governance than the distant and corrupt Afghan central government.” It was a mistake to pin the war’s hopes on “a strong, centralized authority” in a country where people were accustomed “to informal and community-driven dispute resolution, and local figures they trusted. And this left the door open for the slow return of the Taliban.”
Even before the Taliban swept back into power, Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood affiliate Ayat Orabi praised its resilience from her New Jersey home. “The danger of the Taliban’s ideology spreading to the rest of the region has surfaced, so America had to fight the Islamic ideology under a new name, which is fighting (terrorism),” wrote Orabi. “Therefore, there was also a need for a justification that America marketed to the American people so that it would be easy to obtain a resolution from the American Congress approving the occupation of Afghanistan. The attack on the World Trade Center, for which al-Qaeda was accused, and immediately the international media began preparing the world for the new war that would start in Afghanistan and extend to Iraq.”
Hizb ut Tahrir, a London-based radical Islamist organization which calls for a global caliphate, issued a statement on August 15, saying Muslim countries need to “fortify” themselves to prevent future Western invasions. “Indeed, our power does not lie in reliance, alliance and dependence on the enemies of Muslims, whether it is China in the East or the US in the West … Do not care for the international order or the approval of its colonialist guardians, for like negotiations, it is a trap to deny the Islamic Ummah that which you can seize for it by your sweat, blood, fire and steel in Jihad in the Path of Allah (swt). The international order is the order of the criminal states of our era.”
These are just a few examples of the pro-sharia Islamists and organizations in the West who endorse the new Islamic state in Afghanistan and the application of sharia by the new rulers. The million dollar question for these Islamists is whether they would ever leave the Dar Al Kufr, or “infidel countries,” and live out their sharia dreams in Afghanistan.
More than 73,500 Afghans fled from their country after Kabul fell to terrorist Taliban forces, fearing vengeance and a life under sharia, which includes cutting the hands off thieves and other brutal punishments.
That said, democracy as a means of governance is a form of blasphemy in Islam, according to many Salafi scholars, and therefore not ruling by sharia is a road to damnation. “There is no doubt that democratic systems are one of the modern forms of polytheism, in obedience, submission, or in legislation, whereby the sovereignty of the Creator, Glory be to Him, and His right to absolute legislation are revoked, and made to be among the rights of his creatures,” according to the Simplified Encyclopedia of Religions and Contemporary Doctrines by Saudi Wahhabi scholar Manea bin Hamad al-Gahny. “In democracy, there is nothing wrong with the most wicked of the sinners and infidels taking power. There is nothing wrong with him taking power over Muslims and others as long as he has won — as they describe — in the elections, while Islam does not allow the infidel to rule the Muslim.”
But it is not just traditional Islamist scholars who condemn democracy. “Democracy is abused by the powerful people within the democratic setup and they are controlling democracy through media, through finance, and through some other influential positions. So democracy is not really working,” controversial British Islamic scholar Sheikh Haitham al-Haddad said in June 2020. “What we as Muslims believe, what I suggest, is that any power that exists — whether it is political power, financial power, economical power, et cetera — it has to surrender and submit to the superpower, who is Allah.”
Accordingly, the very presence of Islamists in the secular and democratic West is the ultimate form of blasphemy as per Salafi literature and statements. Therefore, it is unfathomable that those who are supporting the Taliban’s sharia law — and call for it to be applied in the Western countries — don’t want to seize this opportunity and move to Afghanistan and other countries that apply strict sharia.
However, none of the aforementioned Islamist political thinkers and propagandists declared their willingness to do so. Instead, they prefer to enjoy the freedoms and liberties guaranteed by democratic and secular laws in the West.
We all saw the news coverage of desperate Afghans huddled at the Kabul airport, desperate to escape Taliban rule. Some were so blinded by fear they clung to airplane wheels, only to plunge to their deaths.
“Have you ever heard or seen that people ran away in terror, got stuck in the wings of the planes and preferred death by falling from the sky when they were told that secularism will be implemented?,” asked Egyptian reformist writer Khalid Montaser, “but we heard it and [saw] it when they were told we will implement the Sharia.”
Investigative Project on Terrorism Senior Fellow Hany Ghoraba is an Egyptian writer, political and counter-terrorism analyst at Al Ahram Weekly, author of Egypt’s Arab Spring: The Long and Winding Road to Democracy and a regular contributor to the BBC.