MODERN HISTORY AND POLITICS: Warrant for Terror: Fatwas of Radical Islam and the Duty to Jihad

By Larson, Warren | The Middle East Journal, Winter 2007 | Go to article overview

MODERN HISTORY AND POLITICS: Warrant for Terror: Fatwas of Radical Islam and the Duty to Jihad


Larson, Warren, The Middle East Journal


Warrant for Terror: Fatwas of Radical Islam and the Duty to Jihad, by Shmuel Bar. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2006. xvi + 118 pages. Gloss, to p. 124. Bibl. to p. 130. Index to p. 134. $21.95.

Reviewed by Warren Larson

Since the author of this hard-hitting book is Israeli, some may dismiss it out of hand, as politically motivated. However, the depth of research, drawn from Arabic sources, should cause every reader to pay attention. It is invaluable for understanding the reasons for radical Islamism in the 21st century. Bar drives home the point that only Muslims can turn the tide. The West can be supportive. However, due to its secularist views, the West fails to understand the role of religion in Islamic terrorism.

Warrant for Terror begins by showing how recent fatwas (rulings by legal Islamic scholars) promoted violence (p. xiii): In 1989, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran issued afatwa to kill author Salman Rushdie for the Satanic Verses. In 1993, Sheikh Omar 'Abd al-Rahman from Egypt was sentenced for a religious justification to attack the World Trade Center. In 1998, Usama bin Laden issued a "holy" jihad to kill Americans and Jews. From that point, fatwas have been on the rise, and terrorists, by their own admission, are acting on them.

Although the author does not say Islam is the only motivation for violence, he considers it a major factor. Since violence is based on its moral logic, legal proceedings, and sacred scriptures, terrorism is owned by the faith. Bar repeats that only Muslims can effect change; it is they who must rise up and reject violence. Sadly, few Islamic scholars categorically forbid terrorism, as illustrated by the 28 eminent scholars in Cairo, who stated that "killing large numbers of Israeli citizens" by Palestinian suicide bombers was the "noblest act of jihad' (p. 52).

Ironically, many Muslim leaders insist that jihad does not mean "Holy War," but rather striving in the cause of Allah by study and personal devotion. True, if only the literal meaning is considered, but in the commentaries and classical writings of Islam, it was war. The Prophet Muhammad's call for jihad comes mostly in the context of fighting infidels (pagans), Jews, and Christians. …

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