Exclusive: John Brennan Thinks Jihad is a ‘Legitimate Tenet of Islam’
by SCOTT MCKAY
May 28, 2010
Yes, you read that correctly. We couldn’t believe it when we saw him say it, but he did.
Brennan is the Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, which in English means he is the top counterterrorism advisor to President Obama. He has a huge hand in setting American counterterrorism policy.
He’s also built a substantial record of making regrettable statements which indicate he doesn’t understand the nature the threat of radical Islam poses to America. In February, Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) called for his ouster after a highly-partisan op-ed piece he wrote in USA Today lashing out at Republican criticisms of the Obama administration’s handling of the Christmas Day underwear bomber last year. That episode was followed just a few days later by a speech Brennan gave at New York University in which he said…
“…But I did spend time as an undergraduate at the American University in Cairo in the 1970s. And time spent with classmates from Egypt, from Jordan, from Palestine, and around the world who taught me that whatever our differences of nationality or race or religion or language, there are certain aspirations that we all share. To get an education. To provide for our families. To practice our faith freely. To live in peace and security. And during a 25-year career in government, I was privileged to serve in positions across the Middle East…as a political officer with the State Department and as a CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabia, I saw how our Saudi partners fulfilled their duty as custodians of the two holy mosques of Mecca and Medina. I marveled at the majesty of the Hajj and the devotion of those who fulfilled their duty as Muslims by making that privilege [he corrects himself] that pilgrimage. And in all my travels, the city I have come to love most is Al Quds…Jerusalem, where three great faiths come together…”
During a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, John Brennan described violent extremists as victims of “political, economic and social forces,” but said that those plotting attacks on the United States should not be described in “religious terms.”
He repeated the administration argument that the enemy is not “terrorism,” because terrorism is a “tactic,” and not terror, because terror is a “state of mind” — though Brennan’s title, deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism and homeland security, includes the word “terrorism” in it. But then Brennan said that the word “jihad” should not be applied either.
“Nor do we describe our enemy as ‘jihadists’ or ‘Islamists’ because jihad is a holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam, meaning to purify oneself or one’s community, and there is nothing holy or legitimate or Islamic about murdering innocent men, women and children,” Brennan said.
As learned and reportedly knowledgeable as Brennan is on the Middle East and Islam, his recounting of the definition of jihad doesn’t find a lot of support with people who actually practice it. From peacewithrealism.org…
Jihad very frequently refers to combat. That is undeniable. The Qur’an makes copious references to fighting in the cause of faith. The question, however, is whether this fighting is sanctioned only for the purpose of self-defense.
The Qur’an itself seems to be of two minds on this matter. Some critics of Islam carelessly quote the following verse to illustrate Islam’s aggressiveness:
And slay them wherever ye catch them…. (2:191)
However, the full quotation is:
Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors. And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith. But if they cease, Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. (2:190-192)
From the context it would sound, at least in this passage, that the Qur’an prescribes fighting only in self-defense. However, this is not its only word on the subject. Some verses seem to prescribe fighting without qualification, except that the enemy be a nonbeliever:
Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not. (2:216)
Say to the Unbelievers, if (now) they desist (from Unbelief), their past would be forgiven them; but if they persist, the punishment of those before them is already (a matter of warning for them). And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah altogether and everywhere; but if they cease, verily Allah doth see all that they do. (8:38-39)
O Prophet! rouse the Believers to the fight. If there are twenty amongst you, patient and persevering, they will vanquish two hundred: if a hundred, they will vanquish a thousand of the Unbelievers: for these are a people without understanding. For the present, Allah hath lightened your (task), for He knoweth that there is a weak spot in you: But (even so), if there are a hundred of you, patient and persevering, they will vanquish two hundred, and if a thousand, they will vanquish two thousand, with the leave of Allah: for Allah is with those who patiently persevere. It is not fitting for a prophet that he should have prisoners of war until he hath thoroughly subdued the land [Pickthal: "until he hath made slaughter in the land"]. Ye look for the temporal goods of this world; but Allah looketh to the Hereafter: And Allah is Exalted in might, Wise. (8:65-67)
But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. (9:5 [often called the "sword verse"])
Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya [poll tax] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. (9:29)
O ye who believe! fight the unbelievers who gird you about [Pickthal and others: "who are near to you"], and let them find firmness in you: and know that Allah is with those who fear Him. (9:123)
Therefore, when ye meet the Unbelievers (in fight), smite at their necks; At length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly (on them): thereafter (is the time for) either generosity or ransom: Until the war lays down its burdens. Thus (are ye commanded): but if it had been Allah’s Will, He could certainly have exacted retribution from them (Himself); but (He lets you fight) in order to test you, some with others. But those who are slain in the Way of Allah, – He will never let their deeds be lost. (47:4)
We will have occasion to return to some of these verses later, since they have played a significant role in Muslim history and have been used by Muslims to justify “holy war,” even when not in the cause of self-defense.
Taking all these references together, it is clear that unbelief alone can serve as reason for the faithful to attack. Other verses in Sura 47, as well as 48:17, provide the basis for the belief that those who die in jihad go immediately to paradise.
Brennan may be literally correct that jihad is a legitimate tenet of the Religion Of Peace. But since the overwhelming majority of America and our allies is comprised of people who are not Muslims, and since governments like ours are tasked with protecting the lives of their citizens, what might be legitimate in Islam isn’t acceptable for the rest of us. And it is increasingly apparent that our president’s advisors trusted with our national security are not operating with a clear view of what the threats to that security might be.