ISIS, Abu Bakr Naji, And Applied Qutb
Writing in the WaPo, Terrence McCoy discusses how ISIS’s savagery — e.g., the seven year old Australian boy, taken to the jihad by his father, holding up the severed head of a Syrian soldier (click here to see the image, with the head itself blacked out) — is not spontaneous, but planned. From McCoy’s piece:
The seeds of today’s brutality were perhaps sown long ago in a 2006 book called “The Management of Savagery,” wrote expert Lawrence Wright in the New Yorker. The book, written by a radical Islamist thinker named Abu Bakr Naji, details patterns of “abominable savagery” witnessed in both the Islamic State and its earlier incarnations. According to this English translation, it calls for an “administration of savagery” and a merciless campaign to polarize the population, attract adherents and establish a pure Sunni caliphate. “We must make this battle very violent, such that death is a heartbeat away, so that the two groups will realize that entering this battle will frequently lead to death,” the book says.
Observers, including British analyst Alastair Crooke, say the “The Management of Savagery” set out the very ideology the Islamic State has now carried out. Indeed, one of the first steps the book suggests is a “plundering of resources,” which the Islamic State pursued with the same fervency of its violent acts.
But then, Cooke says, the book calls for “massacring the enemy and making him frightened.”
“The management of savagery is defined very succinctly as the management of savage chaos!” the book states. “…The increase in savagery is not the worst thing that can happen now or in the previous decade or those before it. Rather, the most abominable of the levels of savagery is [still] less than stability under the order of unbelief.”
Six years ago, Amir Taheri wrote about Abu Bakr Naji’s strategy. It’s worth reading today.
This is not new for radical Islamists. The Ur-text of radical Islam, Milestones, by Sayyid Qutb (whose lays out his theology and politics in vastly more detail in his book In The Shade Of The Quran), is a pellucid document calling for relentless violence to purify the world and make it Islamic. Click on the link to the PDF and read the chapter on jihad. Qutb is a very clear, methodical, writer, which makes the implications of his thought even more chilling. He states clearly that every Muslim must make universal Islamic revolution his cause, to bring the entire world — not just the Arab lands — under the rule of sharia. This is a liberation movement for all mankind, and nothing can be allowed to stand in its way. The faithful Muslim must take the initiative to destroy any institution or way of life that (in this view) prevents humankind from realizing its true freedom in Islam.
Qutb calls on Muslims to be completely separate from “jahili” (non-Muslim) society, and to fight it at every level. Crucially, Qutb even considers existing Muslim societies to be jahili, because they do not worship Allah in the correct way. Qutb’s Islam is utterly totalitarian (“Islamic society does not let any individual hide himself”). The true believer must be in a state of constant warfare against everything that is un-Islamic — including, note well, all forms of Islam that are not fundamentalist. You can read the whole book in 30 minutes, and I suggest that you do. It is as clear and as reasonable (if by reason we mean logical) statement of radical Islamic belief as you will find anywhere. If the term Islamofascist applies to anyone, it is Qutb, who until his hanging by Nasser was the chief ideologist of the Muslim Brotherhood, and one of the most influential Muslims of the 20th century.
(Incidentally, one of the US government’s top civilian advisers on how to deal with Islamic terrorism is a Texas man who has endorsed Sayyid Qutb as “offering the potential for a strong spiritual rebirth.” How does this even happen?)
If you read Milestones, you can, I think, understand the primal attraction of such a radical vision. As far as I can tell, Qutb does not explicitly endorse savagery, à la Naji, but it’s very, very easy to see the theoretical justification for Naji’s strategy in Qutbian Islam. Qutb demands permanent jihad to purge the world of the impurity of unbelief, and to restore a utopian past under worldwide totalitarian Islamic government. The ideal for ISIS is to establish the caliphate that will purify Islam, and the world. Naji is applied Qutb.