A full 40 minute version of a video made by Faisal Shahzad while training for his failed attack on Times Square has been released.
The video is avaialable here.
There is much to be said about his explanations for his actions, and of particular interest is a section of the video which begins 9.40 minutes in, where he discusses jihad as a pillar of Islam. He claims that his reading of the Koran has taught him that violent jihad is as much of a duty or obligation as fasting and the Hajj pilgrimmage:
One of the most prominent things in Islam...when I came to it, is jihad. People do prayer, they...give zakat [obligatory charitable donations], they do fasting, they go to hajj, but they follow part of it [Islam], but they don't follow the other part of it, which is fighting in the cause of Allah.
I don't understand why people follow one of the commandments, but they don't follow the other commandment...they are equally important.
To justify his argument, Shahzad refers to verses 2:216 and 2:183 from Sura al-Baqarah in the Koran, which refer to the ordained obligations of jihad and fasting respectively.
He has not come to these conclusions unaided. During his interrogation after being arrested, it is reported that Shahzad claimed to have drawn inspiration from a number of English-language Salafi-jihadist preachers, including Anwar al-Awlaki. In his video, though he does not mention Awlaki by name, Shahzad spares a moment to thank the Shuyook [Sheikhs] who have spread the true aqeeda [creed] and 'are talking about jihad out loud' in the English-speaking world:
because of those Sheikhs that probably I am here today. So I just wanted to give them a message: keep it up.
The concept of jihad as a form of ibadah [worship] equal to other pillars such as fasting was developed by, among others, Sheikh Yusuf al-'Uyayree in his treatise Constants in the Path of Jihad. Among Anwar al-Awlaki's most popular works is his translation of Uyayree's text, and it is likely that this is where Shahzad has taken his understanding of jihad.
Throughout the body of his work, Awlaki is concerned primarily with raising the significance and importance of jihad in Islam and making the 'war on Islam' a reality for his Western audience. In his take on Constants, Awlaki puts much emphasis on the importance of jihad as a pillar of Islam equal to fasting and Hajj pilgrimage. Thus, quoting the same sections in the Koran used by Shahzad, he argues:
Allah says, "Fighting has been prescribed upon you and you dislike it, but it is possible that you dislike a thing that is good for you and you love a thing that is bad for you. Allah knows and you know not." This ayah is a command to the Muslims to fight.
They [jihad and fasting] are both in Surah al Baqarah. Fasting has been prescribed upon you and fighting has been prescribed upon you; so how come we are treating them differently?
If one were to accept this Salafi-jihadi interpretation of Islamic obligations, and use it to frame various Western countries' responses to violent jihad, it is not difficult to see how this could be a convincing argument; by preventing and working against Jihad, America and the West are actively preventing Muslims from carrying out their duties as ordained by Allah.
Salafi-jihadi preachers will continue to inspire young, Western Muslims to carry out acts of violence until we have figured out how to provide a equally simplistic response to their interpretation of Islam and its core texts. Shahzad does not come off as a very thoughtful young man, and nor do many of his British and American predecessors. He requires his religion to be spoon fed to him through simple frames and narratives often in video or audio format. The response from Muslims who disagree with al-Qaeda and other Islamists must be made equally easy to consume, and anyone who has tried to read religious refutations of Awlaki and others like him will know that we are not yet at that stage.
Focus on Islamism is a blog dedicated to analysing and exposing the modern ideological phenomenon known as Islamism.
Shiraz Maher is a writer and broadcaster.
Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens is a PhD student at King's College, London. He has contributed to various online and printed publications including, The Daily Telegraph, Lebanon's Daily Star, Standpoint and NOWLebanon.
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