It was refreshing to hear President Donald J. Trump define without reservation a US mission to fight terrorism and prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for Al-Qaeda, or any other terror groups, when he summarized the US presence in Afghanistan as no longer about nation-building, but rather about "killing terrorists."
Many Americans, however, are still confused regarding our mission in Afghanistan. This is mainly because the media in general did little to keep the public informed of the complexities of the Middle East and to stay focused on why, after 9/11, the US needed to destroy the safe havens of Al-Qaeda and other terror groups.
Reporting on Afghanistan -- not just in the Arab media but also, unfortunately, by many in the US media – often appeared to portray America as the aggressor. That was perhaps a factor in why President George W. Bush overcompensated by including "nation-building" as part of the US mission in Afghanistan. Even though nation-building worked brilliantly in Japan, Germany and South Korea, it unfortunately has failed so far in Muslim nations, which clearly do not want to be "rescued" by infidels.
Concerning Islamic terrorists, Trump is the first US president rightfully to demand from Muslim leaders, in his speech in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, "to drive them out of your places of worship, drive them out of your Holy Land. Drive them out of this earth." It was a historic moment, a wake-up call to both Muslim leaders and average Muslim citizens who have traditionally settled with accepting terrorism in their midst as part of the life that is preached in mosques, praising those who die in jihad as national heroes.
The West, however, cannot rely only on Trump to assume the job of educating the public -- Muslims as well as non-Muslim Americans -- about realities of Islamic terrorism from the point of view of victims of jihad. Confusion in the West regarding Afghanistan and the dynamics of the Muslim world in general is multiplied when even the average Muslim lacks basic understanding of why the US is in Afghanistan.
CNN International, which is widely watched in the Muslim world, has not been fair to the American position in the current clash between Islam and the West and Israel. Western media have a strong presence in the Middle East but refuse to bring much needed enlightenment to the Muslim public, and explain that the West has a legitimate right to self-defense against Islamic jihadist terrorism. As a result, the majority of Muslims in the Middle East, and many in the West, have no clue why America is in Afghanistan and why Syria is a huge security threat to Western nations.
Recently in Australia, a representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir refused to condemn ISIS and went into a tirade blaming the West for the colonial occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Such views are not restricted to groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, but are common among many Muslims.
After the invasion of Afghanistan, Islamic propaganda told Muslims that the US was intentionally poisoning its humanitarian food supplies in order to hurt the Afghani people. My own cousin, who received a good education in Cairo, called during the Afghan war to ask, "Why is the US poisoning Afghanis?"
The Egyptian state-run newspaper Al Ahram, which often reports on the supposed injustice done to Afghanistan at the hands of the US, insinuates economic motives for America's invasion: "It is a war with questionable motives, for the country [Afghanistan] sits on enormous wealth in natural mineral resources."
It is hard for the Western mind to understand why Muslim leadership and media are frantically trying to keep the public hostile and misinformed on why the US is in Afghanistan. It is because, for them, the truth about violent jihad against the West launched from Afghanistan must be hidden and protected.
A U.S. Army soldier shakes the hand of a young Afghan child while on patrol in southern Afghanistan on Feb. 5, 2010. The American soldiers were part of an operation helping the Afghan National Army clear several villages of improvised explosive devices, weapons caches and illegal drugs. (Image source: U.S. Department of Defense)
These are some of the Islamic laws, in the book Reliance of the Traveller, that discuss the obligatory nature of jihad (defined as war against non-Muslims) which every Muslim head of state (Caliph) must obey or else be removed from office:
- The Caliph makes war upon Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians. (o9.8 p602)
- The Caliph fights all other peoples until they become Muslim. (09.9 p603)
- If none of those concerned performs jihad and it does not happen at all, then everyone who is aware it as an obligation is guilty of sin. (O9.1 p600)
- One of the duties of a governor appointed by a Caliph is to undertake jihad against enemies. O25.9 (8) p 647. [Note there are no duties mentioned to make peace]
- If the Caliph becomes a non-Muslim, alters sharia law or imposes reprehensible innovations while in office [such as abandoning jihad obligation] then he loses his authority and its obligatory for Muslims to remove him from office. (O25.3 (a) p640)
- Thus, a new Muslim head of state could come to power through seizure of power meaning by force, by an individual who possesses the qualifications of a caliph. (o25.5 (3) p644)
Every Muslim head of state fully understands the repercussions of not abiding by the above, and by many other laws forcing him to conduct jihad and never to accept peace with Islam's enemies, unless absolutely necessary. Leaders who refuse to conduct jihad, and who instead befriend the West, must be removed from office. Such uncompromising Sharia laws regarding jihad imposed on Muslim heads of states are ignored and not taken seriously by Western leaders and media.
Muslim leaders cannot therefore openly stop jihadists unless the terrorists turn against them, which they often do through coups and assassinations. They often make deals with jihadists to go conduct their business elsewhere. Muslim nations with a weak central government, such as Afghanistan, then become targets as safe havens for jihadists -- with the blessing of many Muslim leaders. The West Bank and Gaza are two other locations that have been used for nearly 70 years by Arab nations to perform the most "honorable" goal of Islam: jihad against non-Muslims.
Saudi Arabia and other wealthy Arab states understand that, but never waged a direct war against Israel from their lands because they fear retaliation and the destruction of Islamic holy sites. Instead, they chose to be the major force behind the Arab jihad conducted from Gaza, the West Bank and Afghanistan, for that matter.
After 9/11, Muslim leaders were caught in a bind. They could not openly defend and protect Osama Bin Laden in front of their citizens and the world, but behind the scenes, they housed and hid him from the US.
Muslim leaders, even after 9/11, could not give up their obligatory jihad duty especially in front of their citizens. That was one reason why no Muslim leader apologized to the US for 9/11. Also, no Muslim leader wanted to admit that Afghanistan brought the war with the US upon itself or that the US was right in invading it to take out the never-ending supply of terrorists. If anyone did that, he would be acting against Sharia. If a Muslim leader were to admit that Afghanistan was wrong, then he would also have to admit that jihad is wrong and that the West was right to defend itself. In such an Islamic equation, if anyone were to admit that Afghanistan was wrong, then the world would discover what jihad really means -- and the loser would be Islam.
The only solution, therefore, was to tell the world -- and to keep Muslims believing -- that Afghanistan is the victim of the West and that the US is an aggressor and invading colonial "occupation" force that Muslims must fight.
The Western media need do a better job of reporting the truth regarding the Muslim world in general, including Afghanistan. This does not mean that the media have to become offensive, but it does mean that the media really do need to report truths that Muslims and Muslim apologists may not want to hear.
In this saga, the US and Israel, Europe and other countries in the West, are left with little media support to tell the world the "other" side of the problem: that the public in the West should not be split regarding its legitimate right to defend itself against Islamic jihadist terrorism.
Nonie Darwish, born and raised in Egypt, is the author of "Wholly Different; Why I chose Biblical Values Over Islamic Values."