Head of Islamic Jihad on imperative of pluralism, jarring when read next to ISIS/Nursah/Saudi-Wahhabi discourse
Jarring indeed to read these statements from the head of Islamic Jihad in Palestine along with those associated with the rise of ISIS, Nusrah… Wahhabi Saudi-ism.
Little wonder that the US and EU are viewing Iran and their allies in increasingly sympathetic terms, no matter the pitfalls of this approach.. for which there are many!
From an interview with Dr. Ramadan Shallah, the secretary-general of Islamic Jihad in Palestine
Can you shed more light on Islamic Jihad’s idea of a nationalist collectivity?
As I mentioned earlier, this idea had been proposed early on by Islamic Jihad. The Islamic movement in all its manifestations was influenced by the concept of “Islamic nationalism,” specifically, Abul Ala Maududi’s negative views of nationalism and Sayyid Qutb’s understanding of the nationality of a Muslim as his creed.** The idea is simple [and it can be summarized as follows]: “I am a Muslim and I am proud of my affiliation with Islam.” However, belonging to a religion or having a religious identification does not preclude the possibility of having other aspects to one’s identity, be they nationalist, transnational, or humanistic. The Prophet Muhammad established a governing charter, or constitution, for Medina called al-Sahifa, which recognized the ethnic and religious pluralism of society—at the time, Medina was comprised of different groups of people who followed diverse religions and were of distinct ethnic backgrounds. But such differences did not hinder the establishment of a political entity based on “citizenship” where people enjoyed rights and obligations in conformity with that document. It is well-known that the Constitution of Medina defined Muslims as “a (religious) community apart from all others,” this being the community of the creed, or ummah, as discussed by Sayyid Qutb, and that this was the first time that Arab society defined itself on the basis of a shared common faith without regard to tribal affiliations. That notwithstanding, other sections of the document refer to Jews as a “community alongside the believers” (that is, Muslims), this being the community of political citizenship. More explicitly, the document specified that “the Jews have their religion and the Muslims have theirs, both themselves and their clients, barring only he who is unjust or sinful.”† The Constitution of Medina is not insignificant in the history of Islam, although Islamist currents had accorded it little importance until recently. Islamists were, and remain, unsympathetic to the idea of establishing a homeland or nation based on geography, as is the case of the modern European nation-state, in contrast with empires based on religion or ethnicity. All that Islamic Jihad is saying is that while geography should not be regarded as the basis of commonality between people in other places, the case of Palestine is different. Precisely because the geography of Palestine has been ravaged and lost, it is neither a matter of positing or denying [geographically-based] affiliations, or indeed of regarding these as antithetical to Islam, but a matter of jihad that is incumbent on an individual when it comes to liberating despoiled land, and especially Palestine, whose status is well-defined in religious doctrine.
It is important to note that Palestinians as a people are homogenous in terms of sects and ethnicity, unlike the population of other countries like Syria, Lebanon, or Iraq. Of course, there are Christians and Muslims in Palestine, but that has never been a problem, either in the history of Palestine or within the Palestinian national movement. The internal conflicts and plurality of stances within the movement are the result of ideological and factional differences and not religious ones. This is why Islamic Jihad has proposed the idea of a nationalist collectivity so that a national movement could be based on the notion of affiliation to the homeland, and removed from ideological or religious considerations. The resistance against Israel and its occupation is the only legitimate struggle, and the one that must be prioritized…”