Ibn Taymiyyah was behind the Brussels attacks
The terrorist attacks that struck Brussels Airport and Maelbeek metro station confirm that striking Europe is a major part of the Islamic State’s plans.
The latest attacks, like previous Islamic State (ISIS) actions in Europe, raise questions beyond the obvious immediate concerns about intelligence shortfalls and security preparedness. What happened in Brussels — the capital of the European Union — raises questions about the Islamist view of Europe itself.
This is something that has always been beset by confusion; between EU laws that, in many cases, offer asylum to Islamists fleeing arrest in their countries of origin, as well as poverty and lack of opportunity, and the disdain these same Islamists have towards their adoptive countries and their laws.
Following the Brussels attacks, many in the Arab and Islamic world said that Europe was reaping what it sowed, in reference to Europe’s colonial history in the Middle East, as well as more recent Western interventions that arguably contributed to the rise of jihadism in general and ISIS in particular. However, analyses such as these are based on lazy thinking that seeks to excuse Muslims from bearing their own responsibility towards the rise of religious extremism.
Choice of modus operandi and targets reveal that terrorists’ main objective in Europe is to spread terror. French writer and political scientist Gilles Kepel, who has written extensively about European jihadism and particularly about what he describes as “third-generation jihadism”, has tied this new generation of terrorists to the 2005 publication of The Global Islamic Resistance Call by al-Qaeda strategist Abu Musab al- Suri. This so-called guide directly calls on Muslim youth in Europe to carry out terrorist attacks in their adoptive countries against the “enemies of Islam”.
The nationality or background of these terrorists has become a secondary issue compared to their ideological affiliation and beliefs. These terrorists come from different backgrounds, grew up in different countries. However, the one unifying factor is that they fell under the sway of a radical takfirist ideology that can be traced to a combative medieval interpretation of Islam.
For example, ISIS statements following the Paris and Brussels attacks were littered with references to the Crusades and Crusaders, in an explicit attempt to recall medieval sectarian imagery. Religious extremism (whether Islamic or Christian or Jewish) is a complex phenomenon that aims to grant religious justification to political acts.
Even so, Muslims must seek to address this religious extremism that leads to terrorism and confront the ideological justifications that terrorists use to rationalise their heinous crimes. It is clear that these jihadist groups, some of whom are at war with others, spring from the same ideological well, namely the doctrinal reading that splits the world into dar al- Islam (believers) and dar al-kuffar (non-believers) and specialise in takfirism or excommunicating Muslims.
This is the lamentable heritage of medieval Islamic scholar Ibn Taymiyyah — a major pillar and reference in the ideological inception of most jihadist thought today. Ibn Taymiyyah’s most famous fatwa, which came in response to the Mongol invasion of Syria in the 13th century, excommunicated the Mongol Ilkhanate and made jihad against them not just permissible but obligatory. This is a fatwa that terrorists today, more than 600 years later, cite to legitimise their terrorist acts.
It is easy to hold others responsible for our ills and to postpone accountability for our heritage and history but this is a mistake. There can be no solution if we continue to refuse to even acknowledge the problem, let alone seek to address it.
The terrorist attacks that are afflicting Europe today can be traced to Ibn Taymiyyah and a score of other pro-takfirist scholars and ideologues. This is an ideology that we must confront.