Images for tired eyes 1

October 10, 2003

Daniel Pipes is correct that jihad can mean war but wrong in his argument that Osama bin Laden is waging one ("Why don't scholars admit that holy war means war?", THES , October 3).

Pipes suggests that any use of violence by Muslims for Islamic purposes is a jihad. Any serious reading of the Siyar (Islamic international law) and Siyassa (Islamic public law) shows that only a properly constituted Islamic authority, such as a head of state, can declare a jihad. The circumstances are strictly limited to self-defence and the defence of Islam. Once military action has started, women, children and the aged can never be targets. Al-Qaida does not have the authority nor respect for the legal restraints that would be required under Islamic law - it is no more entitled to rely on the doctrine of jihad than the Mafia is on just-war theory. Pipes' tired orientalist images of violent Muslims should perhaps be contrasted with the "shock and awe" approach of the Bush administration that he supports.

John Strawson
School of Law
University of East London

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