Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Raymond Ibrahim: "The Dark Side of Zakat"


RAYMOND IBRAHIM is a widely published author, public speaker, and Middle East and Islam specialist.  His books include Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians (2013) and The Al Qaeda Reader (2007). His writings, translations, and observations have appeared in a variety of publications, including the New York Times, CNN, LA Times, Fox News, Financial Times, Jerusalem Post, New York Times Syndicate, United Press International, USA Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, and Weekly Standard; scholarly journals, including the Almanac of Islamism, Chronicle of Higher Education, Hoover Institution’s Strategika, Jane’s Islamic Affairs Analyst, Middle East Quarterly, and Middle East Review of International Affairs; and popular websites, such as American Thinker, the Blaze, Bloomberg, Breitbart, Christian Post, Daily Caller, FrontPage Magazine, Gatestone Institute, the Inquisitr, Jihad Watch, NewsMax, National Review Online, PJ Media, the UK’s Commentator, WND, and World Magazine. He has contributed chapters to several anthologies and been translated into dozens of languages.
Ibrahim guest lectures at universities, including the National Defense Intelligence College, briefs governmental agencies, such as U.S. Strategic Command and the Defense Intelligence Agency, provides expert testimony for Islam-related lawsuits, and has testified before Congress regarding the conceptual failures that dominate American discourse concerning Islam and the worsening plight of Egypt’s Christian Copts. Among other media, he has appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, C-SPAN, PBS, Reuters, Al-Jazeera, Blaze TV, CBN, and NPR; he has done hundreds of radio interviews and instructed two courses for Prager University.
Ibrahim’s dual-background—born and raised in the U.S. by Coptic Egyptian parents born and raised in the Middle East—has provided him with unique advantages, from equal fluency in English and Arabic, to an equal understanding of the Western and Middle Eastern mindsets, positioning him to explain the latter to the former. His interest in Islamic civilization was first piqued when he began visiting the Middle East as a child in the 1970s. Interacting and conversing with the locals throughout the decades has provided him with an intimate appreciation for that part of the world, complementing his academic training.
Raymond received his B.A. and M.A. (both in History, focusing on the ancient and medieval Near East, with dual-minors in Philosophy and Literature) from California State University, Fresno. There he studied closely with noted military-historian Victor Davis Hanson. He also took graduate courses at Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies—including classes on the history, politics, and economics of the Arab world—and studied Medieval Islam and Semitic languages at Catholic University of America. His M.A. thesis examined an early military encounter between Islam and Byzantium based on arcane Arabic and Greek texts.
Ibrahim’s resume includes: serving as an Arabic language and regional specialist at the Near East Section of the Library of Congress, where he was often contacted by, and provided information to, defense and intelligence personnel involved in the fields of counterterrorism and area studies, as well as the Congressional Research Service; serving as associate director of the Middle East Forum, a Philadelphia think tank; and serving as a CBN News analyst and contributor.
He resigned from all positions in order to focus exclusively on researching and writing, and is currently a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a Judith Friedman Rosen Writing Fellow, Middle East Forum, and a Hoover Institution Media Fellow (2013), among other titles and affiliations.

The Dark Side of Zakat
Muslim "Charity" in Context
by Raymond Ibrahim
Pajamas Media
August 15, 2009

From what American schoolchildren are being taught by their teachers to what Americans are being told by their presidents, concepts unique to Islam are nowadays almost always "Westernized." Whether the product of naivety, arrogance, or downright disingenuousness, this phenomenon has resulted in epistemic (and thus endemic) failures, crippling Americans from objectively understanding some of Islam's more troublesome doctrines.

A typical seventh-grade textbook, for instance, teaches that "jihad represents the human struggle to overcome difficulties and do things that are pleasing to God. Muslims strive to respond positively to personal difficulties as well as worldly challenges. For instance, they might work to be better people, reform society, or correct injustice."

Strictly speaking, this is by and large true. However, by not explaining what it means to be "better people, reform society, or correct injustice" — from a distinctly Islamic, as opposed to Western, perspective — the textbook abandons students to fall back on their own (misleading) interpretations.

Yet the facts remain: In Islam, killing certain "evil-doers," such as apostates or homosexuals, is a way of "correcting injustice"; overthrowing manmade constitutional orders (such as the United States) and replacing them with Sharia mandates, and subjugating women and non-Muslims, are ways of "reforming society." Those enforcing all this are, in fact, "better people" — indeed, according to the Koran, they are "the best of peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong [3:110]," that is, ruling according to Sharia law.

So it is with the Muslim concept of zakat, a word often rendered into English as "charity." But is that all zakat is — mere Muslim benevolence by way of feeding and clothing the destitute of the world, as the word "charity" all too often connotes?

U.S. president Barack Hussein Obama seems to think so — or, given his background, is at least banking that others do — based on his recent proclamation to the Muslim world that "in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That is why I am committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat."

Thus does Obama conflate a decidedly Islamic concept, zakat, with the generic notion of charity. Is this justified? As with all things Islamic, one must first examine the legal aspects of zakat to truly appreciate its purport. Etymologically related to the notion of "purity," zakat — paying a portion of one's wealth to specifically designated recipients — is a way of purifying oneself, on par with prayers (see Koran 9:103).

The problem, however, has to do with who is eligible for this mandatory "charity." Most schools of Muslim jurisprudence are agreed to eight possible categories of recipients — one of these being those fighting "in the path of Allah," that is, jihadis, also known as "terrorists."

In fact, financially supporting jihadis is a recognized form of jihad — jihad al-mal; even the vast majority of militant verses in the Koran (e.g., 9:20, 9:41, 49:15, 61:10-11) prioritize the need to fund the jihad over merely fighting in it, as fighting with one's wealth often precedes fighting with one's self. Well-known Islamists — from international jihadi Osama bin Laden to authoritative cleric Sheikh Qaradawi — are well aware of this and regularly exhort Muslims to fund the jihad via zakat.

More revealing of the peculiarly Islamic nature of zakat is the fact that Muslims are actually forbidden from bestowing this "charity" onto non-Muslims (e.g., the vast majority of American infidels). "Charitable" Muslim organizations operating on American soil are therefore no mere equivalents to, say, the Salvation Army, a Christian charity organization whose "ministry extends to all, regardless of ages, sex, color, or creed." In Islam, creed is a major criterion for receiving "charity" — not to mention for receiving social equality.

From here, one can better understand Obama's lament that "in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation," a statement that unwittingly implies that American zakat has, in fact, been used to fund the jihad. After all, these irksome "rules" to which Obama alludes appear to be a reference to the presumably "excessive" scrutiny American Muslim "charities" are subject to by law enforcement. Yet this scrutiny is itself a direct byproduct of the fact that American Muslim "charities" have, indeed, been funding the jihad, both at home and abroad.

In light of all this, what truly remains to be seen is how, precisely, Obama plans on "working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat."