8) Jihad, just wars, ignorance, Jacob Epstein and Bin Laden

Though Epstein was Jewish himself, he is likely to have had an above average understanding of Islam and cultural codes of behaviour. He would probably have understood that Muslims do not regard Islam as a replacement for Christianity, more the updated version of it. 

“We believe in Allah and (in) that which has been revealed to us, and (in) that which was revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and (in) that which was given to Moses and Jesus, and (in) that which was given to the prophets from their Lord, we do not make any distinction between any of them and to Him do we submit”   (Chapter 2, verse 136 from the Holy Qur’an)

Epstein was probably aware that his depiction of Jacob would be equally representative of Islamic struggle. To strive and to struggle morally, mentally and physically to make God’s word supreme in Islam is signified by the word Jihad. In many ways the struggle itself is what Epstein tries to reveal throughout his work. When the President contemplates the “stern look” of the Churchill Bust in the Oval Office, in some ways he does so in the spirit of Epstein’s Jihad.

When Ayatollah Khomeini called America ‘the great Satan’, he wasn’t speaking of a Devil with horns. He was speaking of the Devil manifested in temptation. Feats undertaken, for the sake of money, prestige, power or anything else for that matter are regarded in Islam as failure in the struggle to contemplate He that never changes and just is God (Allah). One who is happy with worldly success is equally unhappy without it. One who struggles against base appetites and contemplates God is enriched by Him. The struggle or Jihad is above any consideration of reward. In many ways the concept is a variation of the Christian concept of Sin, temptation and the Devil. (“The Great Satan”)

Fundamentalist versions of this struggle involve ‘fighting for the sake of Allah.’ But there is a distinction in what is regarded as a “just” fight. Those who fight for glorification, superiority, or for exploitation of the weak are regarded as friends of the Devil.

“And dispute you not with the people of the Book (Jews and Christians) except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury). But say: We believe in the Revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you: our God and your God is One: and it is to Him we bow (in Islam)” – (Qur’an 29:46)

The al-Qaida attacks of 9-11 are condemned by most Muslim’s not just for the unnecessary carnage and suffering caused but also the pre-emptive nature of the action said to be in the name of God (Allah) against individuals that had inflicted no ‘wrong’ or ‘injury’ to Islam. Not only this, Osama Bin Laden could be condemned for his action because he has ‘glorified’ himself higher than his cause.

Islam means ‘submission’ and ‘peace’ which is the opposite of any consequences al-Qaida provoked. At a time when Islam was spreading peacefully throughout the world the attacks on September the 11th have divided future converts from their destiny – the only thing that has spread since that day in 2001 is fundamentalism in the form of war mongers, the fighting has eclipsed the cause.

Bin Laden might of course reply that the attack on the World Trade Centre was a direct attack on the Devil himself, not an attack on individuals. The attack against the US was provoked by attacks both, physically, by the presence of troops in Islamic holy lands, and morally in the form of temptation that corrupts any effort to find God. 

The reaction of George Bush in handling the crises has put him in a similar position to Bin Laden and provoked worldwide anti-Americanism. Though Donald Rumsfield denies any relation between the Twin Towers atrocity and pulling troops out from Saudi in 2003; his pre-emptive attacks on Islamic countries with no regard for the innocent has caused worldwide condemnation.

The problem is, that in engaging in those actions he has ignorantly invoked a basis for what fundamentalist Muslims would regard as a “just” war.

For example – until the US invasion, Iraq had a brutal dictator but the people were moderate in their interpretations of Jihad. Immediately victory was declared by the US and the intention made clear that America would unilaterally remain to reorganise Iraqi Government and reconstruction, the struggle (Jihad) became more ferocious. The political war became a religious war and not just isolated to Iraq. It’s not just the devastation caused by the war that has increased the insurgence its ignorance of why people such as the Ayatollah believed America to be the Great Satan.

Is anybody surprised at the reaction? I doubt it. Is it irresponsible for the United States and Britain to believe that they would be seen as Liberators – Probably, by comparison, it would be equally absurd to imagine Ayatollah Khomeini advocating the American Dream?

“We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender”

Winston Churchill

Islam doesn’t do seduction. And neither does Jacob Epstein.