Reflecting upon Maimonides’ timeless wisdom, we must have the intellectual fortitude to contemplate, with candor, from a non-Muslim perspective, whether Islamic jihadism and “madness”/“madmen” may interact in a complementary, even synergistic manner.
At 2:45 p.m., Saturday, December 20, 2014, Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley approached two people on a street in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. After requesting that they follow him on Instagram, he told them, “Watch what I’m going to do.” Within 2 minutes, at 2:47 p.m., Brinsley reached the passenger window of a marked police car, and fired a lethal barrage at the heads of Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. Fleeing into a nearby subway station, pursued by police officers, Ismaaiyl Brinsley stopped, and shot himself, fatally, in the head.
Immediate post-mortem accounts riveted, appropriately, on Brinsley’s history of mental illness, personal failure, and paroxysms of violent anger—he even wounded his Baltimore area girlfriend, just before departing by bus for New York City, that fateful Saturday morning. However, by Saturday, Brinsley had focused his vengeful rage on the recent deaths of Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. According to the now rigidly enforced narrative, Brinsley executed Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu in cold blood due, solely, to his warped perception of their “shared culpability” in the tragic deaths of Garner and Brown.
Although, doubtless, the aforementioned psycho-social factors contributed in significant measure to Brinsley’s heinous actions, major media reportage and “pundit” commentaries have scrupulously—and selectively—avoided any serious discussion of his Muslim background, and related pursuits, all of which can be gleaned from his social media accounts (see here; here; here; and here). This willful lacuna in media coverage and analysis is unacceptable given the current spate of Muslim jihadist violence targeting Western institutions of authority, notably, the police (see here; here; and here). Whether such violence is fueled, additionally, by mental illness, etc., or not, we know that Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, official spokesman for, and a senior leader of, the Islamic State, openly encouraged Western Muslims to attack non-Muslims within their own societies in a September 22, 2014 pronouncement.Consistent with traditional, authoritative Islamic jihad war jurisprudence’s designation of even enemy non-combatant “harbis” (those non-Muslims from the “dar al-harb” [“lands of war”] not submitted to Islamic law) as licit targets of sanguinary attacks, al-Adnani, gave broad license to murderous assaults on Western “disbelievers”:
If you can kill a disbelieving American or European – especially the spiteful and filthy French – or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be. Do not ask for anyone’s advice and do not seek anyone’s verdict. Kill the disbeliever whether he is civilian or military, for they have the same ruling. Both of them are disbelievers. Both of them are considered to be waging war [the civilian by belonging to a state waging war against the Muslims]. Both of their blood and wealth is legal for you to destroy, for blood does not become illegal or legal to spill by the clothes being worn.
But attacks on law enforcement merited a specific priority for al-Adnani:
Strike their police, security, and intelligence members, as well as their treacherous agents. Destroy their beds. Embitter their lives for them and busy them with themselves.
Indeed the same day (12/20/14) Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley committed his execution-style murder of two policemen in Brooklyn, a French convert to Islam, Bertrand Nzohabonayo (aka “Bilal”), entered a police station in Joué-lès-Tours, central France, and shouted “Allahu Akbar”—“Allah is greater”—a jihadist war cry dating from its declaration by Islam’s prophet Muhammad as he made a murderous foray against the Jews of the Khaybar oasis (allegedly in 629 C.E.). Nzohabonayo/“Bilal,” who had earlier in the week updated his Facebook page profile with a photo of the black flag of the Islamic State, proceeded to stab three police officers, before he was shot and killed. Investigators subsequently maintained this ostensible “lone wolf” jihadist supported the Islamic State.
On September 23, 2014, a day after al-Adnani’s ISIS invocation for jihad terror attacks in the West was published, Abdul Numan Haider, an 18 year-old Afghan Muslim immigrant to Australia, was shot dead after stabbing two Melbourne policemen with a small knife. A search of Haider’s body revealed an additional larger knife, and an ISIS flag. Police investigators believed that Haider had intended to behead the officers, drape their bodies in the ISIS flag, and then photograph the grisly images for internet posting—all in accord with ISIS instructions for jihadists.
One month later—October 23, 2014—another (prior) jihadist attack on the New York Police Department (NYPD) was launched by hatchet-wielding Muslim convert Zayle Thompson. Before he was shot dead, Thompson’s savage hatchet attack seriously wounded one officer, who was struck in the head, but almost miraculously survived the wounds he sustained. When queried by neighbors about how he was spending his time at home, Thompson reportedly said, “I’m reading the Koran. I converted to Islam.” In September, he had commented:
If you’re looking for ‘perfect’ Muslims who never make any mistakes in their Jihad, then you will be looking in vain! If the Zionists and the Crusaders had never invaded and colonized the Islamic lands after WW1, then there would be no need for Jihad! Which is better, to sit around and do nothing, or to Jihad fisabeelallah! [Wage jihad for Allah]
Thompson’s Facebook page featured the cover image from the book Golden Age of the Moor, which portrays a turbaned, fully armed Muslim jihadist. Thompson also viewed jihadist propaganda and recruitment videos from ISIS, al Qaeda and al-Shabaab. Writing on Facebook, Thompson declared:
America’s military is strong abroad, but they have never faced an internal mass revolt. They are weaker at home. We are scattered and decentralized, we can use this as an advantage. Helicopters, big military will be useless on their own soil. They will not be able to defeat our people if we use guerilla warfare. Attack their weak flanks . . . If you get wounded who cares. If you die who cares. Eventually they will surrender and then the war will be over.
NYPD spokesman John Miller noted, aptly,
It appears that this [jihadist attack] is something he has been thinking about for some time.
Although till now almost entirely ignored, Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley’s Muslim background may also prove relevant, and must be examined. For example, Brinsley’s potential association with the notorious jihadist hotbed al-Farooq mosque in Brooklyn most assuredly needs to be clarified. Another important, and perhaps related line of investigation should explore why Brinsley highlighted an image of Koran sura (chapter) 8, verse 60—one of several Koranic exhortations sanctioning jihad terror—at his Facebook page.
Koran 8:60 is a central Islamic motif, invoked by Islam’s prophet Muhammad, and during our era, Iran’s constitution, the Pakistani Army, and the Muslim Brotherhood. (“Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies, of Allah and your enemies, and others besides, whom ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know. Whatever ye shall spend in the cause of Allah, shall be repaid unto you, and ye shall not be treated unjustly.”)
Dr. Tina Magaard—a Sorbonne-trained linguist specializing in textual analysis—published detailed research findings in 2005 (summarized in 2007) comparing the foundational texts of ten major religions. Magaard concluded from her hard data-driven analyses:
The texts in Islam distinguish themselves from the texts of other religions by encouraging violence and aggression against people with other religious beliefs to a larger degree [emphasis added]. There are also straightforward calls for terror. This has long been a taboo in the research into Islam, but it is a fact that we need to deal with.
Muhammad himself was the ultimate prototype sanctioning jihad terror, as recorded in this canonical hadith (Sahih Bukhari: Book 4, Volume 52, Number 220)
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “I have been sent with the shortest expressions bearing the widest meanings, and I have been made victorious with terror (cast in the hearts of the enemy; Koran 8:60)…”
Maulana Muhammad Shafi (1898-1976), a former grand mufti of India (prior to the August, 1947 partition), was the author of Maariful Qur’an, which remains the best-known Koranic commentary in Urdu. He also wrote more than three hundred books, and in addition to these literary works, broadcasted his Koranic commentary on Radio Pakistan for a number of years. Here is the crux of his gloss on Koran 8:60—a timeless call for aggressive, conquering not merely “defensive” jihad:
The real purpose of acquiring and storing military hardware, whether for initiated action or defense…is to bring down the force of Kufr and Shirk [unbelief] and fill the hearts of their protagonists with awe so that they stay suppressed…[for example] the disbelievers of Mecca and the Jews of Medina…Then, there were other people too, those whom the Muslims did not know yet. The reference here is the disbelievers and polytheists of the whole world who had not come up against Muslims, yet in the future were to clash against them…
The 17th century Muslim historian al-Maqqari explained that the panic created by the Arab horsemen and sailors, at the time of the Muslim expansion in the regions subjected to those raids and landings, facilitated their later conquest,
Allah thus instilled such fear among the infidels that they did not dare to go and fight the conquerors; they only approached them as suppliants, to beg for peace.
This shared, mainstream Sunni and Shi’ite doctrine on jihad is the validating context in which Shi’ite Iran’s 1979 Constitutional provision on its self-proclaimed “Ideological Army,” must be evaluated. Invoking Koran 8:60, the 1979 Iranian Constitution declares:
In the formation and equipping of the country’s defence forces, due attention must be paid to faith and ideology as the basic criteria. Accordingly, the Army of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps are to be organized in conformity with this goal, and they will be responsible not only for guarding and preserving the frontiers of the country, but also for fulfilling the ideological mission of jihad in God’s way; that is, extending the sovereignty of Allah’s law throughout the world (this is in accordance with the Koranic verse “Prepare against them whatever force you are able to muster, and strings of horses, striking fear into the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others besides them” [8:60]).
Contemporary validation of this principle of jihad as described by al-Maqqari—rooted in the Koran—(for example, verses 3:151, 8:12, 8:60, and 33:26)—i.e., to terrorize the enemies of the Muslims as a prelude to their conquest—has also been provided in the mainstream Pakistani text on jihad warfare by Brigadier S.K. Malik, The Quranic Concept of War, originally published in Lahore, in 1979. Malik’s treatise was endorsed in a laudatory Foreword to the book by his patron, then Pakistani President Zia-ul-Haq, as well as a more extended Preface by Allah Buksh K. Brohi, a former Advocate-General of Pakistan. This text—widely studied in Islamic countries, and available in English, Urdu, and Arabic—has been recovered from the bodies of slain jihadists in Kashmir. Brigadier Malik emphasizes how instilling terror is essential to waging successful jihad campaigns:
“Let not the Unbelievers think,” God commands us directly and pointedly, “that they can get the better of the Godly: they will never frustrate them. Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into the hearts of the enemies of Allah and your enemies, and others besides, whom ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know.” (Anfal [sura 8]: 59–60)…Terror struck into the hearts of the enemies is not only a means, it is the end in itself. Once a condition of terror into the opponent’s heart is obtained, hardly anything is left to be achieved. It is the point where the means and the end meet and merge. Terror is not a means of imposing decision upon the enemy (sic); it is the decision we wish to impose upon him… “Jehad,” [Jihad] the Quranic concept of total strategy. Demands the preparation and application of total national power and military instrument is one of its elements. As a component of the total strategy, the military strategy aims at striking terror into the hearts of the enemy from the preparatory stage of war…Under ideal conditions, Jehad can produce a direct decision and force its will upon the enemy. Where that does not happen, military strategy should take over and aim at producing the decision from the military stage. Should that chance be missed, terror should be struck into the enemy during the actual fighting. …the Book [Quran] does not visualize war being waged with “kid gloves.” It gives us a distinctive concept of total war. It wants both, the nation and the individual, to be at war “in toto,” that is, with all their spiritual, moral, and physical resources. The Holy Quran lays the highest emphasis on the preparation for war. It wants us to prepare ourselves for war to the utmost. The test of utmost preparation lies in our capability to instill terror into the hearts of the enemies.
Maimonides, the “second Moses” (d. 1203), was a renowned Talmudist, philosopher, astronomer, and physician. His Epistle to the Jews of Yemen was written about 1172 in reply to inquiries by Jacob ben Netan’el al-Fayyumi, who headed the Jewish community in Yemen. At that time, the Jews of Yemen were experiencing a crisis—hardly unfamiliar to Maimonides—as they were being forced to convert to Islam, a campaign launched in about 1165 by ‘Abd-al-Nabi ibn Mahdi. Maimonides offered the Yemenite Jewish communal leader guidance, and what encouragement he could muster. He makes clear that the unrelenting persecutions of the Jews by the Muslims is tantamount to forced conversion. The Epistle to the Jews of Yemen also provides an unflinchingly honest view of what Maimonides thought of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, and about Islam generally. Maimonides referred to Muhammad—Islam’s prototype jihadist—as a bellicose “ha-meshugga,” “Madman,” whose objective was “procuring rule and submission,” whereby “he invented his well known religion.” The Hebrew term, ha-meshugga, as historian Norman Stillman has observed wryly, was, and remains, “pregnant with connotations.”
Reflecting upon Maimonides timeless wisdom, we must have the intellectual fortitude to contemplate, with candor, from a non-Muslim perspective, whether Islamic jihadism and “madness”/“madmen” may interact in a complementary, even synergistic manner.
Addendum: Investigative reporting by Chuck Ross at The Daily Caller has uncovered another lead that merits investigation: a Feb. 28, 2013 video Brinsley posted of Masjid At Taqwa, in Brooklyn, N.Y., entitled “Time to pray in Brooklyn.”
The video depicts Brinsley approaching the mosque as its call to prayer echoes in the background. Ross hones in on a relevant—and alarming—court document filed by senior counsel Peter G. Farrell The City of New York Law Department. Dated Sept. 10, 2013, it elucidates the activities of Masjid At Taqwa affiliates, which included: specific anti-police activities; illegal gun operations; links to past jihad terrorism plots; fund-raising activities for jihad terror organizations; and practice, during paintball training exercises, to become “jihad assassins.”
The NYPD’s investigation of certain individuals associated with Plaintiff Masjid At Taqwa was based upon information about their lengthy history of suspected criminal activity, some of it terroristic in nature. This information includes but is not limited to: illegal weapons trafficking by members of the mosque’s security team and the mosque caretaker both within the mosque and at the store adjacent; illegal weapons trafficking by certain attendees of the mosque; allegations that the mosque ran a “gun club”; and allegations that the assistant Imam had earmarked portions of over $200,000 raised in the mosque to a number of US Government designated terrorist organizations.
Certain individuals associated with Masjid At Taqwa have historical ties to [jihad] terrorism. The mosque’s Imam, Siraj Wahhaj, was named by the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York as an unindicted co-conspirator in a plot to bomb a number of New York City landmarks in the mid-1990s (the “Landmarks Plot”). Omar Abdel Rahman, known as the “Blind Sheikh,” who is serving a life sentence in federal prison for his role in the Landmarks Plot, lectured at Masjid At Taqwa. Wahhaj testified as a character witness for Abdel Rahman during Abdel Rahman’s terrorism trial. Wahhaj also testified as a character witness for Clement Hampton El, a Masjid At Taqwa attendee who was convicted as one of the Blind Sheikh’s coconspirators in the Landmarks Plot.
Members of the mosque’s security team have instructed individuals on how to disarm police officers and have led martial arts classes involving individuals convicted on terrorism charges. Since at least 2003, Masjid At Taqwa members have participated in and sponsored paintball exercises and survival training outside New York City, activities which have been carried out for training purposes by violent extremists in multiple terrorism cases in the United States and abroad-such as the “Virginia Jihad” case, the Fort Dix plot, the 717 attacks in London, and the UK fertilizer bomb plot (“Operation Awakening”). On one of these outings, the leader of Masjid At Taqwa’s security team instructed the members of his paintball team to “form up, jihad assassins” and called them his ‘Jihad warriors”. Farooque Ahmed, who is currently incarcerated after pleading guilty to terrorism charges in connection with a plot to bomb the Washington, DC metro, promoted and participated in at least one of these trips.