Nowadays, time flies so fast and people’s minds and memories are paralyzed by such a powerful mechanism that it becomes a necessity to remind people of the recent history more often than not.
So it is relevant to ask again: where do jihad and jihadists come from?
I am not pointing at the theological origins of the two; this does not necessarily concern the majority. The question and the problem are political. Approaching these two from a theological perspective will not yield any result but “religionization” of the politics.
For this reason, one should not need to concern oneself with the history of the concept of Bellum sacrum (holy war) which itself is old as the religions. The real question, the one that we should concern, is the origins of jihad as a “modern” political tool.
ARCHAEOLOGY OF JIHAD
The term archaeology was purposefully used to express this article’s main quest in seeking the conditions that gave birth to jihad as a modern political tool, the manner in which this concept/action evolved and how it was incorporated into today’s ruling system.
It can be, rather correctly, claimed that the timestamp of the jihad in its current form shows the 1970s and 80s. It is in Afghanistan where the jihad was evolved into today’s form at this time.
The origins of today’s jihad lie beneath a conspiracy organized against the Democratic Afghan Republic after the Saur Revolution in 1978, which has many similarities with today’s conspiracy against the Syrian Arab Republic in very broad terms.
The Saur Revolution in Afghanistan had many significant internal problems and conflicts. With this revolution, the laws based on sharia were abolished and a secular state was formed whereupon many reforms, to the extent that radically affected the property relations in agriculture, were implemented such as land reform, the establishment of government-owned farms, recognition of trade union rights of the workers and equal civil rights to women. Also, Afghanistan adopted a friendly approach towards socialism which resulted in the execution of a treaty of friendship between the U.S.S.R. and Afghanistan in December 1978.
The prevailing strategy of imperialism was then to smother all socialist-popular governments that had close ties with the Soviets at any cost and by any means necessary. For this reason, Afghanistan’s “stand” was in compliance with and hence crucial to the strategy of imperialism. Just like what was done against Allende administration in Chile in 1973 and the bloody and dirty war waged against Sandinista in Nicaragua shortly after the operation against Afghanistan started.
Readers should not take the expression “any means necessary” lightly. The most concrete example that I can think of is the scandal called “Irangate”. In 1986, the US sold weapons to Iran underhandedly and used the income from this to fund the counter-guerrillas in Nicaragua.
Let’s go back to Afghanistan… At that time, the means used to ensure the “stand” of Afghanistan was jihad.
In a short time, Pakistan, specifically Peshawar city of Pakistan, became the headquarters of the Afghani counter-revolutionary forces. Said counter-revolutionary forces being various Islamist groups inspired by “Muslim Brotherhood” and relatively smaller Maoist Organizations, such as the “Eternal Flame”.
It did not take long before these groups fell into the radar of the US. In fact, the US had already established close ties with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and its offshoots in the region starting from the 1950s which became tighter during the early 1970s whereupon use of the “Islamism” card against popular/socialist governments or social movements in the Middle East emerged as an imperialist strategy.
A Schema Indicating Organizational Structure of Muslim Brotherhood in Turkey published by the ANT Magazine, 1968.
Afghani counter-revolutionaries, who found asylum in Pakistan, were mobilized through the Muslim Brotherhood and Jama'at-i Islami, an organization directly supported by the government of Pakistan. The most notable of such Afghani groups was Hezb-e Islami, founded and led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (a figure too well-known in Turkey) which acted in cooperation and collaboration with Taliban and even exchanged/shared members until very recently (September 2016).
In this period “experts” from the US started to visit Pakistan very frequently to train, supervise and guide Afghani counter-revolutionaries providing material and intellectual support in establishing the modern concept of jihad. The term mujahideen hit international headlines during this period and only as a result of these efforts. The mujahideen, i.e. jihadists, were whitewashed as freedom fighters combating the “Soviet invasion” and jihad was merely the name of this war of freedom.
"Modern" jihad and jihadists were categories devised with the funds from the CIA to fight against communism under the Cold War conditions.
In 1979, National Security Adviser to the President of US Zbigniew Brzezinski’s visit to Pakistan was the highest level of U.S. security expert visits to the country. A passage from his speech to jihadists on the Afghan-Pakistani border is quoted below. With his very famous Polish Accent, Mr Brzezinski, told the following words:
We know of their deep belief in God, and we are confident that their struggle will succeed. That land over there is yours. You will go back to it one day, because your fight will prevail and you'll have your homes and your mosques back again, because your cause is right and God is on your side.
During the same visit, Brzezinski also said: "The purpose of coordinating with the Pakistanis would be to make the Soviets bleed for as much and as long as is possible."
An enormous, CIA-supported propaganda machine was activated to work for a triumph of Afghan mujahideen. Posters, brochures, magazines, newspapers, bulletins and so on… Though there are also materials that make fun of the Soviets and then-ruling Afghan Government, the dominant visual materials were highlights the ideal of “jihad” and the jihadists.
A jihadist with words “Allahu Akbar” on his chest protecting Afghanistan
The jihadists, funded by imperialists, received the highest level of attention. Then British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher (a.k.a. the Iron Lady) is one of the visitors of Afghan jihadists in 1981 on Afghan-Pakistani border. In her speech to 1500 jihadists, she pledges a further support of arms worth 2 Million Pounds and says that “the hearth of the free world is with you”.
Thatcher's speech receives much applause and many shouting of Allahu Akbar.
In the year 1983, President of the US Ronald Reagan hosts representatives of jihadists in the White House. (1) In fact, the US is so tight with the jihadists that during a visit to Washington, Mohammed Yunus Khalis (once a comrade of Hekmatyar, the spiritual leader of Taliban and whom Osama bin Laden called “Sheikh Father”) invited U.S. President Reagan to embrace Islam.
Ronald Reagan hosting Afghan Jihadists in Oval Office of White House in1983.
The US support to jihadists, including Saudi Osama bin Laden, continued for many years.
An article on Osama bin Laden on August 4th 1993 issue of British newspaper The Independent by Robert Fisk
JIHADIST GENERATIONS: "JAMIL WENT TO THE JIHAD”
In the post 9/11 era, the US support to jihadists has become a hot topic in U.S. newspapers. One of the most significant findings of these discussions was that the US did not roll up jihadists from existing Islamists but also raised children to create new generations of jihadists in a way that will “secure” the future of jihad.
Well, education, of course!
The “Education Center for Afghanistan” located in Peshawar, Pakistan and run by Afghan mujahideen was basically an offshoot of the Nebraska University of the US and the Center of Afghan Studies of this university. It was the Ministry of Education of jihadists in exile. The center was publishing books and giving "education." The textbooks distributed by the center had been prepared by the Nebraska University. In the year 2002, the Washington Post exposed that the university received a funding worth of 51 million USD between the years 1984-1994 solely for this purpose.
What about the contents of these books?
The most notable study on the subject was published by Craig Davis in World Policy Journal in the year 2002. In this study, Davis examined the contents of the textbooks in Afghanistan. From the first-grade alphabet textbook, prepared by the US, he shared the following examples of teaching Farsi to future mujahideen jihadi-style(!):
Alif (A) is for Allah- Allah is one.
Bi (B) is for Father (baba)-Father goes to the mosque.
Pi (P) is for Five (panj)- Islam has five pillars.
Ti (T) is for Rifle (tufang)- Javad obtains rifles for the mujahideen.
Jim (J) is for Jihad - Jihad is an obligation. My mom went to the jihad. Our brother gave water to the mujahideen.
Dal (D) is for Religion (din) - Our religion is Islam. The Russians are the enemies of the religion of Islam.
Zhi (Zh) is for good news (muzhdih) - The mujahideen missiles rain down like dew on the Russians. My brother gave me good news that the Russians in our country taste defeat
Shin (Sh) is for Shakir - Shakir conducts jihad with the sword. God becomes happy with the defeat of the Russians...
Zal (Z) is for Oppression (zulm)- Oppression is forbidden. The Russians are oppressors. We perform jihad against the oppressors.
Vav (V) is for Nation (vatn)- Our nation is Afghanistan. The mujahideen made our country famous. Our Muslim people are defeating the communists. The mujahideen are making our dear country free.
The page of “Jim” from the alphabet textbook. Example word: Jihad "Jihad is an obligation, Jamil went to jihad. I will go to jihad too”.
The reading passage titled “Jihad” in the third-grade literature textbook is given with the following pictures:
Reading passage titled “Jihad” in literature textbook of third-grade
How do you think the C.I.A taught counting to the Afghan children? Here are some pages from the mathematics book:
First-grade mathematics textbook
Thanks to the mathematics textbook prepared by the Nebraska University, Afghan kids learn their numbers through pistols, bullets, knives, landmines and bombs. What an exemplary pedagogical approach!
Some examples given in the mathematics book about four modes of operation are given below:
If out of 10 atheists, 5 are killed by 1 Muslim, 5 would be left.
5 guns + 5 guns = 10 guns
15 bullets - 10 bullets = 5 bullets
One last example from fifth-grade literature arts textbook the text titled "Hikayat" starts with:
Dear students, I will recount the story of crimes committed by atheist Russians who invaded our lands due to the carelessness of a group of mujahideen. Listen carefully and comprehend the results of carelessness and indifference.
Once this situation was exposed and given US’s engagement in re-establishment of its hegemony with the “war on terror” concept, various projects were launched to remove the violence elements from these textbooks. UNICEF destroyed more half a million books and new textbooks were published. Yet, it is reported that the old textbooks are still used by the Taliban even if not by the central Afghan government and can be easily found even in Kabul.
JIHAD AS THE MODERN WEAPON OF IMPERIALISM
Naturally, this was not a project limited to Afghanistan. It is not mere coincidence that names of a series of Central Asian countries, the Region of Caucasia and Eastern Turkistan were mentioned after the recent assault to the Nightclub Reina. Similar “indoctrination” was implemented in all of these regions. It was spread to surrounding countries from Afghanistan and Pakistan, both of which are bombed today on a daily basis by the US in the pretext of “war on terror”.
This project had financial, political, humanitarian and social aspects and went out of control as the imperialist crisis was deepened. Today, it is completely out of hand. The imperialist power centers’ call for “war against Islamist terror”, which, as mentioned before, is but an attempt to re-establish their hegemony, should not be allowed to cover up this simple yet fundamental fact and history.
One should not look further than imperialist centers to spot the source point of jihad and jihadists and, in general, Islamism. U.S. journalist Ben Norton explains:
It is not a coincidence that most of the secular countries in the history of the Middle East have been socialist of some sort. In contrast, the most reactionary countries — the countries where women are not granted equal rights and where the rule of law is based on Sharia — have frequently tended to be close Western allies. Why? The West was much, much more interested in preserving capitalism than it was in allowing secularism, gender equality and relative economic equality to flourish under socialism.
Therefore, we can conclude that, even if the use of the adjective of “modern” seems oxymoronic, jihad and jihadists are both dirty weapons armed in very recent history of imperialism and unleashed to sustain capitalism.
(1) It is erroneously claimed that Reagan told his guest mujahideen “you are moral equivalents of our forefathers.” Reagan was actually referring to Nicaraguan Contras fighting against Sandinista.