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Press Release
February 4, 2014

Leading Muslim scholars back new Henry Jackson Society report countering jihadism

by
Henry Jackson Society

Report demonstrates that an understanding of the theology of extremism is required in order to defeat it 

Leading Muslim scholars – including one from al-Azhar in Cairo, Sunni Islam’s highest religious authority – have endorsed the Henry Jackson Society’s new report, A Guide to Refuting Jihadism, the first English-language handbook to comprehensively debunk the theological basis of jihadist aims and methods.

The killing of Fusilier Lee Rigby last year was a shocking reminder of the threat posed by violent extremism at home as well as abroad. Jihadist groups offer theological reasoning in support of their political ideology and violent activities.

By demonstrating that these arguments are not based on traditionally recognised interpretations of classical Islamic sources, A Guide to Refuting Jihadism provides a scripturally sound counter-narrative to al-Qaeda and like-minded groups.

The report examines the Islamist division of the world into Dar al-Islam (‘lands of Islam’) and Dar al-Harb (‘lands of war’) and counters key jihadist tenets, including: re-conquering Islamic lands; rejecting peaceful relations; and re-establishing the Caliphate.

A Guide to Refuting Jihadism also demonstrates the prohibition on jihadist methods, including: non-state actors declaring jihad; jihad for conversion or domination; targeting non-combatants; suicide operations; and treachery towards one’s country.

In his foreword, al-Azhar’s Sheikh Khalid Abdul Aziz Omran calls the report, ‘an ambitious effort to understand the issue according to enlightened Sunni Islamic jurisprudence’.

Sheikh Dr Usama Hasan, a former participant in jihad in Afghanistan in the early nineties who today works at a counter-extremism think-tank the Quilliam Foundation, writes that it is a ‘welcome and much-needed contribution to the worldwide debate’.

Experts have also stressed that the UK government must use the report to understand how extremist groups have co-opted Islamic scripture and interpreted it to justify their vision of Islam. Extremism expert at ETH Zurich, Lorenzo Vidinio, says it ‘should be mandatory reading for any government seeking to counter the recruitment drive of jihadist organisations’. The British government has welcomed the report, with the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism at the Home Office planning to include it in their de-radicalisation work.

The rollout of the project has been assisted by a partnership with the European Foundation for Democracy for the printing and distribution of the report to the Muslim community, and its dissemination is being accompanied by events where the authors and Muslim groups will discuss both the reprot’s findings and the wider issues they raise.

The report was launched in the UK Parliament on Tuesday 4 February 2014 at an event hosted by Jim Fitzpatrick MP, with co-authors Rashad Ali and Hannah Stuart speaking with Sheikh Dr Usama Hasan.

Download the executive summary here

Download the full report here