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Ceasefires in Islam: Not Always What They Seem to Be


May 5, 2008
By Frank Salvato

It seems as though every other day we hear there is another “ceasefire” in the Middle East. This is chiefly because there is so much violent Islamofascist aggression throughout the Middle East but it is also because of something more. Just as there is no exact translation between the Arabic and English languages, we in the West would be wise to realize that this “inexactness” exists as a constant in the relationship between the cultures of Islam and Western Civilization. This convolution of conceptual understanding is aptly illustrated where the subject of military ceasefires is concerned.
In the West, a ceasefire is commonly understood to mean a temporary cessation of violence or hostilities for an agreed time period or within a defined geographical area. In many cases, ceasefires have been instituted to facilitate negotiations that produced an armistice, peace treaty or unconditional surrender. Regardless of the goal – achieved or sought – in most every ceasefire agreement the terms and conditions are clearly defined so that each side has a clear understanding of what is required and what is to be considered a breach of contract, as it were.

To say that we in the West are engaged in a clash of civilizations with the fundamentalist Islamic culture would be a fair statement. Hundreds if not thousands of radical jihadist groups are mounting a violent global offensive against Western Civilization in a third attempt at establishing a global Caliphate. This contention is validated by history and we need only be good students of events passed to understand it.

While many hold the common misconception that the conflict with radical Islam started with the attacks of September 11, 2001, the reality is that radical Islam’s current confrontation with the West started in 1983 with Hezbollah’s bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon. Lesser understood is that this conflict is but the third bloody expedition in the quest for a global Caliphate; the first coming in the aftermath of Muhammad’s death in the 7th Century and the second occurring in the 11th Century, spanning the years 1071 to 1683 AD – an aggression that lasted 612 years, almost three times as long as the United States has been a country.

Three aspects of this conflict which we in the West are delinquent in understanding – and there are many others – are in defining the enemy, understanding the culture in which they are generated and familiarizing ourselves with their tools and tactics.

Many among us believe that by simply familiarizing ourselves with Islam’s religious text we will understand the Muslim dichotomy with the West. This idea demonstrates the naivety of many because it is a fact that to read the Quran without reading it in tandem and in context with the Hadith is an exercise in wasted time. In fact, few understand that the Quran wasn’t written in chronological order or that it wasn’t “written” by Muhammad, but by his “companions.” Further, many don’t comprehend that the text itself wasn’t compiled until after Muhammad’s death.

This being said, if the majority of us in the West haven’t even taken the time to understand the genesis of this aggressive ideology, how can we dare believe we have acquainted ourselves thoroughly enough with their culture, tools and tactics to have constructed a working understanding of how to defeat their aggression?

In any conflict there is a beginning and what is tantamount to an end, at least in Western culture. But in Islamic culture – and in jihadi culture especially – there are variations on a conflicts beginnings and ends; on ceasefires, armistices and peace treaties.

Where we in the West understand the idea of a basics ceasefire, in Islamic culture – in jihadi culture – there are two variants: tahadiya and houdna.

A tahadiya is roughly defined as a temporary cessation of violence that can be ended at any time for any reason. To employ tahadiya is to employ a tactic that allows for a brief “lull” in fighting for a number of reasons: to rearm, to fortify, as a military tactic or to acquire greater troop strength or a better vantage point.

A perfect example of tahadiya comes in the form of a statement made by Damascus-based Hamas Chief, Khaled Mashaal, who recently met with Jimmy Carter:

"It is a tactic in conducting the struggle...It is normal for any resistance that operates in its people's interest...to sometimes escalate, other times retreat a bit...The battle is to be run this way, and Hamas is known for that."

As any Israeli can attest, the calm that comes in conjunction with tahadiya is a pensive and cautious calm at best. During tahadiya, one must be prepared for a resurgence of aggression at any moment.

The pensive peace of tahadiya stands in contrast to the more stable cessation of violence achieved in a houdna.

Ahmed Youssef, a senior advisor to Hamas leader Ismail Haniya described a houdna this way:

“A truce is called in Arabic ‘houdna.’ Covering ten years, it is recognized by the Muslim jurisprudence as an agreement both legitimate and binding. A houdna goes beyond the western concept of a cease-fire and forced the parties to use this period to seek a lasting resolution and nonviolent their differences. The Koran is a great merit in these efforts to promote understanding among peoples. As the war dehumanizes the enemy and make it easier killing, the houdna provides an opportunity to humanize the opponents and understand their position with the purpose of resolving disputes that they are inter-tribal or international.“

This would all sound very honorable if not existing in tandem with other genocidal and apocalyptic tenets held within radical, fundamentalist Islam. A simple examination of Sunni Islam’s Wahhabi ideology or a fundamental understanding of al taqiyya compromises the sincerity of the concept of houdna, especially at the tongue of Hamas or any other aggressive faction of the fundamentalist Islamic culture.

Where the Western concept of ceasefire and the Islamic concepts of tahadiya and houdna intersect, a blogger named Chaim Grosz, in response to an article in Haaretz titled In the Heart of Palestinian Consensus by Danny Rubinstein may have said it best:

“Since the believers of the Islamic ideology consider Islam timeless, a houdna for a thousand years is acceptable...but the right to reignite the jihad at any time is predicated upon the belief that such a battle can be won and the lands ‘occupied by the infidels’ reverted back to Islamic rule.”

With the recent White House directive instructing all Executive Branch governmental agencies to refrain from using accurate, fact-based terminology when referring to radical Islam and its aggressive action, with our government’s refusal to educate the people on the issue while opting to institute politically correct policy, our government has sent a signal that they are ill-prepared for the encroachment of this violent and aggressive ideology within the United States.

In light of this it would appear that the responsibility and the urgency of educating ourselves about those who would enslave the West to Sharia Law has grown exponentially. We can no longer abdicate our responsibility to be learned about the issue of radical, aggressive Islamofascism. To fail in understanding this aggressive culture is to gamble with our lives and the lives of future generations.

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Frank Salvato is the Executive Director and Director of Terrorism Research for Basics Project a non-partisan, 501(C)(3) research and education initiative. His writing has been recognized by the US House International Relations Committee and the Japan Center for Conflict Prevention.
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