Fitna is not a word you most likely have heard or used before, but in the Arab-Muslim world they most assuredly know what fitna means. It is an Arabic word that can mean civil war. It can describe a disagreement or division within Islam. A trial of faith, secession, upheaval and anarchy can all be types of fitna.
If you take these definitions of fitna and then watch the evening news dealing with the middle-east, you will observe many great examples. When there is perceived extreme moral stress that would force a Muslim to compromise an element of their faith (such as letting women drive a car or not physically assaulting women for expressing an opinion) this can cause fitna. When a Muslim community is fragmented, as when Shiite Muslims are out blowing up Sunni Muslims, this might be considered fitna.
The problem with fitna is a believer can drop all pretense of rational thought and action and just go ballistic in speech and deed. Fitna creates an excuse to take any hostile action against friend or enemy, blame it on Allah’s will, and claim it to be a test of faith. We see so many examples of this in the TV media almost every day, we think it is normal in the Muslim world. One description of fitna is that it is the jihad (holy war) which returns as a boomerang and weakens the (Muslim) community.
Fitna is driven by irrational behavior. Behavior that allows Muslims to vent their anger without guilt or responsibility. Fitna has been described as obsessive fear in the Muslim community since Islam first existed. It is the irrational part that is maddening to the “west.” We know when our sons and daughters put on the uniform of the military that their lives are on the line. They may have a successful career defending our nation and retire at a rip old age. However, we also know they could be killed in the process.
The process, for us, is rational. The defenders go to school and get educated. They join their branch of service and are given some of the best military training in the world. They are outfitted with the latest state-of-the-art equipment. The leaders appointed above them make rational decisions about how these troops will be deployed.
Are mistakes made? Do our leaders mess up on occasion and get troops hurt or even killed? Yes they do, but these unfortunate situations are not the norm. Our culture and society would not allow our elected and appointed leaders to mindlessly waste valuable life.
I can remember hearing, as far back as my childhood, that life in Asia is cheap. I would suspect that for the man or woman on the ground in Asia trying to raise a family, life is not cheap. Life is hard and the senior leadership of many Asian countries does not help matters.
When it comes to the Muslim world, we in the west do not get it. In the Muslim Koran (8:39) it states “And fight with them until there is no more persecution (fitna) and religion should be only for Allah (Islam)”. What this means is in the Muslim world Allah (God) has directed them to continue the destructive fight with non-Muslim religions until they are destroyed or subjugated.
Imagine if the Methodists of the world decided to use death and destruction to force all the religions of the world to become Methodists and only Methodists. "Come on, that is irrational," you'd say. The west, and specifically the US, is rational. They are not going to allow an American style fitna to perpetually disrupt our society.
There is the problem. The Muslim world, and not just the extremist Muslim world, always expects the US to be the rational one. We are the constant they can depend on in their world of irrational behavior. Iran can act as irrational as they want about their nuclear weapons development program, but the west better not act irrationally and attack any of their facilities. Remember, under the Koran you fight and destroy all that does not bow to Allah. Do you believe that Iran will be rational when it gets its own nuclear weapon? Think of the fitna they can create with a nuclear bomb. Can Israel afford to ignore fitna when Iran gets a nuclear weapon?
Copyright 2008 by Major Van Harl, USAF Ret. All rights reserved.