Dr. Walid Phares
Love v. Jihadism: Valentine's Enflame the Middle
February 15, 2009
On Valentine's Day, it's important to note the emergence of an eternally
verified reality: Love is the strongest human force fighting against
terrorism and jihad.
"Al Gharam mamn’uh, al Gharam kufr," screamed the self-declared cleric
in al-Ansar’s chat room this Friday. "Love is forbidden, love is
infidel” -- said the online fatwa about the "legitimacy of loving and
being in love.”
A weekend before Valentine's Day, jihadist souls were not questioning
the "commercialization” of romance, but inquiring about the ban on
"being in love.” The "scholars” said human love is evil. The simple
feeling of being attracted to or in love with someone is a terrifying
sin if it is committed outside of their religious dogma -- and it
warrants serious punishment.
"Al Hub” (basic love) -- said one of the scholars online -- "is not
permissible outside commitment to Jihad.” The subject of romantic love
was new and overwhelming to the al-Qaeda sympathizers, who were busy
dodging the "decadent feeling.” But it was too close chronologically,
too well publicized, and too difficult to escape on the web.
Suddenly, a marquee rolled an ad for Valentine's Day in the room. The
room shouted its objections, but the ideologue could not ignore reality.
"Sometimes we’ll have to absorb our reaction and control ourselves. This
Valentine Day is a dark day, it is poison, but by the will of Allah when
the Caliphate will be established, Valentine will be smashed.”
But there was a concern: Valentines is "ravaging” the region, including
under the most restrictive regimes. They are right to worry: the battle
for love is as wide as the call for jihad.
In Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, girls were severely punished for not
being escorted by male relatives, or for not wearing burqas. Chatting
with someone from the other gender was a crime. Movies, mixed-schools,
radios, music, and poetry were banned. Valentine's Day in Kabul was
equated to Satan.
In Saudi Arabia, women still can’t drive or vote, much less date.
Valentine's Day is illegal. In Iran, high school girls cannot hold hands
with their boyfriends. Imitations exist in Iraq’s Salafi and Sadrist
enclaves and in Beirut’s Hezbollah suburb.
But the revolution is rising. The "love guerrillas" are spreading on the
street and on the internet. In liberated Afghanistan, transistor radios
air love songs. In Iran, boys and girls have waged the revolt of
"kissing in public.” Tracked by the militia, the teenagers perform the
In Kuwait, tactics are evolving. In this oil-rich state, young Arabs buy
two cell phones, and as they see the beloved driving by, they throw one
of the mobiles in her car; then the telephonic romance can begin.
In West Jerusalem, young Palestinians who want to stroll freely with
their girlfriends, walk up the Yehuda street speaking Hebrew. In Egypt,
soap operas compete with their Mexican counterparts. Love warfare has
become the boldest threat that can roll back jihad.
On the internet, Arab, Persian, Kurdish, Aramaic, and other love and
music chat rooms attract ten times the al-Ansar-crowded rooms. There,
you read and hear discussions of love; they seek, not decadence, but the
early stages of a romantic revolution.
Lebanon’s TV has taken the freedom for love to sophisticated artistic
expressions. With shows seen by millions, the LBCI has been shaking off
the fundamentalist quarters of the region. On al Jazeera, clerics are
horrified by the scenes. Their deepest nightmare is to see young Saudi
men singing the beauty of human love, while their jihadist counterparts
are assassinating young Iraqi women for not wearing the hijab.
This region has a massive and underreported potential to become a
culture of romantic passion. We must remember that Adonis and Ashtarut,
antiquity’s gods of love, were Phoenician legends. Cleopatra was an
Egyptian Queen. The lovers of pre-Islamic Arabia, Antar and Ablah, were
the precursors of Romeo and Juliet. And that the Sherazade of the one
thousand and one nights and Omar the hopeless romantic were Persians.
From the twentieth century, let’s remember that Um Kalthum, the voice
from Egypt, Said Akl, the poet from Lebanon, and Khalid, the rock singer
from Algeria, have sculpted love in the hearts and minds of hundreds of
millions of these people.
The B-52s may have been successful in Tora Bora, but Music Channels and
internet are triggering deeper instincts.
The followers of love have no weapon except human nature; it is the only
one they need. Valentine's Day may be infidel in the eyes of the
jihadists, but it has many more faithful followers among the peoples of
this unlucky region. The terrorists are not intimidated by death, but
they are terrorized by love.
About Dr. Walid Phares
Dr. Walid Phares is the Director of Future Terrorism
Project at the Foundation for the
Democracies in Washington, a visiting scholar at the European Foundation
for Democracy and the author of the War of Ideas. Dr. Phares was one of the
architects of UNSCR 1559. He is also a Professor of Middle East
Studies at Florida Atlantic University and a contributing expert to FOX News.
Dr. Phares teaches Global Strategies at the National Defense
University. Professor Phares’
is the author of two critical books on the Islamofascist threat to Western
Civilization, "Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against the West”
and "The War of Ideas: Jihadism