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Whether the attack on Libya proves to be a successful exercise in humanitarian war-making a la Bosnia or another incursion into Middle Eastern quicksand, it raises an interesting question for the theology of jihad. Unlike our wars to overthrow regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in contrast to the largely peaceful protests taking place in other Muslim countries, here the intervention has come in the midst of a civil war, in which many Libyans took up arms to overthrow their dictatorial ruler–a man who in recent years has claimed to be a great opponent of Islamism. After the tide of battle turned, and they were threatened with imminent defeat, they called on the West for help. And so did the Arab League. And help has now arrived.
So where does this leave those who believe that jihad–armed struggle–must be be waged against non-Muslims when they attack Muslims in Muslim lands? This would seem to be a great opportunity for Yasir Qadhi, the sometime Salafi profiled by Andrea Elliott in a fascinating piece in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine entitled, “Why Yasir Qadhi Wants to Talk About Jihad.” But so far, at least on his website, Muslim Matters, Qadhi’s had nothing to say (other than to express the wish that the article had focused on something else). In that, he parallels the rest of the Arab world. Maybe they’re trying to think this one through.