No Historical Right to Territory in Islam


What I found interesting about this interview with a leading Syrian opposition leader wasn’t the tentative suggestion that peace could be made with Israel. That means very little. It was his argument for doing so that is more relevant.

Interviewer: But this peace at our expense. You talk with such sympathy to Israel… Israel occupied land that does not belong to it.

Kamal Al-Labwani: That’s true. But so did Germany. We too massacred one another. We too massacred one another. When we conquered Homs, we drove its people out. What the Lebanese are doing…

Interviewer: Does one crime justify another?

Kamal Al-Labwani: Such is life, such is history. This is a people that fled persecution and the Holocaust, and came to this region. They were exploited by colonialism, which prevented them from going anywhere else. We have not dealt with the issue rationally. Let me tell you, it is in our interest today to engage in a peace process. Instead of letting the displaced Palestinians continue to suffer…

Interviewer: Even if the [Jewish] people were displaced and suffered, they found their peace and quiet by conquering the land of other people…

Kamal Al-Labwani: True, but the Arabs had also come and conquered this land. Such is history. People never stay put. The Armenians came, the Circassians, came, the Turks left, and the Ottoman Turks came, and now the Safavids are coming… “The land belongs to Allah, and He gives it to whoever He wills of his servants.” Nobody has a historical right to a piece of land. Historical right is a Nazi, racist, French, German concept, which has caused problems all over the world.
“He gives the land to whomever He will of His servants.” After 40 years, the statute of limitation applies to all these crimes. A person who was born in Israel and whose parents came and did all those things – are you going to hold him responsible for what his forefathers did? Long ago, the Sunnis and Shiites had a dispute, and eventually Hussein was killed. Am I supposed to pay the price today? Does that make any sense?

Al-Labwani’s description of historical right to territory as a racist European concept is revealing. Indeed he is quite correct from the Islamic standpoint. The Arab conquests are based on a nomadic viewpoint in which there is no historical right to territory and in which collections of tribes, sometimes even multi-religious and multicultural, co-exist within a territory without borders.

The Arab Palestinian claims to the land aren’t just absurd because they’re ahistorical, but because it’s not even a concept that they actually believe in. If they did believe in it, they would respect the rights of the indigenous Jewish people.

Muslims became expert at couching their arguments in terms that their target audience found compelling. So they became nationalists because it was convenient. The PLO was set up, not to fight for a Palestinian state, but to reclaim Israel for Greater Syria. Hamas isn’t really interested in a Palestinian State. It dreams of a Caliphate.

Even the Palestinian Authority is not all that interested in statehood. It wants international recognition, but it doesn’t want to set borders or really run things.

Notably in the Koran, Allah gave Israel to the Jews, but the Islamic conquests made any previous territorial grants to non-Muslims null and void.

Muslims are entitled to all the land they can conquer. That’s the basis of their claim to Israel.

  • SoCalMike

    It’s both fascinating and frustrating watching and listening to senior officialdom deny the nature and identity of the war we are in and who declared it.
    They don’t even like acknowledging we are in war but when they are forced to, they call it a war on extremism and extremists.
    Suitably vague to mean anyone the duplicitous speakers mean so in this way, they assign an equal value to jihadis, Christians, American soldiers returning home, old ladies from Nebraska, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists.
    The CoExist bumper sticker at the mind set and policy level.

    • kikorikid

      Did I hear you think,”Totalitarian”.
      Yes, everybody will undergo oppression
      but the real transgressors.(sp)
      This has been Obamas forte.
      Always shoot the messenger.
      Blame the Victim.
      Lie often.
      Deny all.
      No culpability for anything.
      Forward, Achtung, Seig Heil, etc…

  • ghanburighan

    I am startled to find myself in agreement with Al-Labwani’s statements. Of course, that also means that self-defense is equally legitimate. For if there is no historical moral right to possession of land, and the ability to conquer or to resist invaders confers the right to it, then as invasion and conquest are legitimate tools of a people, so too is the right to self-defense, and not only reactive self-defense, but such a one that seeks to totally eliminate the capacity of the erstwhile conqueror to conquer.

    Since the Palestinians have developed to an art form the tactic of playing themselves as victims to the nasty Jews, I can only presume that Al-Labwani was not expecting to have his statements published so broadly.

  • objectivefactsmatter

    “Muslims became expert at couching their arguments in terms that their target audience found compelling. So they became nationalists because it was convenient. The PLO was set up, not to fight for a Palestinian state, but to reclaim Israel for Greater Syria. Hamas isn’t really interested in a Palestinian State. It dreams of a Caliphate.”

    It’s not like they didn’t have the Soviets to help them come up with agitation propaganda, not to mention material support for early militancy. OTOH they wanted to fight but would have been easier to recognize and put down without Soviet paternalistic support. It would not surprise me at all to find out the Russians heavily involved still in various “anti-colonial” projects.

    • Drakken

      The Russians are feeding the savages arms to kill each other, not giving them tech support to take over.

      • objectivefactsmatter

        I understand. Actually the Russians really depend on the USA to play its role. Russia can’t be America. If Russia goes against our interests these days, there’s a good chance it’s because we’ve dropped the ball.

        But after we drop the ball, and they do attack our interests, I don’t see any use in pretending that they’re not. I agree it’s our fault but that’s no reason to sit around and shrug our shoulders. We need to pick up the ball so to speak, which does not mean we must attack Russia but it does mean we need to start defending our global interests coherently.

  • Jakareh

    Very interesting. Based on this, if I were the CEO of a big corporation, instead of begging the Al-Sauds for crumbs, I’d form a mercenary army and take over Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Region (where nearly all the oil is). In the Free State of Exxon-Mobilia, all religions would be permitted except Islam; the phrases “global warming” and “carbon footprint” would be banned under penalty of banishment; and every car would be required to have at least a V8 engine.

    • kikorikid

      Now we’re talkin!

    • Drakken

      You are not to far off, since Uncle Sam is pulling out of everywhere, corporations are using us contractors to protect their assets.

  • E Plobnista

    So is he saying that Muslims have no historical rights to any territory?

    • kikorikid

      Where Islam is/was is ALWAYS Islam.
      Awkward wording but currently the Islamist
      are crying to return to “Andalusia”, Spain under
      Moorish conquest. Spaniards are saying NO!
      We’ll see how Spain handles this.

      • Drakken

        Ole Franco would have had a field day the first time the muslims said this nonsense.

        • E Plobnista

          Franco was allies with Muslims and used Muslim troops against the Republicans.

      • E Plobnista

        That’s called claiming historical rights