Boreal

The Major

As I have been doing for more than twenty years now, every summer I spend a weekend at a neighbour’s cottage on Lac Simon, one of the few remaining pristine lakes less than a two hours drive from Ottawa.

A reception, to which I was invited, was held at a neighbouring cottage. It was a large get-together with perhaps more than twenty people I had never met. A guess who had read Pain, Pleasure and Prejudice came over to me and said there was someone I should talk to.

The man to whom she introduced me was a major in the Canadian Armed Forces who had recently returned from another tour of duty in Afghanistan. She introduced me as a person who had written a book on the Koran.

After shaking hands and introducing myself, I quickly added that it was a self-published book. I never want to leave the impression that I am a published author in the traditional sense.

Anticipating his first question, the question I am most often asked, I told him, in so many words, that I had decided to write a book on the Koran that anyone with a high school education could read and understand because I thought it was important that Canadians know what motivates Al-Qaida, the Taliban and those who would impose Islam on the rest of us by force.

During our conversation he acknowledged that not only ordinary Canadians should be more familiar with the Koran but that the military should teach less Clausewitz and more Koran (and I might add the sayings of the Prophet) if we hope to better counter the tactics of the Taliban and be trusted by the people we are trying to help.

Carl von Clausewitz [1780-1831] was a Prussian General and author of On War, what conventional military types consider the definitive instruction manual on modern warfare. I remember him from a history course as the guy who said that war was an extension of diplomacy, or more exactly "the continuation of policy by other means." He also argued the merits of defensive warfare.

He asked if I was familiar with the verse about terrorizing your enemy. I said I was, assuming he was referring to verse 8:12 “And when your Lord revealed to the angels: ‘I am with you; so support those who believe. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve; so strike upon the necks and strike every fingertip of theirs…’ or perhaps verse 8:60 “And make ready for them whatever you can of fighting men and horses, to terrify thereby the enemies of Allah and your enemy, as well as others besides them whom you do not know, but Allah knows well…”

I was initially taken aback. I have had a number of military officers as neighbours and friends over the years and built a small non-classified software application for the military in Ottawa. All of the officers I got to know as friends and clients were ignorant of the message of the Koran. Like most Canadians I talk to about the Koran, they believed it to be liked the Bible, so why bother.

The Major agreed that the Koran was not like the Bible at all.

I could not help myself. Was he familiar with the Verse of the Sword (verse 9:5) the verse about killing unbelievers wherever you find them unless they accept Islam?

Of course he was!

What about its complement, the verse of the Covenant (verse 9:111 Salvific Covenant) “do this for me (kill the unbelievers) and I will give you Paradise”?

He was familiar with that one too.

I was on a roll and may have gotten carried away. What about the verse on not negotiating with your enemies while you have the upper hand (47:35 “So do not weaken and call for peace, while you have the upper hand and Allah is with you. He will not stint you your actions.”)

Not only was he familiar with it, I believe he quoted a portion if it.

I apologized for badgering him that way, but I was so impressed. I asked him if I should write the commandant of the RMC (Royal Military College, Kingston) about making my book part of the officers’ curriculum. He said it could not hurt, that you could not have enough information about your opponent.

During our conversation we talked about how the current Islamic insurgence is just another manifestation of orthodox Islam’s inexorable struggle dating back to the time of the Prophet to create a world-wide Caliphate –  one all-powerful leader in the style of the Prophet Muhammad, one religion and a rule of law based on the Koran and the sayings and actions of Allah’s last Messenger.

He promised to visit my website. I mentioned that Riyadh was a regular visitor and Peshawar (Taliban dominated region of Pakistan) an occasional one. He said something about this not necessarily being a good thing.

The risk I was taking from the comfort of my home was nothing compared to the risk he and others like him were taking to safeguard our way of life and our values. It was the least I could do, that the life I was exposing to a small risk was a life lived, a life the young people who die fighting for me and the vulnerable people of Afghanistan would never know, and I told him so before we parted company.

There were other military personnel at this gathering including a woman who also had recently served in Afghanistan. Looking at her reminded me of Master Cpl. Kristal Giesebrecht, 34 who was killed on June 26 along with Pvt. Andrew Miller, 21 while rushing to defuse a mine found in the doorway of a home.

The woman who had introduced me to the Major now wanted me to talk to her, but I couldn’t, and it was not only because of the sudden sadness in remembering the loss of a life in the service of others in a forlorn struggle in a strange land. She was enjoying herself, why spoil it.

Bernard Payeur July 21, 2010