Why jihadists ignore the ivory trade banOctober 6, 2013
It should not surprise us that terrorists who have no respect for human life have even less respect for the lives of animals, much less critically endangered ones.
A recent assessment of the Elephant Action League is that as much as 40 percent of al-Shabaab’s revenues come from the illegal trade in ivory (h/t Sal), which is driving rhinos and elephants closer toward extinction.
Why does al-Shabaab believe that it is permissible to profit from this dreadful business? It could be purely financial (like al-Shabaab’s hyena meat sales), but it’s worth examining how al-Shabaab’s leaders would justify behavior which, on its face, may appear to contradict passages of the Koran about treating animals gently.
One consideration is that whatever protections to animals that may be afforded under Islamic law can also be overridden in the in larger interests of profit and jihad—two topics which are the focus of far more Koranic verses than animal rights.
The Koran declares, “Allah hath allowed trade” (2:275), and sharia law provides protection to Muslim traders engaged in commerce. The prominent Islamic philosopher Imran Hosein says “we stand for a free and a fair market around the world.” Sanctions and embargos have been called “un-Islamic,” and has been suggested that Islam generally endorses free trade without restrictions on any merchandise other than goods which are specifically declared halal such as pork and wine.
Secondly, the Islamist ivory purveyors are unlikely to accept the concept of limiting their own lucrative trade to protect what they perceive to be abstract ecological interests imposed by international, secular law. Groups such as al-Shabaab may also reason, as have many other jihadists and their imams, that if the proceeds of illegal activity are used in the furtherance of Islam, then it is ultimately justifiable under Islamic law.
A final challenge to limiting the illegal wildlife trade is that terrorists and smugglers in Africa are often working for or with businessmen in Dubai. Although it is a signatory to the international convention against the international trade in endangered species, the UAE is a major enabler and broker for the exploitation of Africa’s natural resources, and is a hub for the global black market.