ICEJ NEWS - 09/19/2001
The massive catastrophe wrought by Muslim suicide terrorists in New York and Washington on September 11 has served as a "wake up" call to the United States and other Western democracies to a lurking global menace, yet few understand the radical Islamic theology that has been spawning hatred, conflicts and human missiles for decades. The American-led effort to eradicate this evil hinges largely on isolating the terrorist support network hiding among the world's one billion Muslims and preventing it from recruiting others to their ruinous cause - an incredibly tall task at this late stage.
Western leaders and mainstream media share much of the blame for the ignorance of many worldwide as to the ambitions of the ever expanding alliance of Islamic elements bent on conquering the world for their god, Allah. This despite the fact that America has been singled out for repeated attack by Muslim militants ever since the Islamic revolution swept Iran in 1979. The overthrow of the pro-Western Shah of Iran and the triumphal rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini provide a good starting point for reviewing the modern resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism and its holy war against "infidel" nations.
A. THE RISE OF FUNDAMENTALISM:
Like many Muslim radicals who openly live in free Western societies even to this day, Khomeini sparked his revolution from exile in Paris, distributing cassettes of his fiercely anti-American sermons back to Iran's Shi'ite Muslim majority. He arose as the most prominent voice from a fanatical school of clerics based at Khom in Iran, which also had a sister Shi'ite seminary near Basra, in southern Iraq. Though the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt had advocated similar ideas since the 1930s, Khomeini more than anyone else popularized a unique strain of theology that has now emerged as the ascendant brand of Islam - fundamentalism.
At the time, the Arab/Islamic world had been repeatedly humiliated on the battlefield by tiny Israel, seen as a "cancerous" Western implant in the midst of the Islamic crescent - stretching all the way from Morocco to Pakistan and beyond. In addition, Iran and many other Muslim states were ruled by "corrupt" pro-Western regimes, which were permitting an intolerable invasion of foreign cultural influences.
Khomeini explained to fellow Muslims that they were being disgraced because they had displeased Allah by their lax observance of Islam. The answer, he preached, was to return to the basics or fundamentals of the faith. This included strict adherence to such core Islamic tenets as the call to prayer five times a day, the hajj to Mecca once in a lifetime, the fast of Ramadan, and of course the obligation to engage in jihad.
This line of thinking taught that renewed faithfulness to the religion of the Koran would win Allah's favor and would begin to reverse the string of Muslim setbacks in the Middle East. An important sign of Allah's blessing on their endeavors, they submitted, would be the "liberation" of Jerusalem and Palestine from the "Zionists."
The Ayatollah returned home to Iran in triumph in the midst of the violent overthrow of the Shah, a revolution that also saw hundreds of Americans held hostage at the US Embassy in Tehran for some 440 days.
B. SPREADING THE REVOLUTION:
Once in power, the radical Iranian mullahs began exporting their revolution to other nations, with particular success in Sudan, Algeria and among the Shi'ites of war-torn Lebanon. Pro-Iran militants assassinated Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat in 1981 for signing a peace treaty with Israel after the US-brokered Camp David accords. Not long after, Tehran's proxy militia Hizb'Allah pioneered the use of suicide bombers in deadly attacks on American and French forces and nationals in Beirut.
In the 1980s, Muslim extremists from many lands were also volunteering as mercenaries to fight the jihad against Soviet forces in Afghanistan. Among these holy warriors was one Osama bin Laden, a wealthy Saudi who eschewed his life of luxury for rugged trench warfare. Fellow fighters described him as "fearless," engaging in hand-to-hand combat with an almost mystical zeal. Bin Laden used his vast fortune - still valued at over $300 million - to recruit and train other Muslim warriors, including a contingent of some 5,000 Palestinians that saw action in Afghanistan.
Palestinian terrorist factions - though still speaking the Marxist-Leninist rhetoric of their Kremlin patrons - began to be influenced by Islamic fundamentalism. With the outbreak of the first intifada in late 1987, Hamas and Islamic Jihad quickly surfaced among militant Sunni Muslims in Gaza. Though widely viewed during the Oslo peace process as a more dangerous alternative to PLO chief Yasser Arafat, these groups have found safe haven within Arafat's fiefdom, from where they have been allowed to carry out a horrific wave of suicide bombings inside Israel. And in his infamous speech in a Johannesburg mosque in 1995, Arafat himself appealed for all Muslims to join his jihad for Jerusalem, revealing an even more chilling side to the PLO leader's true agenda.
Elsewhere, Muslim fundamentalists have waged insurgencies in an array of countries throughout the 1990s. Afghan-style mercenary armies have joined local Islamic militias in the Balkan states of Bosnia, Kosovo and now Macedonia, as well as in Kashmir and Chechnya. Fundamentalist ideology fuels separatist conflicts in the scattered islands of the Philippines and Indonesia, and in the hinterland provinces of China. For years, the Iranian-backed hard-line regime in Khartoum has been slaughtering and enslaving thousands of black Christians and animists in southern Sudan. And in the past week alone, another 500 people have died in Muslim attacks on Christians in Nigeria.
In the bloodiest of all such conflicts, Muslim fundamentalists in Algeria have waged a brutal uprising that has left hundreds of thousands dead ever since they swept national democratic elections nearly a decade ago, only to be denied power by the military-backed ruling regime.
Like Algeria, Pakistan has nuclear capabilities and thus is also a coveted prize for the fundamentalists. Northern Pakistan is dotted with indoctrination and training camps for the Taliban and for Muslims fighting against Indian forces in Kashmir. When the fundamentalists were poised to seize power in Pakistan not long ago, a military coup set up an emergency secular government under General Pervez Musharraf. Current appeals from Washington for Islamabad to join the anti-terror coalition in formation will test the ability of Pakistan's army to retain its increasingly unpopular hold over the country.
C. TARGETING THE WEST:
Meanwhile, a myriad of Islamic terrorist groups have sprung up over the years intent on taking the battle to Israel and the West. This constellation of terror conducts state-sponsored intelligence activities and runs military training camps, all with the assistance of Muslim diplomats, financiers and technological experts. They maintain support bases and recruiting centers in dozens of countries, with hundreds of interlocking yet compartmentalized cells of hard-core activists who easily move across borders and blend in with growing Muslim communities in European and American cities.
Among their list of notorious achievements in the past decade is the bombings of Israeli and Jewish targets in Argentina; the car bombing aimed at toppling the World Trade Center in New York in 1992; the bombing of US troops in the Khobar towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996; the simultaneous bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998; and the suicide attack by an explosives-laden rubber dingy on the USS Cole in Yemen last fall. Spectacular terror attacks planned in Jordan and the US to disrupt gala Millennium celebrations were averted by timely intelligence and alert security.
Bin Laden has been linked in some way to most of these more recent operations, and is the "prime suspect" in last week's suicidal hijackings that destroyed the twin towers of the World Trade Center and ripped a gaping hole in the Pentagon, leaving some 5,800 people dead at latest estimate. US federal authorities remain baffled at how the 19 suicidal air pirates recruited from among the secretive hydra of Islamic terrorist factions were able to infiltrate into the US over several years, take flight training lessons in numerous states and slip on board four airliners at the same time - all without being detected. The logistics of such a well-coordinated operation suggests state sponsorship as well, with Iraq being the main suspect, according to Israeli intelligence sources.
D: COLLECTIVE HATRED:
With the outbreak of the violent Palestinian intifada last September, anti-Israel sentiment has boiled over in the Arab/Islamic world, with many angry at the inaction of their own governments and at Washington's perceived favoritism toward Israel. Hizb'Allah and bin Laden's group Al Qaida have sought to fill the void left by Arab rulers by smuggling weapons and operatives into Palestinian territories to join the battle. Meanwhile, the full gamut of Islamic terrorist organizations put aside their differences and gathered in Beirut last February and again in Tehran in April to chart a common strategy for waging war against Israel and her chief backer - America.
These groups have been able to coalesce because they share a common goal, imposing strict Islamic shari'a law in countries with Muslim majorities and waging jihad against the rest of the world until it too is conquered for Allah.
Islam is a territorial religion and divides the world into two basic camps: "Dar al-Islam" [House of Islam] consists of all lands were Islam has prevailed at one time or another, and "Dar al-Harb" [House of War] is all other unconquered lands where jihad must eventually be waged.
The fundamentalists teach that it is the duty of every able Muslim to join the holy struggle to win back parts of the House of Islam that have been lost over the centuries, including present-day Israel, the Iberian peninsula [Spain and Portugal], and large parts of southeastern Europe up to Vienna. This explains many of the raging conflicts discussed earlier.
The fundamentalists also promote the idea of a promised renewed golden age of Islam, when the faith of Mohammad will rule the entire world. Many Muslims await a modern-day pan-Islamic figure - a new "caliph" - to lead this battle against the infidel nations. It appears that the late Khomeini, Saddam Hussein, bin Laden, and even Arafat have aspired to claim this mantle at various times by their decrees of jihad against their respective enemies.
This common agenda has been aided of late by a series of fatwas, or religious decrees, by leading Muslim clerics declaring that suicide attacks are an acceptable form of jihad, that the US is an appropriate target for assaults, and - in a very recent ruling - that any Muslim who cooperates with non-Muslim intelligence agencies is an apostate worthy of death.
E. THE RECRUITING WAR IS ON:
In the wake of the devastating suicide attacks last week, US President George W. Bush has joined those urging that care be taken in not labeling all Arabs and Muslims as terrorists. "These acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith," Bush said this week. "The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace."
While this may seem a fair statement, it is hard to ignore the many public and vocal expressions of outright joy by many ordinary Arabs and Muslims worldwide over the enormous death toll in New York and Washington. And each Muslim must now be viewed as a potential conscript of the fundamentalists.
We all watch in horror each time our television sets replay the explosions in the World Trade Center towers, the scenes of people leaping from the flames to their certain deaths, and the ultimate collapse of these mighty symbols of American pride and progress. But to the fundamentalists, this same footage is a recruiting bonanza, a spectacular success that will be replayed again and again to win more followers to their hostile agenda.
There are many reasons being cited for the build-up of Arab and Islamic resentment against the US, including: the UN sanctions and allied bombing raids in Iraq; Washington's military and diplomatic support for Israel vis-a-vis the Palestinians; US protection of corrupt pro-Western regimes in the region; and the presence of "infidel" US troops on the "holy soil" of Saudi Arabia.
Yet this list of grievances must not be allowed to hide the real root cause of the alarming level of anti-American hatred, which lies in Islamic fundamentalist theology and its vision of world conquest. Militant Muslim leaders view America as the main impediment to their quest to spread Islam throughout the entire world through jihad. Thus, the US is widely presented as the "Great Satan" which must be defeated in battle.
Many voices in the Arab/Islamic world have defended the attacks as a justified response to American support for the "Little Satan" - Israel. Sacrifice Israel, this line of thinking goes, and America will no longer be a target.
Yet such a course of action will only have the opposite effect. Any step or measure at this time in which the US appears to distance itself from its democratic ally Israel will be interpreted by Muslim extremists as an achievement in their terror campaign. Rendering Israel and Jerusalem more vulnerable will only fuel radical Muslim thinking that their dreams of world conquest are one step closer, and enhance their ability to draft the masses of ordinary Muslims to their cause.