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The Globalization of Jihad: From Islamist Resistance to War Against the West

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The Globalization of Jihad: From Islamist Resistance to War Against the West
The Jihadist Network Today
Jihad and Class War
Islam and Democracy
The Cartoons
A Clash of Civilizations
The Solution
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(2006) During the Cold War, the world was divided into two camps: one aligned with the United States, the other aligned with the Soviet Union. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, America emerged as the sole superpower. But another camp is again emerging to challenge the United States and its allies. It is not a great superpower like the Soviet Union, but a loose coalition of forces united by a common opposition to the United States and its policies.

Islamist groups like al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood are part of this movement against the United States, but it is neither a religious movement, nor one comprised of Muslims alone. Today, these groups are increasingly making common cause with anti-U.S. forces in Latin America and elsewhere. They are rethinking their rhetoric to appeal to a broader audience at home and their new allies abroad.

Today, Hamas is extending its hand to the Russians. The Iranians are reaching out to Cuba. And the extremists insurgents in Iraq are praised by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for their “anti-imperialist” resistance. Meanwhile, the Islamist radicals are increasingly adopting the language of Marxism and class war to broaden their appeal at home. What we are seeing is nothing less than the globalization of their so-called “jihad.”


THE JIHADIST NETWORK TODAY

The infrastructure of al-Qaeda has not been destroyed, but shattered into a thousand smaller pieces. Its leaders do not despair at this turn of events, rather they rejoice because the fragments of their global terrorist network still operated in countries around the world and are still capable of inflicting serious damage in those regions. Though al-Qaeda’s collective power is diminished, the number of targets demanding the West’s attention has increased.

Moreover, the war on terrorism has spawned many new anti-Western groups and organizations throughout the Muslim world. The leaders of al-Qaeda are reaching out to these groups and providing money, logistics and other support. However, al-Qaeda is not necessarily trying to bring them into its own organizational structure. Rather, it has learned the value of a decentralized network.

The situation today is even more dangerous than it was before. Al-Qaeda presented the West with a single, if geographically diffused, target. Now, the West faces a myriad of new enemies, some of which it has yet to identify. These smaller groups are able to act independently and the elimination of one often has little or no affect on those that remain.

Though Osama Bin Laden is no longer able to exert command and control of the jihadist forces, suicide attacks and other forms of terrorism continue throughout the world. Even though it no longer serves a central organizing role, al-Qaeda has become a source of inspiration to militant groups in Asia, the Caucuses and throughout the Middle East. These groups have adopted its ideology, the ideology of global jihad against the West, and many are supported in part by al-Qaeda funding.

It is believed that the vast wealth being controlled directly or indirectly by al-Qaeda and other members of this network, is largely acquired through the international diamond trade. This is why Osama Bin Laden said “a diamond cuts a diamond” in one of his previous recordings.

Al-Qaeda is also developing new tactics for use in the United States and Europe. On 7 January 1999, I spoke at the U.S. State Department and warned America of the danger posed by Osama Bin Laden to this country. I spoke about how his operatives were infiltrating the United States on student visas and using charitable monies to fund their terrorist plots. Later, in meetings with the FBI, I warned that al-Qaeda was trying to recruit Caucasians converts to carry out terrorist attacks. Regrettably, all of these things have come to pass.

Today, my instincts tell me that the jihadists will use chemical weapons in their next major attack, and they will use young people – perhaps even children – to deliver them. I fear they will target a school or other venue filled with people, using small bottles or perhaps even toys or candies filled with chemical agents. In this way, they may harm a large number of innocent people. Perhaps such an attack will be launched here, in the United States, but it may also happen in Europe, or some other place around the world. No one can predict where it might take place.

In addition to using young people, the jihadists are also actively trying to recruit the mentally ill and those with social problems – even to the extent of hacking into patient records to identify suitable candidates. Such people are the easiest to recruit for suicide bombings. They give them money, get them married, support them and prepare them for a time when they be called on to carry out their attack. Since they influence such people with Islamic teachings, they fill their minds with hatred of the West. If they succeed in converting them to their twisted version of Islam, that only increases their motivation towards destructive action.

I would also like to warn the United States that it is falling into another trap in Iraq, where the jihadists have formed special cells to spread disinformation. These agents spread false information, accusing innocent Iraqis of being part of the insurgency in order to convince Coalition forces to arrest them. When they do, these people are held up as symbols of the Coalition’s injustice. Thus, they help spread hatred among people who are otherwise unsympathetic to their rebellion. The jihadists have also planted agents among the Iraqi police and security forces, both to spy on American activities and spread even more false information.

Increasingly, al-Qaeda sees its own role as fomenting and fueling anti-Western sentiment throughout the Muslim world, counting on local radicals to capitalize on it and harness that energy. The bombings in London are a tragic case in point. Though the radicals behind that plot were inspired by al-Qaeda, they were not funded by the global terrorist network, nor did they receive any specific orders from it.

The Spanish investigation of the 2004 Madrid bombings revealed that jihadist groups operating as part of different organizational structures and under different leadership nonetheless collaborated with each and even shared funding in order to facilitate attacks on Western targets in Europe. This movement hides behind the millions of Muslims living in the Untied States and Europe, even though the vast majority of these Muslims reject them and their radical agenda.

Increasingly, the jihadists are using the Internet to coordinate the activities of this decentralized network. Italy alone has identified 13,246 potential targets and has deployed 18,061 police, 2,500 military personnel and thousands of additional employees to observe some 13,000 websites that have suspicious ties after it received information that some were being used by the extremists to plot terrorist activities and recruit volunteers to carry out suicide attacks.[1]

This challenge will continue to spread in the Muslim world, just as the movement against the United States has spread in South America, beginning in Venezuela and spreading over the past couple of years to Bolivia and Chile.


JIHAD AND CLASS WAR

Increasingly, the ideologues of the global jihadist movement are adopting the rhetoric of anti-capitalism and class war as means of expanding the conflict outside the religious realm. The consequences of such efforts had already been seen in the riots that spread so rapidly throughout France.

Those riots occurred because the North African immigrants felt trapped in the lower levels of French society. They felt left out of the French mainstream and denied its opportunities. This feeling and the conditions of poverty in which they live fueled their hatred of the French state and the symbols of its wealth. The extremists were able to exploit this situation and transform it into a conflict between Muslims and Europeans, even though it was entirely devoid of any religious overtones or context.

Knowing that such conditions of poverty and disenfranchisement are widespread in immigrant communities, the extremists have begun to focus more of their propaganda on this sore point. In a leaflet date June 9, 2005, Hizb ut-Tahrir cast the conflict between the United States and the Islamic world in classic Marxist terms:

As for the 'freedom' that they want, it is the freedom of capitalism … It is the freedom of exploitation, greed and concentration of the wealth in the hands of the capitalist class, besides their control of the affairs of authority. It is the freedom of colonising (sic) the peoples and stealing their resources, as well as their suppression and starvation.[2]

This excerpt seeks to create a conflict between the West and the Islamic world in an economic rather than religious framework:

As for the 'economic development of the region', in their view it means to rob the wealth of the Ummah, sink the region in debts and then shackle it with the poisonous prescriptions of the IMF.[3]

Having redefined the terms of the struggle, Hizb ut-Tahrir goes on to call for military action by the same secular states that the Islamists have historically opposed for their religiosity:

What are your armies waiting for? What are the influential people amongst you waiting for? Are you waiting till America has implemented its project for the Middle East, the great one and the small one, and thus your countries become full of prisons more than just Abu Ghuraib?[4]

Even the war in Iraq is now being framed in economic, rather than religious, terms:

The West’s vision for Iraq is a package of political and economic freedoms based on Capitalism and free-market policies.[5]

The Lebanese Brotherhood ideologue Fathi Yakan stated:

The groundwork for the French Revolution was laid by Rousseau, Voltaire and Montesquieu; the Communist Revolution realized plans set by Marx, Engels and Lenin....The same holds true for us as well.[6]

Such communistic ideas run counter to the basic principles of Islam, which accepts the right of the wealthy to their wealth while at the same time advocating care for the poor. Their willingness to reject such fundamental principles of the faith and embrace the language of atheistic Marxism unmasks the extremists, revealing them for what they are: revolutionaries who have found in Islam a convenient pole around which to rally support for their war against the West.

The Muslim Brotherhood was born as anti-imperialist movement and has always been focused as much on winning political power for its own sake as it has been on anything having to do with the religion of Islam. Today, that emphasis has only increased, and we now see the Brotherhood – along with the many other national movements it has spawned over the years – expressing more and more enmity for the West.

It is in part by promoting such anti-Western sentiments that Hamas, effectively the Palestinian branch of the Brotherhood, was able to generate so much support in the recent Palestine elections, just as its own anti-Western rhetoric helped the Brotherhood itself at the polls in Egypt.

The people who respond to such rhetoric are not religious people. Rather, they are motivated by socioeconomic concerns.

It is true that poverty and socioeconomic inequity are very real problems in many parts of the Muslim world today. The extremists are cleverly exploiting these problems. Wherever people are living in poverty, extremism is bound to find fertile ground. Therefore, addressing these problems is one way of undermining the influence of the extremists.

As Fareed Zakaria recently wrote in Newsweek:

… the forces of moderation thrive in an atmosphere of success.

Two Muslim societies in which there is little extremism are Turkey and Malaysia. Both are open politically and thriving economically. Compare Pakistan today growing at 8 percent a year with General Zia's country, and you can see why, for all the noise, fundamentalism there is waning. If you are comfortable with the modern world, you are less likely to want to blow it up.[7]

As long as the economic gulf between the Muslim world and the West is allowed to persist, hatred will increase and the radicals will be there to tap it. The more we narrow the gap between the West and the Muslim world, the more we undermine this avenue of recruitment and extinguish this animosity.


 

ISLAM AND DEMOCRACY

Many radical Islamist organizations have embraced democracy as a means to their ends, as we have witnessed in the recent electoral victories of Hamas in Palestine and, to a lesser extent, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. This reveals the danger in promoting democracy for democracy’s sake in the Middle East.

Those following recent events in Palestine will recall that President Mahmoud Abbas wanted to delay the plebiscite. The United States insisted that it proceed according to the established timetable. The Palestinian government complied with the Americans’ request and the result was a Hamas victory and the new political crisis we are witnessing today.

Hamas did not win because it is loved by the people or because most Palestinians support its radical agenda. It won for two reasons: 1) because most Palestinians are fed up with the Fatah party and its corruption, so in fact the Palestinians voted not for Hamas, but against Fatah; and 2) it was a vote by the people as an act of defiance against the West, for the people saw Hamas as a symbol of resistance and national identity. As a result, the government of Palestine has been delivered into the hands of the extremist enemies of peace.

As a side note, it is worth pointing out that at least one good thing may come from the victory of Hamas in Palestine. With Hamas coming to power, the Palestinian people will be looking to it to solve the tremendous socioeconomic problems they face. If they fail to do so, as will likely be they case, the Palestinian people will blame Hamas for their misery. In the end, Hamas may find it is much easier to be the opposition than to be the government.

Democracy has existed in the United States for more than two centuries and has flourished in Europe for many generations. In contrast, Western-style democracy is in its infancy in the Muslim world. All too often, those who win power through the ballot box become tyrants. America is trying to apply democracy in a region that has no established democratic institutions and no modern democratic traditions. Until indigenous democratic institutions are firmly established, democracy in the Middle East will continue to be a means for extremists and tyrants to take and hold power.


THE CARTOONS

The recent controversy over the Danish cartoons underscores many of these points.

In the West, democracy is synonymous with free speech and the freedom of expression. In the Muslim world, however, democracy does not override religious values and understanding. Instead, it accommodates religious norms and traditions. Whatever pertains to belief is beyond democracy, particularly when it relates to the holiness of God and the Prophet Muhammad. To attack these core beliefs is not free speech, it is a stab at the heart of all Muslims that no government would ever accept.

However, it is not the Muslim heads-of-state that are inciting the riots we see spreading throughout the Muslim world today. Rather, it is the Islamist extremists who are throwing oil on this fire and fanning its flames. They are trying to blow this incident out of all proportion to incite hatred of the West. The intention is not simply to condemn the cartoons, but to demonstrate “Muslim Power.

The U.S. branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Muslim American Society (MAS), called on Muslims everywhere to use their economic power to punish countries where the cartoons were published. “I don't think we would have received such a prompt response for a meeting if the Danish economy wasn't losing millions of dollars daily due to the boycott of Danish products throughout the Muslim world,” asserted MAS spokesman Mahdi Bray. [8]

This is why we see the worst rioting occurring in countries with an official national policy of opposition to the West. In Egypt, Yemen, Morocco and Saudi Arabia, demonstrations occurred, but there was no violence. It was only in those countries actively challenging the West, in those countries where an active al-Qaeda infrastructure continues to operate, that real violence flared.

Here, too, we see the extremists trying to widen the conflict beyond its religious connotations. Consider this passage from a recent tract:

The cartoon-gate affair in Denmark highlights more about European fears of Islam and Muslims than it does about attitudes of Muslims. The fear is shaped by the liberal fanaticism, capitalist greed, imperialism, racism, arrogance, all fused with the prejudices inherited from the dark ages.[9]

The extremists tried to keep this controversy alive for as long as possible in order to increase animosity toward the West and build support for their radical agenda. Indeed, they inflamed the situation more and more, hoping for a big blowup. All of this serves their interests and their ends, to demonstrate Islam as an effective political ideology and antidote to Western values. Head of Qatar’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Charitable Works, Dr. Ahmad Abdul Aziz al-Haddad, promoted the boycotts as a good way for the population at large to express their views saying, “This is the power of the Islamic people. The power to boycott.”[10]

Why, one should ask, did the groups who focused so hard on these cartoons, keep silent in the face of the destruction of the ancient monuments of Islam in Islam’s heartland. When Wahabi preachers invoked iconoclastic policies to erase the birthplace of Prophet Muhammad, to alter the Prophet’s Mosque beyond recognition, to destroy the ancient Seven Mosques of Madina, and to obliterate all traces of the graves of his Companions, not one word was spoken. The reason is that reacting to the tragic obliteration of these religious, historical artifacts did not benefit their political agenda; the cartoons did.


A CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS?

It now appears that we are indeed headed for the sort of clash of civilizations that Samuel Huntington feared[11] – and not only a clash of civilizations but a clash of two conflicting ideas of democracy.

In the West, church and state are kept separate, and this division is seen as one of the essential bulwarks of democracy. Such a division is not possible in Islamic countries today. Scholars like Bernard Lewis have pointed to Turkey as the exception to that rule and held up the so-called “Turkish model” as one worthy of emulation throughout the region. But look at what is happening in Turkey today.

Today, the Turkish model is falling apart. Every election brings more and more religious candidates into power. Although these may appear more liberal and more open to the West, they are nonetheless increasing the role and power of religion in Turkish society. Thus, Turkey’s secular character is eroding. A sign of this is the law against adultery that Turkey tried to pass. The European Union threatened to reject Turkey’s application for membership if the law was enacted, so the government withdrew it. Who knows what will happen when Turkey actually becomes part of Europe?

In this, we see another reason why you cannot simply transplant Western democracy in the Muslim world. At best, your efforts to do so will be short-lived. More likely, you will simply aid the extremists in their efforts to win control of the nations of the region. When they do, the United States will face not only scattered terrorist cells, but whole armies operating under the control of anti-Western forces. This is why the United States should view its best interests as not allowing Islamists to take control of Arab countries like Egypt.

Moreover, America will again and again find itself facing the same dilemma it now faces in Palestine – either accepting the rule of the extremists as the legitimate electoral winners, or rejecting the outcome of democracy and providing the extremists with new recruits.

The process of true democratization in the Middle East will take a long time. Until then, the United States and its Western allies will continue to face the challenge of indigenous radicalism in the guise of Islamism.

In truth, there is no clash between Islam and the West, which is another way of saying a clash between Islam and Christianity. If that were the case, Muslims would be attacking the Christian communities in their own nations. While there are isolated conflicts along these lines, they have never been widespread, nor have they ever been a focus of the jihadist movement.

What we are witnessing instead is a clash between people with power and those without it. It is a conflict rooted in the history of colonialism and the perception of present-day imperialism. It is a conflict in which religion is simply a means to an end. We must recognize this if we are to understand the true nature of this so-called “jihad” and its increasingly global character.

It is no longer an Islamic issue, if indeed it ever was. Rather, it has become a more generalized struggle between ideologies, between haves and have-nots, between East and West. As such, the struggle of the jihadists has become a global struggle.

The globalization of this jihadist movement poses a serious threat to our domestic security. The threat is no longer restricted to Afghanistan or Iraq. It is no longer a centralized organization, but a decentralized movement that exists wherever Muslims have established communities – not only in the Middle East, but also throughout Europe and the United States. The leaders of al-Qaeda are finding ways to reach these disparate groups, either indirectly through their propaganda or directly with material support. Osama bin Laden’s latest recommendation to read “Rogue State” is a direct reflection of this, sending an obscure leftist, anti-imperialist tract to the top of Amazon.com’s list of most-ordered books.

Therefore I have a fear that, eventually, we will see Islamist violence spread not only to the cities of Europe, but also here at home. Make no mistake: The aim of the jihadists is to extend their power not only through Afghanistan, Kazakhstan and Pakistan, but also through “Francistan,” “Londistan,” “Italistan,” “Switzeristan,” “Hollandistan” and even “Americastan.” That is the globalization of jihad.


THE SOLUTION

What is to be done to disarm this dangerous situation?

First, we must do more to demonstrate the benefits of globalization – not the globalization of jihad, but globalization of the world’s new economic system – to the peoples of the Muslim world. We must do more to integrate their societies with the rest of the world so that they can share in these benefits and see how much more they have to gain by being part of this global order than by fighting against it. In particular, we must engage the Muslim youth with these new opportunities.

We must also do more to bridge the socioeconomic gap that does exist between the West and the Muslim world and promote regional economic development. In doing so, we will not only benefit the people of the Muslim world, but also close the main door through which otherwise moderate men and women enter the arena of extremism.

The nations of the world must also adopt a hard line against those who spread hatred, whether it is through their sermons, through their books and pamphlets, or through their newspapers, television programs and radio addresses. A balance must be struck between freedom of speech and freedom from hatred.

Finally, the true promise of democracy must be realized by extending it to all peoples of the region – not hastily and without deference to the history and culture of the Muslim world, but in a gradual way that nurtures nascent democratic elements within these societies and allows them to flourish.



[1] al-Hayat, 27 December 2005.

[2] Leaflet distributed by Hizb ut-Tahrir, dated 9 June 2005.

[3] Leaflet distributed by Hizb ut-Tahrir, dated 9 June 2005.

[4] Leaflet distributed by Hizb ut-Tahrir, dated 9 June 2005.

[5] “Freedom: A Western Export,” Javed Ansari, Khilafah, 19 June 2004.

[6] Cited by Waller R. Newell in “Postmodern Jihad:What Osama bin Laden learned from the Left”, Weekly Standard, Volume 7, Issue 11.

[7] “Islam and Power,” Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek, 13 February 2006.

[9] Article by Yamin Zakira distributed by the Party for Islamic Renewal (United Kingdom), 11 February 2006.

[10] “Consumer boycotts sweep Middle-East”, BBC News, 6 February, 2006.

[11] “The Clash of Civilizations,” Foreign Affairs, Summer 1993.