The Naimisha Journal
Islamism is a new term that stands for the Islamic extremist movement, which aims at world conquest and the overthrowing of non-Islamic civilizations. The attack on America represents the new Islamist challenge to the world coming fully out into the open. It has chosen terrorism as its main weapon because of its military weakness and the military strength of the West.
Islamism--the Islamic terrorist ideology of the Islamic need to conquer the world--is to the twenty-first century what fascism and communism were to the twentieth century, a totalitarian ideology of transnational dimensions. Like them it is a utopian ideology but presented as a religion, that justifies any means to achieve it. Islamic terrorism is a unique form of terrorism. It is a global phenomenon based upon religious fervor, not simply on political, national or financial interests. Its terrorists as suicide bombers themselves become the very weapons of war. This makes Islamism very different and much more threatening than local terrorist, guerilla and crime movements, which lack such religious incitement and global political ambitions. Islamism sees its potential base as the entire Islamic world of one billion people, which it is appealing to, affording it a much larger support community than other terrorist movements.
Islamic terrorism has the sympathy of many in the Islamic world, who see it as a striking out against the West for their problems of poverty and social inequality, which they like to blame on the West. Islamic countries have only offered a reluctant assistance in dealing with the terrorist crisis, offering only outside help but not direct involvement with any American attacks on Afghanistan. While publicly they might condemn the terrorist actions, in private and in the streets the attacks have much support in the Islamic world. Meanwhile, many Islamic leaders worldwide have warned the West against attacking any Islamic country, including those that might harbor or aid terrorists.
Islamic terrorism has many causes and has been developing over a long period. It has historical antecedents as an attempt to restore Islam to the prestige it lost to the West in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when it was defeated worldwide and lost its importance as a world power. Terrorism as a modern political weapon is the invention of various Islamic movements. From the Palestinian use of terrorism against Israel over the past several decades (whose first proponent was Yassar Arafat!), and their many airline hijackings, to the Iranian sponsorship of terrorism in more recent years (most notably through Hamas), terrorism has become a predictable and growing Islamic response to the outside world.
Yet the recent terrorist alliance goes far beyond these previous efforts to become an assault on the entire world. It is centered in Afghanistan and Pakistan as training grounds for Muslims from throughout the world. Afghanistan in particular provides an ideal isolated and remote terrain for secret and large-scale terrorist training. This new global Islamic terrorism reflects a more mainstream form of Islam, a radical Sunni movement unlike the minority Shia movement of the Iranians, combining Saudi Wahhabi, Indian Deobandi and militant Sufi movements into a formidable network.
The fault for the rise of Islamic terrorism lies both with the West and with the Islamic world. The fault lies with the West for exploiting the Islamic world for its oil reserves and for propping up friendly totalitarian regimes within it, like the Saudis, and failing to promote the liberalization of Islamic societies. The fault lies specifically with the United States that has tried to use Islamic terrorism as a tool to defeat the Soviet Union, not realizing that it had created global movement that would eventually turn on it in the long run. The US ignored Islamic terrorism when it was not used against the US or its allies, as in the cases of Chechnya and Kashmir, which only allowed it to grow to global proportions. It did not heed warnings from leaders like the Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee when he told them that Islamic terror could also strike on US soil. This shows failures on the part of Western intellectuals no less than political leaders who felt they could control Islamic terrorism for their own ends. Now the same terrorists have struck New York City itself.
The fault for Islamic terrorism also lies with the Islamic world for not developing modern, democratic and economically liberal social orders. So-called Islamic republics are based on the Sharia, traditional Islamic law that severely punishes anyone who criticizes Islam, prevents Muslims from changing their religion under pain of death, which oppresses women and which gives power to the mullahs in defining Islamic society. Wealthy Islamic nations like Saudi Arabia have used their wealth for the glorification of the ruling elite, not to uplift their poor masses.
Today, apart from oil money, there is no single Islamic country that has a healthy economy. There is no real democracy in the Islamic world. Islam has also failed at population control and at education, creating a new generation of unwanted and uneducated poor people with nothing to live for and no opportunities at any real social advancement. When they fund organizations in poorer countries like Pakistan, it is for reactionary Islamic seminaries like madrasas that are a breeding ground for fundamentalists. The ‘graduates’ of these institutions are unfit for anything except religious terror. They become easy recruits for Jihad to give meaning to their lives.
Islamic countries complain of discrimination and exploitation by the West, which is a genuine concern. But they themselves exploit their minorities, have little regard for democracy or human rights, and make no effort to understand or appreciate the different cultures or religions of the world. The Islamic world is even more isolated, arrogant and xenophobic than the West, which it complains is not sensitive to the concerns of Islam. Are Muslims sensitive to the concerns of other religious or cultural groups, even within their own countries? How can they otherwise expect to be honored outside their borders?
Some argue that Islam itself is not at fault but only a distortion of Islamic doctrines by rare fanatics. But this does not explain the widespread support the terrorists have in the Islamic world. For Muslims to convince the world that Islam is a peaceful religion they should worker harder to create peace within their own societies and to uproot these terrorists. Otherwise their protestations of innocence must be taken with some skepticism.
Yet the ultimate fault belongs to the terrorists themselves. Surely there are many wrongs in the world but when we use terrorism to try to correct them, we are only making the situation worse. We should not excuse individuals who resort to terrorism by blaming it on other social wrongs. Suicide bombing of innocent civilians is hardly an act of piety, courage or spirituality.
The United States has also not taken an ethically and globally responsible position as the world's sole superpower. It has lagged behind, if not entirely resisted efforts to tackle global warming, land mines, weapons proliferation or nuclear disarmament. It has used its status as the greatest power in the world not uplift humanity but to promote its exploitation of both human and natural resources worldwide. This has left the country little ethical right to lead any campaigns for a better world. The US has ignored or even abetted terrorism in other parts of the world, particularly in old Cold War enemies like Russia, India and the Balkans. America's effort to lead a coalition against global terrorism thus is questionable and self-serving. At least the world is not convinced of American sincerity. Will it seek to end global terrorism or only to eliminate the existing threat against the United States? The US needs to address these broader issues to be able to mount a credible assault on this global threat. It must recognize that the country cannot be safe from terrorism as long as it tolerates it in other parts of the world, as when it treats sponsors of terrorism like Pakistan as an honored ally.
Some Leftists groups in the world have tried to excuse the terrorist action in America as the poor people of the world striking out against the rich in the only way they can. This is a great error. The terrorists are motivated by religion, not by social inequality. Their goal is not helping the poor or dispossessed worldwide or establishing a people's democracy but promoting their intolerant beliefs over all. They are entirely totalitarian in their goals. The same terrorist groups have attacked poor countries like India, the Philippines and Russia. They will also resort to weapons of mass destruction, including chemical, biological and nuclear, if they get the chance, whose targets are not the wealthy elite but the general populace.
Particularly pathetic was the effort of Leftists in America to portray the Palestinian rallies in favor of the attack on America as a distortion, a taking of film from the Gulf War and using it today. Now we have ample news stories and photographs of Islamic statements and rallies in favor of the terrorist action, not only in Palestine but also in Pakistan and many other Islamic countries. Still the Left, particularly in India, seems to sympathize with the terrorists and has mounted no real criticism of the attacks. Its convoluted rationalizations of terrorist attacks appear to be little more than attempts to salvage what is left of their credibility. One must remember how the same Leftist groups once tried to justify the genocide committed by Stalin and Mao.
Some people have participated in peace movements, hoping that if the West does not respond with violence that the situation will gradually improve. Clearly we do need to foster an atmosphere of peace externally and internally throughout the world. But peace activists naively think that Islamic terror can be overcome by non-violence, just as similar groups once thought that Hitler could be stopped by non-violence. Islamic terrorism is not something that can be defeated by better communication with, being sensitive to, looking our for the human rights of or hugging the terrorists! Such naïve approaches to peace only confuse the issue. Islamism is a real threat that peace efforts can give indirect support to by disarming the opposition to it. Unfortunately, dealing with terrorism requires strong measures and is hardly a matter of politeness, diplomacy and sensitivity. If terrorists had such sensitivity and concern for human life, they would not have become terrorists in the first place!
Where do we go from here? The US does need to lead a campaign against world terror, not just terrorism against the US but the same terrorist groups whichever country they attack. This means first of all accepting American responsibility in creating this movement. This does not have to lead to self-flagellation, but need to recognize that major mistakes were made and a willingness to learn from them. At the same time the US must take a more responsible role on environmental, ecological and arms control issues worldwide or it will not have the moral credibility in order to do so.
The leftist and New Age people must recognize that Islamic terrorism is a new fascist threat, not to be confused with global environmental or poverty issues. Everyone should study the literature and views of the Islamists so that they really know the enemy they are up against.
Unfortunately, the Islamic allies that the West would like to use, specifically Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, are themselves fundamentalist states closely connected with these very terrorist movements, the first a religious monarchy of autocratic rule, the second an Islamic military dictatorship. Will such allies help the West get to the roots of Islamic fundamentalism? This seems highly unlikely.
On the other hand, the global assault of the terrorists is creating a new worldwide response, an emerging global alliance against Islamic terror including the US, NATO, Russia, India, Israel and perhaps China along with the Afghani opposition, which are much more reliable allies than any Islamic states. This alliance is bound to get stronger as the world becomes more polarized into Islamist and non-Islamist camps, which appears to be the main trend created by these attacks.
Islamism is the new worldwide threat to be countered. Its first victims are the Muslims it claims to be helping as the pathetic state of Afghanistan under Taliban rule so well demonstrates. In attacking the World Trade Center it is not simply challenging America but most of the world. Removing this scourge is the prerequisite for moving forward as a species.
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