Disclaimer: There are about 1.3
Billion Muslims in the world today (2004).(cached
- pdf) About 1.29 billion are as appalled by the activities of Islamic
terrorists as are non Muslims. This is hardly surprising - more of them
are dying at the hands of Islamic militants than non-Muslims. A reasonable
guesstimate is that about 5 or 6 million Muslims support the ten thousand
or so who are actually doing the damage. That's about ½ of one
percent; a much lower percentage than, for example, the number of racists
or homophobes in our society. It is on a par - numerically - with the
problem of paedophilia or holocaust denial. The problem we face is grave.
But it is not a problem with all Muslims, any more than paedophilia
is a problem with all men or holocaust denial a problem with all Christians.
This is not to say that there isn't any problem at all with Islam in
general. There very clearly is, but it is far better described by Muslims
(or ex Muslims) than by me. There are now a growing range of informed
critiques of Islam by those who have grown up inside it. I strongly
recommend Tariq Ali's "Clash
of Fundamentalisms" (which is exceptionally good on Islam but
weak on Christian Fundamentalism). For a brave attempt from a more naive
psuedo right wing perspective it is worth reading "The
Trouble With Islam" by Irshad Manji. But to get a feel for
the range of internal critical debate, bookmark "Muslim
This page, however, is dedicated to the men (and, increasingly, women)
of violence who don't trouble themselves with such navel gazing.
Almost everyone else is talking about the bin Laden financed group
Al Qaeda as though it is a single network of Islamic Terrorists. It
At most it is (or was) a "vanguard" amongst them. There is
no co-ordinated network - yet. However, it is true to say that the extreme
version of terrorism and the philosophy that supports it, as practised
or supported by those associated with Al Qaeda, has been seen by all
the others to be so successful that they are adopting it as their own.
This common vision is almost certainly beginning to produce the network
which others have assumed has been there all along.
In part that success has been assisted by the American Administration,
with media backing, in building up this false image of the universality
of Al Qaeda. They manufactured the Al Qaeda "brand" initially in order
to provide themselves with a legal target on which to focus their prosecutions
- beginning with the four suspects they had indicted in respect of the
embassy bombings (cached)
in 1998, the first act of the war declared by the "World
in February of that year. (Which included Bin Laden, who was obviously
recruiting like minded Jihadis to the war he had declared
in 1996 (cached))
However, ever since then, that legal construct has been used by the
administration and media as a shorthand reference to all militant Islamic
terrorism. In so doing, they have provided precisely the credibility
the fledgling group needed to be taken seriously by all the other exponents
of militant Islam. It is one of many strategic errors made so far by
the Americans (unless, of course, you are a devotee of one of the many
conspiracy theories, in which case you will not see it as an error,
so much as a deliberate policy). The American demonisation has provided
what former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher once called "the
oxygen of publicity". I do not intend to continue that error here.
The earliest documented radical Islamic group, the Muslim
was founded by Hasan
al-Banna in 1928, though it doesn't appear to take up arms until
the end of WWII. It gave rise to many of the more militant groups which
are active today but has rarely been considered, itself, to be on the
extreme fringe, particularly with regard to non Muslims. Indeed it has
much softer in its reaction to the enemy without than it was
to the 'hypocrites', 'renegades' and 'apostates' who existed within
Islam (Tariq Ali - Clash of Fundamentalisms p97)
and, initially at least, even collaborated with the then Imperial rulers
of Egypt against the common enemy (the Egyptian Left):
Its apologists still try to cover up for the fact that Hasan
al-Banna was in regular contact during this period with Brigadier
Clayton of British Military Intelligence (ibid p98)
By contrast there have been many groups who fit the MIFT label since
Al Zawahiri (cached)
took up Sayidd
call to form an Islamic vanguard to lead the struggle - against the
triad of enemies:
Communism - now considered defeated in the Afghan Jihad;
The Enemy Afar - Israel, USA and the West in general;
The Enemy Near - Oppressive Domestic Rulers in the Arab World) -
to return to a purer form of Islam.
In nearly all cases this means the introduction, or re-introduction
of Shariah(Islamic Law). The fact that Islamic scholars argue
that Qutb was ill educated in the study of Islam and thus reached dramatically
diseased conclusions is of little comfort. (We learn from Irshad Manji's
book - p165 - that Qutb groped all the way back to the 14th century
(Christian calendar) for the inspiration for his own ideas; From a Damascus
intellectual - Ahmed ibn Tammiya. This is not an obvious sign of a healthy
vibrant intellectual debate!) It is difficult to judge from the outside
but their arguments would appear to be of the nature which produced
a wave of Christian schisms in the middle ages. Although these divisions
reduced the power, scope and reach of the Catholic Church, they did
not reduce the overall spread of religion or its authoritarian practice
The MIFT groups differ in respect of their precise definitions of "pure"
and in respect of what constituted morally acceptable tactics in pursuit
of their shared goal.
At the "civilised" end of the scale, we might point to fighters
who became the leading light of the Arab Muslim contribution to the
against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. He was considered so respectable
that he was allowed to recruit and train in the United States and was,
eventually, given huge amounts of help by them to sustain their fight.
of Nightmares (cached)
Adam Curtis claims that Azzam issued firm instructions against targeting
civilians. This is almost supported by oblique references like:
Unlike Azzam, bin Laden saw al Qaeda as an international force,
and had no compunction about targeting enemy non-combatants. (link)(cached)
But that reference itself doesn't provide sources. Nevertheless there
are plenty of references to the dispute between Zawahiri's vision and
Azzam's - with Azzam wanting to stick to military targets. It is alleged
that this split eventually led to Azzam's assassination.
Even today there are Islamic Militants who foreswear attacks on non
combatants. Islamic Jammat
(War Council) 'Yarmuk' (cached)
is one such:
We are Mujahideen! We are Warriors of Allah!
We are not fighting against peaceful civilians, especially against
We are not fighting against women or children, like Russian invaders
are doing in Ichkeria.
We are not blowing up sleeping people, like FSB of the Russian
At the other end of the scale is Al
Takfir Wal Hijra. Philosophically they have taken Qutb's arguments
to their logical extreme. They even attempted
to assassinate (cached)
Bin Laden. Anyone who doesn't agree with their analysis of Islam (for
example by supporting democratic elections) is, by definition, not a
true Muslim and can be targeted along with the rest of us. They are
so extreme they would be comical (think Judaean Peoples Front - Life
of Brian) if the wider adoption of their philosophy wasn't so lethal.
Unfortunately, since the bombing
of the American embassies (cached)
in Africa, in 1998, the Takfir approach (if not their precise agenda)
has been in the ascendant. Most Islamic militants now appear to be adopting
their ultra-violent tactics.
While it is still not appropriate to regard MIFT as a single united
enemy or entity, it is increasingly true that they are showing signs
of adopting common purpose and common strategy.
It is difficult to find an authoritative source for a description of
their real aims. While all agree that they want to restore the Caliphate,
there is disagreement on whether they want the whole world to be part
of the Caliphate, or just
the Islamic portion (cached).
It is easier to find evidence for the latter. You will find plenty of
references to the former like these (all emphasis added):
The Islamists, these dreamers tell us, are not aggressors, but
defenders; they seek to kill us, not because of what we are, but because
of what we do, namely our imperial acts of interference in the Islamic
world. It follows that if we pulled back from all involvement in the
Mideast, if we abandoned Israel, if we withdrew our forces from Iraq
(and, some argue, from Afghanistan as well), and if President Bush
dropped his arrogant program of trying to impose Western-style democracy
on the Muslim world, then Osama bin Laden and his followers would
stop hating us and all would be well again.
On one hand, this argument has always seemed unpersuasive, given
the well-known fact that bin Laden aims at the creation
of a global Caliphate and would therefore be waging jihad on us, in
one form or another, no matter what we did. (link)(cached)
The Islamists recognize compromise and accommodation as signs
of weakness, and speak only of temporary truces in a longer run plan
to establish a global Caliphate.(link)(cached)
"To claim that he stood for Muslim liberty was preposterous,
wrote Mishari Zaydi, a liberal Islamist columnist in Saudi Arabia,
since it was well known that al-Qaeda and its emulators
denounce democracy as heresy and seek to replace current Muslim governments
with a global caliphate imposing by force its extreme version of the
but despite being "well known", the only reference I can
find which could be taken as implying global domination by Islam is
The Party, as well, aims at the correct revival of the Ummah
through enlightened thought. It also strives to bring her back to
her previous might and glory such that she wrests the reins of initiative
away from other states and nations, and returns to her rightful place
as the first state in the world, as she was in the past, when she
governs the world according to the laws of Islam.
It also aims to bring back the Islamic guidance for mankind and
to lead the Ummah into a struggle with Kufr, its systems and its thoughts
so that Islam encapsulates the world.
which you can find on the wayback
copy of the official web site of Hizb
(as it was when I first found it in 2004 - they've dropped it since.
Make of that what you will)[Update Sept 2007 - See my
blog re Majiid Nawaz leaving and denouncing the group] I suspect
that the authors of the previous references are not even aware of the
existence of either the site or the group it represents. Indeed it seems
that most webbable muslims aren't aware of them either. They are a fringe
group on a par with holocaust deniers in the western culture. There
may be others, but if you go looking for references to ambitions to
Islamic Global Domination you will find hundreds or thousands of references
to these "well known plans" and hardly any sites at all where
these plans are admitted or spelt out. (and, generally speaking, where
you find an Islamic site stating its world view, they are not reticent!)
It is clearly unreasonable, therefore, to tar Islam as a whole with
such ambitions as it would be to tar Christianity with holocaust denial
Moreover, although Hizb ut Tahrir would appear to offer the obvious
ideological basis for the men of violence in their religion, there is
no evidence (to date) either that they advocate violence in pursuit
of their ambitions or that those who do advocate violence have adopted
their party line. As Dr Robert Crane puts it:
They are less frightening than Osama bin Laden only because they
have not yet endorsed violence. No doubt, they have not yet been targeted
by the religious right in America because they oppose the Wahhabis,
even though the Khilafa movement is made to order for Osama bin Laden
and is moving in his direction. (link)
And if you read bin Laden's declarations he is consistently referring
to returning things to the status quo ante - the way the (Islamic) world
used to be. For example:
"From here, today we begin the work, talking and discussing
the ways of correcting what had happened to the Islamic world in general,
and the Land of the two Holy Places in particular. We wish to study
the means that we could follow to return the situation to its' normal
path and return to the people their own rights" (link)
"if America increases or does not reduce the intensity of
their aggression, we will respond in an equal manner"
"(we) will target your economic lifeline until you restrain
from your aggression and enmity"
"Our 'terrorism' is against America and if is a struggle
against an oppressor to stop it from committing oppression, from supporting
Israel who is killing our children. Don't you understand a simple
and clear thing?" (link)
So, yes, there are a small group of Muslims who profess the ambition
for a global Islamic State - but don't appear to advocate violence as
a means to achieve it - and there are a separate group of Muslims who
essentially want to enforce shariah
within the existing Islamic states. They wish to depose the corrupt
rulers of those states and to end external - particularly American -
influence or interference within those states.
This has implications for how we meet the challenge of their attack
on our lives.
On the one hand, if all they are trying to do is to ensure that we
outside Islam do not interfere with how those inside it conduct their
affairs, it is conceivable that we might come to some kind of accomodation.
Not likely, but conceivable. Essentially, if the people in Islamic countries
make it clear that they want to be ruled by a Caliphate, who are we
to stop them?
The problem arises if the wider Islamic population does NOT show such
inclinations and, indeed, tries to resist totalitarian Takfirism. They
may ask for our help. Many of us feel we're obliged to give it. Many
of us would want to give it, even if we weren't obliged. And the signs
are that the wider Islamic population does indeed NOT want the return
to medieval Islam promulgated by Takfirists. Though they still show
much greater support for "traditional values" (eg sexual repression
and gender inequalities) the support for democracy in particular is
throughout the Islamic world. Furthermore, as that same survey reveals
in quite fascinating detail, "attitudes" are strongly correlated
with economic well being. The richer the society the more liberal it
tends to be. Islamic countries are almost entirely among the poorest.
So, the Islamic public is unlikely to welcome the MIFT ambitions for
their own regions and as soon as we agree to offer our help, then we're
in the same position as we would be anyway if the Caliphate ambition
is genuinely Global. Bluntly, in either case ("Caliphate Islamic
but not wanted" or "Caliphate Global") we are in a fight
which will only end if either they (the Takfir type who insist on violence
as a means of conversion) or we (the rest of the human race - including
most Muslims) are permanently erased.
This is a war unlike any recent war. At some point in all normal wars,
either both sides realise they can't beat the other and agree to stop
(eg the Iran-Iraq
war) or one side recognises that is defeated and surrenders, (Germany
source - thanks to Katie Kline 2009), or one side recognises that
the enemy has them hopelessly outgunned and that they will lose massive
numbers if they continue (Japan after Hiroshima
and Nagasaki (cached)).
It is probably true that - had the emperor commanded it - the
Japanese fighters would have fought to the last man. But there was enough
humanity within the Japanese system to recognise the practical futility
and moral perversion of such a course.
No such restraints have yet made themselves evident among the Takfirs.
As of now, it is prudent to assume that they will not cease to plan
and execute lethal attacks against the rest of the human race until
they no longer exist.
Again, as Crane puts it:
The larger challenge to global civilization in the twenty-first
century is how does one manage conflict with hate-filled extremists
who are immune to all tactics of conflict resolution? (link)(cached)
There are no political changes which we could conceivably agree to
which would prevent their continued carnage. For example, even if we
were to force Israel back to its 1967 borders and set up a Palestinian
State under Takfir style approved Islamic rule, they would continue
to organise attacks against Israel, America for supporting Israel and
anyone else who got in the way of their attacks against Israel.
They want the complete destruction of the state of Israel. They'd be
quite happy to see all Jews eliminated as well. But even that wouldn't
mitigate their insane rage. The killing will go on as long as they live
and either we're not all pure Muslims living under the Caliphate or
we're not allowing them to force Muslim populations to submit to such
As well as unlimited ambition, they acknowledge no limits to the means
of achieving their ends. They exhibit the ultimate "end justifies
the means" psychology/philosophy.
Crane once more:
More important even than the causes of terrorism is its legitimacy.
Do ends justify means without limits? A sign of civilizational rise
is when limits are not only recognized but applied, and the sure sign
of civilizational collapse is when they are not. This would apply
both to terrorism and to terroristic counter-terrorism.
Hence they encourage, for example, the potential martyr to blend in
with "modern society" by appearing to be anything other than
a devout Muslim. Drinking, womanising, drugtaking and gambling are all
condoned in the pursuit of Jihad. They are further reassured that all
the "sins" they thus commit will be forgiven as a reward for
their eventual heroic martyrdom. If you can be persuaded to believe
that kind of explanation, its a pretty damn good deal from their point
of view. Take as much Western decadent pleasure as you can eat, then
wipe the slate clean with a suicide attack against the hated enemy and
go straight to Jannat (Paradise).
The evidence is that growing numbers do indeed believe that kind of
explanation. This presents the rest of the world with very limited options.
We can eliminate the source of the threat - with a dual strategy aimed
- reducing the terrorists' support base/feedstock by addressing those
policies which are most obviously promoting support for Jihad and
either changing them or justifying them to the point of achieving
consensus - other than among the takfirists. And either:
- detecting and permanently detaining/disabling the terrorists
- or killing them; even if this involves "draining
the swamp" (as both Mao Tse Tong and Donald Rumsfeld
put it) (cached)
and even if it involves wrapping the world in a Global Police
State to ensure we know where everyone is at all times and what
they are all planning to do. Or - instead of that "Scorched
- Develop sophisticated technologies and security protocols which
can protect us against any conceivable attacks from any hostile
source without sacrificing our own liberty or privacy.
The problem for us libertarians is that while the latter (technological
solution) is possible, it will require two or three decades to complete.
(Although I am trying to address the problem here)
All we could hope to achieve in the first decade is higher detection
levels which would offer some benefit but would not form a perfect defence.
Of course, the sooner we begin such developments, the sooner they will
begin to protect us and, so far, all the technological moves have been
in the wrong direction.
The first part of the Scorched Earth policy is currently the only option.
Which is why, whether we like it or not, we all have a vested interest
in Option 1 - the War on Terror. All we can reasonably hope to do at
the moment is hold the barrier against the Police State while this part
of the struggle goes on.
This is why we must not abdicate responsibility by delegating the problem
to the Americans.
This is categorically NOT George Bush's War on Terror, nor even the
American's War on Terror. It belongs to all of us because we're all
going to suffer the consequences. This gives us all the right to tell
those who have been conducting the war so far why they are getting it
so badly wrong and why they should listen to us in deciding what to
do from now on.
What is it that they are doing "so badly wrong"?
The analysis above essentially makes it clear that we need to be doing
3 things -
- reducing support for the terrorist causes
- detecting and detaining or killing the terrorists and
- developing technological protection.
All the Americans have done to date is concentrate on number two: killing
and capturing. This is doing nothing to reduce support for the cause.
In fact their methods are achieving the exact opposite - uniting former
enemies (against their common enemy) and promoting the Takfir agenda.
As Mary Kaldor puts it in her
opening essay (cached)
in the "Safe
debate being organised by OpenDemocracy.net
Nothing more clearly illustrates this than the war in Iraq. The
main extremist Islamic cell then before the war was a small marginal
group called Ansar al-Islam, based in northern Kurdistan. The invasion
of Iraq and subsequent failures of the occupying troops have allowed
the allies of al-Qaida to become a visible element of the insurgency,
to ally with their former enemies, the Ba’athists, and to spread and
gain support. Violence is a recruiting agent and a training ground.
In western Europe, some immigrant groups have been radicalised by
the failure of their efforts to prevent war and elsewhere, the war
has strengthened anti-western feelings.
And no-one is talking, at all, about the technology which can begin
to protect us.
The question is, can we reach some measure of consensus on this analysis?
That's what Chapter
10 is wrestling with.
©Harry Stottle 2004-6
Last Updated 20 Sept 2006
(added refs to Tariq Ali's "Clash of Fundamentalisms" and