Islamic Terrorism on Trial

Certain Western intellectuals, academics, liberals and journalists have become witttingly and unwittingly apologists of Islam. This is never more apparent than when they try to interpret the violent phenomenon of Islamic fundamentalism, especially since the 1980s and 1990s, and a phenomenon still active and thriving in the 21st century despite several premature announcements of its demise. We are told that all the violence of Islamic fundamentalism is nothing to do with religion as such, but more to do with economic hardships, a form of protest at the existing dictatorial regimes, a venting of justified hatred of the West, Neo-colonialism and Imperialism, and now, Globalisation. "Islamic ideals do not 'determine' politics in any fundamental way. Instead religious ideals are cleverly appropriated by leaders whose overriding goal is power."

But as Brumberg said, "This reduction of Islamic leaders to crafty politicians or demagogues misses a key point: a leader succeeds by inspiring the imaginations of his followers. This cannot be done by crassly manipulating Islamic symbols, as if they were objects with little connection to the soul of religion itself, commodities that can be sold to gullible consumers."

Islamic fundamentalism divides the world into realms of absolute good and absolute evil, and claims exclusive possession of divine truth. It is the religious obligation of all Muslims to wage war, literally, until the whole world has been brought under Islamic rule. They oppose any kind of secularism, which, for the fundamentalists, is responsible for the totally unacceptable ideas of pluralism (the acceptance of the existence of many different types of belief and practice, religious as well as nonreligious), and radical individualism (the idea that the individual must not be sacrificed for the sake of the community). 


Tuesday, May 29, 2001. New York. 

On May 29, a jury in New York found four men accused of plotting the terrorist bombing, three years ago, of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, guilty. The men belonged to the Qaeda group, which is headed by the notorious Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda sees the West in general, and the U.S. in particular, as the ultimate enemy of Islam. Influenced and inspired by their victory over Russia in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the leaders of Al-Qaeda aspire to a similar victory over the United States, hoping to eventually introduce Islamic rule there. 

Al-Qaeda is an umbrella organisation that shelters a wide range of Islamist groups, including Hezbollah (Lebanon), Islamic Jihad (Egypt), the Armed Islamic Group (Algeria), as well a whole host of smaller units in Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan, and Jordan. The groups co-ordinate their activities through Al-Qaeda's 'Shura Council,', a kind of board of directors that includes representatives from many groups. These groups meet on a regular basis in Afghanistan to review and approve proposed operations. 

The trial revealed that when operations in one place are shut down, the rest of the network continues, virtually unaffected. Getting rid of Osama bin Laden would not accomplish much, since the Islamist network would survive, and even expand, "sustained by its idealogical adhesion. Islamism is the glue that keeps these groups together, and fired up."

The court documents gave fascinating details of the groups' mode of operations. Al-Qaeda was to a large extent financed by bin Laden, who was also responsible for formulating its plans, goals, and strategies. But the group also received help and encouragement from certain states. For instance, the Sudanese President Omar Bashir himself authorized Al-Qaeda activities in his country and exempting it from taxes and import duties. Moreover, the group was not brought under local law enforcement jurisdiction. Similarly, Iran helped arrange advanced weapons and explosives training in Lebanon. 

The most worrying revelations from the trial concern the ease with which Al-Qaeda was able to purchase materials in the West, especially in the USA, Britain, France, Germany, Denmark, Bosnia and Croatia. The chemicals used in the manufacture of chemical weapons came from the Czech Republic. 

Al-Qaeda has a well-oraganized network of cells in the West, operating under cover of front-company businesses and nonprofit, tax-deductible religious charities. It recruits among the new Muslim immigrants in the West. 

The verdict in New York may have been a victory for the rule of law, but unfortunately it will only be a temporary respite in the on-going war against Islamic terrorism.