When the Soviet Union collapsed and the cold war came to an end, the world felt as if it were on the edge of unlimited peace and prosperity. Unfortunately, new issues came to light, such as terrorism. Terrorism is defined by Title 22 of the United States code, section 2656(d) as the pre-meditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by sub national groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience. In light of recent terrorist activity in the West, the danger that Islamic terrorism poses to national security and civilian safety has been brought to attention.
The Islamic world does not view the West favorably. Some extremists, such as the Hizballah, view the United States as the Great Satan. Although unannounced violent actions against civilians is called terrorism by the West, Muslims view such behavior as religious duty. Most terrorists are viewed within their individual countries as radicals, although some have benefited from gaining wide-spread approval in their region. With popular support behind them, these extremists have declared a holy war, a jihad, against the West, Israel, and all sympathizers of the two. In the jihad, terrorism has been the most used weapon against the enemies of Islam.
Although terrorism has been magnified throughout the world recently, jihad is nothing new to Islam. Although jihad did not immediately play a significant role in Islam, the idea of striving for a spiritual good always has played such a role. Jihad does not necessarily involve violent or physical actions. Jihad, when applied correctly, always includes a change in ones self and mentality, and may involve a giving up of material property, social class, emotional well-being, and comfort for the salvation and worship of al-Lah.
The jihad includes an extensive amount of striving for righteousness. Even in contemporary terrorist actions, recruits for suicide missions are trained for righteousness and trained in the matters of personal piety and holiness.Because jihad is a spiritual matter, spirituality is of utmost importance to all who are recruited to join any jihad. One common misunderstanding concerning jihad is the inward nature of jihad. The West tends to think of jihad as a call to outward or external activity, but in the Islamic mind, jihad is a call to all individuals to prepare their hearts and souls to be holy in preparation for their personal sacrifice. The internal nature of jihad does not ignore a need for acts. In the Quranic verse 3:30, God tells believers that acts reflect the soul of their authors, which explains why jihad is widely represented in the minds of Muslim and non-Muslim individuals in the acts committed in the name of Islam, such as acts of terrorism.
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Although jihads contains many underlying values, such as equality, peace, and purity, the most important value of jihad is justice. Muslims view justice mainly in the realm of social interaction. An example of social interaction where justice is an issue would be a court trial, family accountability, and particularly government interaction. When these social institutions become seemingly unjust, it is then that the call of jihad seems most logical. The Wests understanding of jihad as a holy war is a misnomer. The war provoked by jihad is not holy in and of itself. War is purely an attempt to bring holiness through infinite justice. It is ironic that Islam is sometimes held to be a synonym for terrorism, when the very word Islam comes from the root word salaam in Arabic, meaning peace.
Even though Western Islamic apologist claim that the Quran does not justify any form of violence, in certain cases Islam tolerates, permits, and encourages war and war-like acts. According to the Quran, Muslims must always oppose oppression, but if there is ever a way to avoid war or violence it must be taken. Most of the problem of jihad in Arab and Islamic nations is clarifying who is eligible to declare jihad. On the issue of who is permitted to declare a jihad, the Quran is unclear. Sometimes Muslims acknowledge the ability of spiritual leaders to declare jihad, some give the ability to certain government officials, and some to leaders of the military.
Even in war, however, Muslims must treat their adversary, regardless of their national or religious origin, with basic human respect and civility. Islam condemns brutality against any human being, particularly women, children, widows, and all of societys helpless. As long a civilians maintain neutrality in war, even they cannot be tolerated by Muslims as victims of war or spoils. History has generally proved that Muslims are rather diplomatic at war. After conquering a region, Muslims do not regularly enslave, mistreat, or forcefully convert the conquered. Even societal traditions and regional customs are usually untouched by Muslim victors after a successful jihad.
According to Islam, differing religious or cultural values do not demand a jihad. In fact, the Quaran directly prohibits the killing of individuals simply over ideological differences. The question arises of why there is Islamic terrorism. Some politically and economically focused terrorists use Islam and the principle of jihad for their own cause. Many Muslims recognize such selfish distortions of the Quran. Many Muslims are also quick to point out terrorist actions by Christians in Bosnia, Ireland, England, Germany and Spain, and by Jews in Israel, Palestine, and Lebanon.
Some terrorists and their organizations which murder civilians call themselves martyrs. Those who kill civilians in the name of Islam or the name of jihad, who think of themselves as martyrs should reconsider. Their act is actually strongly stated in the the verses of the Quran to be condemning of their own soul. Islamic terrorists are ignoring the Quran. Instead they blindly follow the opinion of their corrupted leaders. They are oppressed by their own rulers that use both the principle of jihad and their subjects human sacrifice for political gain. There is no doubt that extremist views of jihad are enabled by the traditional Islamic view of war. War is seen in much of the Islamic world as evil, yet completely necessary. The Islamic view of war is based more in the long-time culture of the Arab world than in the Quran, although war is permitted by Muhammad.
In the modern world, jihad terrorism is most often carried out by terrorist organizations that are state funded. Unlike the Quranic reasons for jihad, these groups use violence as a means for spreading national ideologies rather than spiritual justice. Examples of the nations that are known to sponsor terrorism are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria, and recently, Afghanistan. These nations support Islamic terrorism either directly or by provisions of arms or protection for terrorists.
After the World Wars, the West failed at attempts of forming state boundaries in the middle East, and along with the creation of Israel, the West accidentally created a series of anti-Western transformations and movements throughout the Arab and Islamic world. The growth of these nationalist and revolutionary movements, along with their view that terrorism could be beneficial in reaching their goals, generated the first phase of modern international terrorism.
In the late 1960s, Palestinian movements such as Al Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine began to target civilians away from the immediate area of political conflict. After Israel’s defeat of Arab forces in 1967, Palestinian leaders understood that the Islamic countries were unable to militarily confront Israel. At the same time, the Arab nations learned from revolutionary movements elsewhere in the world, including the Jewish struggle against Britain in Palestine, and decided that urban terrorist warfare was more effective than classical guerilla warfare. Wealthy Muslims used modern technology to internationalize their struggle. Muslim extremists began a series of attacks against civilians, including attacks against Israeli athletes during the 1972 Munich Olympic games.
Palestinian groups became a model for eager secular militants, and became examples for following Islamic movements. Palestinians began a sophisticated terrorist network that included the Soviet Union as well as certain Arab states. By the end of the 1970s, the Palestinian secular network was a major channel for the spread of terrorist techniques worldwide. While these groups were effective during the 1970s, other movements began to grow. When Arab nationalism failed in the 1967 war against Israel, the situation merely sparked an escalation in extremist Islamic movements. A good example is The Muslim Brotherhood. Islamic groups were supported by anti-nationalist conservative regimes, such as Saudi Arabia. Political Islam became seen as a threat to conservative Arab regimes and thus support for extremists.
The year 1979 was a turning point in Islamic terrorism. Throughout the world, the Iranian Islamic revolution sparked fears of a wave of revolutionary Islam. Meanwhile, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the subsequent anti-Soviet mujahedeen war, lasting from 1979 to 1989, stimulated the rise and expansion of terrorist groups. The growth of well-trained, battle-hardened militants with a devotion to jihad worsened international terrorism and violence. Muslims came from all over the Arab world in defense of Afghanistan against the Soviet Union, and very conservative Arab states helped the most. In Yemen, for example, the Islamic Front was created to provide financial, logistical, and training support for Afghanistan fighters.
In the West, much attention focused on the state sponsorship of terrorism, especially the Iranian-backed and Syrian-supported Hezbollah. The view of the United States government has always generally been that terrorism is best stopped by the discontinuation of support from sympathizing nations. The problem is that various countries can support terrorists as covertly as terrorists carry out their violence. Hezbollah first utilized suicide bombers and linked itself to multiple kidnappings of U.S. and Western civilians and government officials. Hezbollah is still an important part of international terrorism. Iraq and Syria are heavily involved in supporting various terrorist groups, with Baghdad as the capital for many terrorist cells. State sponsors used terrorist groups to attack Israeli interests and American assets.
There have been many accusations of Western instigation of Islamic terrorism. Even though the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is the best reason for Islamic hatred toward industrialized nations, the United States is not without blame. Arabs generally resent Western influence, especially American influence. Arabs also resent Israels position in the Middle East, both geographically and militarily. The United States has always funded the Israeli military and air-force. Needless to say, the Arab that wants Israels land and the Muslim that despises Israels religion, would not take Americas involvement in the Middle East lightly.
The falling apart of both the Soviet Union, post-cold war states, and the increasing volatility in the Middle East has brought the insistence of the World to bring stability to the various regions. Stability is so important because with chaos and anarchy, these Islamic regions become a hotbed of activity, recruitment, and training for terrorists. Smuggling, dug trafficking, and other avenues for organized crimes also make these disorganized nations havens for their activities. With improving technology that makes communication, transportation, and ambiguity more and more possible, along with the continued willingness of states such as Iran and Iraq to provide support, and extremist Islamic ideologies that encourage attacks on helpless civilians, the probability of terrorism has increased dramatically.
The region of Afghanistan which is a country purely because its borders were drawn as such, has since the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, became a terrorist training ground. Pakistan, struggling to balance its needs for political-economic reform with a domestic Islamic agenda, provides assistance to terrorist groups both in Afghanistan and Kashmir while acting as a transitional area between the Middle East and South Asia.
Since their emergence in 1994, the Pakistani-supported Taliban militia in Afghanistan has assumed several characteristics traditionally associated with state-sponsors of terrorism, providing logistical support, travel documentation, and training facilities. Although radical groups such as the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda, and Kashmiri militants were in Afghanistan before the Taliban, the spread of Taliban control has seen Afghan-based terrorism evolve into a relatively coordinated, widespread activity focused on sustaining and developing terrorist capabilities. Since the mid-1990s, Pakistani-backed terrorist groups fighting in Kashmir have increasingly used training camps inside Taliban-controlled areas. At the same time, members of these groups, as well as thousands from Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province, have fought with the Taliban against opposition forces. The intermixing of Pakistani movements with the Taliban and their Arab-Afghan allies have seen ties between these groups strengthen. The 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, are representative of this trend.
The most visible Islamic terrorist organization today is Al-Qaeda. Created by Usama Bin Ladin in 1990, Al-Qaeda is designed to complete a terrorist network. Goals of Al-Qaeda include “reestablishing the Muslim State” throughout the world through the overthrow of corrupt regimes in the Islamic world and the removal of foreign presence, especially American and Israeli, from the Middle East. Bin Laden has issued three anti-U.S. statements encouraging Muslims to take up arms against Washington’s “imperialism.” Al Qaeda provides financial help, manpower, transportation, and training support to extremist Muslims worldwide. In February 1998 bin Ladin issued a statement under the banner of “The World Islamic Front for Jihad Against The Jews and Crusaders,” saying it was the duty of all Muslims to kill U.S. citizens, civilian or military, and their allies. Bin Laden allegedly planned the bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, on August 7, 1998. Al-Qaeda claims to have been involved in the 1993 killing of U.S. servicemen in Somalia and the December 1992 bombings against U.S. troops in Aden, Yemen. Al Qaeda is the core of a organization that includes members of many Sunni Islamic extremist groups, including factions of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the Gama’at al-Islamiyya, and the Harakat ul-Mujahidin. The group is a prime suspect in the attacks on the World Trade Towers and Pentagon, as well as the U.S.S Cole bombing.
Another threatening terrorist group that is active today is the Armed Islamic Group. Beginning terrorist activities in 1992, this organization has conducted multiple mass killings of civilians and assassinations of political leaders. While present in areas such as Yemen, the group reportedly does not target the Western nations directly. However, it is possible that this particular organization has splinter movements or personnel that become involved in anti-U.S. action.
The Aden-Abyan Islamic Army also poses a significant threat as a sophisticated and well-financed terrorist organization. The Aden-Abyan Islamic Army has been known to be connected to the Yemeni Islamic Jihad and many feel the group has instigated acts of violence with the stated goal to “hoist the banner of al-Jihad, and fight secularism in Yemen and the Arab countries.” The execution of Aden-Abyan Islamic Army leader Zein al-Abideen al-Mehdar for participating in the December 1998 kidnapping of 16 Western tourists started the groups notoriety for terrorist kidnappings. Four of the hostages were killed and another 13 hostages were freed when Yemeni security forces attacked the place where the hostages were being held. In March 1999 the group warned the U.S. and British ambassadors in Yemen to leave immediately or else further terrorist actions would be taken.
Formerly part of the Harakat al-Ansar, the Pakistani-based Harakat ul-Majuahidin operates primarily in Kashmir. The long-time leader of the group, Fazlur Rehman Khalil, in mid-February stepped down as the popular Kashmiri commander and second-in-command, Farooq Kashmiri, assumed the reigns. Khalil has been linked to Bin Ladin and signed his call to jihad in February 1998 calling for attacks on U.S. and Western interests, assumed the position as Secretary General of the group. The Harakat ul-Majuahidin is linked to the militant group al-Faran that kidnapped five Western tourists in Kashmir in July 1995 when one was killed in August 1995 and the other four reportedly were killed in December of the same year. Supporters are mostly Pakistanis and Kashmiris and also include Afghans and Arab veterans of the Afghan war. The group trains its militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Army of Mohammed is yet another very active and very threatening terrorist group. The Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (Army of Mohammad) has greatly expanded since Maulana Masood Azhar, a former ultra-fundamentalist Harakat ul-Ansar leader, formed the group in February 2000. The group’s aim is to unite Kashmir with Pakistan. It is politically aligned with the radical, pro-Taliban, political party, Jamiat-i Ulema-i Islam. The group maintains training camps in Afghanistan. Most of the organizations material resources have been given from the militant groups Harakat ul-Jihad al-Islami and the Harakat ul-Mujahedin. The Army of Mohammad has close ties to Afghan Arabs and the Taliban. Usama Bin Ladin is suspected of giving funding to the Army of Muhammad. This group also claimed responsibility for the USS Cole attack.
The Army of the Righteous is the armed wing of the Pakistan-based religious organization, Markaz-ud-Dawa-wal-Irshad, a Sunni anti-U.S. missionary organization formed in 1989. One of the three largest and best-trained groups fighting in Kashmir against India, it is not connected to a political party. The leader is Professor Hafiz Mohammed Saeed. Almost all of the leaders for the Army of the Righteous are foreigners. The leaders are also mostly Pakistanis from seminaries across the country and Afghan veterans of the Afghan wars. The group trains its militants in mobile training camps across Pakistan-administered Kashmir and Afghanistan.
The recent war between the United States and the Islamic followers of Osama bin Laden, have exposed a problem that has been facing the Western world for several years, but which the Western world has preferred, for several reasons, to ignore. Terrorist activity of Islamic radical groups in a number of places around the world has since the early 1980s, been aimed primarily at the United States. Also, the decline of the Soviet Union seems to have forced the Western world to seek out a new enemy. These two trends combined during the 1990s has spurred the growth of global conflict between cultures. Islam and the Muslim world versus America as the leading element of Western culture.
Islamic terrorism is based mostly on socio-religious perceptions. It may not include the whole Arab and Muslim world, but it perceives that the terrorism it wages against the West is an integral part of its religion. The West in general and the United States in particular cannot ignore it and should therefore unite their efforts in an attempt to find different means of countering this kind of Islamic terrorism. But, the main success or failure of these terrorist groups does not depend on their religious commentary or authority. It lies in their ability to gain legitimacy from the general public or from the greater part of it in each Muslim country, as well as in the Arab world in a whole. The need for public sympathy and support is a crucial element of every terrorist group without regard to its ideology or political affiliation. However, in a society where religion has so great an influence as in the Arab and Muslim world, the teachings of Islamic groups are perceived by certain parts of society as the true principles of religion. The socio-cultural elements of their teachings are often combined with the secular tradition of hostility toward the West under American authority and toward its protection of Israel and the Jews, who are according to the Quran, the worst enemies of the believers.