Sunday, January 15, 2006

Who is the Enemy That We Are Fighting?

The well-known name that we identify our enemy by is “al Qaeda/al-Qaida.” Delving into the origin of this “organization” reveals two primary stories. One exhibits fairly strong evidence that the name originated innocently enough as a list of international mujaheddin and arms smugglers in a computer somewhere. Over a period of years the name has come to be used to identify Muslim terrorists, who in this account are not a formal organization, but individuals drawn together in a common cause, against a common enemy, and who have associated themselves with the name as much as anything else because that is the name the western world uses to identify them.

Another story holds that Osama Bin Laden founded Al Qaeda in 1988, along with Mohammed Atef, who was believed to have been the organization's military commander. “Al-Qa'ida,” an Arabic term that means “the base,” was established as an umbrella group for Islamic militants who fought in Afghanistan against the Soviet Army. Who knows which of these is true, or if either one is, but for our purposes, “al Qaeda” identifies the radical/fundamentalist arm of Islam, which is the usage that we are accustomed to.

What is important is al Qaeda’s goals. One source explains that it seeks to rid Muslim countries of the profane influence of the West, and replace their governments with fundamentalist Islamic regimes. Another believes that the goal is broader, and reports that in an al Qaeda house in Afghanistan, New York Times reporters found a brief statement of the “Goals and Objectives of Jihad”:
- Establishing the rule of God on earth
- Attaining martyrdom in the cause of God
- Purification of the ranks of Islam from the elements of depravity

The source also said that in 1998, several al Qaeda leaders issued a declaration calling on Muslims to kill Americans—including civilians—as well as “those who are allied with them from among the helpers of Satan.”

The essence of the United State’s problem, and indeed the problem of the entire non-Islamic world, is not so much the day-to-day activities of al Qaeda—although when those day-to-day activities involve the wanton murder of innocents anywhere in the world it is certainly important—but the degree to which all of Islam believes the “Goals and Objectives of Jihad” stated above. If only “some” Muslims hold this radical view, that is one thing, but if “most” Muslims hold that view, that is an entirely different matter. The proportion of Muslims that subscribes to these radical views, and what the rest of the Muslim world chooses to do about the radical faction determine the magnitude of the problem.

There has been an increase in Islamic fundamentalist schools in the last few years that sanction violence, and al Qaeda’s activities are being broadened into new areas of the globe. For example, sources in the Middle East say that following the completion of Israel's recent withdrawal from Gaza in September, al Qaeda has established a terrorist base in the Palestinian community from which it could launch attacks not only against Israel, but against Egypt and Saudi Arabia as well.

Since Muslims make up nearly one-quarter of the world's population, and since we in the non-Muslim world are not going to sit still for a bunch of fanatics wiping us from the face of the Earth, it is very important to know two things:
  1. What proportion of Muslims support the radical movement, and what proportion does not support it?

  2. What does the moderate faction plan to do to disarm or neutralize the radical faction?

The answer to the second question cannot be “nothing,” and must be something closely resembling taking up arms against those who pervert the Islamic religion. A moderate Muslim faction that is unwilling to stand up against the radical element and in some way put it out of business effectively means that instead of us being at war with a fanatic subset of Muslims called al Qaeda, we are at war with all of Islam, because you either subscribe to what the radicals are doing, or you oppose it. Time is of the essence. Every month that goes by without a concerted effort by moderate Muslims to halt the teaching of hate and intolerance to young Muslims, the more fanatic enemies we have to contend with, and the more difficult it will be to defeat them.

If it comes down to either them, or us, and it certainly looks that way right now, we must win.

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