This is the third piece in a four-part series on violent Islamism, its global reach, and what can be done to counter it. Please check back for the rest of the series this week here at TheBlaze.
Violent Islamists want to establish a society where Muslim males reign supreme, living under a strict interpretation of Shariah law that they associate with the earliest period of Islamic history. Their worldview allows them to essentially do whatever they want—murder, rape, steal—using the religious justification of reestablishing a caliphate. The world should be deeply concerned about these movements, because there is plenty of evidence of their barbarism.
Islamist movements either rip a society apart, or install a crushing authoritarian regime. We’ve seen the destructiveness of Islamist insurgents in Libya, Somalia, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. They are willing to destroy a nation’s artistic and historical heritage (e.g. museums, statues, artwork). They will tear apart its infrastructure by blowing up bridges, power stations, and public buildings. They will mow down its men and have their way with its women. They will publicly use grotesque violence, such as beheading and torture, to cow local opposition. They will violate the rules of warfare by hiding among the citizenry and then striking.
Fortunately, violent Islamists rarely achieve national power, but when they do the results can be catastrophic. When Shia Islamists took over during the Iranian Revolution, they set in motion three decades of domestic oppression, exported terrorism (i.e. Hezbollah), and destabilized the region. Sudan’s imposition of repressive Shariah in the 1980s set in motion two decades of civil war. When the Taliban asserted control over much of Afghanistan in the 1990s, it imposed a draconian system of Shariah on its citizenry, persecuted minorities such as the Hazara, and became the safe haven and training center for terrorists such as Osama bin Laden.
A careful look at a globe shows a frightening escalation of violent Islamism worldwide, with potentially dire consequences for human life, infrastructure, the rule of law, and the global economy.
Boko Haram leader Abubakr Shekau recently reasserted: “Let the world know that we have been enjoined by Allah to kill the unbelievers.” Photo Courtesy: Raymond Ibrahim
Nigeria is Africa’s largest country by population, and one of the world’s great oil producers, but its government appears totally incapable of stopping Boko Haram. The group’s very name means “Western education is forbidden” and it has plunged parts of Nigeria’s Muslim-majority north into political chaos.
Across North Africa, Islamist movements employ criminality, violence, and insurgency. The implosion of Libya sent weapons and fighters streaming across the region, destabilizing Mali and sending rogue fighters across the badlands of Chad, Algeria, Niger, and Sudan. In Somalia, al Shabab kills fellow citizens and has increasingly disrupted neighboring Kenya. In Egypt, the democratically-elected Muslim Brotherhood parliamentary majority showed its hand by attempting to impose a reactionary constitution on the country—fortunately, the citizenry and public servants courageously stood up to them. Islamists continue to cause trouble in Saudi Arabia and its neighboring Gulf states.
Turkey—long a reliable NATO ally—has shifted course under the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood-influenced AKP. The reader is familiar with the depredations of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Previously, Al Qaeda affiliates haunted Iraq and continue to do so in Yemen. In fact, the recent Paris killers claim to have been acting on behalf of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQIP, based in Yemen). Central Asia is riven with Islamists, from the parochial Afghan Taliban to groups headquartered in Pakistan, including the more internationally-engaged Pakistani Taliban, Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and others. Even in the Far East, violent Islamists seem to be enjoying a resurgence, such as the Philippines’ Abu Sayyeff.
This is not to say that the greater Muslim world has gone over to the violent Islamists. Indeed, average Muslims in these countries face the greatest threat from such groups.
Afghanistan provides a case in point. Last year over 5,000 Afghan security forces were killed by the Taliban and insurgents. Muslims have the most to fear from violent Islamists. Nonetheless, the tens of thousands of Islamist foot soldiers are linked to hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of soft supporters: family members, donors, enthusiasts, cheerleaders, apologists, wannabes, and publicists. From Madrid to Mogadishu to Moscow to Mumbai to Manila, violent Islamists are exciting violence and terror.
The question is, how can they be stopped?
Eric Patterson, Ph.D. is Dean of the Robertson School of Government at Regent University. He is the author or editor of 12 books, including the co-edited volume "Debating the War of Ideas."
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