It's hard to say whether violence by those acting on behalf of radical Islam is achieving their specific goals, when the perpetrators issue no pronouncements and make no demands. (In contrast, in the old days of airplane hijackings, imperatives were issued and intentions made clear.) That said, the Islamists' general goal is perfectly clear – to establish the worldwide rule of Shari‘a, or Islamic law.
Does terrorism help or hinder attaining this goal? Mark Steyn writes that it helps. But it is my contention – as I argued at "[Theo van Gogh and] "Education By Murder" in Holland"– that
Islamist terrorism in the West is counterproductive because it awakens the sleeping masses; in brief, jihad provokes crusade. A more cunning Islamist enemy would advance its totalitarian agenda through Mafia-like intimidation, not brazen murders.
Relying on materials of mine, Mona Charen argued a variant of this in a column today, "Our enemies are stupid," referring to the four explosions yesterday in London, killing dozens:
By committing such atrocities, the Islamists manage to stiffen whatever small residue of resolve remains in flaccid Western civilization. Before the vicious attacks on London civilians, the G8 conference in Scotland focused primarily on global warming, poverty in Africa, and economic matters. But now the leaders of the industrial giants will inevitably turn their attention to the war on terror.
The Islamists could make huge strides in their campaign to undermine Western societies if they used any tactic other than terror. And, in fact, in Great Britain, they have made incredible progress by playing upon Britain's overindulgence of any minority complaint.
Or, in the a more pungent version of this viewpoint, cited by CNN from a website; admonishing fellow Muslims, the author explains, "Don't you know that Islam is growing in Europe??? What the heck are you doing mingling things up???"
What indeed? (July 8, 2005)
July 11, 2005 update: Better yet is this quote, from a watch repairer in Dalston market in north-east London: "We don't need to fight. We are taking over!" he said. "We are here to bring civilization to the West. England does not belong to the English people, it belongs to God."
July 12, 2005 update: Walter Laqueur, author of A History of Terrorism, asks why indulge in terrorism when pressure is growing to undo anti-terror legislation? His reply is more psychological than tactical:
Before the attacks of 7/7, there was a growing number of people in Britain, as in the U.S. and Europe, claiming that the terrorist threat had been greatly exaggerated. Why devote so much time and money and energy combating an enemy that wasn't so dangerous, they said. … Demands grew that antiterrorist laws promulgated in recent years be abolished, or at least modified because they weren't necessary. This was only yesterday. The London attacks came as a serious setback for the let-us-not-be-too-beastly-to-the-terrorists brigade.
If so, why didn't the terrorists wait until they had weapons far more deadly than the present ones, and until vigilance in the West had further declined? Could it have been political stupidity on their part, or "actionism"—the need to demonstrate to their young cadres that they were still in business?
July 22, 2005 update: In a striking move of political ju-jitsu, three British Islamists are exploiting the London bombings to try to impose their foreign policy agenda, reports the Evening Standard, in “Change foreign policy - top Muslims”:
- Azzam Tamimi, Muslim Association of Britain: The July 7 bombings and the attempted attacks on July 21 were “horrifying” but it is not enough to condemn the bombers. “The latest developments very clearly show this is a very big thing. It’s not just a few individuals from Leeds. I think it’s time everybody got serious and engaged in an attempt to prevent it. Part of that would be to understand what’s going on. 7/7, 21/7, and God knows what will happen afterwards, our lives are in real danger and it would seem, so long as we are in Iraq and so long as we are contributing to injustices around the world, we will continue to be in real danger. Tony Blair has to come out of his state of denial and listen to what the experts have been saying, that our involvement in Iraq is stupid.”
- Shahid Butt, marketing manager for The Muslim Weekly: “At the end of the day, these things [violent incidents] are going to happen if current British foreign policy continues. There’s a lot of rage, there’s a lot of anger in the Muslim community. We have got to get out of Iraq, it is the crux of the matter. I believe if Tony Blair and George Bush left Iraq and stopped propping up dictatorial regimes in the Muslim world, the threat rate to Britain would come down to nearly zero.”
- Massoud Shadjareh, chair of the Islamic Human Rights Commission: The government must take responsibility for the “political environment” in which the attacks took place. “Now we know this wasn’t a one-off, we need to look at ways of addressing the underlying factors that created it. I feel it’s urgent to start addressing these before there is further loss of life.”
Comment: These statements show how non-violent Islamists hope to benefit from the actions of their violent counterparts. Will it work? Stay tuned.
August 1, 2005 update: Hassan Butt, an extreme Islamist, spoke out against terrorism in Great Britain in a pre-7/7 interview titled "A British jihadist." Butt calls anyone who attacks Britain "a completely and utterly loose cannon. It would be someone who wasn't involved in … the jihad network." He explains: "A bomb in London would be strategically damaging to Muslims here. Immigration is lax in Britain—you know as well as I do that London has more radical Muslims than anywhere in the Muslim world. A bomb would jeopardise everyone's position. There has to be a place we can come." Asked if there is general agreement not to attack Britain, Butt replies: "Definitely, there is a central sense that we will not damage something for a bigger picture, but we will concentrate on our own areas."
August 23, 2005 update: I published an article on this subject today, "How Terrorism Obstructs Radical Islam."
August 24, 2005 update: Ralph Peters makes a similar observation concerning East Africa, in an article with the interesting title, "The other jihad."
The differences between the Saudi ruling family and bin Laden aren't so much about goals as about methods. The Saudis were furious over the 1998 embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam not because of the viciousness of the acts, but because the attacks threatened to call the West's attention to quiet subversion by fundamentalist Wahhabis in the region.
Sep. 13, 2005 update: The Asia Times Online columnist who goes by the moniker "Spengler" takes issue with my thesis, and for interesting reasons. He postulates a temporary Muslim demographic surge and argues that "the Islamists have to strike quickly and decisively, not only to advance their cause in the West [before the surge ends] but also to consolidate their power in home countries where conditions will become unstable before long."
Dec. 13, 2005 update: Dean Godson makes a convincing case for terror helping to forward the Islamist agenda in his review of the report issued by the Home Office task force, "Preventing Extremism Together." He finds that Islamist violence has provided a wonderful, unexpected opportunity for non-violent Islamists
to demand more power and money from the State. This will leave them and their favoured co-religionists as the main intermediaries between the state and the Muslim community. The mood music of the document is one of breathtaking arrogance. The panel makes it quite clear that it is not for Islamists alone to make adjustments after 7/7: rather, it is a two-way process in which the needs of two million-plus Muslims weigh equally in the balance with those of all 60 million non-Muslims. British identity will have to evolve into a much looser concept to accommodate them.
The events of 7/7 appear, in their view, to be as much the fault of the Government as the bombers themselves: there is a strong flavour of "it woz Iraq and deprivation and unemployment and Islamophobia wot made 'em do it, guv". To prevent a repeat, they seem to imply, there should effectively be a Muslim veto over counter-terrorist legislation and foreign policy.
Their long-term solution for the ills of society? More of their kind of political Islam. More Islam in the national curriculum, including GCSEs in Islamic studies; more Islamist rapid rebuttal units — that is, propaganda. And what are two of the most important ways of empowering Muslim women? Give them more Islamic education and Arabic lessons. Since a large majority of them are South Asian, the only reason they would need Arabic is for more Koranic instruction. As such, the report endorses a key aim of some radical elements — the "Arabisation" of British Muslims.