Jihadism: Where it's at in 2006
by Steven Emerson
The recent episode over the publication of the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed triggered an outcry in the Muslim world not seen since the publication of Salman Rushdie's book in 1989. Then, like today, riots broke out over the Middle East and southeast Asia. During the Rushdie episode, the West responded largely with resolution and resolve not to cave in. Rushdie was treated like a hero and given protection by various governments. Bookstores continued to carry the book. Rushdie was granted meetings with world leaders including then President Clinton. Newspapers came to his defence. Compare that with the reaction today. The West has responded with a resounding cravenness. Most media publications, with several notable exceptions, refused to republish the cartoon. And most Western governments and leaders painstakingly, echoing the Muslim protestors, endorsed their view that it was "disrespectful" to publish the cartoons and that free speech should only be exercised with "responsibility" - a euphemism for appeasing Muslim demands.
It was truly startling to see the primary defenders of free speech - the media - squirm and deflect responsibility by invoking manifestly contrived excuses in refusing to publish the cartoons. Rather than the lofty reasons they gave in not wanting to disrespect Islam, the real reason came down to the mundane reality that journalists have to look in the rearview mirror when they go home at night. With the exception of the Danish government, nearly every other Western leader and regime kowtowed to Islamic demands in not supporting the absolute right to publish the cartoons or in outright criticism of the cartoons' publication.
The furore over the cartoons recently will take a while to fade away. And we have to ask ourselves what the legacies such an episode will bring to our history and whether we will learn from this. A lesson that is about caving in to an unpluralistic, dictatorial force which will only compound our insecurity later on. A lesson about needing to stand up and draw a line in the sand. And I question the willingness of much of the Western media, and indeed many areas of the Western world including, more recently, the Prime Minister of Canada, to accept a limit to freedom of speech rather than provoke a clash with the most violent voices of the Muslim world. Where do we place that limit?
Even here in Australia, reaction from the local Muslims has been to condemn the publication of the cartoons as unacceptable and blasphemous. They have demanded, like their brethren around the world, to make blasphemy against the law in Western countries similar to anti-blasphemy laws that already prevail in Muslim countries. Blasphemy may be offensive to some but the notion of making it illegal in the West, where the separation of church and state is the guiding principle of Western civilization, is indicative of the religious intolerance that radical Islam stands for.
When I was in New Zealand a week and a half ago there were major protests by hundreds of Muslims in Auckland, and later a meeting of Wellington Muslim leaders. In their meetings with their editorial writers and some government officials, those leaders demanded that, from then on, the Muslim community needed to be consulted before any article could be published that might be critical of Islam. The violence we saw in Beirut and Denmark, in Indonesia in Pakistan - right throughout Pakistan the burning of Western businesses - lie at the heart of what I call the "cultural jihadist" problem.
So what do I mean by cultural jihad? This is the notion that in the Muslim community that deems it acceptable for jihadists to carry out violence or to deny responsibility for the actual terrorists acts themselves. It is manifest when Muslim leaders claim to condemn terrorism but exempt "resistance" from their condemnation. It is manifest when Muslim public opinion refuses to accept the responsibility of Muslim terrorism - for example, the survey of British Muslims after 9/11 that showed that some 55 per cent did not believe that Muslims were responsible for the attack that day. It is manifest in the denial by Muslims groups that Jihad actual means violent fighting as seen in the claims by "mainstream" Muslim groups that there is no such thing as holy war in Islam. It is manifest in the widespread support in the Muslim world for suicide bombings against the Israelis. And it is manifest in the support for terrorist attacks on Western targets among Muslim communities. Finally it is manifest in the chilling intimidation of free speech and freedom of thought as most chillingly demonstrated in the cartoon controversy.
The public has no problem recognizing acts of Jihad when carried out by Islamic terrorists. Bombings in Madrid and London or plots in Canada, Italy, Germany, the US and Australia. Jihad, despite false representations by savvy politically correct apologists for militant Islam, means fighting to impose Islam or to repel non-Muslim "aggressors." Although genuinely moderate Muslims interpret Jihad as a spiritual struggle, the traditional meaning and expression of Jihad has been violent holy war to impose Islam or repel the "enemies" of Islam.
How many hard core Jihadists are there in the world wide Muslim population of 1.2 billion? No one knows with any certainty and probably is not something that could ever be determined with any accuracy. With the exception of those arrested for carrying out or plotting to carry out terrorism, it is impossible to know the number of true jihadistsÑthose that are personally prepared to carry out violence.
The 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan resulted in the first modern incarnation of Jihad on a local level in the Arabic Muslim worlds. No longer confined to a theoretical or simply religious concept, jihad became accessible to young Muslims. One could actually join the jihad and personally participate in a concept that had been elusive, theological and abstract. It now meant that Jihad was attainable at the local level. "Join the Jihad Caravan" was the promotional brochure that flooded Islamic centers and Muslim student groups throughout the United States, promising young Muslims the opportunity of a lifetime. Jihad became the rage. Tens of thousands of young Muslims, from the United States, Europe, the Persian Gulf, the Middle East, Asia volunteered to fight alongside Afghani mujahideen.
As the Soviets were defeated, the jihad soon began to spread outside Afghanistan. Intoxicated with their defeat of a superpower, the jihadist movement snowballed into a world wide movement with new jihad fronts opening up in Chechnya, Bosnia, the Philippines, Israel, Kashmir, and elsewhere. With a base of operations in newly liberated Afghanistan, the world wide jihad movement could train under laboratory conditions in territory that would soon be dominated by the Taliban in a de facto power sharing agreement with Osama Bin Laden. Jihad now had a murderous momentum culmination in the 9/11 attacks that killed 3000 Americans.
When radical Muslims crash planes into buildings, it's not hard to recognize those acts of terrorism as manifestations of Jihad. The conventional jihad is a holy war and is embodied in acts of violence against Western and other declared "enemies of Islam." We don't have a problem recognizing what Islamic terrorism is when we see it or experience it. Whether in Bali, New York, Madrid, London, or Jerusalem.
In recent years, the concept of the global village has been traditionally used to describe the projection of Western culture in to the outer most recesses of the less developed world, through telecommunications, the internet, television, and the internet. But in recent years, there has been a reverse global village phenomenon, with jihadism spreading to every nook and cranny of the West.
As a result we now have another set of jihadists, those I call the cultural jihadists. They are probably just as dangerous, if not more problematic, than the military jihadists. They are not the ones lighting fuses or blowing up airplanes; they are simply the ones that give moral support to those crashing planes into buildings. They are not the ones who carry out suicide bombings; they are the ones that glorify suicide bombings. They are not the ones who carry out fatwas to kill "enemies" of Islam; they are the ones who refuse to condemn such fatwas. They are not the ones who blow up buses full of school children; they are the larger community that condones such actions.
Intimidation and the specter of violence are critical to the success of the cultural jihad. I remember, in 1995 after producing the film Jihad in America, being warned by government officials that a fatwa had been issued against me by South African Muslims. I was also told an assassination move could be forthcoming and that I needed to move out of my apartment. That type of intolerance, which we see over and over, has a chilling effect. The journalists who refused to publish the cartoons may claim that they were not publishing the cartoons because of an unwillingness to offend Muslim sensitivities. The reality is that journalists were afraid of being bombed.
Right now we have a dual jihadist issue. The militarily violent jihad, articulated by Jama Islamia from Indonesia, is now in the headlines. Recently, the President of the United States revealed the second stage of the plot of 9/11 was a plot to blow up a prominent Los Angeles tower by Jama Islamia. JI is alive and well and, sadly, you've experienced the pain. But so have others. JI is active in this part of the world in the same way that al Qaeda is active in Europe and even in North America.
In the last year two major incidents, among many, stand out conspicuously for what they tell us of the state of jihad. In one, last September, prison inmates from California hatched a plot to blow up military facilities, several synagogues and the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles. The inmates had converted to Islam and they believed in the jihad, the notion that it was not just acceptable but mandatory to carry out an act of violence against the Western infidel. And if it were not for a very serendipitous arrest made by a local Los Angeles policeman that plot may have not been uncovered and could have succeeded in killing thousands. Similarly another plot, by Pakistani Americans, involved a desire to create a Madrassa on American soil, a religious school that was going to teach jihad for the purposes of carrying out acts of terrorism.
The United States has prosecuted, indicted, convicted, or deported more than 300 individuals linked to terrorism in the last four and a half years. From Buffalo to Chicago, from Portland to Virginian, jihadists manage to ensconce themselves throughout the United States. But how did the Jihadists groups succeed in getting so advanced in the heart of the West? One word I would use would be "deception". Cultural jihad hid under the guise of pluralism and became part of the moral equation. Instead of defining themselves as standing for intolerance, the cultural Jihadists inverted the moral argument and said they were the victims of hate crimes. Cultural Jihadists actually created "civil rights" groups and demanded that they be included and enfranchised in a plural society where minorities are usually excluded. They targeted the very vulnerability of Western society - the charge of being a racist. In fact, these groups were the very incarnation of racism.
The outstanding example of somebody who deceived the United States, and was probably successful in the greatest strategic penetration of American national security since the Cold War, is a man named Abdul Rahman Alamoudi. From 1990 till early 2000, Alamoudi was the head of a group called the American Muslim Council representing the largest American Muslim group. He appeared at the White House numerous times. You can go online and see pictures of him meeting then President Bill Clinton, or Vice President Al Gore. He was invited to testify at Congress; he was sent abroad by the State Department numerous times as a goodwill Ambassador. He was celebrated as the most prominent mainstream American Muslim leader who would affirm the virtues of moderation. Then it came out, quite recently, that from 1994 until he was arrested in 2003 he was secretly a financier for al Qaeda and Hamas. How could a man get to the most wanted positions of power in the US government; a man who was a cultural Jihadist, perhaps even more; somebody who was actually accelerating acts of violence by financing Islamic terrorism?
Let me be very clear; I am not suggesting that all Muslims are Jihadists or that the entire world of Islam needs be condemned. Far from it. I prefer to believe that the vast majority of Muslims are not part of the radical agenda. But the institutional leadership of the Islamic world, emanating from the Al Alzhar University in Cairo - a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated institution - to the Wahabist Institutions in Saudi Arabia, all articulate and champion the cultural jihad. This is the notion that it is acceptable to carry out violence as long as one is not caught pulling the trigger. The Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo originated in the 1920s and has spread throughout the West. Its aim is the imposition of Sharia law through democratic means. In other words - one man, one vote, one time. That has been the model of some of the Islamic movements who have championed democracy because it offers the power to acquire the reins of democracy.
Where do we stand today? How can the West fight against the cultural jihad and protect free speech, freedom of thought, freedom of the press, freedom of religion? On the other hand, how does an open society tolerate calls in the US calling for death to America, death to Jews and death to Christians as protected speech? And how do we know what the true agenda of the Jihadists is if they are not scrutinised through their publications and their intentions successfully hidden from public view? The United States has a rich tradition of protecting free speech. But, unfortunately because of vulnerabilities attaching to that rich tradition, cultural Jihadists can drive a truck through the gaps - sometimes as large as a suicide bomb.
Indeed, throughout the 1990s the Jihadists created a whole infrastructure in the United States, in Europe and even in Australia, of Muslim Brotherhood-oriented institutions that didn't define themselves as a Muslim brotherhood but called themselves different names, different acronyms, that misled and deceived. In the US they called themselves the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim American Society, and the Muslim Student Association. In Australia it is operating under a group called FAMSY. And yet they were champions and deacons of the Muslim Brotherhood doctrine. Every time there was a counter-terrorism action by the governments of Europe, United States, or Australia, prior to or even after 9/11, the first reaction by these groups would be the claim that such actions were defamatory of Islam and part of a war to defame Islam and to attack Islam rather than what it really was - a war against terrorism.
The Jihadists believe, as the cartoon protestors believe, that there has been a war against Islam, carried out by the West, since the year 1095. And every action that is perceived to be an insult is part of that war against Islam. So a conspiracy theory has grown up and a culture has developed in which all actions by the West to protect itself - such as stopping the flow of financing from Hamas and Hezbollah, the arrest of al Qaeda terrorists, the deportations of terrorist financiers living illegally in the United States - have been represented by Muslim groups to be part of a war against Islam. As a corollary, many do not believe that Osama bin Laden carried out 9/11.
After 9/11, I was speaking to a university group in Ohio at the University's Law school. A car picked me up from the airport and, as I got closer to the school, I saw police cars and squad cars outside the University. I asked the driver what the squad cars were doing there. He responded by saying, "I think they are there to protect you Mr Emerson." I walked in to a capacity crowd of nearly 1000 students, jeering with catcalls and interruptions. I could not speak. If you are a public speaker and you start getting interrupted by catcalls it is impossible to shout over the cat callers in the crowd. But I realized I had to get their attention somehow. So I ripped up my speech in a very conspicuous act. This seemed very irrational to everyone watching and I got people's attention. There was a quiet in the audience. I thought to myself, "Now what do I do?" I said, "I'm going to take a public opinion poll. Hour many here in the audience believe that Osama bin Laden carried out 9/11?" Five hundred people raised their hands. "And how many of you here believe that 9/11 was carried out by the Israelis and the Americans?" The other five hundred raised their hands - most of these, as far as I could tell by observation, were Middle Eastern or Muslims as evident by their head covering.
There was a woman in the first row who turned out to be a second year law student. I asked her "Sister why do you claim that bin Laden was not behind 9/11?" And she responded instantly: "Why do you claim he was?" I said, "The evidence is there. You see the tape; we have our intelligence." She said, "They're all lies and fabricated. We know that they were the Israelis and the Americans." This was a second year law student afforded all of the same opportunities other Americans are. She was emblematic of the cultural Jihadist. I am sure that she would not be tempted to an act of terrorism. But I am also virtually positive that, secretly, she applauds the suicide bombings that go off in Tel Aviv or in the heart of Europe.
The reality is that the cultural Jihadists have a monopoly on the debate. No matter what Karen Hughes, now the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, says, the hearts and minds are not going to be changed by a liberal advertising campaign. The wealth of information emanating from Islamic institutions, from broadcasts, from mosques, from universities, from the schools, the text books, all reaffirm the notion that there is a war against Islam and that the infidel has to he defeated, destroyed or converted.
Bin Laden wasn't so irrational. In his own mind he actually believed that the US could be brought to its knees by weakening its resolve to fight jihad. In that he was right. He read the tea leaves perfectly up until 9/11. Throughout that period, the previous seven years, the US didn't ever respond to acts of terrorism - whether it was the bombing of the USS COLE, the bombing of the Embassies, the bombing of other US targets. The US simply didn't respond albeit lob a few missiles into Sudan and Afghanistan after the Embassy bombings in 1998. Bin Laden's attitude became "I've got them on the run".
There was an email that went out today which I found quite frightening. It was an email put out by a group here in Australia called the Federation of Australian Muslim Students and Youth (FAMSY). They put out publications and editorials claiming there is a war against Islam carried out by the Australian government. They claim that the publication of the cartoons is unacceptable. However, the email today read, "Please do not forward articles about the cartoons. Praise Allah. The Muslim world, the community, has made its views very clear. Inshallah, hopefully, with Allah's help we can mobilise similar efforts for other issues such as the illegal invasion of Iraq, occupied Palestine, Afghanistan, Iran. Kashmir, Islamaphobia, discrimination." In other words, they have learned from the lessons of intimidation, successfully carried out by the cultural Jihadists throughout the Muslim world, in both the Middle East, South East Asia, Europe and North America. And what they have learned is that intimidation has a dividend. It kills freedom of speech. They can now mobilise similar outfits. There was no email put out by FAMSY condemning the bloody riots that had taken the lives of nearly two dozen people. There was no condemnation of the violence that saw the Danish Embassy burned to the ground in Damascus, or a temple to be burned down in Beirut or hostages being taken in the West Bank in Gaza. Instead, they want to mobilise similar efforts because they now see the West on the run.
I fear that sometimes the West loses its resolve. The first US reaction to the publication of the cartoons was issued when the State Department spokesperson said the cartoon provocation was "unacceptable". Pray tell me, what gives the government the right to make the claim that publication by the media is "unacceptable"? That's the language of Khoumeniests. Jihad has succeeded in putting democracy in a position where a gun has been held to its head. The Sunday Telegraph came out with a phenomenally strong editorial including:
This newspaper would not have published the cartoons of Mohammad at the centre of this controversy, images which we regard as vulgar and fatuously insulting. But we reserve absolutely our right to make our own decision, free of threat and intimidation. The difficulty is that what started as an issue of editorial judgment has become a question of public order. The protestors in London with their disgraceful slogans -"behead those who insult Islam", or "Britain you will pay - 7/7 is on the way" - have made it all but impossible for a genuinely free debate on this issue to take place. All such debate is now being carried out in the shadow of murderous intimidation, the cultural jihad.
When an act of terrorism occurs there is a natural market response. We galvanise, and our public consciousness is made more aware. When we understand the threat of terrorism, counter terrorist legislation is made more likely, the public debate then ensues, people understand the whole notion of what terrorism can carry out and how it inflicts such damage upon the moral fibre of Western society. Because terrorism basically denies you the freedom to act as who you are, it's an execution.
People often ask me whether terrorism is any worse than people dying from cancer. Well, there may be no difference in the loss of a loved one. But there is a difference between dying from the medically induced scars which we can attribute to fate and somebody who is executed. Right now I'm afraid the resolve of the West is wearing thin. We don't realize the extent to which the Jihadists are emboldened. And while the military Jihadists may not be flagrant every single day, it's the cultural Jihadists that make the military jihad possible. Unless and until that cultural jihad is deleated, discredited, and de legitimized, there can be no hope for a true expression of freedom of thought in the Muslim world.
What we seek as an antidote is a reformation in the Muslim world. The first sign of a reformation occurring would be a lot of Muslim comedians suddenly appearing. The ability to poke fun at one's self, to carry out self criticism, is absolutely critical. It lies at the heart of the West. The West's separation of Church and State, the notion that pluralism reigns supreme over any differences of opinion and our affirmation of pluralism is rejected by the cultural Jihadists.
It all comes down to one fundamental fact - the media in the West are currently afraid and they don't want to admit it. But that fear is the fear that will rob us of our freedoms. In Canada, when the government proposed to introduce Sharia courts to the local community the one block of activists that successfully overturned the government's decision was a bunch of secular Iranian women. They understood, more than anyone, what Sharia law would do with them in terms of disenfranchisement. Sharia law is incompatible with democracy, period. And anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.
As we face the prospect of other acts of terror, I am not worried about the response of the British government, the Australian government, the American government, the Spanish government or the Italian government in responding. I know they will do the right thing. What I fear is the successful deception practised by the cultural Jihadists. Unlike the resolve exhibited by Britain in the face of the Nazi scourge in WWII, Western governments have sought to appease the Jihadists over the cartoon issue. They have shown a cowardice which will only embolden future jihadists.
Now that the West has demonstrated its "cultural sensitivity" to Islamic demands, how far should the West have gone to accommodate Islamic feelings? Should the West now cave in to demands that Western women not wear mini-skirts? Or that public schools segregate hours for both women? The question is not so preposterous as a national health club in Detroit recently caved into demands from fundamentalist Muslims in the Detroit area to maintain segregated hours.
One of the most encouraging aberrations in my thesis is the emergence of singular voices of moderation in the Muslim world. Whether it's Irshad Manji from Canada, or Tashbih Sayyed who edits Pakistan Today or Kamal Nalwash who heads the group called Muslims Against Terrorism. They have the courage to stand up against the cultural Jihadists and affirm the right of free speech and pluralism. But unless, and until, we see more Muslims stand up against the cultural jihadists the future is bleak.