Rising Antipathy against Militant Islamists Within The Muslim World

Oct 07, 2008 Published under Middle East, OneVoice Movement, Religion, Syria, United Kingdom

In a watershed development, Syria recently condemned radical Islamists as responsible for a terrorist act in Damascus.  And Pakistanis are increasingly rejecting Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden (as opposed to a regrettable situation where a significant portion of that population was empathetic in the past).  Across the Arab world and Muslim society, more and more citizens are recognizing the imperative of standing up against all forms of violent extremism…

Muslims reject al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden
By Simon Scott Plummer, The Telegraph UK

Last Updated: 12:01am BST 26/09/2008

In the wake of the Marriott Hotel bombing in Islamabad, which killed 60 people, it might seem perverse to express optimism about the struggle against global terrorism as espoused by al-Qaeda. After all, the Taliban, which provided asylum for Osama bin Laden’s network before 9/11, is resurgent on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border. Indeed, the tribal areas nominally controlled by the government in Islamabad have succeeded Iraq as the epicentre of world jihadism.

Marriott Hotel bombing

Despite the recent Marriott Hotel bombing in Islamabad, we can have hope that terrorist groups will come to an end

Yet it is worth stepping back from last Saturday’s carnage to look at the history of terrorism. This shows that all such movements come to an end, whether through divisions within the leadership, repression or co-option by the state or, most important, loss of trust among the people they claim to represent. In a paper for the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Audrey Kurth Cronin encourages Western nations to focus on the "plentiful weaknesses" of al-Qaeda and its associates. These she defines as "indiscriminate killing in the service of a largely fictitious narrative without a shred of hopeful vision".

Bin Laden has been weakened by allied military action in Afghanistan and tighter surveillance of international money transfers. More significant in the longer term is the criticism voiced within radical Islamic circles about the morality of what he is doing. This may seem a strange word to use in conjunction with an instigator of mass murder, but bin Laden set out with the self-proclaimed noble intention to defend the umma, or Muslim world, from Western encroachment.

Why, then, say his critics, do you condone the killing of Muslims in suicide bomb attacks? Bin Laden’s former mentor, the Saudi scholar Salman al-Oudah, has deplored al-Qaeda’s violence and suggested that its leader has allowed the means to become the ends. The jihadist ideologue Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, better known by his underground name of Dr Fadl, has described 9/11 as "a catastrophe for Muslims".

At this year’s conference of Oxford Analytica, an international consultancy, one of the participants described al-Qaeda as "a profoundly moral project which contains the seeds of its own destruction because of its failure to live up to its own moral standards". Another thought it retained moral authority but had "little power in terms of organisation". The impression emerged of a movement with a puritanical, racist view of Islam which had proved a "very bad friend" to the Muslim world. This would explain its eclipse in Iraq in favour of Sunni-dominated militias and its limited success in the northern Caucasus.

Al-Qaeda’s fortunes could revive should what the Muslim world might deem a further "outrage" be committed in the form of, say, an Israeli attack on Iran or of continued American ground incursions into the tribal areas. But beyond harping on a sense of victimhood, the network has little to offer the umma.

Compare, for example, its record with that of other radical organisations, such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hizbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Taking advantage of a fixed base, which al-Qaeda lacks, they have won popular support by providing welfare denied by an incompetent state. Bin Laden may be able to boast of spectacular assaults on his enemies, but he can hardly claim to have contributed to long-term social and economic development.

The erosion of support for al-Qaeda presents those whom it targets with interesting opportunities. Professor Cronin argues that the best counter-terrorist policies are "those consciously synergistic with a group’s natural tendency to implode". She adds that a government’s top priority should be "not to win people’s hearts and minds, but rather to amplify the natural tendency of violent groups to lose them".

This might suggest that America and its allies should withdraw forthwith from Iraq and Afghanistan and watch al-Qaeda self-destruct. If only it were that simple. However, in the case of Pakistan, Washington should refrain from stoking resentment of the West by further unilateral incursions into the tribal areas, which merely strengthen the conviction that this is America’s war. And a distinction should be made between the foreign jihadists, whose goal is global revolution, and the Taliban, who, like the Basque or Corsican separatists, are motivated by local factors. Driving a wedge between the two will in due course require negotiating with the Taliban.

The eclipse of al-Qaeda does not, of course, mean that it is no longer a threat – modern historical experience indicates that waves of international terrorist activity last about 40 years, so we have some way to go. Bin Laden could still stage a hideous attack, and, even if he doesn’t, there are many other terrorist groups around the world, either affiliated to his network or fighting for different ends, that could.

Nevertheless, it is a hopeful sign that the man who would forcefully unite all Muslims in a new caliphate is proving subject to the same constraints as previous terrorist movements with more modest aims. Self-defence, despite its moral connotations, has in his hands turned out to be nihilistic. Opinion polls show that the Islamic world is turning against him. And it is there that his evil acts will finally be thwarted.



Syria says radical Islam behind Damascus blast
Government newspaper Tishrin reports initial investigation revealed fundamental organization responsible for car bomb killed 17 people in Syrian capital
Ali Waked
An initial investigation into Saturday’s fatal attack in Damascus revealed that a radical Islamic organization was responsible for the car bomb which killed 17 people.

The government newspaper Tishrin reported Monday that Syrian security officials believe the booby-trapped car was brought into Syrian territory a day before the attack through the country’s border with a neighboring Arab state. The paper did not mention the name of the other country.

According to the report, one person was driving the vehicle, and efforts are now being made to complete his identification through DNA tests.

A number of radical Islam activists were arrested after the explosion. The Tishrin report indicates that Islamic elements outside Syria were behind the attack which shocked the country and followed a series of assassinations on Syrian soil.

Syrian papers on Sunday hinted at foreign involvement in the car bombing. So far, no organization has claimed responsibility for the attack and the Syrian government has refrained from clearly pointing the finger at anyone.

Saturday’s 200 kilogram car bomb near a Syrian security complex on the southern outskirts of the capital was the biggest – and deadliest – attack to occur in the country since the 1980s when authorities fought an uprising by Muslim militants.

The government-owned daily al-Thawra claimed in an editorial Sunday that recent attacks in Syria were planned outside the country, but did not mention any names.

However, the comment came a week after Syria massed thousands of troops north of its borders with neighboring Lebanon. Syria says the deployment is meant to curb smuggling, but President Bashar Assad has warned recently that "extremist forces" were operating in northern Lebanon and destabilizing his country.

He was apparently referring to Sunni militants who have clashed for months with pro-Syrian gunmen in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.

Tishrin said the bombing was carried out by some parties it said were angered by Syria’s "victorious return to the international arena after the desperate attempts to isolate, besiege and punish it."

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