The fundamentalist Islamist terror threat

Following news of today’s murder of a kidnapped US journalist by Islamic State (IS) terrorists, I’ve seen several comments that IS poses a real threat to our security, yada yada yada.  As a matter of fact, IS as such isn’t much of a threat at this time.  It’s busy trying to establish control over the territory in Syria and Iraq that it’s annexed (at least temporarily) into its so-called ‘Caliphate’.  Its main tool in doing so is terrorism, because it has no infrastructure set up and few (if any) trained, experienced administrators in its ranks.  It can only try to cow the conquered towns and villages in its domain into compliance with its wishes.

However, the loose alliance between fundamentalist Islamic terror groups in different nations is a different matter.  As the President of Somalia said last week:

Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, all of them, these are terrorist organizations — they are linked, they live for each other, they support each other and they are connected globally,” President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud told PJM in an exclusive interview on Friday. “It’s not just an issue of one country or one region — it’s a global phenomenon that needs to be addressed globally.”

“That’s why at the regional and continental level the African Union is supporting Somalia and, globally, that’s why the United States is supporting the African Union to support Somalia and defeat these terrorists,” Mohamud added.

. . .

“Al-Shabaab is a group based on an ideology, and we all know that ideologies have no citizenship and have no boundaries,” he said.

“Al-Shabaab is Somali for one reason only — they operate in Somalia, they have their base in Somalia, they have training camps in Somalia.” And, he added, they ably use Somalia as a transit hub for terrorists, linking Asia and Africa — “the terrorists move here and there.”

“And these organizations, although they have different names, they’re all linked in some way or another.”

The president stressed to the crowd the concern of Al-Shabaab and Nigeria’s Boko Haram training together even though they’re physically a continent apart.

“There are more non-Somalis than Somalis at the highest level” of Al-Shabaab now, he said. “We have people from North America, people from Europe, people from Asia, the Gulf… we have all kinds of people in place but still Somalia has the name associated with Al-Shabaab.”

There’s more at the link.

I have personal experience of this.  In South Africa during the 1980’s, certain Muslim individuals of a more militant persuasion went to Afghanistan to join the mujahedin in fighting the Soviet occupiers.  When some of them came home, they helped to form PAGAD (People Against Gangsterism and Drugs), which rapidly degenerated into a criminal and terrorist organization.  Other, primarily Shi’ite Muslim fundamentalists formed Qibla, modeled after the Iranian revolution and aligned with Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations.  I had run-ins with both of them, some of which got rather … er … exciting.  Let’s just say that I’m not exactly a novice at dealing with militant Muslims.

I think it’s highly likely that IS will establish (probably has already established) liaison with groups such as Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, and similar organizations around the world.  Don’t forget the growth of fundamentalist Islamic activity in the area where the borders of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina meet – so much so that it’s been called ‘the Muslim triangle’ by some sources.  (See this 1994 Seattle Times report for an indication of how long the area has been under investigation.)  I think it’s highly likely that terrorists and their sympathizers, fund-raisers and other supporters have already entered the USA from that area, or through the joke that is our southern border security at present.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find plans afoot to smuggle more terrorists and their weapons into the USA right now.

We’re frighteningly unprepared for a major terrorist attack.  The Department of Homeland Security is a joke – I don’t think it has a hope in hell of detecting, let alone preventing, an attack by determined terrorists with even a modicum of security-consciousness.  The TSA is absolutely useless – security theater at its most futile.  A few DHS agencies such as the Coast Guard do a good job, but they’re starved of manpower and resources.  I think it’ll be risibly easy for terrorists to strike hard – and there are many vulnerable targets for them to choose.  My greatest fear is that they’ll bring a Beslan-type massacre to our shores, and perhaps in more than one place at once.  If they attacked up to a dozen elementary or middle schools across the country on the same day, the carnage would be immense and the impact of their terrorism magnified beyond their wildest dreams.  (I’m not breaching security by saying this, or giving them ideas – we know it’s already been discussed in terrorist circles.)

(EDITED TO ADD:  Some readers apparently found the paragraphs below condescending or ‘sneering’, to quote one commenter.  That was not my intention, and if I gave that impression, I apologize.  I’ve edited them slightly to (hopefully) make that clearer.  Nevertheless, I stand by my (extensive) earlier arguments on the subject, as listed in the sidebar under the heading ‘Discrimination, distrust and xenophobia’.)

I have to add that for me, an equally great fear remains the unthinking, knee-jerk classification of all Muslims as potential terrorists by so many Americans.  Many people have very little real understanding of Islam.  Even those who parrot what they regard as “proof” in the form of selected verses from the Koran, or demand that those of us who differ in our opinions should refute their accusations on their terms, are at best ill-informed.  Very few of us have the education, intellectual resources and personal experience of Islam as it is actually lived (rather than in a purely theoretical context, or limited to one or two places or sects out of the dozens in the Muslim world) to properly understand it, as I’ve pointed out before.  That includes myself.  That’s like trying to judge all of Christianity on the actions of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence or the Dove World Outreach Center.

However, if a major Muslim fundamentalist terror attack takes place on US soil, I fear that logic and reason will be ignored yet again.  If we paint all Muslims in the same shade of “terrorist red”, it’s more than likely that even the (many) moderates among them (such as, for example, the President of Somalia, quoted above, who is our ally in the war against terrorism) will, in their anger and bitterness, end up supporting the radicals because we’ve driven them to it.  Wild talk of using nuclear weapons to convert entire Muslim nations into “a radioactive glass-topped parking lot” – innocents and children right along with the guilty – is a good start to doing precisely that.  In fact, of course, that would make us terrorists too.

The world is a far more complex and multi-hued place than most of us would like to admit.  In our (entirely legitimate) outrage at terrorism and our determination to stop it at any cost, let’s not “throw the baby out with the bathwater” and do things that prejudice or negate our own constitution and civil liberties, or risk alienating a quarter of the world’s population because we refuse to think before we emotionally react.  The Golden Rule is still a Biblical as well as a pragmatic standard.



  1. Middle East used to be the world's breadbasket once.

    This was before the musulmans took over, of course.

    And started rampaging everywhere they could get to.

    I'm just saying that historically speaking there's a lot of precedent and good reason for sinking ships flying muslim flags.

    The "moderates" didn't work very hard to keep the badly behaved ones in line back then either.

  2. Peter,
    perhaps you could write on the conflict between Islamic beliefs and our Constitution. I've heard it stated that a devout Muslim cannot follow our laws, since they are diametrically opposed.

    How do you think this should be handled?

  3. "Very few of them have the education, intellectual resources and experience of Islam in a wider context to properly understand it, as I've pointed out before."

    That is a pure attempt to delegitimize the arguments of those who disagree with you. We who condemn Islam root and branch include quite a number of persons far more intelligent, educated, and widely traveled than you. Sneering at us in this fashion will only provoke our contempt.

  4. @Francis: No sneer is implied. I've written very extensively on the subject – see the sidebar for a full list of articles, or go to the one I linked in the text to find more links at its head. That's an exact and literal statement that I'm prepared to defend, and one with which most scholars of religion are likely to agree. I've laid out the facts in the linked article.

    I don't agree that it's an attempt to "delegitimize the arguments of those who disagree with me". Facts are stubborn things. They remain facts. We can argue about their interpretation until the cows come home, but far too many people argue their case based on a flawed or biased interpretation rather than on the facts of the matter. I try very hard not to do that.

    One might as well judge Christianity in terms of the extremists who espouse it, or Judaism, or Hinduism, or whatever. Yes, there are fundamentalist Muslims who are terrorists, and they have many sympathizers. I'm not willing to condemn all Muslims because of the former's existence. We're not in the business of meting out divine justice to Sodom and Gomorrah for lack of ten just men.

    It never ceases to amaze me – and no, this isn't a dig at you personally, or at anyone else personally – how so many who try to practice Christianity can harbor such profoundly un-Christian attitudes towards those whom they regard as a threat. There's a disconnect somewhere . . .

  5. Peter

    Respectfully, I'd suggest you are mistaking 'non-direct-involvement' with 'disagreement'. To quote many others 'where are all these supposed moderate Muslims'? Wouldn't they be combating or at least disagreeing and condemning the actions perpetrated by the 'extremists'. Oh, there are some, they're just so pitifully few and far between as to be effectively, and actually, insignificant.

    I've spent many years in the ME and FE (and know many Muslims personally and professionally, in the NHS, here) and effectively all tacitly, if not openly (often hedging their responses and acting by omission, rather than commission) support the 'Radical' agenda. Then there are many, archetypal moderates, who do openly support, witness the many doctors from Britain who took leave of absences to go 'provide medical support' and ended up 'fighting' (crucifying Christians) in Syria ….

    Much like the alleged issue of racism in Ferguson (and the entire US), the #WaronWomen, the supposed genocide/bias against LGBT, the Lefts assumption of a war against them, all these memes, just as that espoused by 'Radical Islam' is now so ingrained, so accepted that it 'is' effectively seen as the unequivocal truth by these 'communities' – in their entirety.

    This is an insurgency, and unfortunately not one like the Mau-Mau in Kenya, but now more like what happened in Rhodesia in the late 60's, in which the general (Muslim) population has been indoctrinated, bribed and intimidated into actually supporting the 'Radicals' every action.To believe otherwise is simple naiveté (and a culturally suicidal one at that).

    You, there, don't 'yet' have as much of an issue with Muslims because of numbers (and can therefore, perhaps, choose to miss what 'is' going on). Consider the UK though (or most of Europe .. we could mention Lebanon or others but …) where once all those 'moderate' Muslims become sufficient in numbers (if not a majority) in an area – Tower Hamlets for example – the gloves come off and any alleged 'moderation' seamlessly evaporates in an instant.

    The 'what about extremist Christian/Jews' argument is a straw-man, as you know, because not only are such extremist so pathetically rare as to be inconsequential, but the main-stream Christians/Jews all, regularly and forcefully, condemn and attack their pronouncements immediately and unequivocally. Show me more than a token example of Muslims doing the same … ever … anywhere, there simply aren't any, and what does that indicate?

    The argument that “If we paint all Muslims in the same shade of "terrorist red" is kind of moot at this point then, don't you think? Has being tolerant and handing out benefits by the trillion helped reduce 'racial' tensions in the US? Has giving more rights and better pay to women than men helped reduce the supposed misogyny? Paying the Danegeld never works, to do so in this instance will result only in your extincion or dhimmitude.

    This is a war of cultures (not religions), openly declared by the other side for decades now. When even someone like I cannot walk down a street in my own countries capital city without being randomly attacked, when thousands of British women and children are raped/abused every year, where gays are openly attacked, where Jews/Christians and Hindus (or basically anyone other than Muslims) are abused, attacked and murdered … and the 'moderate' Muslims not only don't condemn the perpetrators but hide and protect them ….

    Like you I judge a man individually by his actions, is it so wrong that a community should be judged likewise rather than by words and claims? Matthew 7:15-20

  6. Francis, why are you getting irritated? Consider your words: "That is a pure attempt to delegitimize the arguments of those who disagree with you. We who condemn Islam root and branch include quite a number of persons far more intelligent, educated, and widely traveled than you. Sneering at us in this fashion will only provoke our contempt."

    You're sneering at Peter in the same fashion you're accusing him of doing to others, what does that say about you?

    Peter, here's two links that you may find interesting:

  7. I think you are all smarter and more traveled that I. However I have lived with Muslims of both sects.

    My takeaways are in Christianity we are told to love everyone and if they do not return our love, leave.

    In Islam they tell you to love there god and if you don't they will kill you.

    That is a fundamental difference that cannot be reconciled. At least not by use in this realm.

    While I am perfectly happy to let them live in peace, they are not willing to do the same.

    If anything the last thousand years has shown you cannot let any of them live as they are in the long game.

    If we beat them into submission they will play nice until they perceive an opening and then like the rattle snake they are they will bite.

    I liked Yousef and Salah. I don't think they returned the feelings.

    I have to say my vote would be for a glass topped parking lot, but I doubt I am christian enough.

  8. The Golden Rule is a wonderful concept, but in order for it to work, both sides have to be willing to play. Muslims, to date, have shown little or no willingness to play nice with the other kids in the sandbox.

    And the alleged moderates get tarred with the same brush because they don't do anything to rein in the radicals that get all the press.

    If a Christian sect did something radical (blowing up an abortion clinic, or picketing military funerals, for example) the mainstream organizations would be clambering over each other to denounce the radicals, going to great lengths to ensure anyone who would listen that they (the radicals) don't truly represent Christianity.

    But when Muslim radicals rape or murder infidels (or even sometimes fellow Muslims) the denunciations are overwhelmed by the sounds of crickets chirping.

    I'm perfectly willing to follow the Golden Rule, as long as everybody else does.

    But I also realize that if the moderates don't start to cull their nuts, we may be in for an extended game of "cowboys and Muslims" and I'm perfectly willing to play that game, too.

  9. Matt Bracken has a thoughtful essay on this over at Western Rifle Shooters blog.

    I have to say that I cannot claim anywhere near as much education and experience as the Good Peter.
    But, I can tell, right from wrong.
    No matter how much I might like a particular Moslem, I cannot trust him if he is stronger than me.
    That's just the way things look.

  10. Peter –
    Not getting into the religion debate going on, but I do need to address one flaw in your initial premise – that of the threat posed by IS. The issue is not their lack of an (obvious at least) infrastructure – because they are following a classic insurgency model in simply gaining control of the infrastructure already present.

    Rather it is a confluence of other events:
    – Thanks to their seizure of assets from banks etc in the region, they are now the most well-financed group in the world – and money buys access, money pays recruits, and all those other things.
    – While they are by no means a traditional "army" at the moment, given the loss of armaments and materials by the Iraqi forces, IS is now incredibly well-armed, and closer to being a military force than the Taliban or any other sect.
    – They are VERY media savvy, having learned the lessons of the past decade and applying it well. This psychological campaign serves to demoralize opponents, inspire followers and sympathizers, and most importantly adds an air of legitimacy to the entire operation. Furthermore, each failure by Syria, Iraq or the US to contain or defeat the group is rapidly exploited as an example of both their own abilities as well as their "divine blessing."
    – Most significantly, they actually reached the point of being able to "declare" a Caliphate, and at the moment seem poised to continue to operate in at least two nations if not spreading further – and, other Muslim groups have at least tacitly if not openly acknowledged such. This was a step even bin Laden never felt comfortable enough to take.

    While this does not in any way diminish the original intent of your post, or the dangers posed by radicals outside of the IS-controlled regions, I would say do not underestimate the short or long term threat posed by this group. Given the lack of political and public will on the part of the West (as I discussed last week), and the lack of any significant, sustained Iraqi potential to eliminate the threat (much less control them), IS is bound to remain active for some time to come. In my professional opinion, should IS successfully ally with groups such as al-Shabaab or the varied Chechnyan elements, they are possibly the most significant, organized radical Islamic threat we have faced to date.

  11. Regarding this subject, found out today that William Forstchen (of "One Second After" fame) just released a new book about an ISIS attack on the US. It's called "Day of Wrath".

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