Skip to comments.Terror's Homebase, All Over The Map -- Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam
Posted on 04/05/2002 5:55:46 AM PST by Stand Watch Listen
Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam", By Gilles Kepel, Belknap/Harvard, 454 pages, $29.95
Jihad, By Ahmed Rashid, Yale, 281 pages, $24
By Adrian Karatnycky
Sunday will be Easter, the holiest day in the Christian calendar. It will be celebrated throughout the world with prayers and services -- an eventful day, to be sure, and for many a profound one. But it will not have an overtly political meaning, nor will Sunday's sermons speak to ideology more than to God.
In the U.S. at least, we are so used to this division of the political and religious -- the state and the church -- that it is still something of a shock to see them conjoined, especially to murderous effect. There is today no more disturbing example of this conjunction than revolutionary Islamism, an ideology that inspires most of today's global terrorism.
It is a political creed that has appropriated religious language and sentiment in the service of a global revolution. Its watchword is "jihad," a militant struggle to be waged against the world of "apostasy, unbelief, and heresy." Two new books neatly track today's jihadist movements, describing their operations across several countries, their support by various regimes and their baleful intentions toward the West.
In "Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam" (Belknap/Harvard, 454 pages, $29.95), Gilles Kepel offers a masterly display of scholarship that describes how a radical idea spread through large segments of the Islamic world in the 1970s and 1980s. There are, he notes, scores of "Islamist" movements -- that is, movements devoted to a radically militant version of Islam -- cut from the same cloth as al Qaeda, having already wreaked havoc, imposed extreme forms of Islamic Shariah law and devoted themselves to universal Islamic rule.
Little in Common With Religion
Like communism a generation ago (especially after the Sino-Soviet split), radical Islam often divides according to the needs of its patron states. Three in particular emerge from Mr. Kepel's narrative: Iran after its revolution; Saudi Arabia, where the fundamentalist Wahhabi sect of Islam has become dominant; and the Iraq of Saddam Hussein after 1991's war. Help from these regimes has nourished struggles from Palestine to Chechnya to Bosnia to Afghanistan.
In Mr. Kepel's view, Islamism is a political ideology with little in common with religious faith. The movement adopts religious language to widen its appeal, but it often does so on shaky doctrinal grounds. In most cases, jihadist doctrine spreads in an ideological vacuum created, in part, by acute privation and educational neglect.
Mr. Kepel leads us on a breathtaking excursion. He trails the Islamist movements that have traversed Europe in recent years, founding radical communities in France, Britain, Germany and Belgium. He locates similar communities -- often more militant and less marginal -- in Africa (Sudan and Algeria), the Middle East (Palestine), South Asia (Kashmir, Pakistan and Afghanistan) and East Asia (the Philippines).
What are we to make of this? Allowing for the fact of this powerfully disruptive force, Mr. Kepel reaches an astonishing conclusion: Radical Islamism is in decline. Indeed, he asserts that Islamism reached its apogee in the late 1980s, when the Iranian fundamentalist revolution was ascendant; when Algeria's Islamists stood on the threshold of electoral victory; and when Sudan became a radicalized state with Islamists dominating the governing coalition.
Those heady days are over, however. Iran's theocracy has alienated the young, who favor a more open society. The U.S. has routed Afghanistan's Taliban. In Algeria, Islamists in the mid-1990s estranged the citizenry with their waves of terror. During the same period in Turkey, fundamentalists failed to put in place their radical program when they governed, and along the way disenchanted the country's have-nots.
In Pakistan after Sept. 11, Islamists have experienced open rebuke, falling still farther from the ascendancy they enjoyed under Gen. Zia ul-Haq in the mid-1980s. Egypt's Islamic radicals, meanwhile, have failed to mount a sustained bid for power and now settle for sporadic attacks on Coptic Christians. In Sudan, the leading radical Islamist and former parliamentary speaker, Hassan al-Turabi, is now under house arrest.
Indeed, Mr. Kepel makes a strong case that the utopian idea of jihadist Islamism has failed everywhere it has been tried. But he is on less firm ground when he writes that "the attack on the United States was a desperate symbol of the isolation, fragmentation, and decline of the Islamist movement, not a sign of its irrepressible might." There is extensive evidence of widespread revolutionary networks, and the three principal state funders of the radical cause -- Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia -- show no signs of ending their support. So even if Islamism as a whole is losing ground, the "might" of mass terror is still palpable.
Central Asia's Fertile Ground
Ahmed Rashid's "Jihad" (Yale, 281 pages, $24), another approach to this urgent subject, provides a compelling account of an Islamist movement that has spread like wildfire in Central Asia's repressive regimes. Today in Uzbekistan, for example, tens of thousands of Muslims flock to the Hizb ut-Tahrir, an underground party that advocates a global jihad. More worrying is the violent Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which seeks to take power in many Central Asian states and indeed may find fertile ground in nearby Tajikistan, ravaged by civil war.
Many fighters from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan fought alongside the Taliban and al Qaeda. Presumably the U.S.-led offensive has routed them, but there is a good chance that their remnant will regroup. In the impoverished Fergana Valley, a region running through several countries in Central Asia, with a population of nearly 10 million, jihadist revolutionaries proliferate and command increasing loyalty.
This is a jihad that is much less known in the West, and Mr. Rashid, an occasional reporter for The Wall Street Journal and The Far Eastern Economic Review (both published by Dow Jones), makes it vividly real. What is most surprising is the sheer scale of the resources it commands. By Mr. Rashid's reckoning, tens of millions of dollars flow to Central Asia's Islamic radicals every year. Inevitably, impoverished residents of Central Asia are drawn to the guerrilla movement with promises of salaries of up to $500 a month, close to the region's average yearly wage.
Where does this money come from? From the opium trade, mainly, and from the Gulf states, in particular Saudi Arabia. Indeed, an Uzbek diaspora living in Saudi Arabia has exerted a good deal of influence there, especially through links to a former Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Turki al-Faisal.
So there are grounds for worry as well as, perhaps, hope, if we take Mr. Kepel's and Mr. Rashid's accounts together. Surely we may conclude that there remain major obstacles to the democratic evolution of the Islamic world. And perhaps reasons for effortful prayer by people of all faiths, on Sunday and well after.
Mr. Karatnycky is president of Freedom House, which monitors political rights and civil liberties around the world.
No, no, no, jihad only means a struggle, like an internal one to find peace with oneself. I know this because I heard the lawyer for the Arabic student at UVA who wrote the letter to his brother who was detained by U.S. authorities on suspicion of trying to carry out a terrorist attack on Israel 2 weeks ago.
To hear these writers, one would think that there were some overt, hateful overtones to the message of islam. But this cant be the case! islam is a religion of peace. I know this because W says it again and again.
muslims are our friends. Let them in the U.S. unfettered by visas and restrictions. Train them in our Universities, trust them with our secrets! Then they will come to love us even more
"Kill the disbelievers wherever we find them" (Koran 2:191)
"Not to make friendship with Jews and Christians" (Koran 5:51)
"Remember Allah inspired the angels: I am with you. Give firmness to the believers. I will instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers: you smite them above their necks and smite all their fingertips off of them." (Koran, 8:12)
islam, the religion of peace
Guns Before Butter.
Ping for others!
Wrong on both counts but nice try at apologetics. How about in the absence of utopian Communist hegemony, Islam and the Left have joined forces and found a convenient base from which to motivate, employ, exhort its exceedingly high numbers of overeducated socially excluded ignorant youth who have no futures in Islamic countries.
It is no accident that Islamism - the political ideology which exploits the Islamic "religious" code in order to gain power - has only in recent years formed the foundation of a protracted war with the west and all that the West stands for. There is money, perceived oppression, and socialist ideological thought which appeals to former leftists who have no home since the Soviet breakup. Taking away the money (what we can do by cutting off the money flow to the Saudis)would go a long way in undermining this fanaticism.
Let's see, Drug Prohibition is first unconstitutional. Second, the WoD has created a high crime rate, devastated millions of American families and destroyed hundreds of neighborhoods. Third, the WoD has lead to a sustained attack on freedom in this country in the form weakening of privacy, intrusions on our persons with urine drug testing, hyper-aggressive police actions and a sustained attack on the Second Amendment. Fourth, the WoD has lead to government corruption from the top, President Bill Clinton to the lowliest prison guard.
Now, the War on Drugs has become and National Security threat with the massive financing of Islamic Terrorists, first in Afghanistan, where opium now funds the Warlords and now in Central Asia.
Let's increase our freedom cut crime and improve National Security, END THE WoD's.
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