The usual translation of jihad as 'holy war' is misleading; 'exertion 'or 'struggle' is more accurate: "A general injunction to strive in the way of God" (Albert Hourani: A History of the Arab Peoples, Faber and Faber, 1992)
As a movement for the establishment of Muslim governance, Islamic radicalism was born in the 1920s with the creation of an organization of Egyptian origin known as the Muslim Brotherhood. From the outset, Islamic radicalism opposed not only colonialism, but also Western modernism and non-Islamic Arab governments. The radicalization process intensified with the formation of the State of Israel and the movement itself gradually internationalized, facilitated by the emergence of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the Gulf War, to the point of reaching its current dynamism.
Individually considered, the aggregations of greater relevance today are Hizballah or Party of God, Shia, Egyptian, and pro-Iranian, operational since the 1980s; Hamas or Islamic Resistance Movement and Palestine Islamic Jihad, both Sunni, operating in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank since the late 1980s the former and since the late 1970s the latter; the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), Sunni and Algerian, in existence since the early 1990s, and it spin-off, Salafi Group for Call and Combat; al-Jihad or Holy War and al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya or Islamic Group, both Sunni and Egyptian, formed in the late 1970s; the Abu Sayyaf Group, Sunni and southern Filipino, a spin-off of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front since 1991; Harakat ul-Mujahidin or Movement of Islamic Fighters, Jaish-e-Mohammed or Army of Mohamed, and Lashkar-e-Tayyba or Army of the Righteous, all three Sunni, Pakistani and active primarily in the Kashmir area claimed by both Pakistan and India; and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a coalition of Islamic militants from Uzbekistan and other Central Asian states.
Besides aiming at the creation of an Islamic theocratic government in their own country or even in their geopolitical area, all of the above-listed aggregations share one or more of the following char-acteristics: a dual structure, overt, on the one hand, for political action, religious ministry, proselytizing, fundraising, and social assistance, and covert, on the other hand, for terrorist initiatives; hatred for Israel; the presence of representative organs abroad; terrorist action beyond their own national boundaries; and holy war without quarter against the infidel at the universal level. Some of these groups have enjoyed or still enjoy to this day forms of support from sponsor states governed by either theocratic or secular regimes. Iran has been supporting Hizballah, Hamas, and Palestine Islamic Jihad and is accused by Egypt of supporting also Holy War and the Islamic Group.
According to press sources, Libya has paid ransom to the Abu Sayyaf Group, thus encouraging it to commit further abductions of West-ern citizens. Sudan has granted asylum to Holy War, the Islamic Group, Hamas, and Palestine Islamic Jihad, which exploit-ed it as an operational base. Moreover, Algeria has charged Sudan with support-ing the GIA. Syria has been assisting on its own territory Hamas and Palestine Islamic Jihad and allows them, as well as Hizballah, to use the Bekaa Valley in Lebanese territory. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan avails itself of the Iranian radio system to broadcast propaganda. India accuses Pakistan of assisting Islamic terrorist organizations that operate in Kashmir.
Other forms of assistance, primarily financial, issue from private benefactors aware or unaware of supporting domestic and international terrorism, given the dual structure utilized by several of these groups, which, thanks precisely to their dual structure, respond to a socio-economic void unfilled by government or society in many Third World countries. This aspect increases popular following and the relative danger posed by Islamic radicalism.
The most radical Islamic activists, in order to wage holy war against the infidel, have given birth to an internation-al network, not to be confused with the mild concept of ummah that unites the Muslim faithful in the conviction of belonging all to one nation, that is, the nation of Islam. The internationalization of Islamic radicalism draws its origins from the Afghani resistance against the Soviet Union, followed by a further resistance conceived as a struggle against the American and Western occupation of the holiest places of Islam and against West-ern polluting of the Islamic world, nefariously allowed by local regimes viewed as corrupt.
In this context, a series of well known events has taken place: the constitution in the late 1980s of al-Qaida, or The Base, as an umbrella for coordinating, training and supporting various subordinate, semi-autonomous, and autonomous organizations dedicated to holy war at the global level; the training in Afghanistan of approximately 11,000 militants, who subsequently either fought in Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, and Dagestan or returned to their respective countries to conduct an internal struggle or took up residence in the West to set up operational and logistical cells; the issuance of numerous anti-Western fat-was or religious decrees, among which stands out the one of February 1998 undersigned by representatives of al-Qaida, Holy War (Egypt), Islamic Group (Egypt), Jamat-ul-Ulema (Pakistan), and Jihad Movement (Bangladesh), in which all Muslims are called upon to kill Americans and their allies, civilians as well as military, wherever possible; the creation of the World Islamic Front for Jihad against Jews and Crusaders; the fine tuning, until the recent Western military intervention in Afghanistan, of a triad consisting of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida, and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan; and about twenty anti-Western terrorist attacks that culminated in the destruction of the Twin Towers and part of the Pentagon.
The purposes and the objectives of Islamic radicalism are clearly defined in a document found in England in May 2000 and titled Military Studies in the Jihad Against the Tyrants, which states in part: The main mission . is the overthrow of the godless regimes and their replacement with an Islamic regime.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|