The War on Terror Continues, Like It or Not

For many years, I have warned of the threat of Islamic terrorism and the need for strong measures to combat it. Obviously there are limits to what we should do; I have stood against the National Security Agency’s nationwide surveillance efforts and the Transportation Security Administration’s nude scanners and water-bottle-seizures, along with other policies that trample civil liberties without any significant positive effects. But, generally speaking, I support government action—domestically and internationally—to fight against the Jihadists.

Many Libertarians, along with their ‘small-l’ libertarian, paleo-conservative, and peacenik peers in both the Republican and Democratic Parties, believe that Islamic terrorism has its roots in western involvement in the middle east, and think that if we stopped interfering in their affairs they would leave us and the rest of the world alone. This is nonsense. To believe it, we would have to ignore the traditional Qur’anic teachings of Islam, the history of the religion’s spread throughout the world, and how modern Jihadists understand and act upon their faith.

For example, when Israel ended its occupation of the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians in Gaza put Hamas in charge and increased their terrorist and rocket attacks on Israel. When the United States and our allies pulled out of Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) took control of large swaths of the country and went on a terrorist rampage, abducting and murdering western journalists, expelling Iraqi Christians from their homes, and calling for sympathizers in the west to attack and kill as many westerners as they can. If the peaceniks are right and all the Jihadists want is for us to leave them alone, well, they sure have a funny way of showing it. Every time the civilized world pulls back, they turn around and hit us harder.

While al-Qaeda preferred massive acts of terrorism like the September 11, 2001, suicide hijackings, other groups call for less spectacular actions at the grass-roots levels, and many individual Jihadists have planned and executed ‘lone wolf’ attacks on their own. Here are just a few notable examples:

  • In 1999, Gameel Al-Batouti, an Egyptian Muslim, deliberately crashed EgyptAir Flight 990 into the Atlantic Ocean off New York, killing all 217 passengers and crew (including himself), all the while chanting the Islamic prayer ‘Tawkalt ala Allah’ (I rely on God).
  • In 2000, Mazin Assi and three other Palestinian-American Muslims attempted to firebomb a Synagogue in New York, New York.
  • In 2002, Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, an Egyptian Muslim, killed two and wounded four at the El Al [Israeli national airline] ticket counter at the Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California.
  • In 2006, Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, an Iranian-American Muslim, injured six when he ran down a group of pedestrians in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
  • Also in 2006, Naveed Afzal Haq, a Pakistani-American Muslim, killed one and injured five at the Jewish Federation building in Seattle, Washington.
  • In 2009, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammed, an American Muslim, killed one and wounded another military recruiter in Little Rock, Arkansas.
  • Also in 2009, Nidal Malik Hasan, an American Muslim, killed thirteen and wounded twenty-nine in a Jihadist attack at Fort Hood, Texas.
  • In 2013, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, both Chechen Muslims, killed three and injured more than 180 in the Boston Marathon bombings in Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Earlier this year, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, a Malaysian Muslim, was captain of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. The airliner disappeared into the Indian Ocean and all 239 people aboard are presumed dead. The most likely cause was deliberate action by the pilot.
  • In October, Martin Couture-Rouleau, a Canadian Muslim, killed one and injured another Canadian soldier by running them down with his car.
  • In October, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a Canadian Muslim, killed one and injured three in a brazen shotgun attack in and around the Canadian Parliament building in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
  • In October, Zale Thompson, an American Muslim, injured two New York City police officers by attacking them with a hatchet.

Note that there have been at least three such attacks in the U.S. and Canada just during the month of October, and there are well-founded worries that they will continue. Just this week, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson (D) announced that over 9,500 government buildings in the United States would be increasing their security as a precautionary measure. There have also been other attacks that have not been officially linked to Islamic Jihad, but certainly fit the profile. Yesterday, an unidentified attacker ambushed a Washington, DC, police officer with an axe, damaging his vehicle. The officer was injured in the course of a foot pursuit and scuffle with the attacker, and the culprit got away.

Since the September 11, 2001, attacks, I have told friends and confidants that it isn’t the big attacks that worry me. They are hard to plan, hard to execute, and we have ways of defending against them. Attempts will be rare, and rarely successful. For example, it is unlikely that anybody other than the pilots will ever be able to successfully hijack an airliner again. The old guidance to hijack victims was to keep quiet, let the terrorists do what they want, and rely on the authorities to rescue you at some point later. We know better now. Passengers will risk their lives to stop and subdue anybody who attempts to take control of an airliner.

But simple, lone wolf attacks are often undetectable until they happen. The perpetrators work alone, or perhaps in very small groups, and they commit acts that require little or no money and advance planning.

So what is the solution? Well, before we can really talk about solving the problem, we need to get an idea of the real scale of it. According to a 2012 study by the Pew Research Center, roughly twenty-three percent of the world’s population is Muslim. In another Pew Research Center study (PDF link), the organization surveyed Muslims around the world and found that fourteen percent of them said that violence against civilians is ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’ justified in the name of Islam.

The good news is that only fourteen percent of the world’s Muslims are ‘originalists’ who intend to obey or support the Qur’an’s calls for the violent subjugation of innocent non-Muslims. The other eighty-six percent of Muslims—the overwhelming majority—seek to live in peace, at least with regard to attacks on civilians. (We have little idea how many of those in the eighty-six percent would accept Jihad attacks on police and military targets.) But fourteen percent of Islam adds up to more than three percent of the world’s population (0.23 * 0.14). The United States Census Bureau estimates that there are now 7.2 billion people in the world, so based on that number, we can estimate that there are at least 231 million Jihadists and Jihadist sympathizers throughout the world (0.23 * 0.14 * 7,200,000,000).

In other words, this isn’t a small problem . . . and Jihidist versions of Islam aren’t some tiny, fringe version of the faith like we keep hearing from apologists. It should be no surprise to any of us that Jihad is popular with a significant sub-set of Muslims, since it is spelled out plain-as-day in the Qur’an itself. So this isn’t a problem that can be solved by dropping bombs and rhetoric (although there is a place for both). Jihadism only loses its power with the spread of religious freedom, civil liberties, and good education throughout the world. Sadly, that can only happen when the people of countries like Iraq, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and wherever else begin to demand those things for themselves. We (and the rest of the civilized world) can help, but it won’t count for anything if the men and women of these countries don’t want it. We need to change their minds if we intend to change their actions; people need to know what Islam truly is and what it teaches, and what alternatives are available to them.

We also need to make sure that, here in the civilized world, we start teaching an accurate view of the history and spread of Islam (and how it differs drastically from the history and spread of Christianity or any other world religion). Our artificial false equivalencies cannot continue. We all need to know that Islam spread almost exclusively by the sword, while Christianity spread almost exclusively through voluntary conversion (though yes, there are a number of regrettable counterexamples). They are not even remotely similar in this respect. Why do our schools teach about the Crusades, including their horrible and condemnable excesses, without even mentioning why the Crusades started? They were, after all, a Christian retaliation against literally centuries of brutal, unstoppable Muslim conquests that were approaching the heart of Christian Europe.

In the end, we have to admit that we are in a battle of ideals: the ideal of traditional, violent, Qur’anic Islam against the western, Christian ideals of liberty, freedom, and human rights. The battle cannot be won for civilization if we refuse to tell the truth about what it is we’re fighting and why we’re fighting it. Much of what I am saying today is not politically correct, but we aren’t going to accomplish anything by wrapping every criticism of traditional Islam in false ‘religion of peace’ platitudes. We must be fearless and truthful. We must study and understand Islam, and its history, if we are to understand and react properly to what is happening in the world today.

And what are we, the regular citizens, to do? Most of us don’t run into Jihadists in our day-to-day lives, and even if we did it would probably be a bad idea to try and talk to them about it. I, for one, don’t want to argue with a devout Muslim Jihadist . . . because, you know, ‘When you meet the unbelievers in the battlefield strike off their heads’ (Qur’an 47:3, Dawood). I would like to keep my head where it is.

(I would also like to know, if all religions are morally equal, where is the equivalent call for violence found in Christian Bible? Hint: you won’t find it. The handful of calls for violence that are found in the Old Testament are all specifically limited in time and space, as opposed to the kinds of ‘standing orders’ for violence peppered through the Qur’an. The Christian and Islamic scriptures, both of which I have read in their entirety, have a very different character in this area. Read them yourselves if you doubt me.)

What we can do is drop the politically-correct charade when we discuss these issues with our friends and neighbors. We can stop pretending that we aren’t in a war against Islam, at least against Qur’anic Islam as traditionally taught and understood. That is not to say that we should desire any harm toward individual Muslims, most of whom are perfectly fine and peaceful people, but rather that we should be honest about the religious ideology that they subscribe to (whether tacitly or explicitly). We should all study Islam in-depth, including the Qur’an itself and the concept of abrogation as a means of resolving conflicting passages, and we should be aware of what the Muslim faith in its undiluted form demands of its followers.

Lastly, we should remain alert. In the days after the September 11, 2001, attacks, everybody all across America was paying special attention and looking out for unusual behavior. That particular kind of hyper-vigilance goes too far, considering that we don’t want to overwhelm law enforcement and homeland security officials with false alarms . . . but these recent attacks should serve as a reminder that we do still need to be paying attention, and we each ought to be ready to defend ourselves and others. And that goes for all of us, no matter where we live or how unlikely it seems that our neighborhoods will become a target.

So let us not forget that the ‘War on Terror’ is still ongoing, no matter how much you or I wish it wasn’t. Public attention has turned elsewhere (to the economy, or the Kardashians), but there are still millions of people out there who oppose, with every bone in their body, everything our civilization stands for. Many of them are willing to kill innocent people to make their point. The majority are Muslim Jihadists, by far the single biggest threat, but there are others too—local ‘militia’ groups, white supremacists, and more. We should not live in fear of them, nor should we sign away our civil rights in a half-baked effort to stop them . . . but we should pay close attention in our communities, be vigilant, and be ready to act.

Ed. Note, March 3, 2023: This post originally included a paragraph referring to a vandalism incident involving a Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) vehicle. That paragraph named the nineteen year old suspect and noted that an LCSO spokesperson said the case appeared to be simple vandalism. Because of its proximity in time to other events targeting law enforcement, and the suspect’s apparently middle-eastern name, I inferred that there might be some connection. I should not have made that inference without evidence. This was brought to my attention by the named individual, and, after review, I have decided to remove the paragraph. It did not add anything of value to the article and should not have been included in the first place. I apologize for the error in judgement.

Scott Bradford is a writer and technologist who has been putting his opinions online since 1995. He believes in three inviolable human rights: life, liberty, and property. He is a Catholic Christian who worships the trinitarian God described in the Nicene Creed. Scott is a husband, nerd, pet lover, and AMC/Jeep enthusiast with a B.S. degree in public administration from George Mason University.