European counter-terrorism officials are concerned about the hundreds of their Moslem citizens who are going to Syria to help the rebels there. Not just the ones going to fight but the ones volunteering to help deliver supplies. These men often come in contact with the Islamic terrorists fighting for the rebels and these fellows are always keen on convincing more Moslems, especially those with Western passports, to join Islamic radical groups. That is a problem because many (over twenty percent) of the 50,000 rebel gunmen are Islamic radicals, who are out to conquer the world (for Islam) not just overthrow the Assad dictatorship in Syria. European police have learned, from bitter experience, to keep an eye on these travelers because many of them return radicalized and ready to do some violence at home.
This should be surprising if you pay attention to media trends in the Islamic world. For example, in Gaza Islamic radical group Hamas has, for years, been showing a video on their TV station (Hamas controls Gaza) that called for Allah to kill Jews, Christians, communists, and anyone who supports these groups. As vile as this is, it is not an unusual attitude in the Islamic world. Although Saudi Arabia has cracked down on clerics who preach this sort of thing in mosques, the attitudes, and clerics, remain. But the clerics also preach hatred and call for the death of other factions in the Islamic world. This is important and for years police in Europe, North America, and other places where millions of Moslems had settled in the last few decades were not aware of what was being preached in local mosques.
This sort of preaching is common in Islam. It is not universal but it survives and is the result of ancient, and widespread, hostility between Moslem factions. The Islamic world has no central religious authority and a long tradition of being hypersensitive and violent to those (Moslem or infidel) who appear to give offense. In Iraq and Afghanistan most of the Moslem terrorism casualties were caused by other Moslems. While Islamic conservatives and radicals are usually doing the attacking, these killers represent many different strains of Islam. Even after foreign troops withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan, the killing will go on, occasionally at a higher intensity. This is the basis for the great fear of Islamic nations getting nuclear weapons. Moslems, as they have demonstrated over the last few decades, are more prone to actually killing lots of their real or imagined enemies. Thus, it is a more serious matter for Pakistan to have nuclear weapons than India. Per capita, India has lost fewer people to terrorist violence than the Moslem world. Worse yet, the Moslem scientists who developed the Pakistani bomb then went on to peddle it to other Moslem and non-Moslem dictatorships. The India-Pakistan situation is made worse by the fact that many radicalized Moslems consider it their religious duty to attack and kill infidels (non-Moslems).
This Moslem propensity for violence has a long history, and the hatred and killing is still with us. In the last few years, Moslems have regularly attacked Buddhists in Thailand, Jews everywhere, Hindus in Pakistan and India, Baha'is in Iran, and Christians in Egypt, Iraq, the Philippines, Pakistan, Malaysia, and just about anywhere Moslems encounter them. This is not a sudden and unexpected outburst of Moslem violence against non-Moslems. It is normal and at the root of Islamic terrorism. While this violent behavior represents only a small number of Moslems, it is a large minority (from a few percent of a population to over half, according to opinion polls). Moreover, the majority of Moslems have not been willing, or able, to confront and suppress the Islamic radicals that not only spread death and destruction but also besmirch all Moslems. This reveals a fundamental problem in the Islamic world, the belief that combining righteousness with murderous tactics is often the road to power and spiritual salvation. This attitude has been a colossal failure. Throughout history when these tactics were applied to non-Moslems they not only frequently failed but resulted in calamitous reactions. The non-Moslems were unfazed by the religious angle and, especially in the last five hundred years, were better able to defeat Islamic violence with even greater violence. Thus, until quite recently, the Moslems fought among themselves and avoided the infidels (non-Moslems). But after World War II that began to change.
This could be seen during the Lebanese civil war of 1975-1990, when Christian and Moslem Arabs fought bitterly over political, cultural and, ultimately, religious differences. Few realized it at the time but this war was but the first of many between Christians and Moslems in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Many of the earliest Moslem converts were Christians. And many of the peoples Moslem armies unsuccessfully sought to conquer were Christian. The original Crusades, which modern Moslems portray as Western aggression, were actually a Western attempt to rescue Middle Eastern Christians (who still survive in the Middle East) from increasing Islamic terrorism and violence. But Islam as a political force was in decline for several centuries before the 1970s. Then things changed, and they continue to change. Fueled by oil wealth and access to Western weapons and technology, Islamic radicals saw new opportunities. Islam was again on the march, and few have noticed the many places where it was turning into religious war with Christians and other non-Moslems.
Inside India many Moslem communities remain, and feelings aren't always neighborly with the infidel majority. Indonesia and the Philippines suffer growing strife between Moslems and non-Moslems. Malaysia has fanatical Moslems persecuting more laid-back ones and non-Moslems in general. China has a large Moslem community that generates an increasing amount of violence. Russia and America have formed a curious partnership to deal with Islamic-based terrorism coming out of Afghanistan and Pakistan. And in Chechnya, Russia faced Islamic-inspired violence all alone in the 1990s.
Many African nations are split by increasingly incendiary religious differences. The Moslems are in the north, Christians and animists in the south, and the Moslems tend to be more and more aggressive. Nigeria, Chad, and Sudan are among the more violent hot spots at the moment. When the Moslem Somalis stop fighting each other they will return to raiding their Christian and animist neighbors to the south and west.
The Middle East still contains many non-Moslems. None have their own country, except for Israel. But Egypt contains nearly ten million Copts, native Christians who did not convert to Islam. Similar small Christian communities exist throughout the Middle East, and growing hostility from Moslem neighbors cause many to migrate, or get killed. That has been going on for over a thousand years.
Moslems also have turned their righteous wrath on dissident Moslem sects. The Druze and Alawites are considered by many Moslems as pagans pretending to be Moslems. Similarly, the Shias of Iran and neighboring areas are considered less orthodox, not just for their admitted differences but because many adherents openly practice customs of the pre-Islamic Zoroastrian religion. These differences are less frequently overlooked today. To survive, the many Druze have allied themselves with Israel, and most of the current Syrian leadership are Alawites who pretend to be more Shia than they really are because of an alliance with Iran. That move enraged many Syrian Sunnis, who are the majority.
Even Europe has long had problems with Islamic violence. The Moslems in the Balkans (Albanians and Bosnians) have been a constant source of strife. Moslem migrants in Europe face even more persecution because it is easier for radical groups to recruit and carry out their crusade against Christians. In many European cities with Moslem minorities, there are neighborhoods non-Moslems are advised to stay out of.
But the Islamic violence is often about more than religion. A lot of it is politics. One of the reasons Islam ran out of steam centuries ago was that the Moslem areas never embraced democracy and intellectual progress. Until the 20th century, most Moslems lived as part of some foreign empire, under local totalitarian monarchs. The foreign empires are gone but democracy has had a hard time taking hold. The dictatorships are still there and the people are restless.
Radical Islam arose as an alternative to all the other forms of government that never seemed to work. In theory, establishing "Islamic Republics" would solve all problems. People could vote, but only Moslems in good standing could be candidates for office. A committee of Moslem holy men would have veto power over political decisions. Islamic law would be used. It was simple, and it makes sense to a lot of Moslems in nations ruled by thugs and thieves. This is especially true if the people are largely uneducated and illiterate. Islamic purists discourage literacy and non-religious education.
Islamic Republics don't work. The only one that has been established (not counting others that say they are but aren't) is in Iran. The major problems were twofold. First, the radicals had too much power. Radical religious types are no fun, and you can't argue with them because they are on a mission from God. Most people tire of this in short order. To speed this disillusionment, many of the once-poor and now-powerful religious leaders became corrupt. This eventually sends your popularity ratings straight to hell.
It will take a generation or so for everyone in the Moslem world to figure out where all this is going. This is already happening in Iran, where moderates are getting stronger every day but everyone is trying to avoid a civil war. While the radicals are a minority, they are a determined bunch. The constant flow of Islamic radical propaganda does more than generate recruits and contributions in Moslem countries, it also energizes Moslem minorities (both migrants and converts) in Western countries to acts of terrorism. In the United States, you find such Moslems getting arrested several times a year for attempting to carry out religious violence.
Radicals throughout the Moslem world continue to take advantage of dissatisfaction among the people and recruit terrorists and supporters. To help this process along they invoke the ancient grudges popular among many Moslems. Most of these legends involve Christians beating on Moslems. To most radicals it makes sense to get people agitated over faraway foreigners rather than some ruthless strongman nearby.
Most radicals lack the skills, money, or ability to carry their struggle to far-off places. So most of the agitation takes place among Moslem populations. Any violent attitudes generated are easily directed at available non-Moslems. But the more Islamic violence you have, the more non-Moslems will fight back and the more really fanatical fighters are developed. These are the people who are willing to travel to foreign lands and deal with non-believers and kill them for the cause. We call it terrorism, the fanatics call it doing what has to be done. Defending Islam with jihad (literally, “struggle”).
Not surprisingly, Moslems get motivated to do something about Islamic radicalism when the violence comes to their neighborhoods. That's why terror attacks in the West are so popular. The infidels are being attacked, without any risk to those living in Moslem countries. Iraq changed all that, and during the course of that war (2004-7) the popularity of Islamic terrorism, in Moslem countries, declined sharply because the terrorists were killing so many Moslems. That, in the end, is what has killed, for a while, most Islamic terrorism in Iraq. But this time around it would be nice if the Moslem world got their act together and expunged this malevolent tendency once and for all.