Counter-Terrorism: Deliberate And Disastrous Misinterpretation


January 14, 2020: There has been a sharp decline in Islamic terrorist attacks in the West, especially Europe, between 2015, when there were 211, and 2019 when there were twenty. This was the result of worldwide alarm and action against ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), the most violent and determined form of Islamic terrorism so far. All nations, especially Moslem ones, cooperated to defeat ISIL. This brought about unusually high levels of cooperation in identifying ISIL members or potential members as well as going after ISIL media efforts, recruiters and fundraisers.

In the West, this exposed a pro-Islamic terrorist underground that was larger and more popular than anyone realized. Actually, there were police and military intelligence specialists who were not surprised. Until ISIL came along, few Western politicians believed so much support for Islamic terrorism existed inside their countries. Some of those politicians are still skeptical. But the problem is real and it’s been growing for several decades, along with support for Islamic terrorists in Moslem majority nations.

After September 11, 2001, there was a growing realization in the West that many of their Moslem citizens, or recent migrants, supported Islamic terrorism, including attacks that killed a lot of civilians. While survey results varied from country to country, there were two constants. First, the majority of Moslems opposed Islamic terrorism under any circumstances. Second, there was always a minority that either supported or “understood the need” for such violence and worst of all there was a small percentage who thought such violence was necessary to defend Islam. Many in the last group were willing to actively participate in Islamic terrorist activity.

For example, an opinion survey in 2006 showed that about three percent of German Moslems supported al Qaeda's objectives, which were mainly about Islam becoming the only religion on the planet, and using force to make it happen. Many of the Moslems who supported Islamic terrorism did not just support violence but would give aid to al Qaeda terrorists. More worrisome, the German intelligence experts believed that about 3,000 of their Moslem residents would commit terrorist acts to further the al Qaeda cause. The Germans also noted that there were 24 active Islamist groups in the country, with a combined membership of over 31,000. Many of those young al Qaeda enthusiasts lacked the leadership and technical knowledge to pull off a major attack. While these 3,000 men were all for terrorist actions, only a few are willing to kill themselves doing it. This shows the importance of the former al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan. There, al Qaeda could select and train men who could whip a bunch of local enthusiasts into a team capable of carrying out an act of mass murder. The camps also trained people to make bombs and deal with the more mundane problems of avoiding detection and arrest by the police.

The problem in Europe was that radical Moslems sought, often with success, to establish religious schools (madrassas) where elementary and high-school age children could be indoctrinated in the conservative forms of Islam, as mandated in Saudi Arabia and many other Moslem nations, that insisted Islam was under constant attack or threat of attack by infidels (non-Moslems). These madrassas call on young Moslems to actively defend Islam using violence against infidels and Moslems who do not share these extremist beliefs. The madrassas teach that economic failure is not the fault of unemployed Moslems but a deliberate policy of the infidel societies they now live in.

Cultivating this culture of resentment and justifying blaming personal problems on others rather than yourself also works in Moslem nations, where madrasa students often turn against their own government rather than infidel nations, who tend to be better off than Moslem majority countries. Most Moslems believe this sort of thing is nonsense but Islamic radicals can find a lot of support for these extremist attitudes in Islamic scripture. This is a unique aspect of Islam, for no other major religion gives this much encouragement for and religious justification of violence against infidels or Moslems who don’t agree with you.

European politicians, in particular, are still prone to downplay the severity of this situation. For example, German politicians are under growing pressure from their constituents to reduce the flow of Moslem migrants and more carefully screen those that are let in. Most elected (and unelected) officials have taken the position that allowing large numbers of Moslem refugees (from civil wars, rebellions and religious conflicts in Moslem majority nations) is the humanitarian thing to do. Their constituents point out that many of the politicians are delusional because these officials do not live near the new arrivals and experience the increasing crime and general hostility expressed by so many of the refugees towards non-Moslems (and often each other). Voters point out that their political leaders tend to live in well-protected neighborhoods and have access to taxpayer-supplied personal security. To make matters worse, there are a growing number of instances where local (or national) officials deliberately conceal data on criminal activity by Moslem migrants.

Some data cannot be concealed and that is when there are deliberate terrorist attacks that kill or injure people in a public place. For example, in the four years after 2014 (through the end of 2017), there were 32 Islamic terror attacks in Europe. These involved 44 Moslem refugees or recent asylum seekers. These attacks caused 996 casualties (182 dead, 814 wounded). While these attacks occurred in twelve countries most of them took place in Germany, which had accepted the most (1.4 million) Moslem refugees.

For the average European the most annoying thing about this is that the hostility and violence found among so many of these refugees is nothing new. Opinion polls and government data have detailed the problem for years. For example, in 2006 German counter-intelligence officials were openly dismayed at how passive German Moslems were towards the threat of Islamic terrorism. A tip line for Germans to call in information about suspected terrorist activity received little use by the 3.5 million Moslems living in Germany. The tip line had German, Arabic and Turkish speaking operators available. While there had not been any major al Qaeda terrorist attacks in Germany up to then, the police and intelligence agencies knew they had an Islamic terrorism problem. Even without tips from Moslem residents, the intelligence agencies had detected a growing number of suspected Islamic terrorists and many of these eventually proved those suspicions right, often in another country. That was because Germany was seen as something of a sanctuary for Islamic terrorists; a place where local Moslems would stay silent and local police might suspect your intentions, but unless you broke one of their laws, like displaying a flag with a swastika on it, you would not get arrested.

German counter-terrorist forces knew of al Qaeda-trained Moslems living in Germany. But German law prohibits preventive detention, so the best the Germans can do is try and identify the most likely al Qaeda terrorists and keep an eye on them. Britain thought they had a similar situation and had it under control. The July 7, 2005 bombing made it clear that some British Moslems were actually very eager to act, and the government surveillance program had not detected, much less caught, them. After the 2005 attacks, an opinion survey found that some 18 percent of British Moslems felt little or no loyalty towards Britain. Worse yet, about six percent of British Moslems, largely males, especially younger ones, were in favor of the attacks. That's over 100,000 people. This percentage was similar to estimates in France and Germany.

Tips from British Moslems did pick up after the 2005 attacks, but there was not much reaction in Germany or France. Meanwhile, the Europeans can only envy the American FBI, which has a very active tip line. Despite a large number of American Moslems who were not happy with the war on terror, they did report anything that appeared to be terrorist activity. This program was so successful that the number of terrorist prosecutions was declining. This was due to several factors. First, the pro-al Qaeda crowd, at least the ones not sharp enough to keep their heads down, tended to get caught. Second, you have to assume that there are pro-al Qaeda American Moslems still out there, and smart enough to avoid being detected, but are proceeding with extreme caution, and taking their time. Europeans tend to leave terrorism suspects under observation for a long time, while the FBI tends to pick up suspects as soon as there seems to be enough evidence to get a conviction. The European method is necessary because the Moslem community is not providing information. So the police have to observe the terrorists, see who they work with, and generate tips that way.

By 2014 the situation in Europe had gotten worse. That year a poll in of European nations to discover support for ISIL resulted in some surprising results. In Germany, two percent of the adults supported ISIL, while in Britain it was seven percent and in France 15 percent. While many of these supporters are Moslems, only 4.6 percent of Germans, five percent of Britons and 7.5 percent of the French are Moslems. Thus there was support from non-Moslems and a closer look at the data shows that ISIL support is higher among the young and falls sharply among older people. Many of the ISIL supporters are actually angry at their own government for various reasons. Still, the ISIL support was part of the overall support (or tolerance) for Islamic radicalism in the West and the recent rapid growth of European anti-Semitism.

There is more, but not much more, support for ISIL in countries with Moslem majority populations. Most Saudi Arabians oppose ISIL but among those that did back Islamic terrorism, there were many who were very active in their support. Saudi Arabia is the original source of nearly all current Islamic terrorism and is still the source of most recruits and financial support for these groups. Because of that, and growing foreign criticism over the issue, in early 2014 the Saudis made it illegal for Saudi citizens to join ISIL. In typical Saudi fashion, they waited a while before strictly enforcing the new law. The Saudis have a hard time punishing fellow Saudis for being Islamic radicals, in large part because Arabia was where modern Islamic radicalism was invented and is still highly respected and practiced despite all the Islamic terrorism.

Despite what the United States and the West want, events in Arabia follow a different pattern. After ISIL became a major threat in mid-2014 widespread local support for ISIL in the Moslem world was just not there. But the Islamic radicalism that created centuries of Islamic terrorism outbreaks survives and will keep providing headlines for the rest of the world. Many Westerners don’t appreciate the details of Middle Eastern history that cause Islamic terrorism to return again and again and simply see the fanatical Islamic terrorists as revolutionaries worthy of admiration or even emulation. In the two centuries European countries have had to deal with homegrown radicalism (republicanism, anarchism, radical socialism) and now, despite its alien origins, Islamic terrorism appeals to young Europeans who miss the communists, Nazis, anarchists and radical republicans of the past.

By 2016 British media noted that more Moslem British men of military age were joining Islamic terrorist organizations than were joining the British military. The vast majority of the three million Moslems in Britain were either hostile or unsympathetic to Islamic terrorism. But a large fraction (at times over 20 percent) had some sympathy for the motives of the terrorists; “Defending Islam” and all that. As many as six percent believed the Islamic terrorist violence was justified. More troubling was that nearly a fifth of British Moslems felt little loyalty towards Britain and instead believed “Islam” was where their main loyalty was. Islam stresses this in its scripture.

European leaders have been slow to accept the reality of what they are dealing with. Even by 2019, when ISIL was no longer a major threat, European nations were finding that local Moslem radicals they know about, and were trying to monitor, were increasingly carrying out attack despite the police knowing who they were. In several recent attacks, the perpetrators had been convicted of Islamic terrorism, sent to jail and once released went right back to their violent ways.

Since European nations are democracies the rulers cannot continually ignore the complaints of voters who daily confront this culture clash and often live in constant fear of it. Actually, so do many of the Moslem refugees. These outbreaks of Islamic terrorism have, for centuries, only hurt other Moslems because the righteous rage of the Islamic purists was directed as fellow Moslems perceived to be heretics. There were often ethnic, nationalistic or political elements as well but the basic motivator was religious and the efforts to impose “true Islam” on other Moslems. In the West, it was difficult to deal with this problem even though it had been well documented in the West for centuries. But it had become fashionable in the West to ignore all that. Worse and to the astonishment of many in the Moslem world, Westerners often deliberately and disastrously misinterpret what was actually going on.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close