October 28, 2015:
Governments, be they Western or Moslem, are encountering some basic problems in countering Islamic terrorist groups using Internet social media (Facebook, twitter and so on) to publicize themselves, their message, and their goals as well as soliciting recruits and donations. The basic problem is that Western and Moslem governments cannot openly discuss the basic issues that make Islamic terrorists so popular with so many young Moslems. ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), for example sees itself as the new leader of the Islamic world and employs extreme violence in pursuit of that goal. As a result one thing everyone (Saudi led Sunnis, Iran led Shia, the West and even al Qaeda) can agree on is that ISIL is evil and a threat to all that must be destroyed.
The basic problem is the Islamic scriptures condone and encourage the use of force to defend Islam from non-Moslems and especially from Moslems who are heretics. This has been going on for over a thousand years but now it is different because the Islamic radicals have access to more money. ISIL and over two decades of growing Islamic terrorism are an unexpected side-effect of all the oil wealth Saudi Arabia (and other Moslem states) received after OPEC was formed and oil prices increased in the 1970s. This led to some unsurprising but ultimately tragic moves by newly wealthy Arabs.
This all began because Sunni Islam is what the majority (over 80 percent) of Moslems practice and in Arabia itself (where Islam first appeared in the 7th century) the locals believe they are more Islamic than other Moslems. After all, the Koran was written in Arabic and all the founders of Islam were Arabs. This led to a deadly completion and a tradition of different factions in Arabia trying outdo each other to prove who is “more Islamic” than the other. This created at culture of constant fighting and suppression of new ideas. One of those fanatic factions is the Wahhabi form of Sunni Islam in what is now Saudi Arabia. Wahhabis, who first appeared in the 18th century, are very conservative and very hostile to non-Moslems and Moslems who are not Sunni. Wahhabis came to dominate the most powerful tribes in Arabia and one of those tribes, led by the Saud family, unified most of Arabia in the Saudi kingdom in the 1920s. The Sauds were and remain Wahhabi and justify their autocratic rule because of their Wahhabi beliefs. Naturally criticizing the Wahhabi form of Islam was forbidden in Arabia and admitting that Wahhabi beliefs are the source of modern Islamic terrorism is simply not practical.
This meant little to the non-Moslem world until lots of oil wealth appeared in Arabia after World War II. Suddenly it became possible for Moslems to show how pious they were by funding Wahhabi missionaries who went to other Moslem (and many non-Moslem) nations and to preach, establish Wahhabi religious schools and mosques and create the current Islamic terrorism problem. Billions were (and still are) spent on this and the policy of getting the young boys into these free religious schools and turning many of them into hateful (towards anyone not like them) Islamic religious fanatics led to a major outbreak of Islamic terrorism in the late 20th century. Saddam had kept this out of Iraq until 1991. Many secular rulers of Moslem countries (like Syria and Libya) also resisted the Wahhabi missionaries and money.
The Wahhabi problem is most obvious in Saudi Arabia, which practiced what it preached. Saudis comprise the largest faction of ISIL and al Qaeda recruits because so many Saudis have been educated in Wahhabi run schools. The Saudi rulers control the clergy, to a point, and do not allow public expressions of anti-Saudi Islamic radical ideas. But many Saudis back ISIL goals (which include replacing the Saudi monarchy), even is many of them do not wish to live under ISIL rule. This ideological mess is something Arab rulers, particularly in Saudi Arabia, have been dealing with since Saudi Arabia was formed in the 1920s. Change comes slowly in religious matters but meanwhile religious zealots Arab oil wealth has paid to create threaten us all.
Because of all this the War on Terror has evolved into a Moslem civil war between those (mainly Islamic terrorists) who want a worldwide religious dictatorship run by themselves, versus those representing the majority of Moslems who are getting tired of being threatened and murdered by Moslem religious fanatics. This religious radicalism has always been around, for Islam was born as an aggressive movement that used violence and terror to expand. Past periods of conquest are regarded fondly by Moslems, who are still taught by many of their religious leaders and teachers that non-Moslems ("infidels") are inferior. The current enthusiasm for violence in the name of God has been building through most of the 20th century. Historically, Islamic radicalism has flared up into mass bloodshed periodically, usually in response to corrupt governments, as a vain attempt to impose a religious solution on some social or political problem. The current violence is international because of the availability of planet wide mass media (which needs a constant supply of headlines), and the fact that the Islamic world is awash in tyranny and economic backwardness. This is why the Arab Spring uprisings, and their desire to establish democracies, may do some permanent damage to the Islamic terrorism tradition. There are already more condemnations of Islamic radicals by Islamic clerics and media in Moslem nations. These changes have not come as quickly as many hoped, but at least they finally arrived. This came as a surprise to many Moslems. That’s because the past has had a huge influence on Islamic societies. For many, this resistance to change is considered a religious obligation. Many Moslems consider democracy a poisonous Western invention. There is still a lot of affection for the clerical dictatorship of legend; a just and efficient government run by virtuous religious leaders. The legends are false and there are centuries of failed religious dictatorships to prove it. But this legend have become a core belief for many Moslems and tends to survive assaults by reality or the historical record.
Islamic radicalism itself is incapable of mustering much military power, and the movement largely relies on terrorism to gain attention. Most of the victims are fellow Moslems, which is why the radicals eventually become so unpopular among their own people that they run out of popular support and fade away. This is what is happening now. The American invasion of Iraq was a clever exploitation of this, forcing the Islamic radicals to fight in Iraq, where they killed many Moslems, especially women and children, thus causing the Islamic radicals to lose their popularity among Moslems. The sharp decline in the Islamic nation opinion polls was startling. When ISIL showed up a decade later the same pattern repeated itself.
Normally, the West does not get involved in these Islamic religious wars, unless attacked in a major way. Moreover, modern sensibilities have made retaliation difficult. For example, fighting back is considered by Moslems as culturally insensitive ("war on Islam") and some of the Western media have picked up on this bizarre interpretation of reality. It gets worse. Historians point out, for example, that the medieval Crusades were a series of wars fought in response to Islamic violence against Christians, not the opening act of aggression against Islam that continues to the present. Thus, the current war on terror is, indeed, in the tradition of the Crusades. And there are many other "Crusades" brewing around the world, in the many places where aggressive Islamic militants are making unprovoked war on their Christian and non-Moslem neighbors. Political Correctness among academics and journalists causes pundits to try and turn this reality inside out. But a close look at the violence in Africa, Asia and the Middle East shows a definite pattern of Islamic radicals persecuting those who do not agree with them, not the other way around.