One of the biggest problems with Islamic terrorism is that it is based on ancient, and widespread, hostility between factions in the Islamic world. The Islamic world has no central religious authority, and a long tradition of being hypersensitive and violent to those who appear to give offense. In Iraq and Afghanistan, most of the Moslems 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 if the U.S. and NATO troops were to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan, the killing would go on, probably 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 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. Moreover, the Moslem scientists who developed the Pakistani bomb, then went on to peddle it to other Moslem, and non-Moslem dictatorships. Moreover, 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, Baha'is in Iran and Christians in Egypt, Iraq, the Philippines, Pakistan, Malaysia and elsewhere. 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. Throughout history, when these tactics were applied to non-Moslems, they often failed. 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 left the infidels (non-Moslems) out. But after World War II, that began to change.
During the Lebanese civil war of 1975-1990, Christian and Moslem Arabs fought bitterly over political, cultural and, ultimately, religious differences. The capital, Beirut, was divided into Christian and Moslem sections by the Green Line. The name came from the fact that in this rubble filled no man's land, only grass and weeds survived. And that the line on a ceasefire map was drawn in green. There have been a lot more Green Lines since then. 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 from increasing Islamic terrorism and violence. But Islam as a political force was in decline for several centuries until 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 it was turning into religious war with Christians and other non-Moslems.
In Asia, we have a Green Line between India and Pakistan. Inside India, many Moslem communities remain, and feelings aren't always neighborly. 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.
Africa has a rather dusty Green Line south of the semi-arid Sahel region. Many African nations are split by increasingly sensitive religious differences. The Moslems are in the north, Christians and animists in the south. 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.
The Middle East still contains many non-Moslems. None have their own country, except for Israel. But Egypt contains five 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 causes many to migrate, or get killed.
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.
Even Europe has a Green Line. The Moslems in the Balkans (Albanians and Bosnians) have been a constant source of strife for the last decade. Moslem migrants in Europe face even more persecution because of all those Green Lines, and this makes it 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 Green Lines are 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. Especially if the people are largely uneducated and illiterate.
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 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. Thus we have all those Green Lines. But the more violence you have along those Green Lines, 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.
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.