Sometimes, we wonder why so many of the major terrorist organizations seem to be Islamic. Are all terrorists Muslims?
The problem is that we often think of terrorism as a morally reprehensible behavior and not as a military tactic.
Terrorism however, is the tactic of the weak. If you want to fight for your cause, whether it’s out of religious or patriotic motives, and you don’t have the means to fight a conventional war, you will start with terrorism.
In the military, terrorism is described as “low intensity warfare” and it’s a form of warfare just like any other.
Nobody likes to be a terrorist though, and becoming one is often not a choice: terrorist groups have no country and therefore cannot build a conventional army with tanks and aircraft. Their adversary is either too strong or they lack the support of the population to start a guerrilla campaign. The only way for them to continue their struggle is to rely on terrorism.
Certain conditions have to be in place for a terrorist organization to grow. Unfortunately, many Muslim countries fulfill these conditions and have provided the perfect breeding ground for terrorist movements:
- Their respective governments don’t allow Islamic opposition parties, even when these parties are democratic and denounce violence.
- They don’t respect election results that go in favor of Islamic parties (Egypt, Algeria).
- These autocratic regimes are completely corrupt and have lost all legitimacy in the eyes of the population (Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, etc.).
- Every true opposition in these countries, peaceful or violent, is immediately declared a “terrorist” group and brutally suppressed.
- These places are often supported by the West, especially by the United States, who fear the moment these Islamic anti-Western groups come to power. This support however, has led to the spread of Islamic terrorist organizations in immigrant communities in the West.
Caught between a rock and a hard place, the population of these countries doesn’t have a choice: both sides in the conflict do not have the slightest consideration for human rights and their methods are nearly identical.
Still, one side is labelled “terrorist” while the other side enjoys our support.
Due to the incompatibility of the Islamist worldview with our “Western” values, Islamic terrorist groups will never get the support of a powerful state actor (a country) which would allow them to elevate their tactics from low level “terrorism” to a more “acceptable” form of conventional warfare.
On the other hand, a terrorist group with a less radical religious or political view can align their ideology with the political goals of a “sponsor” country and is able to receive political, military or financial support: they cease to be terrorists.
The inflexibility and ideological “stubbornness” of many Islamic terrorist groups (not their violence), makes it impossible for them to gain such support.
They stay terrorists, because they are too dogmatic.
Photo: Roadside bomb detonating in Iraq. Credits: U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Bendet