Islamic terrorism brings a new era

The recent terrorist attack in Copenhagen represents a clear signal that Islamic terrorism is undergoing an escalation and is coming closer to Europe.

Feb 27, 2015

By Prof Fr Samir Khalil Samir
The recent terrorist attack in Copenhagen represents a clear signal that Islamic terrorism is undergoing an escalation and is coming closer to Europe. In the video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Copts in Libya, one of the executioners is heard boasting of being “south of Rome.”

All this indicates that terrorists are now moving into Europe. Their violent and bloody fanaticism and their attempt to “invade” the continent carry strong confessional undertones, as an “anti-crusade” crusade.

All European countries are concerned that the terrorism of the Islamic State (IS) might be coming closer. So far, its terrorist actions have been ad hoc, carried out by individuals. Clearly, such outbreaks of violence are due to the appeal organised terrorism has on young Europeans.

This new age of terrorism fascinates troubled young people. The alleged Danish killer had already spent time in prison. The two Frenchmen who attacked CharlieHebdo, and the one who attacked the kosher store were also former convicts. Organised terrorism gives purpose to young European Muslims going through a crisis of identity and values. All these young attackers were born in Europe, children of Muslim immigrants.

A confessionalised conflict

Although the whole world is in crisis, for Muslims, it is about religion. Hence, for them the crisis has a confessional face.

Of course, there are some confessional elements in Europe. Many right-wing Europeans are using anti-Christian threats to win support. In the US, the killing of Muslims has been justified on confessional grounds. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to use violence against Christians in the Middle East to justify Israel’s isolationism in the region. And now, a month from Israel’s elections, he has called on European Jews to immigrate to Israel for greater security! I was very pleased to hear the Chief Rabbi of Denmark clarify the situation and criticise Netanyahu for making such a call.

In practice, each country is taking advantage of the terrorist crisis in accordance with its own interests. The United States is trying to regain its leadership without doing much. Israel is using it to justify its “indispensable” existence as a haven for Jews. Europe is in dire straits because of its energy needs. Yet, the Western commitment against terrorism is seriously flawed. For instance, the challenges and violence by Boko Haram in Nigeria, and the massacres of Christian and Yazidi minorities in Iraq do not receive the same attention.

My impression is that the IS group has morphed into a terrorist movement acting on behalf of Islam. In the beginning, it focused only on the Sunni fight against Shias. To some extent, this continues to be the case at the local level (Lebanon, Pakistan, Iraq, etc.). However, now it has broadened the Islamist fight to include the West, which it now defines as “Crusader”, so that the fight is between Islamists and Christians.

Over the past 20 years, Muslims began to use the word salibi, crusader. In history books, including those about the Crusades, the word the Islamic State used for the Christians who fought for the Holy Sepulchre was Firinj?yah, i.e. Franks. Now, Westerners and Christians are referred to, instead, as salibi, a recent innovation. So far, Islamist propaganda has had great success in using this word, especially in getting new recruits. Recent reports indicate that Ansar-al-Islam and its thousand-strong militia have joined the IS group.

The IS group comes across as a winner, a movement that means business. Therefore, many smaller groups hope to get a piece of glory, as well as money and funding, by associating themselves with it. The funding and weapons the Islamic State is getting are a problem that no one is dealing with. In a recent development, the group even threatened its enemies with Scud missiles. These are not toys, and were bought at big sales.

Now the Islamic State is taking a new turn, namely reaching into Europe. It is doing this through countless local misfits, so-called “lone wolves,” whose attacks kill few compared with the hundreds and the thousands killed by the Islamic State in the Middle East, but they are impressive and have a greater impact because they occur in Europe.

Libya, outpost of the Islamic State

The Islamic State has now picked Libya as an outpost. For the group, Libya has many advantages. It is a country in shambles, where nothing works. Here, militias can operate as freely as they want. It is a country that has oil, so if the Islamic State seizes wells and refineries, it will have an endless supply of money to continue its fight.

If jihadists took all of Libya, they would no longer need the support of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. They would be financially self-sufficient. Attacks against Kurdistan had the same purpose: to seize the oil fields of northern Iraq to obtain a secure source of revenue.

The Islamic State has also targeted this area in order to move into Europe. For example, citing Italy, as they did when they said “we are south of Rome”, is a strategic move. Italy (as well as the island of Malta) is the European country closest to Libya. The group even came up with a saying attributed to Muhammad — taken from who knows where — to push for the conquest of Italy.

Thus, we are moving from something that was internal to Islam to something wider that includes Europe, whilst still focused on the Middle East and the caliphate.

I think Europe will be able to defend itself, but the turmoil and narrative generated by the Islamic State will cause difficulties for decades, since there will always be someone willing to blow himself up or carry out attacks on short notice. Compared to a few years ago, the situation is now far worse.

Yet, the West has only tried to contain the Islamic State danger within the Middle East, but with the attacks in Paris and Copenhagen, the problem has now spread to Europe and the West.

With the West focused on its own economic and political interests, the absence of democracy continues to stifle Mideast nations ruled by Western-backed regimes.

Is war the only path possible? Right now, I am afraid it is an inevitable step. Let us hope that it does not turn into an all-out war, and that it will be limited to some military operations designed to degrade the harmful power of the terrorists.

It is clear that such terrorists are well trained, capable, and efficient. Even their videos are technically perfect, a spectacular display of their rituals.

Their propaganda terrifies everyone and spreads a sense that humanist values are lost.

The real and only solution is to rethink Islam in terms of today’s world. This means rethinking Syariah in light of the culture of modern man and the Universal Charter of Human Rights, whilst staying away from Western libertinism and secularism.

This is the cultural and religious revolution that many Muslims want and are trying to carry out, but they are not backed by the religious leaders who interpret the Quran and Syariah. Recently, on December 28, the Egyptian president, General al-Sisi, called on the imams of Al-Azhar, the world’s foremost Islamic university, to undertake “a religious revolution”, and this is what he meant.

Such a revolution, such a reform is essential. I am convinced that Muslim imams are not able to do it right now. But I also think that we Christians can (and must) help them do it. At the same time, we must also revise our own positions in the West, to rediscover humanity’s shared values, as well as respect for the beliefs of every nation, even if they are different from ours. -- AsiaNews

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