Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Militant Ideology Atlas

The Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy recently released a "Militant Ideology Atlas," which attempts to define the context in which the United States' terrorist enemies operate.

The report contextualizes the jihadists within a broader set of Muslims (see image). The widest set, the broad Muslim community, includes Sunnis, Shia, and Sufis - from secularists to fundamentalists. Most of these people are not compelled by or attracted to the jihadist agenda.

The Jihadis lose credibility among mainstream Muslims when they attack women, children, and the elderly; damage the sources of a nation's wealth (such as tourism and oil); kill other Muslims; and declare other Muslims apostates.
The next circle in, the Islamists, are "people who want Islamic law to be the primary source of law and cultural identity in a state."
Next come the Salafis, Sunni Muslims who want to establish and govern Islamic states based solely on the Qur’an and the example of the Prophet as understood by the first generations of Muslims close to Muhammad. ... Salafis now constitute a majority or significant portion of the Muslim population in the Middle East and North Africa.
At the core (or perhaps on the fringe) are the jihadists - those who seek to establish a broad Islamic state through violence. The main themes of jihadist writings are:
  1. Jihadis want unity of thought. They reject pluralism—the idea that no one has a monopoly on truth—and the political system that fosters it, democracy.
  2. Jihadis will fight until every country in the Middle East is ruled only by Islamic law. Once they are in power, the punishments of the Qur’an (such as cutting off the hand of a thief) will be implemented immediately. Not even Saudi Arabia has it right; the Taliban state was the only state that was closest to their vision.
  3. Jihadis contend that the violence they do to their own people, governments, and resources are 1) necessary, 2) religiously sanctioned, and 3) really the fault of the West, Israel, and apostate regimes.
  4. The Jihadi cause is best served when the conflict with local and foreign governments is portrayed as a conflict between Islam and the West. Islam is under siege and only the Jihadis can lift it.
  5. Countries in the Middle East are weak; they cannot remove tyrants or reform their societies without the help of outsiders. Jihad is the only source of internal empowerment and reform.
The report also makes a special note about the meaning of "moderation" in this context:
Finally, a word about “moderate” Muslims. The measure of moderation depends on what type of standard you use. If by “moderate” one means the renouncement of violence in the achievement of political goals, then the majority of Salafis are moderate. But if by “moderate” one means an acceptance of secularism, capitalism, democracy, gender equality, and a commitment to religious pluralism, then Salafis would be extremists on all counts. Then again, there are not many Muslim religious leaders in the Middle East that would qualify as moderates according to the second definition. Until there are, the international community should focus on alienating Jihadis from the broader Salafi Movement.
The report concludes that the jihadist program can be best undermined from within - and ironically, by those closest to it, those non-jihadist Islamists and Salafists who reject violence.

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