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The Roots of Muslim Terrorism

Recently, in Afula, Israel, two terrorists killed three Israelis. They were members of the 'Islamic Jihad Movement'. Muslim terrorism today is the enemy not just of Israel, but is the new enemy of our modern democratic western civilization. It is a threat to our way of life. It is our new trauma. American woke up. We would like to understand the roots of this new threat or the rise of the Muslim terrorism whose climax was the catastrophe of September 11, 2001. We have suffered from ignorance on this issue. Our understanding of Muslim terrorism was linked to the Middle East, to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The case of anti-American terrorism such as the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen, were marginal to the public opinions attention. American believe that it could not happen here.

Today we are fighting to destroy Muslim terrorism all over the world. Afghanistan, al-Qaida, Bin Laden and his murderers are only the first stage. But we still would like to learn about Muslim terrorism, new Muslim fundamentalism. The Dayan Center in Israel (Tel Aviv University) published a research by Meir Hatina entitled Islam and Salvation - The Islamic Jihad Movement. The author presents an analytical survey based on primary sources. His thesis is that the rising of a Palestinian radical Islam movement started in the first Intifada in Dec. 1987, in the Gaza Strip. One cannot ignore the influence of the 'Muslim Brothers' in Egypt and the success of the 'Islamic Revolution' in Iran in 1979.

The 'Islamic Jihad,' writes Hatina, was established in the 1970's by a group of young students in the Gaza Strip. Their leader was Fathi al-Shiqaqi. He studies in Egypt and became active in radical circles there. He returned to Gaza and built the network of his organization. In the 1980's the Muslim Jihad developed its armed confrontation with Israel: "The Palestinian problem is the central issue of the modern Islamic movements." When Israel decided to deport Shiqaqi and other activists to Lebanon the movement moved to the Iranian camp. Furthermore, the Muslim Jihad established branches in many countries such as Sudan and also in the West. Even in Tampa, Florida there was a branch established together with local Muslims.

After the explosion in the World Trade Center in 1993, the U.S.A. acted against this movement but it was not dismantled in this country according to Hatina's illuminating research. The book was published before the second attack on the World Trade Center.

In the 1990's the Muslim Jihad had a close relationship with the Hamas, also a rising organization in the Gaza Strip. The Islamic movements have been the rising opposition to the P.L.O. and the leadership of Arafat. The P.L.O. originally was a roof organization of groups which also defined themselves to be Marxist. Most of them are secular groups. The Islamic Jihad is a fundamentalist movement. The struggle against Israel is only one goal. Their dream is to establish a state like Iran. There are many similarities between the Islamic Jihad and the Hamas movement. But the model for the Islamic Jihad are Iran and the Hizbullah, as well.

The extremism of the Islamic Jihad is being expressed in its objection to any compromise with Israel. It viewed the Oslo Accords as a treason of the P.L.O. Of course, they fight against Israel not just because it is an enemy of the Arabs but because: "Israel embodies the essence of the Western offensive at the heart of the Muslim world," write Hatina.

In his conclusion Hatina writes: "The Islamic Jihad... played a key role in molding radical Islam and establishing it as a legitimate form of struggle against Israel." The achievement of this movement was: "The conversion of Islam into theology of liberation..." explained the author. The outcome was to push the P.L.O. into a defensive posture. The P.L.O. must show a willingness to compromise but the radicals are also the 'rejectionists.' Their idea is to destroy Israel and then the power of the Western civilization in the Muslim world. It is an anti-democratic regressive-reactionary goal. It is the womb of the Muslim terrorism, a challenge to humanity.

The following are typical segments from the Islamic Jihad's internal charter (Hatina's appendix):

Ideological Guidelines

1. Adherence to the Islamic faith as represented by the first generation of righteous Muslims and the pure companions of the Prophet.

2. Combining tradition and modernity and taking from them those elements that do not contradict Islam.

3. Cleaving to jihad and eschewing the path of gradual reform.

4. Promoting Islamic unity with the fighting Islamic forces, while preserving organizational independence.

5. Eschewing ideological tyranny or juridical exclusivism.

6. Distrust of the 'ulama', who are servant of tyranny.

7. Forbidding confrontation and killing between Muslims.

8. Positing the masses as the vehicle of the revolution and its strategic depth in the face of oppressors.

9. Forbidding any ideological convergence between heresy and faith, or between exponents of secularism and the movement.

10. Conducting movement policy and activity in accordance with the viewpoint of Islam.

11. Palestine is part of the faith. To relinquish any part of it is to abandon Islam.

General and Specific Goals

The ultimate goal is satisfying Allah; the earthly goal is to promote the revival of Islam. The general goals:

1. Imbuing the Palestinian character with a binding Islamic imprint;

2. Advancing popular revolution;

3. Realizing Islamic unity through jihad;

4. Liberating the sacred land from the Zionist occupation;

5. Establishing Islamic rule over the land from which the Prophet ascended to heaven.

The specific goals:

1. Sapping the enemy forces and eroding its material and economic resources;

2. Spreading fear and anxiety among the Zionists, and especially the settlers, so as to force them to abandon their homes;

3. Creating an emotional barrier between the Jews and the Muslim Palestinian people and combating advocates of Arab-Israeli coexistence;

4. Terminating economic and financial dependence on the enemy;

5. Obstructing the peace agreements between the treacherous Arab regimes and the Zionist entity.

The New World Order

The new world order, which was crystallized after the collapse of Communism and was led by the US and the West, is a graver enemy than the previous order. It constitutes a great danger to Islam and to Muslims, primarily after it declared war against the Islamic trend throughout the world.

Entering Parliamentary Bodies

This strategy is rejected and deviates from rightful Islamic teachings. It constitutes a kind of truce with the infidel (Arab) regimes and grants legitimization to their existence.

Civic Participation

This issue is dependent on local circumstances. Entry into public bodies is permissible if this serves Islam, Muslims and the Islamic movement. However, one should not rely on them overly or view them as the sole means to promote change in society.

The Priorities of the Movement

The priorities of the movement are focused on the occupied land. The leading priority is military activity to sap the enemy and demoralize its ranks. Then comes civil activity in various areas according to the resources and capabilities at the disposal of the movement.

The Accusation of Heresy (Takfir)

The movement perceives Arab societies; including the Palestinian one, as paralyzed Islamic societies which must be transformed from a state of passivity to a state of revolution against the tyranny of the Israeli occupation and of the corrupted (Arab) regimes. An accusation of heresy is never collective, but relates to a specific individual or party who consciously and deliberately has deviated from Islam in views or conduct.

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