Love and thanks,
“Islam is the Answer; JIHAD is the Way”
But equally distressing, I have to say, is the fact that there are far too many in positions of American national leadership and in the media who either are not studying the Radicals carefully or simply are not taking them seriously. Inexplicably, they are stuck in a pre-9/ 11 mind-set and seem unwilling or unable to see or comprehend the dangers that lie just ahead.
In the midst of the 2008 presidential campaign, for example, Senator Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat, made a shocking statement at a town hall in Oregon. He argued that Iran was a tiny country, not a “serious threat” to the United States, Israel, or our allies in the Middle East. “I mean, think about it,” he explained. “Iran, Cuba, Venezuela—these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don’t pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us.
You know, Iran—they spend one one-hundredth of what we spend on the military.
The press was stunned. American Jewish leaders were stunned. So were many supporters of Senator Obama. Was this a gaffe? Or did Obama actually believe that Iran was not a serious threat? Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, sharply criticized his rival. “Such a statement betrays the depth of Senator Obama’s inexperience and reckless judgment,” he argued in an address in Obama’s hometown of Chicago. “The threat the government of Iran poses is anything but tiny.”
The next day, Senator Obama did an about-face. He changed his tune during a speech in Billings, Montana. “Iran is a grave threat,” he said, reading from a prepared text. “It has an illicit nuclear program. It supports terrorism across the region and militias in Iraq. It threatens Israel’s existence. It denies the Holocaust.”
Obama’s new statement certainly conformed to accepted international opinion. It echoed views expressed by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, the New York Democrat and Obama’s chief rival at the time. It also echoed the views of then president Bush. But did it express what Senator Obama really believed? Had he misspoken one day and given his real view the next? Or was it possible that Obama’s initial, unscripted comment in Oregon provided a more accurate window into how the forty-six-year-old political novice truly viewed the Iranian nuclear threat?
If it is the latter, Obama would certainly not have been alone. The world is replete with skeptics about the Iranian leadership’s intentions and capabilities, from diplomats to intelligence professionals, to academics, to journalists.
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, for example, insisted in 2007 that “North Korea poses a fundamental threat, but Iran does not.”‘
Scott Ritter, a former Marine Corps intelligence officer and former United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq, argued in 2007 that “Iran has never manifested itself as a serious threat to the national security of the United States, or by extension as a security threat to global security… . Iran as a nation represents absolutely no threat to the national security of the United States, or of its major allies in the region, including Israel.
Nikki R. Keddie, history professor at the University of California at Los Angeles and author of Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution, wrote in 2006 that “Ahmadinejad’s statements have an audience in the Muslim world, perhaps even more than in Iran, but they do not mean that Iran intends aggressive acts. Ahmadinejad is far from insane.”
Ted Koppel, the former host of ABC’s Nightline, has also belittled the Iranian nuclear threat. He even suggested—in a 2006 op-ed in the New York Times, no less—that the world should allow Iran to get the Bomb. “Washington should instead bow to the inevitable,” he insisted. “If Iran is bound and determined to have nuclear weapons, let it.”
What the Radicals Say they Want
Are such “experts” correct?
Should we permit the Radicals to have a nuclear weapon, or ten?
Before we do, it might be worth a closer examination of the ambitions of the Radicals in general and the Iranian regime in particular. After all, the Radicals are not shy about explaining their goals and rallying millions to help them accomplish those plans.
“The governments of the world should know that . . . Islam will be victorious in all the countries of the world, and Islam and the teachings of the Qur’an will prevail all over the world.” —Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in January 1979
“We must strive to export our Revolution throughout theworld.” — Ayatollah Khomeini on March 21, 1980
“We don’t shy away from declaring that Islam is ready to rule the world…. We must believe in the fact that Islam is not confined to geographical borders, ethnic groups, and nations. It’s a universal ideology that leads the world to justice. … We must prepare ourselves to rule the world.” —Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on January 5, 2006
“I meet with you today… under the banner of the blessed awakening of the Ummah [Islamic nation] that is sweeping the world…. The world’s largest infidel military force [the Soviet Union] was destroyed. The myth of the superpower withered in the face of the Mujahideen’s [Islamic jihadists] cries of ‘God is great!’ Today, we work from the same mountains to free the Ummah from the injustice that has been imposed on it by the Zionist-Crusader alliance … [and create] the forthcoming pan-Islamic state.. .. Our Lord, shatter our enemies, divide them among themselves, shake the earth under their feet, and give us control of them.” —Osama bin Laden on August 23, 1996
“We have ruled the world before, and by Allah, the clay will come when we will rule the entire world again. The day will come when we will rule America. The day will come when we will rule Britain and the entire world.” —Sheikh Ibrahim Mudeiris, a leading Palestinian cleric in Gaza, on May 13, 2005
“Our mission: world domination” —Slogan featured on the frontpage of a Muslim Brotherhood publication in London in 2001
Restoring the caliphate and building an Islamic empire that literally encompasses the entire globe is, without question, the expressed goal of the Radicals, be they Shia Muslims or Sunnis. It has been a goal since the seventh century, when Muhammad, whom Muslims revere as a prophet, walked the earth. But whereas once this notion was a dream—desired but far off—many Radicals now believe it is actually achievable as history, in their view, draws to a conclusion and the end of the world approaches.
In 1979, there were three countries that, in the eyes of the Radicals, stood in the way of world domination: the Soviet Union, Israel, and the United States. The collapse of the U.S.S.R. on Christmas Day 1991 dramatically emboldened the Radicals. “One down, two to go,” they reasoned, and Israel was widely perceived as the next target.
“It is the mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to erase Israel from the map of the region.” —Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah All Khamenei in January 2001
“One bomb is enough to destroy Israel.. .. In due time the Islamic world will have a military nuclear device.” —Iranian president Rafsanjani in December 2001
“Rafsanjani Says Muslims Should Use Nuclear Weapon against Israel.” —Headline from the Iran Press Service, December 14, 2005
“Israel must be wiped off the map.” —Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on October 26, 2006
“Like it or not, the Zionist regime is heading toward annihilation.. . . The Zionist regime is a rotten, dried tree that will be eliminated by one storm … [because] its existence has harmed the dignity of Islamic nations.”—Ahmadinejad on April 14, 2006
“I must announce that the Zionist regime [Israel], with a 60-year record of genocide, plunder, invasion, and betrayal is about to die and will soon be erased from the geographical scene.” —Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on June 2, 2008
“If they [Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.” —Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah on October 23, 2002, alluding to Shia Muslims’ end times belief that it is God’s will to create Israel briefly so that it can be destroyed
“One of the central reasons for creating Hizbullah was to challenge the Zionist program in the region. Hizbullah still preserves this principle, and when an Egyptian journalist visited me after the liberation and asked me if the destruction of Israel and the liberation of Palestine and Jerusalem were Hizbullah’s goal, I replied: ‘That is the principal objective of Hizbullah, and it is no less sacred than our [ultimate] goal.” —Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah in May 2000
“All spears should be directed at the Jews, at the enemies of Allah, the nation that was cursed in Allah’s book. Allah has described them as apes and pigs, the calf-worshipers, idol-worshipers…. Whoever can fight them with his weapons, should go out [to the battle]. . Nothing will deter [the Jews] except for us voluntarily detonating ourselves in their midst. .. . We blow them up in Hadera, we blow them up in Tel Aviv and in Netanya, and in this way, Allah establishes us as rulers over these gangs of vagabonds.” —Palestinian Sheikh Ibrahim Madhi, Sheik Vein Mosque in Gaza on August 3, 2001
“Have no mercy on the Jews, no matter where they are, in any country. Fight them, wherever you are. Wherever you meet them, kill them. Wherever you are, kill those Jews and those Americans who are like them—and those who stand by them—they are all in one trench, against the Arabs and the Muslims—because they established Israel here, in the beating heart of the Arab world, in Palestine.” Ahmad Abu Halabiya preaching at a mosque in Gaza on October 13, 2000
Israel, however, is not the ultimate objective. In the eyes of most top Radical leaders, the Jewish state is the “Little Satan.” The United States is considered the “Great Satan” and thus the most desired target.
“God willing, with the force of God behind it, we shall soon experience a world without the United States and Zionism.” —Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on October 26, 2005
“Today, the time for the fall of the satanic power of the United States has come, and the countdown to the annihilation of the emperor of power and wealth has started.” —Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on June 2, 2008, marking the nineteenth anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Khomeini
“Get ready for a world minus the U.S.” —Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on June 4, 200827
“The judgment to kill and fight Americans and their allies, whether civilian or military, is an obligation for every Muslim who is able to do so—in any country. In the name of Allah, we call upon every Muslim who believes in God and asks for forgiveness, to abide by God’s order by killing Americans and stealing their money anywhere, anytime, and whenever possible.” —Osama bin Laden on February 2, 1998
“We now predict a black day for America—and the end of the United States as the United States, God willing.” —Osama bin Laden interview with ABC News in May 1998
“We call on the Muslim nation . . . to prepare for the Jihad imposed by Allah and terrorize the enemy by preparing the force necessary. This should include a nuclear force.” —Osama bin Laden on May 14, 1998
“Let the entire world hear me. Our hostility to the Great Satan [America] is absolute.. . . I conclude my speech with the slogan that will continue to reverberate on all occasions so that nobody will think that we have weakened. Regardless of how the world has changed after 11September, Death to America will remain our reverberating and powerful slogan. Death to America” —Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah on September 27, 2002
“Allah willing, America will soon be annihilated, just like the USSR was annihilated. We are convinced of this. .. . Allah willing, we will reach America. The men of this nation will reach America.” —Muhammad Taher Al-Farouq,leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, in a Web posting on December 3, 2007
“Allah will drown the little Pharaoh, the dwarf, the Pharaoh of all times, of our time, the American president. Allah will drown America in our seas, in our skies, in our land.. ..America will be destroyed.” —Sheikh Ibrahim Mudeiris, a leading Palestinian cleric in Gaza, on March 21, 2003
“Allah, destroy the U.S., its helpers and its agents.” —Sheikh Ikrimeh Sabri, the Islamic Mufti (leader) of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Territories, on August 24, 2001
Note carefully the language of the leading Radicals. At this point in the Revolution—post-1979, and post-9/11—the jihadists do not simply seek to frighten or terrorize the American people; they seek to utterly destroy them. They do not simply seek to repudiate or humiliate; they seek to annihilate.
How would such Radicals accomplish their mission? Both Iran’s Shia leaders and al Qaeda’s Sunni leaders are explicit: they will use any means necessary, including weapons of mass destruction and particularly nuclear weapons, should they become available.
In his manifesto published in 2001, Knights under the Prophet’s Banner, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s top deputy, made al Qaeda’s strategy crystal clear: “Cause the greatest damage and inflict maximum casualties on the opponent, no matter how much time and effort these operations take, because this is the language understood by the West.”
In June 2002, Suleiman Abu Ghaith, a Kuwaiti-born spokesman for al Qaeda, went even further when he openly declared, “Al-Qa’ida has the right to kill four million Americans—two million of them children—and to exile twice as many and wound and cripple hundreds of thousands. Furthermore, it is our right to fight them with chemical and biological weapons?”
Even a cursory study of the statements made by leading Radicals leaves no doubt as to their motive. This, in turn, raises serious doubts about the knowledge, wisdom, and judgment of U.S. and foreign leaders, academics, and journalists who say such extremists pose no serious threat to Western security and that radicalized countries such as Iran should be permitted to acquire even one operational nuclear bomb or warhead, much less several or more. The risks are simply too great, the stakes too high.
The Roots of Their Rage
What accounts for such genocidal anger and ambition? What drives the Radicals to such ends, and what are the roots of such rage?
The answer, at its core, lies in the deep-seated feeling of shame, humiliation, failure, and impotence in the modern world that many Muslims feel today.
Once, the Islamic peoples were understandably considered the greatest military and economic powers on the planet. Muslim militaries and merchants spanned the globe and dominated nearly everywhere they went, from North Africa and Spain in the West to India, China, and ultimately Indonesia— today the most populous Muslim country in the world— in the East. Muslim armies and preachers penetrated deep into Africa in the south and far into Russia in the north. It was Muslims who controlled the great trading routes of gold and silver and silk and slaves from Asia to Europe. It was Muslims who brought India’s system of mathematics to Europe. It was Muslims who led the world in science and medicine and architecture and music and literature and poetry for a thousand years or more.
Today, Islamic journalists, academics, and politicians themselves say that the Muslim world is best known for tyranny, abject poverty of all but the elite, rampant corruption, violence, and terrorism. Despite the discovery of oil and fantastic wealth in Islamic territories, despite the rise of nationalism and the creation of nation-states after the departure of colonial Britain and France from the Middle East and North Africa, despite the widespread introduction of elementary and secondary schools and at least a basic education for hundreds of millions of children, the Islamic world at the dawn of the twenty-first century is mired in hopelessness and despair. The Muslim powers are not winning wars. The Muslim peoples are not making medical breakthroughs. They are not creating dramatic new technologies. Indeed, many Muslims note that their governments are barely able to feed their people or provide them with enough meaningful jobs.
“What is wrong with us? How did it all come to this?”
Such is the lament you hear in conversations among Muslims in the Middle East, in Europe, and throughout North America. It is the angst that comes across in innumerable speeches and books and blogs and e-mails that Muslims author these days.
Bernard Lewis, the noted Princeton University scholar on Islamic and Middle East history, has written two insightful and provocative books on this very subject. In them, he makes the fascinating and quite compelling case that it was actually the early successes of the Muslims that planted the seeds of their own decline. When Islam was powerful and dominated the epicenter of the earth, travel through Muslim territories was treacherous and thus enormously costly for European traders. So the Europeans became determined to find a way to circumvent the Islamic world altogether. Hoping to find a way around the Horn of Africa and on to India and East Asia, they began exploring sea routes that could take them south from England, France, Spain, and Portugal along the African coastlines.
Such long and arduous naval voyages required more of the Europeans— more education, more technology, more risk-taking. They required building better ships, creating more accurate maps, and developing navigational skills. They required crafting more precise weather instruments and developing a deeper understanding of meteorology. To protect their men and ships from pirates, bandits, and competing colonialists, the Europeans had to develop better weapons and war-fighting techniques and technologies as well.
There were many mistakes and failures, to be sure. But the Europeans proved persistent and resilient. Through long periods of trial and error, they developed an educational and technological infrastructure at home that enabled them to master the perilous seas and find their way east by sailing south. Eventually, Eastern wealth, spices, and other treasures returned to European nations via increasingly advanced shipping companies and navies.
The more European Christians worked to circumvent Middle Eastern Muslims, the more knowledge and experience was gained. They learned about gunpowder and explosives from the Chinese. They discovered medicines and herbal remedies throughout the Orient. They came back with new ideas and a thirst for further insights.
Success bred success. Innovation led to more innovation, and this spirit of exploration blazed across Europe, leading men like Christopher Columbus to sail west to get to the East. In time, wooden ships gave way to steel. Wind power gave way to steam. Steam propulsion gave way to engines using fossil fuels. The Wright brothers discovered flight. Then came jumbo jets and fighter jets. Oil- and gas-powered engines gave way to nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers. Then came space travel. The Russians put a man in orbit. The Americans landed a man on the moon.
By the dawn of the third millennium, global travel was possible in a way never before known in human history. Knowledge was increasing exponentially. It all seemed to fulfill the words of the Hebrew prophet Daniel when he wrote that in the end of time, “many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase” (Daniel 12:4).
The Islamic world was being left behind. Yet, for the better part of three hundred years, Muslims had no idea. They perceived themselves as the masters of the universe and Europeans as infidels and barbarians. They had little interest in noticing, examining, or caring about the tremendous advances in science and engineering that Western Christians were making. But eventually the invention and rapid spread of radio and television and global communications made it increasingly clear even to the uneducated masses within the Muslim world how enormous the gaps were between their world and the West.
And so a despondent cry has been rising from deep inside the Muslim world for the better part of a century, certainly ever since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the end of the Islamic caliphate in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1924. This collective groaning intensified after the Arabs were defeated by Israel in 1948, 1956, 1967, and again in 1973. It seemed to reach a crescendo during the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979. It dramatically worsened in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, and now it has reached a deafening roar.
In an essay entitled “Islamic Failure,” which he wrote for a British intellectual journal in February 2002, Pervez Amir Al Hoodbhoy— a leading Pakistani scientist and a professor of physics in Islamabad— decried the fact that “you will seldom see a Muslim name as you flip through scientific journals and, if you do, the chances are that this person lives in the West.” Noting that “today’s sorry situation contrasts starkly with the Islam of yesterday,” Al Hoodbhoy pointed out that “between the ninth and thirteenth centuries—the golden age of Islam— the only people doing decent work in science, philosophy, or medicine were Muslims.” But by the thirteenth century, “Islam choked,” and “the rest of the world moved on.” The Renaissance, Al Hoodbhoy observed, “brought an explosion of scientific inquiry in the West,” and the Islamic world was left behind. “For Muslims, it is time to stop wallowing in self-pity: Muslims are not helpless victims of conspiracies hatched by an all-powerful malicious West. The fact is that the decline of Islamic greatness took place long before the age of mercantile imperialism. The causes were essentially internal. Therefore, Muslims must be introspective and ask, ‘What went wrong?'”
In a series of essays he wrote for an Arabic-language Web site in June 2003, Al-Afif al-Akhdar, a Tunisian Muslim journalist now living in exile in Paris, asked, “Why is it that the Arab world is so wealthy in natural resources and poor in human resources? Why does human knowledge elsewhere steadily grow while in the Arab world what expands instead is illiteracy, ideological fear, and mental paralysis? Why do expressions of tolerance, moderation, rationalism, compromise, and negotiation horrify us, but [when we hear] fervent cries for vengeance, we all dance the war dance? . . . Why do other people love life, while we love death and violence, slaughter and suicide, and call it heroism and martyrdom?”
In an article entitled “What’s Wrong with the Arab World?” published in The Arab American News in January 2008, author Jamal Bittar wrote emotionally about “the deterioration of the political, social, and economic order in most countries in the Arab world” and the “self-made Arab failures” that were destroying the dreams and aspirations of millions. “Every regime in the Arab world has proved a failure,” he concluded. “Not one has been able to provide its people with realistic hopes for a free and prosperous future. The regimes have found no way to respond to their people’s frustration other than by a combination of internal oppression and propaganda to generate rage against external enemies. . . . What are the Arab leaders doing?”
And it is not just reporters and academics who are asking these questions. Major political leaders in the region are asking as well. Consider, for example, the words of Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf, delivered in a stunningly frank address to senior Muslim officials from Muslim-majority countries at a conference on science and technology held in Islamabad in February 2002, not long after the 9/11 attacks: “Today we are the poorest, the most illiterate, the most backward, the most unhealthy, the most unenlightened, the most deprived, and the weakest of all the human race,” Musharraf said.
He noted that the collective gross national product of all Muslim countries stood at just $1.2 trillion, compared to Germany, whose GNP alone was $2.5 trillion at the time, and Japan, whose GNP was then $5.5 trillion. Why? One reason he cited was that “none of the Muslim countries had ever paid any [serious] attention to educational and scientific development.”
This was not a “Johnny-come-lately” revelation for Musharraf in hopes of placating the West with moderate language in the wake of al Qaeda’s devastating attack on the U.S. This had been a theme of the Pakistani leader since he came to power in 1999. Indeed, in one of his first addresses to the 170 million Muslims in his country on October 17, 1999, Musharraf did not mince words:
“Fifty-two years ago, we started with a beacon of hope, and today that beacon is no more and we stand in darkness. There is despondency and hopelessness surrounding us with no light visible anywhere around. The slide down has been gradual but has rapidly accelerated in the last many years. Today, we have reached a state where our economy has crumbled, our credibility is lost, state institutions lie demolished, provincial disharmony has caused cracks in the federation. . . In sum, we have lost our honor, our dignity, our respect in the comity of nations. Is this the democracy [our leaders] had envisaged? Is this the way to enter the new millennium?”
Then came the rebirth of the State of Israel in 1948.
Three hundred million Muslims in the Middle East expected the Arab armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq to strangle the newborn Jewish state in its crib. But when the relatively tiny Israeli army defeated the combined Arab armies, the growing sense of failure and humiliation Muslims were feeling only intensified. The 1956 showdown between Israel and Egypt, in which Israel not only survived but prevailed, further exacerbated Muslim shame and their sense of military impotence.
Then in June 1967 came a stunning and cataclysmic defeat for the Muslims known throughout the Arabic-speaking world as an-Naksah, “The. Setback.” In just six days, the Israelis more than tripled their land, regained the strategic Jordan Valley, gained the strategic Golan Heights, and reunified Jerusalem— without direct help from the Americans, the British, the French, or any other ally. How was this possible? the Islamic world wanted to know. How could Muslims lose to the “infidels”? The pain in the region was palpable, and the soul-searching accelerated.
For men like Yasser Arafat, the largely secular nationalist leader of the newly created (in 1964) Palestine Liberation Organization, the lesson of the Six-Day War was simple: “Don’t trust the Arab dictators; rather, take measures into your own hands. Use guerrilla terrorist tactics to make the Jews suffer, fear, die, and eventually flee”
For many Arab Muslims also caught up in the spirit of nationalism that spread around the globe in the latter half of the twentieth century, this was a compelling and intoxicating diagnosis and prognosis. Arabs were failing, went the argument, because they were essentially outsourcing their own security. But the Arab dictators were betrayers. The only way to win was to sign up for the PLO’s revolution and get into the fight oneself.
But there was another, competing analysis too. It was less prominent in the region at the time but nonetheless more compelling to many who heard it. Radical Islamic preachers argued that the Arabs were losing to the Jews— as well as failing in so many other areas of life— not because they were bad people or bad soldiers but because they were bad Muslims. They had wandered from the true path of Islam. They had become weak, even secularized. They had put their faith in the Arab states, not in God. Their only hope, these clerics argued, was for Muslims throughout the region to purify themselves, recommit themselves to Allah, and wage an Islamic jihad based on the principles of the Qur’an, not a secular political revolution based on the principles of Karl Marx, Gamal Abdel Nasser, or anyone else. Only then would Allah show them favor again. Only then would they regain the glory of their history. Only then would they regain their honor and their pride.
“I can tell you what the war of ’67 did to the region,” observed Essam Deraz, an Egyptian army reconnaissance officer at the time who would later join the mujahadeen (Islamic jihadists) in Afghanistan and fight with Osama bin Laden. “We saw the army of our country destroyed in hours. We thought that we could conquer Israel in hours. . . . It wasn’t Israel that defeated us, but it was [Nasser’s) regime that defeated us, and I started to be against the regime. It wasn’t a military defeat. It became a civilizational defeat. We didn’t know that we were so backward, we were so retarded, so behind the rest of modern civilization. There was an earthquake in the Arab-Islamic personality, not only in Egypt but in the entire Arab world.”
“Why were we defeated in 1967?” asked Sheik Yussef Al-Qaradhawi, head of the Islamic law faculty at Qatar University and a spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood movement. “Officers stated that we had vast amounts of weapons, but we did not provide the warrior with mental preparation. We did not prepare him to fight for religious belief and for defending religious sanctuaries.”
It was precisely this conclusion that Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, himself an Egyptian, came to as well. And this was a central reason that in the aftermath of the “setback” of the Six-Day War he founded a terrorist organization known as Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which would later merge with bin Laden and al Qaeda. “[A] serious factor that affected the march of the Jihad movement [was] the 1967 setback,” he would write. “The myth of the Leader of Arab Nationalism who would throw Israel into the sea was destroyed. . . . This movement spawned a new generation a few years after the 1967 defeat. This generation returned to the field of Jihad.”
In 1973, Arab fortunes went from bad to worse.
The Israelis were nearly destroyed by a surprise attack from Egypt and Syria on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism. But with the help of a round-the-clock American airlift of arms to the Israelis, the Jewish state decisively turned the tide. Soon, the Soviet-armed, -trained, and -supplied Arab forces were being routed and demanding a cease-fire at the United Nations. Their defeat further compounded the humiliation of secular Arab nationalists. But it simultaneously added fuel to the Radicals’ argument.
As long as the Muslim world continues to embrace corrupt Arab dictators and refuses to return to the principles of the Qur’an and ways of violent jihaeh they will never defeat the Zionists, the Radicals argued. What could be more humiliating than losing to Jews again and again and again? they taunted. When will the Muslims learn and turn back to Allah?
“We have arrived at the end of the world,” warned Mohammed Taki al Moudarrissi, an Iraqi-born Shia terrorist leader operating out of his headquarters in Tehran, as the Radical movement was gaining strength. “The presidents and the ministers [in the Islamic world] are devouring themselves. The armies are traitors. Society is corrupt. The privileged, the notables do not concern themselves with the poor. Only Islam can give us hope.”
“We must wipe away the shameful stain whereby some people imagine that violence has no place in Islam,” concluded Muhammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, a high-ranking Iranian cleric who would later become a spiritual advisor to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “We have decided and are determined to argue and prove that violence is at the heart of Islam.”
In a fatwa (religious ruling) issued by an Islamic conference in Sudan, Hassan al-Turabi, Sudan’s spiritual leader, declared, “Those Muslims who . . . try to question or doubt the Islamic justifiability of jihad are hereby classified as ‘hypocrites’ who are no longer Muslims, and also ‘apostates’ from the religion of Islam; and they will be condemned permanently to the fire of Hell.”
More and more, Muslims in the region began listening to the Radical preachers and shifting their allegiances away from what they saw as reprobate politicians. The jihadist movement was growing, and they now had a mantra, which was in essence: “Islam is the answer, and jihad is the way”
This mantra was repeated across the Middle East from Egypt to Iran, among Sunnis and Shias alike, and it spread like wildfire. The slogan of the Muslim Brotherhood – emblazoned on its literature and publications— became “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. [The] Qur’an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope!”
Al-Zawahiri fanned the flames, writing one manifesto after another that declared, “There is no solution without Jihad”and “the only solution is to confront the tyranny … and perform Jihad in the Path of Allah. We shall only be able to live in honor if we learn how to die as martyrs.”
But what changed the fortunes of the Radicals was not Sunni strategists like those in the Muslim Brotherhood and Egyptian Islamic Jihad. What poured gas on the fire and changed the destiny of the modern Middle East and the history of the Western world—forever was the rise of an obscure Shia cleric in Iran by the name of Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini, who declared, “By means of Jihad, [we] must expose and overthrow tyrannical rulers.” It was not just a threat. It was a promise.
In chapter four, we will examine Khomeini’s dramatic rise to power and the effect it had on Radicals throughout the region. First, however, it is important to better understand just what the Radicals believe theologically and how these beliefs drive them to use violence to achieve their objectives.