WE SHOULD ALL KNOW MORE ABOUT MILITANT ISLAM -- (BY ROBERT M. JENKINS) (Extension of Remarks - September 08, 1993)
HON. GERALD B.H. SOLOMON
in the House of Representatives
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 1993
- Mr. SOLOMON. Mr. Speaker, despite predictions a few years ago that the age of terrorism was behind us, recent events here in the United States and around the globe make it quite clear that, in fact, we face a new and even more challenging phase of terrorism. A new threat has emerged often dominated by a few radical clerics who call for holy wars against those who do not adhere to their form of religious and political views.
- Now more than ever, we must remain vigilant and keep up our guard against these new terrorist threats, which in recent months have come home to America where we once believed we were invulnerable. In order to be prepared to counter these new threats, we, as a nation, must fully understand and appreciate the nature of Islam and the small unrepresentative minority within that great religion that sees terrorism and violence as a means to whatever political or religious goal they may seek to further.
(BY ROBERT M. JENKINS)
- I want to commend a very informative article about this radical Islamic threat by a expert on international terrorism now on the staff here in the Congress. I encourage my colleagues to read this revealing and informative article in order that we may better understand and appreciate the nature of the new form and threat of terrorism facing our Nation and all Americans, whether at home or abroad, I insert the article in its entirety:
Religious fundamentalism has been on the rise around the world. From the Iranian revolution to the Hindu-led destruction of a mosque in India, events during the past two decades reveal that religious fundamentalism, with its terrorist extremism, is a phenomenon to reckon with. The apparent Islamic connection with the bombing of the World Trade Center has focused particular attention on political Islam and Islamic radicalism.
The popularity of this movement could be explained as a religious reaction to the rapid progress of modernization, which has often included a move away from traditional religious beliefs in many westernized societies. In some parts of the less-developed world, fundamentalists are counterattacking against the perceived threats to their societies posed by secularism and modernity, and some are blaming their societies' failures on the `godless West.'
For the purposes of this discussion, the terms Islamic activists and political Islamists are used to designate Muslims with a primarily religious and political orientation who call generally for a more Islamic way of life through the gradual and nonviolent transformation of societies. Extreme fringe groups of these political Islamists are called militant Islamic radicals. They support the use of violence and armed struggle to attain their political objectives.
Political Islam calls for a renewal of Islamic values in the personal and public life of Muslims. Its manifestations include strict religious observances, the rapid growth of religious publications and readings from the Koran on radio and in television programming, and demands for the implementation of Islamic law. Political Islam often includes growing numbers of Islamic schools, organizations, and activist movements and expressions of resentment against America for exporting a secular `Coca-Cola' culture to the Islamic world.
- Political Islamists and their more militant brethren, the Islamic radicals, often share similar views concerning the West and Israel. They blame the West for the failings of their political and social systems and believe that Western powers support corrupt regimes in many Arab nations. Many political Islamists also blame Western capitalism and Marxist socialism for having failed to address the poverty that troubles parts of the Arab world. The militant Islamists are particularly critical of America's close political relationship with Israel. Most recently, these groups have aggressively opposed the Middle East peace talks, labeling them as a sellout to the West.
- The Islamic radical minority in the community of political Islamists often advocate extreme forms of Islamic revivalism. Some of these groups attempt to undermine pro-Western governments in the Muslim world, claiming that they are too pro-American, or not religious enough, especially if those governments are not based on Sharia, or Islamic law. These militant groups have threatened Israeli, American, and other western interests by launching terrorist attacks against the diplomatic facilities, businesses, and citizens of those targeted nations. The radicals believe that they are fully justified in using terrorism against their enemies.
- In traditional Islam, the concept of jihad, or `a great striving,' is frequently translated in the West as `holy war.' Although jihad does not automatically mean the use of terror or violence, terror is sometimes used as a tool in this struggle. Arab journalist Ahmed Tahiri, who has written extensively on the topic, says, `Islamic terrorism has played a constant key role in revivalist movements in the Muslim world during the past 150 years. And, despite vehement protests from westernized Muslim intellectuals, the idea of murdering, maiming, and menacing the enemy for the purpose of hastening the final triumph of Islam has always held a very strong appeal among the Muslim masses.' 1
- 1 Ahmed Tahiri. `Holy Terror' (London: Shere Books Ltd., 1987), 9.
- Throughout the Arab world, Muslim militants and terrorists are often recruited from the legions of unemployed and dispirited young men in both urban and rural settings in seriously underdeveloped countries. In many nations in the Middle East, there is never a shortage of those who are willing to find attractive the idea of launching a holy war against the enemy.
- In classical Islam, church and state are not separate. Many Middle East experts believe that Islam is inherently political because it is far more than a religion. It is culture, society, and politics. For years, the Muslim world has maintained an ongoing debate about the merits of returning to the old ways of Islam with the political Islamists leading the charge for a more conservative approach to religion as a way of solving the ills of the Arab world. Secularists, on the other hand, have strongly advocated the gradual modernization of Arab countries.
- Political Islam has its origins in Egypt where the Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna in response to the negative impact that British occupation had on traditional Egyptian society. The brotherhood's founders insisted that the influence of the British and westernized elites was a threat to Egypt and Islam that could only be countered by a return to the basic religious principles of the faith.
- Radical Islam caught the attention of the world in 1979 with the dramatic assumption of power of the late Ayatollah Khomeini and the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The subsequent hostage crisis at the American Embassy in Tehran highlighted the dangers radicalism posed.
- In rapid succession, political Islamists sought to assert themselves in a number of Muslim states, with varying degrees of success. Hizballah, or the Party of God, is a militant Islamic group that also has a political agenda. This radical Shia organization was formed by Iran in Lebanon in 1983 and is dedicated to the creation of an Iranian-style Islamic republic in Lebanon and the removal of all non-Islamic influences from the region. The organization, with a terrorist, political, religious, and social services orientation, wants to become institutionalized as Lebanon's principal Islamic movement.
- Hizballah is anti-Western and anti-Israeli. The group receives support from the Iranian government, which began funding extremist Lebanese groups as early as 1979. This support includes weapons, training, financial, and diplomatic assistance. Its Consultative Council, or Shura, reports to Iran. The organization operates in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, around Beirut, and in southern Lebanon and has assets in other countries around the world.
- Hizballah uses terrorism to support political and religious goals. The organization is responsible for the terrorist attack on the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, the bombing of two U.S. Embassy facilities there, and the kidnapping of U.S. and other Western hostages in Lebanon. In addition, Hizballah was implicated in the hijacking of a TWA passenger aircraft in 1985 and conducted a sophisticated terrorist bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires early this year, an act that revealed its ability to operate far from home.
Hizballah is determined to drive the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) out of the self-declared security zone in Lebanon. It has continued to operate against Israeli targets since 1983, when a suicide operative drove a car bomb into Israeli headquarters in Tyre, South Lebanon.
Last fall, Hizballah agents detonated a roadside explosive in southern Lebanon, killing five IDF soldiers and wounding others. The military arm of Hizballah, called the Islamic Resistance Movement, claimed responsibility. The group is developing the ability to fight a more sustained guerrilla war against the Israelis in south Lebanon as opposed to the random terrorist attacks that characterize a simple terrorist group.
Another prominent group is the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). It is one of the two groups of radical Islamists that operate primarily in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. This small activist group, which now has a terrorist agenda with a small political component, originated among militant Palestinian Islamists in Gaza during the late 1970s with inspiration from the Iranian revolution.
The organization began as a religious and political association and became violent after the Palestinian uprising began in 1987. The PIJ is currently composed of a number of loosely affiliated factions, with at least one element based on Damascus. It is successfully building influence in the Palestinian community.
The PIJ organization is committed to the destruction of Israel through holy war and the creation of an Islamic state there. The group is anti-American because of Washington's close ties with Tel Aviv. The PIJ also opposes moderate Arab governments that are considered to be too secular. Its members operate primarily in the occupied territories, actively in Jordan and Lebanon, and less frequently within the Green Line. The Green Line is Israel's original (pre-1967 war) border not including the West Bank and Gaza.
- The organization reportedly has conducted joint operations with Hizballah against Israeli targets in south Lebanon and has representation in the Sudan. PIJ is a small fringe organization with only a few hundred active supporters. The tactics it uses in its operations are elementary. PIJ operatives were arrested in Egypt in 1991 for terrorism activities, and the group was responsible for the killing of Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem in that same year. The PIJ has carried out cross-border raids against Israeli targets in the West Bank and Gaza. In January, a member of PIJ who had been deported to Lebanon called for attacks on U.S. embassies in retaliation for allied air raids on Iraq. PIJ is believed to receive most of its funding and other support from Iran.
- The Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS) is a group of radical Islamists with a religious, social services, and political agenda as well as a terrorist capability. The group was considered to be somewhat moderate until recently. HAMAS is an outgrowth of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Gaza Strip, which had religious and political objectives. Formed in 1987, the extremist group has become a threat to Yasser Arafat and Palestinian moderates in the occupied territories. In July 1992, skirmishes broke out in Gaza between the mainstream Palestinian movement. Fatah, and HAMAS, and the clash left one dead and 100 wounded. HAMAS claims that it has the support of 25 percent of the Palestinians in the territories and that it scored a victory last April over Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) candidates who have called for a secular Palestinian state.
- The PLO supports the peace talks. HAMAS which opposes the existence of Israel rejects a Middle East political settlement sees holy war as the solution and is eager to exploit a failure of the peace initiative. The group envisions an Islamic republic from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River and supports violent struggle to attain that objective. In early November Yasser Arafat chairman of the PLO warned HAMAS to stop acts of violence in the territories and said that he was not ready to `accept Iranian tutelage over us.' 2
- 2 Y.M. Ibrahim. New York Times. `Arafat Warning Fundamentalists on Violence in Occupied Lands.' Nov. 10, 1992 A6.
- To gain influence and win support among the Palestinians in the territories, HAMAS has provided a wide array of social services to Palestinians. The group has become extremely influential in Gaza and the West Bank. HAMAS is essentially self-sustaining, although it has probably received some funds and training from Iran. Its fighters number in the hundreds and operate mainly in the Gaza Strip and to a lesser extent in the West Bank.
- The group recently strengthened its ties with the Iranian government. The action reflects a new level of cooperation between HAMAS, a Sunni group, and Iran, a Shia-dominated government. The organization has held public meetings in the Sudan and enjoys close ties with that government, now dominated by Islamic extremists.
- Terrorists from an armed wing of HAMAS, the Brigades of the Martyr Izz al-Din al-Qassam, carried out successful attacks against Israeli military personnel in the territories last fall. HAMAS has clearly begun to exploit its terrorist potential. As violence escalated in Israel and the territories in late 1992, the Israeli government deported 415 suspected HAMAS and PIJ supporters to Lebanon as part of a strategy to curb attacks on soldiers and civilians. That action may have triggered another wave of violence in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. In March alone, fifteen Israelis were killed and thirty wounded, the highest monthly death toll for Israelis in several years.
- The expulsion of the HAMAS political leadership appears to have freed its young gunmen to act more violently. As a strong supporter of both militant groups, Tehran encourages both PIJ and HAMSA to cooperate with Hizballah given the fact that the groups share a common ideology. Both PIJ and HAMAS have also issued statements to the press declaring the unity of the two organizations.
- The Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya, or The Islamic Group (sometimes called Islamic Jihad) is reportedly a radical offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The Islamic Group seeks the violent overthrow of the Egyptian government, hoping to replace it with an Islamic state. The Islamic Group became active in the late 1970s and is organized on the basis of semi-autonomous cells.
- Although loosely organized and lacking an operational leader, Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, who is now based in New Jersey, is the preeminent spiritual leader of this extremist group. The Islamic Group was implicated in the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981, and in 1990 murdered the speaker of the Egyptian People's Assembly and a noted Egyptian author who had espoused secularism and encouraged religious harmony.
In the past few years, this radical organization has fanned the flames of religious intolerance among the various groups in that country. In the fall of 1992, more than seventy Egyptians died in serious clashes between Muslims and Coptic Christians in central Egypt. The incidents were encouraged by the Islamic Group. The extremist movement also claims responsibility for attacks against foreign tourists. Recently, the Islamic Group warned foreign investors to leave Egypt. It is estimated that by the end of this year Egypt will have lost roughly $1 billion in revenues from a rapid decline of its tourist industry.
In response to this escalating violence, the Egyptian government has cracked down on the radical Islamists, putting twenty-one of them on trial last year on charges of plotting to assassinate public figures and inciting strife among Egypt's religious groups. More recently, police sweeps resulted in the jailing of 700 suspected Islamic extremists. Egyptian officials believe that Rahman is responsible for planning some of the terrorist operations in Egypt, although U.S. officials believe that his role in violent acts is limited to inflammatory oratory.
Last November, Egyptian President Husni Mubarak repeated his accusations that Iran was formenting trouble in that country, intervening in internal Egyptian affairs, and exporting terrorism to Egypt. The Islamic Group receives support from Iran and has established various kinds of networks with several counterparts in the Arab world, including Afghanistan.
Although a number of terrorist incidents have occurred on American soil in past years, the bombing of the World Trade Center awakened many Americans to the fact that Middle Eastern terrorism has finally arrived. On February 26, a van loaded with approximately 1,000 pounds of conventional explosives and compressed hydrogen gas detonated in a parking garage under the World Trade Center, killing six and injuring more than 1,000. Losses from this, the most devastating act of domestic terrorism in recent history could approach $590 million, including physical repair costs and the associated economic damage.
- A few days after the New York attack, a letter was received by the New York Times, allegedly from the group responsible for the bombing, that may shed some light on the motives of the attackers. In the letter, which was turned over to the police and FBI, the `Liberation Army Fifth Battalion' threatened to carry out additional attacks, both on military and civilian targets, if the United States failed to sever relations with Israel and meet other demands. The group claimed to have 150 suicide soldiers ready to carry out attacks in the United States.
- Some of the suspects in the World Trade Center bombing are illegal aliens, and all were either Egyptians or of Palestinian descent. All of them shared an interconnected world. They attended the same mosques; some had joined the Islamic guerrillas in Afghanistan, a group which was fighting against the Soviet-backed Communist government in Kabul; and all apparently believed in Islamic militancy.
- The suspects were also allegedly motivated by the preachings of Egyptian-born cleric Rahman, the spiritual head of Egypt's Islamic Group. This militant religious preacher has called for holy war, the downfall of the United States, and the overthrow of the secular Egyptian government. A likely recipient of Iranian funds, Rahman is still preaching in New Jersey while appealing a deportation order that is based on his failure to reveal he had practiced polygamy and other violations of U.S. immigration laws. The case is being closely watched.
- Americans and American interests, along with those of the country's allies, will continue to be targeted both in the United States and around the world, especially in the volatile Middle East. The New York bombing is part of a broader terrorist trend toward large-scale indiscriminate violence designed to cause a significant number of casualties.
- Although not given the same prominent media coverage as the World Trade Center incident, four reputed members of a terrorist organization led by Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal were indicted in early April in what the Justice Department said was a conspiracy to buy weapons, kill Jewish Americans, and blow up the Israeli Embassy in Washington. The terrorist suspects, who were arrested in Milwaukee and St. Louis, were allegedly in the early stages of planning the terrorist operation as part of a conspiracy that began in 1986.
Although the Abu Nidal organization is a secular group, since 1974, it has been blamed for 100 terrorist attacks that killed more than 280 people. The same organization carried out attacks killing 18 persons at the Rome and Vienna airports in the 1980s. It was also responsible for the vicious killing of 21 worshippers in the bombing of a synagogue in Istanbul.
The growing numbers of both legal and illegal aliens will continue to remain a serious problem in that both groups can be used as a support network for radical terrorist groups that may plan future operations in the United States. The visa issuance policies of the American government continue to be relatively liberal, and its handling of those seeking political asylum will probably not be corrected through legislative initiative.
Overseas, U.S. facilities and personnel will also continue to be targeted. The Islamic Republic of Iran will continue to aggressively export its anti-Americanism and its militant Islamic revolution to target countries in the Middle East and Africa. Already, the Islamic government in Khartoum is providing a support base for Iran's plans to install Islamic governments. Iran has been successful in using international terror as an instrument of foreign policy.
Continuing uncertainty about the Middle East peace talks and the festering Israeli-Arab dispute will continue to fuel anti-American sentiment among radical Islamists in the region and inspire future militant Islamic attacks on U.S. targets in the Arab world and elsewhere in the world.
Despite the recent predictions of many pundits that the age of terrorism is over, security professionals and their programs will likely continue to be confronted with Islamic terrorism and its repercussions that may become more deadly and sophisticated in the future.