HEZBOLLAH MEMBERS march during a religious procession in Nabatiyeh in southern Lebanon last October.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
‘All Muslims are terrorists.’ “Islam will destroy the world.” “All the Muslims want to kill us.” What are we to make of these political slogans? Is every person who calls out Allahu akbar intending to kill people? Let’s take a step back and learn some facts.
Around the year 600 CE, the prophet Muhammad began spreading the principles of Islam among pagans living in the Arabian Peninsula, but left the Jews and Christians alone since they were considered Ahle-kitab, (people of the book), who believed in one god. The Koran, which is considered to be the word of a living god, talks a great deal about the people of Israel and the prophet Moses. The Koran praises the Jews, calling them God’s first choice, and the second chapter, verse 21-22, even says the Land of Israel was given to the Jewish people and that the Jews must never leave the land. Of course, you’ll never hear any ISIS or Hamas leader quoting this verse.
In its early days, Islam suffered from a number of internal conflicts, but the main rift took place in 632 CE when Muhammad died without having appointed a successor, and two groups split over whether its next leader should be chosen democratically, or Muhammad’s relatives should rule.
The Shi’ites believed that Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law Ali was chosen by Allah to rule, whereas the Sunnis believed Muhammad’s friend and adviser Abu Bakr was the Muslims’ rightful caliph. Following the Sunnis’ victory, the Shi’ites split off and settled in northern Saudi Arabia and what is today Iran and Iraq. The hatred between these two groups has become even more extreme than their hatred of the Jews; a great example of this is the long-standing war between Hezbollah and ISIS.
The common denominator between these radical Muslim groups is their desire to establish a religious Islamic caliphate throughout the Middle East. From their point of view, all the countries in the region are the enemy – Jews and Muslims alike (but the Muslims first and foremost). ISIS claims it has branches all across the Middle East and Africa, whose goal is to overthrow existing regimes and establish a caliphate in their place. The successes of its fighters have inspired many young Muslims around the world to join their struggle.
Even Hamas, whose covenant and raison d’être is based on the destruction of the State of Israel, is also striving to reach a greater goal: the establishment of a great Muslim caliphate. In recent years, Turkey’s leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made it known that he views himself as the perfect candidate to lead such a caliphate in the Middle East. He was one of ISIS’s most staunch supporters until he succumbed to pressure from the West. Secular Egypt can be found on the other extreme, as it attempts to lead the sane members of the Arab world.
We should stick to the facts. At its height, ISIS numbered over 25,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria. There are thousands more in Boko Haram in Africa and in Islamic State groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In addition, tens of thousands of Muslims throughout the Arab world support these groups.
According to current estimates, Hamas has 15,000 to 20,000 fighters in its ranks, as well as tens of thousands of supporters.
In the Shia camp, Hezbollah has about 35,000 regular and reserves fighters and has a circle of support made up by tens of thousands of volunteers. If we add up all these figures, we end up with hundreds of thousands of radical Muslim terrorists who operate throughout the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, plus quite a large number of supporters.
There are more than 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. Less than 0.01% of them are actively involved in terrorism, and a little less than 0.1% of them support terrorist organizations.
And a maximum of 10% of Muslims support the religious struggle to obliterate all other religions and install an Islamic caliphate throughout the entire planet. So how did we arrive at the point where people all around the world are impacted so greatly and live in such fear? The surprising answer to this question lies in the West, where people support democratic and pluralistic regimes. In universal justice and laws, in freedom and human rights. Islamic terrorists don’t care about any of these ideals, and when Western leaders display weakness, are fearful of using military might, and obey strict international laws regarding military actions and punishing terrorists, this only serves to encourage terrorist organizations.
They are only concerned about their own survival, and not about the future of the world. In this fashion, ISIS has operated unhindered for years now. Boko Haram has murdered tens of thousands of people in Africa without anyone batting an eye. And this is how Hamas has remained in power all these years despite its reign of terror. And thus the Western world sits powerless in the face of these terrorist organizations.
This situation is not irreversible, but it does require a change in mindset and an internalization of the reality, especially among EU countries. There needs to be cooperation by world leaders if we are to take back control from this relatively small number of terrorists who are wreaking havoc on civilians the world over.
Making a successful change would involve imposing emergency regulations in Western countries, and carrying out legislative changes that would enable security and intelligence forces to do their jobs properly. Western militaries must engage in action without fearing legal restrictions. Intelligence gathering agencies must share intel and carry out preventive actions that would neutralize terrorist cells. All of this activity must be backed by international law enforcement agencies, and we must understand that we will not survive unless we follow the proverb “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Since we live in a jungle, we must begin behaving like the savage tribes that live there. Otherwise, we will soon find ourselves turning into fodder for these murderous tribes.
It’s clear that Islam as a religion is not the problem, but only terrorists and leaders who are acting in the name of Islam. This threat has not taken over the world yet, but if we ignore what’s happening in front of our eyes and let more and more countries around the world crumple under radical Islam’s influence, the situation will continue to worsen significantly. We can’t let that happen.The writer is a former brigadier-general who served as a division head in the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
Translated by Hannah Hochner