by M A Hossain 16 Janaury 2023
Of all the burning issues this world is embroiled into, terrorism(Jihadism) is arguably the most important issue at present. In the post-9/11 epoch, the global arena is ensnared in the issue of terrorism under a new dimension, which rapidly was disseminated into all the countries in the world and the Muslim countries were not an exception. At present, 30–40 Countries, with a Muslim majority, are directly or indirectly engaged in the “War on Terror” spearheaded by the US and its allies. Even after two decades of the War on terror, this jihadism is not at all extinct, it rather challenges the status-quo in the Global system. However, owing to the lack of adequate comprehension of the ideology, aim, and procedure of jihadism, the west has failed to perceive this ideological warfare accurately and thus, paved the way for overturning present global systems through the jihadist movement.
There are two Islamic radical forces globally running with unconventional fighters- Al-Qaeda(AQ) and Islamic State. Among them, AQ is emerging as a game changer in the social fabric, political structure, and geo-strategy globally. I will dwell upon AQ only today because day by day, this extremist organisation is getting stronger.
AQ leaders’ statements since the mid-90s predominantly allude to three core principles, which are in sharp contrast to secular, democratic, and religious reform ideologies. First, ‘The Quran-based authority to govern’-AQ is fighting to create a Sharia-based Islamic Emirates and strongly reprehends the secular, man-made other systems of rule which are deemed contrary to the Islamic faith. Second, ‘the Liberation of the Homeland’- they are struggling to oust every aggressor from the Muslim countries. Third, ‘the liberation of the human being’- the vision of a contractual-social relationship between Muslims and their rulers that would permit the subjects to choose and be scathing to their leaders, and to raise resistance and overthrow, if need be, should there be an aberration from Islamic laws and principles.
In my opinion, AQ’s objective is to demonstrate and characterise its activities as defensive and religiously permitted will garner support from the masses for its broader ideological program. The identification of Limited political objectives and the exposition that they are aiming at resolving broader grievances may generate broader appeal. Overall, AQ’s immediate aim is to establish itself as the vanguard of an international Islamic movement, primarily committed to end the propensity of the US’s ‘intrusiveness’ in the affairs of Muslim countries and the ultimate aim is to proselytise Islamic societies with Islamic laws.
For a better exemplification of this ideological warfare, let me compare it with a football match, where the West and Islamic Fundamentalists are two opponents. On one side, the West relies on the Economy, the Rule of Law, and the Judiciary in the defence position; Popular support and Education as two wingers; Secularism, Administration, and others in the midfield, and Democracy as the striker. The West keeps Authoritarianism, Dictatorship, Monarchy, Radical extremism, and Moderate Islam on the side bench. On the other side, in contrast, Islamic Fundamentalists designate 11 players with only one ideology, and that is Islam. Their substitute players are also with Islamic ideology. So, they counter every position of their opponent to instil Islamic ideology.
In this ideological warfare game, both teams have committed rough charges, which gives the advantage to the opponent. The West played fouls in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria, and Mali. They have also tackled Muslim scholars abrasively in Guantánamo, and the seizure of Lal Masjid(Pakistan).
The West also adopted cheap machinations of substituting democracy with authoritarianism, dictatorship, monarchy, secularism with moderate Islam, and radical extremism. Examples are Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and India. So, the West is rather bafflingly unstable in its ideological position and is predisposed to recant its ideology quite readily. On the other hand, the Islamic Fundamentalist team charged its opponent illegally in the Peshawar School attack (Pakistan), suicide attack in common places (Middle East, Africa) attack on Eidgha, Marketplaces (Bangladesh, Iraq), etc.
In my opinion, AQ has targeted four opposition players to make the west exhausted and abruptly exposed its weakness. Those four players are education, popular support, economy, and democracy. From the last two decades, If we analyse AQ’s statements, we find that they have been continuously criticising the Western education system, dollar-based economy, and democracy which failed to exhibit palatable governance. They also expose the bitter truth that Western democracy is not suitable for Muslim countries because if any Islamic party wins the election then obviously Islamic party will not compromise with the West.
According to the International IDEA report 2022, half of the world’s democracies are declining, where India and the US are among 7 countries listed as “backsliding” and 27 countries are seen moving towards authoritarianism. This capitalist democracy has completely failed in the Middle East, and Africa and put South Asia at stake.
AQ is also exploiting the Education system in Muslim countries. There are three systems in every Muslim country, a secular Western-backed general education system, a state-backed moderate Islamic education system (Alia Madrasas), and an orthodox Islamic education system (Deobond). In reality, orthodox Islamic students face tremendous discrimination in every walk of opportunity. And Islamic Fundamentalists are targeting these groups by gravitating them into adopting the ideologies of these Fundamentalists.
From the beginning, AQ was more critical of the monopoly of dollar-based economic systems globally. They termed it as ‘Bogus’ and urged all Muslim leaders to walk out from such a blunderous Fiat money standard. The Washington-Beijing trade war has exposed the monopoly of the dollar system, and world leaders have been searching for an alternative monetary system. Again, the Russia-Ukraine war has explicitly exposed the necessity of an alternative to the dollar system. Now Economists are forecasting that the West is putting other countries in a debt trap and giving emphasis on lessons learned from the ancient Roman money supply conundrum.
The USA and its allies seem to be stuck in the quicksand of their so-called “War on terror”. It was the plan of Bin Laden to bring the USA into a ghost war globally and achieve the asymmetric attrition of war. AQ has tried to convince the Muslims in the Middle East, Africa, Afghanistan, and Pakistan about the “War on terror” as nothing but a conflict between Islam and the West, and it has worked. This organisation takes this war on terror as a golden opportunity not only to garner proponents and popular support, but also to recruit Muslim youths.
In this context, the West is left with only two options. First, to continue this ghost war on terror, and second, to abandon their Muslim allies. In my opinion, the West has chosen option 2 because we saw the result in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia. So, the withdrawal of the USA and its allies is considered a failure of ideology, not power or wealth. I cannot overemphasise the fact that these wars were not evenly matched since those were between the most sophisticated, advanced weaponised military, strongest economy-backed superpower, and with ordinary, unconventional thousands of militants from the poorest, malnutrition-torn nations.
Ideological conflicts have always been at the root of the transition of civilisations in history. Every nation has its own ideology, traditions, and culture. Whenever one nation engaged in a struggle for superiority over another nation, the nation with the strongest ideology survived, which was conducive to the defeat of the Mongols, Hitler, or Soviet socialism. The bitter reality in the present context is that the governments of Muslim countries have to fight this war alone. Therefore, the government of a Muslim country should not give the fundamentalists an edge by rough tackling in the game of ideological war, without fully comprehending the ideology, purpose, and procedure of this terrorism.
M A Hossain, political and defence analyst based in Bangladesh. His Blog handle is: MAHNEWS24/7