Islamic terrorism in U.S.
LIST of Muslim terror
attacks in U.S. since 9/11
Sept. 11, 2001 – Nineteen al-Qaida terrorists hijacked four American passenger planes in a coordinated attack on U.S. soil. Nearly 200 Americans were murdered by the terrorists who hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 and flew it into the Pentagon, collapsing its western side. Meanwhile, two other planes, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, were flown into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. Both 110-story towers collapsed, killing 2,752 people. A fourth plane, United Airlines Flight 93, was flown by terrorists diverting the flight to Washington, D.C. However, passengers fought the hijackers, and the plane crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing 40 passengers.
Feb. 16, 2002 – Muslim snipers Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammad kill Keenya Cook in Tacoma, Washington. The snipers would kill 21 more people in a crime wave that stretched from coast to coast.
March 19, 2002 – Jerry Ray Taylor, 60, is shot by snipers Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammad at a Tucson, Arizona, golf course.
Sept. 5, 2002 – Paul J. LaRuffa, 55, is shot and wounded by snipers Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammad in Clinton, Maryland, in the parking lot of his restaurant.
Sept. 14, 2002 – Muslim snipers Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammad wound Rupinder “Benny” Oberoi, 22, outside a liquor store in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Sept. 15, 2002 – Snipers Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammad would Muhammad Rashid, 32, outside a liquor store in Brandywine, Maryland.
Sept. 21, 2002 – Snipers Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammad kill Million A. Woldemariam, 41, outside an Atlanta, Georgia, liquor store. Snipers also kill Claudine Lee Parker, 52, outside a liquor store in Montgomery, Alabama. The snipers shot Kellie Adams, 24, in the neck as she approached a liquor store in Montgomery, Alabama, where she worked.
Sept. 23, 2002 – Snipers kill Hong Im Ballenger, 45, outside a beauty store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. They also kill James D. Martin, 55, outside a supermarket in Wheaton, Louisiana.
Oct. 3, 2002 – Snipers kill James L “Sonny” Buchanan, 39, while he mows a lawn near a car dealership in White Flint, Maryland. Premkumar A. Walekar, 54, is murdered while he pumps gas at a station in Aspen Hill, Maryland. The snipers kill Sarah Ramos, 34, as she sat outside a shopping center in Silver Spring, Maryland. They also murder Lori Lewis Rivera, 25, while she vacuums her car at a Shell gas station in Kensington, Maryland. While she attempts to cross a street in Northwest Washington, Pascal Charlot, 72, is shot and killed by the snipers.
Oct. 4, 2002 – Snipers wound Caroline Seawell, 43, as loads her car with her purchases in a Fredericksburg, Virginia, store parking lot.
Oct. 7, 2002 – Snipers wound 13-year-old Iran Brown outside a Nejamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie, Maryland.
Oct. 9, 2002 – Snipers kill Vietnam veteran Dean H. Meyers, 53, while he pumps gas in Manassas, Virginia.
Oct. 11, 2002 – Snipers kill Kenneth H. Bridges, 53, as he pumped gas at a station near Massaponax, Virginia.
Oct. 14, 2002 – Snipers kill Linda Franklin, 47, in a Home Depot parking lot in Falls Church, Virginia.
Oct. 19, 2002 – Snipers wound Jeffrey Hopper, 37, while he walks with his wife in a restaurant parking lot in Ashland, Virginia.
Oct. 22, 2002 – Snipers kill Conrad E. Johnson, 35, a bus driver standing in the doorway of his bus in Aspen Hill, Maryland.
ug., 6, 2003 – The Muslim son of a Saudi millionaire, Mohammed Ali Alayed, 23, slashes the throat of an estranged Jewish friend, Ariel Sellouk, killing and nearly decapitating the man in Houston, Texas.
Dec. 2, 2003 – A Jewish man, Joseph Applebaum, suffers from a swelling of the stomach that is easily diagnosed and treated. He was identified as Jewish on the front of his medical chart. But instead of receiving treatment, he is left to die by his Muslim doctor.
April 15, 2004 – Fearing that his brother had molested his wife and daughter, Muslim man Ismail Peltek killed his wife by bludgeoning her on the head with a hammer and attacked his 22- and 4-year-old daughters with a knife. Peltek, 41, told investigators, “I was afraid that my family’s honor was taken.” He said he attacked his 4-year-old because he worried that she had been “sullied” by a gynecological exam, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, which reported that both daughters suffered fractured skulls. Investigators asked him, “if you had the opportunity to kill the family again, would you?” Peltek replied, “My female family, yes. My male family, no.”
January 2005 – Somali immigrant Mustafa Mohamed, 30, slashes and injures six people at a retirement home in Alexandria, Virginia. One resident required 200 stitches. Another suffered a broken neck. A judge rules Mohamed is not guilty by reason of insanity.
March 3, 2006 – Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, an Iranian-American seeking to “avenge the deaths of Muslims worldwide” and “punish” the U.S. government, intentionally runs down and injures nine people with his sport utility vehicle on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He pleaded guilty to nine counts of attempted first-degree murder and was sentenced to 33 years in prison.
June 16, 2006 – A 62-year-old Jewish man, Paul Schrum, who had gone to the movies to see “X-Men: The Last Stand” in a heavily Jewish area near Baltimore, Maryland, is shot by Muslim gunman Mujtaba Rabbani Jabbar, 24. Jabbar shot Schrum three times in the upper body, walked into the lobby, placed his gun on a counter and waited for police.
June 25, 2006 – Michael Julius Ford, a 22-year-old convert to Islam, uses a long-barrel handgun to shoot four co-workers and a police officer at a Denver, Colorado, Safeway, claiming the attack was “Allah’s choice.” One person died in the shooting spree. When Ford fired at police, he was shot and killed.
July 28, 2006 – Muslim Pakistani man Naveed Afzal Haq shot six women, killing one, at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle building in Seattle, Washington. Haq grabbed a 14-year-old girl and used her as a hostage during the attack. Officials classified the attack as a “hate crime” rather than terrorism.
Jan. 1, 2008 – Egyptian-born cab driver Yaser Said shoots and kills his two daughters in Irving, Texas, because they were dating non-Muslim boys. The daughters had run away from home a week earlier, fearing their father would kill them.
July 6, 2008 – Muslim Pakistani man Chaudry Rashid, 56, strangled his 25-year-old daughter in Jonesboro, Georgia, after she said she wanted out of an arranged marriage. Police said the daughter, Sandela Kanwal, had argued with her father about the arrangement of her marriage to a man in Chicago. An officer explained, “At some point during the altercation, he ended up killing his daughter.”
Feb. 12, 2009 – Pakistani-American Muzzammil Syed Hassan was the CEO of the first American Muslim TV network broadcast in English, Bridge TV. Hassan beheaded his estranged wife, Aasiya Zubair, after she filed for divorce. Her body was found at the TV station. When he was arrested, he said he “felt an incredible amount of relief” after he killed the woman.
April 12, 2009 – Upon learning that they had patronized a strip club, a Muslim man shoots and kills his brother-in-law and another man in Phoenix, Arizona.
June 1, 2009 – In a drive-by shooting, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad – a convert to Islam who had traveled to Yemen and was deported to the U.S. for overstaying his visa – opened fire on U.S. soldiers standing in front of a Little Rock, Arkansas, recruiting office. Muhammad killed one private and injured another. When he was arrested Muhammad explained that he had planned to kill as many soldiers as possible and was given the assignment by Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula.
November 2009 – Iraq-born Muslim man Faleh Hassan Almaleki, 48, intentionally hit his daughter with his car and killed her because she had become “too Westernized.” He also attacked the mother of the girl’s boyfriend. Police said, “It occurred because [of] her not following traditional family values. He felt she was becoming too westernized, and he didn’t like that.” His daughter had backed out of an arranged marriage.
Nov. 5, 2009 – Muslim gunman Nidal Malik Hassan, an Army psychiatrist, fatally shoots 13 people and wounds 30 others at Fort Hood, Texas.
Dec. 4, 2009 – A Muslim graduate student from Saudi Arabia, Abdulsalam S. al-Zahrani, stabbed his non-Muslim Islamic studies professor, Richard T. Antoun, to death to avenge “persecuted” Muslims. One of his roommates said, “He was all the time shouting in Arabic, shouting threats, insulting his country for no reason.”
April 14, 2010 – A Muslim convert, James A. Larry, 33, became angry that his family would not convert to Islam and shot his mother, pregnant wife, infant son and two nieces in Marquette Park, Illinois. He pleaded guilty to multiple counts of murder, attempted murder and the intentional homicide of an unborn child. “He was upset at his wife and their family — he felt disrespected that they would not join his religion,” Assistant State’s Attorney Jim McKay said. “It didn’t matter if they were young or old, pregnant or not. He wanted them dead.” Larry also shot his 13-year-old nephew in the face, but the boy survived. When the man was arrested, he told officers Allah told him to kill his family, according to court records. According to a police report, he said, “I wish I had more bullets. I wish I had more bullets.”
April 30, 2011 – Rahim Abdul Alfetlawi, 46, shot his step-daughter in the head at point-blank range in Warren, Michigan, after she refused to strictly adhere to Muslim customs. The family claimed the motive was not religion.
Sept. 11, 2011 – Three Jewish men are discovered in Waltham, Massachusetts, with their throats slit from ear to ear and nearly decapitated. Authorities believed the murders were not random, and thousands of dollars in cash and marijuana were left at the scene. According to reports, authorities believe Boston Marathon bombers Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his younger brother, both Muslims, may have been responsible for the triple homicide.
Jan. 15, 2012 – A Jordanian Muslim man, Ali Mahwood-Awad Irsan, 57, gunned down Iranian medical student, Gelareh Bagherzadeh, a friend of his daughter and a Christian convert who widely denounced Islam. He later killed his Christian son-in-law after his daughter married him without permission. Assistant Harris County District Attorney Tammy Thomas told a district judge, “He said, ‘I killed that b–ch, and you’re next. No one insults my honor as a Muslim and gets away with it.'”
Feb. 7, 2013 – Yusuf Ibrahim, 28, shot two Coptic Christians to death and beheaded them in Buena Vista, New Jersey. He also removed their hands before burying their bodies in the backyard of an abandoned house. Quran 8:12 states, “When thy Lord was revealing to the angels, ‘I am with you; so confirm the believers. I shall cast into the unbelievers’ hearts terror; so smite above the necks, and smite every finger of them!”
March 31, 2013 – Reshad Riddle walked into an Ashtabula, Ohio, church and fatally shot his father after an Easter service. After the shooting, witnesses say, walked through the church holding the gun and shouted that the slaughter was “the will of Allah. This is the will of God.”
April 15, 2013 – Muslim Chechen brothers Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev detonate two pressure cooker bombs during the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring an estimated 264 others. After the bombing, they killed an MIT policeman, stole an SUV and exchanged gunfire with police. Tamerlan was shot and his brother drove over him with the stolen SUV. Tamerlan was pronounced dead at the scene. After a manhunt, police found Dzhokhar hiding in a boat in a man’s backyard. Dzokhar has been sentenced to death.
Aug. 4, 2013 – A Muslim convert, Daymond Agnew, 34, went to an Ace Hardware store on a “mission from Allah to help people” before he fatally stabbed employee Daniel Joseph Stone 17 times.
March 6, 2014 – Registered sex offender James Cosby, 46, is accused of bludgeoning his lesbian daughter to death and shooting her lover in Port Bolivar, Texas. Police believe he then dumped the bodies near a ferry gate. In his bedroom, Cosby had the Quran open to a page that says homosexuality is a sin, family advocate Quanell X told KHOU-TV. “It’s quite unfortunate but he had a real, real warped understanding, in my opinion, of the religion of Islam and its position on the gay lifestyle and what one should do,” Quanell X said.
April 27, 2014 – A 30-year-old Muslim man, Ali Muhammad Brown, is accused of shooting to death two men in Seattle and a man in New Jersey. According to local reports, he told police the killings were “vengeance” for U.S. actions in the Mideast. According to court documents, he said they were “just kills” and that he was “just doing my small part” as a self-styled jihadist.
Sept. 25, 2014 – Alton Nolen is accused of beheading a woman in Moore, Oklahoma. Co-workers reported that Nolen had been trying to convert them to Islam. Nolen reportedly used “some Arabic terms” during his attack and had an interest in beheadings. Nolen told a judge, “I’m Muslim. My question is, do you have any Muslims that can represent me as a Muslim?”
May 3, 2015 – In Garland, Texas, Pamela Geller, along with her group the American Freedom Defense Initiative, hosted a “Draw Muhammad” event. Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi of Phoenix responded to a call to “avenge the prophet” and traveled to Garland, where they were shot and killed by a security guard after opening fire in an apparent attempt to get into the building. The guard was wounded in the attack. Islamic radicals have since called for Geller’s head, and vow to kill anyone who “blasphemes” Muhammad.
July 16, 2015 – Four U.S. Marines have been shot dead in an attack, reportedly by a lone Islamic gunman, on U.S. Navy facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said five people died in all, including the gunman. Two law enforcement sources told CBS News that the shooting suspect was identified as Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, 24. Abdulazeez was born in Kuwait and emigrated to the U.S. where he reportedly became a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Giovanni De Sio Cesari
Se diciamo che tutti i terrorismi sono da condannare (aggiungiamo pure tutte le guerre le violenze e cosi via) siamo tutti d’accordo ma nella genericità dell’affermazione non diciamo niente. Tutti condanniamo la violenza ma riconosciamo poi che ci sono casi in cui essa è necessaria. il problema reale diventa quindi: in quali casi o quale determinata violenza (guerra, terrorismo) è necessario o lecita e quale no. Qui allora i pareri diventano tanti e tanto contrastanti.
Del tutto comune, in ogni epoca, è stato il ricorso a spargere il terrore come mezzo di guerra : i mongoli massacravano tutti quelli che resistevano cosi molte citta si arrendevano prese dal terrore e qualcosa di simile si facevano anche in Occidente negli assedi dalla antichità fino al 700. Per arrivare a momenti piu recenti, la Germania tentò di terrorizzare Londra con i bombardamenti e poi gli alleati fecero altrettanto fino a sganciare l’atomica su Hiroshima
Ma se il concetto di terrorismo è molto vago e può indicare tutto e il contrario di tutto per terrorismo islamico ( meglio : jihadista) si indica invece un fenomeno ben preciso. Alcuni fedeli dell’islam ritengono di dover combattere un jihad per affermare quello che essi ritengono il vero Islam. Nei paesi occidentali (non islamici, dar el harby ) non sono possibili azioni militari e rivolte di popolo e allora pensano di spargere il terrore ( proprio: il terrore) nelle popolazioni perche facciano pressioni sui governi affinchè non intervengano nei paesi islamici ( dar el islam) che sono il vero campo di battaglia:
Il discorso è chiarissimo e coerente; dalle torre gemelle a Nizza : i loro atti sono coerenti e hanno uno scopo ben chiaro
Poi possiamo pensare poi che essi fraintendono il messaggio coranico oppure che il terrorismo non raggiunge i suoi scopi : ma è altro discorso
Dobbiamo anche pensare che i bombardamenti aerei occidentali e russi in Medio Oriente uccidono soprattutto civili che non c’entrano niente più o meno allo stesso modo delle stragi di Nizza a Parigi (ma con molte più vittime)
Questo è vero, dovremmo riconoscerlo, ma non ne siamo coscienti ( o non vogliamo esserlo) Tutti mettiamo mazzi di fiori dove sono caduti i nostri civili ignari sorpresi dalla morte ma non abbiamo idea di quanti sono sorpresi dalla morte che viene dal cielo dai nostri aerei in M.O.
Il problema allora, a mio parere, è quello di vedere quali azioni di guerra siano necessarie, opportune, lecite e quali no; dobbiamo cioè analizzare la situazione
Ma non dobbiamo pensare che noi siamo per definizione i buoni i giusti e quelli sono i cattivi, i folli
Insomma una giudizio negativo politico non deve trasformarsi in una condanna morale
Riconosco pero che nei conflitti questo succede quasi inevitabilmente : raramente il nemico resta solo il nemico, diventa quasi sempre anche il cattivo, il mostro.
Per combattere il terrorismo la comprensione, l integrazione , lo sviluppo economico sono fattori che possiamo pensare che influiscono in generale ma essi non incidono direttamente sul fenomeno stesso: i terrroisti quelli che ci minacciano direttamnete sono quasi sempre persone che vivono fra di noi , cittadini dei nostri stati, in genere di seconda e terza generazione.non vengono dal Medio Oriente in Europa anzi al contrario molti partono dai nostri paesi verso il Medio Oriente
Soprattutto sono fattori che hanno bisogno di decenni per avere un qualche eventuale effetto e noi dobbiamo combattere il terrrorismo di oggi e non quello che si avrebbe fra decine di anni
Possiamo pensare che il nazismo non ci sarebbe stato in Germania senza gli errori tragici dei trattati di pace ingiusti e vessatori ma una volta che l’armata nazista si era mossa certo non la si poteva fermare con una revisione dei trattati : bisognava combattere e si combattere con decine di milioni di morti e rovine infinite
Si possono mettere soldati per le strade ma gli effetti possono essere solo psicologici di dare una maggiore e illusoria sicurezza ai cittadini ma non ci sono modi di contrastarlo con le misure di sicurezze che spostano semplicemente gli obbiettivi verso i meno protetti. Se a Nizza la promenade fosse stata piu protetta magari si sarebbe diretto al vicino marche aux fleurs
Piu efficaci possono essere le misure di intelligence : praticamante mettere degli infiltrati ma è cosa difficile in quegli ambienti chiusi. Si puo anche fare la guerra informatica contro i siti che fanno propaganda al Jihad
Certo sono misure più efficaci che hanno una loro importanza ma non possono risolvere la situazione
Non c’ è modo di prevenire gli attentati: anche se solo uno su diecimila islamici presenti in Europa raccogliesse l’appello jihadista avremmo migliaia di attentatori e un effetto emulazione che metterebbe in ginocchio l’Europa
A mia personale parere l’unica vera difesa è l’attacco; i jihadisti credono di agire in nome idi Dio ma di fronte alla sconfitta chiara e inequivocabile la loro fiducia vacilla e si perde .
Nella battaglia di Kartum 1899 un esercito anglo egiziano sconfisse sanguinosamente quasi senza perdita i dervisci del madhi ( pressappoco l’ISIS del momento) : questi caricarono confidando nell’aiuto dell’Altissimo ma caddero a migliaia sotto il fuoco delle armi a ripetizione :allora si sbandarono e fuggirono per ogni dove perchè si resero conto che l’Altissimo non era con loro
Mi pare che sia successo la stessa cosa quando in risposta all’attacco alle Torri Gemelle gli Americani invasero l ‘Afganistan,: al qaeda e talebani erano sicuri che l’Altissimo avrebbe loro permesso di fermare gli americani ( e alleati islamici ) ma, travolti con la stessa irrisoria facilita di Kartum, fuggirono anche essi per ogni dove lasciando armi e documenti e ogni cosa
Non ci furono piu attentati importanti che ripresero solo nel 2004 ad Atocha in seguito alla fallimentare gestione del dopo guerra in Iraq quando si riaccese la speranza di una riscossa jihadista ma man mano si spensero e Il terrorismo si fermo
Due anni fa, quando si formo il califfato ( ISIS) forse se un esercito occidentale- mussulmano avesse distrutto con la solita irrisoria facilità il califfato anche questa volta si sarebbe dimostrato che l’Altissimo guardava da un’altra parte . Probabilmente ora non saremmo alle prese con il terrorismo che ci minaccia per ogni dove
Tuttavia noi possiamo sconfiggere cento volte il jihadismo ma se non rimuoviamo le cause profonde questi prima o dopo riapparirà. L’idea dei neo com dei tempo di Bush era di diffondere la democrazia di modello occidentale ed è stato un fallimento.
Forse bisognerebbe diffondere democrazia di tipo islamico
Personalmente ritengo che i movimenti di ispirazione islamica possano assorbire la esigenza islamica che viene dal basso in tutto il Medio Oriente dopo il fallimento spettacolare dei regimi nazionalisti (alla Nasser) diventati delle cupe dittature (Saddam. Assad)
Ricordo che gli unici paesi in cui veramente vige la sharia sono Arabia e Iran:la prima è la più fedele alleata dell’Occidente e non si è mai sentito di attentati fatti da iraniani:
Non ci sono nemmeno jihadisti provenienti dalla Turchia dell’islamico Erdegan: gli attentati sono venuti da paesi a governo laico
Un Morsi o un Erdogan ( a prescindere delle loro incapacità e derive autoritarie) non sono dei jihadisti ma dei politici di ispirazione religiosa ( come un De Gasperi o un Don Sturzo)
Forse per noi occidentali è meglio avere a che fare con al Sissi che con Morsi ma a lungo ( o medio) termine io credo che Morsi avrebbe potuto assorbire il jihadismo mentre al Sissi lo ha fatto esplodere
A mio personale parere, il terrorismo, il jihadismo finiranno veramente quando e se in M. O. movimenti di ispirazione islamica come Morsi o AKP potranno andare al governo attraverso le elezioni
Islamist Terrorism from 2011 to the Rise of ISIS
Despite Islamic teachings against suicide and killing innocent people in battle, terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, or “ISIS,” have used a political form of Islam known as “Islamism” to justify an unholy war of terrorism. In 1988, Osama bin Laden founded Al Qaeda. Even after his death in 2011, Al Qaeda persists, and the more recently formed group ISIS has attempted to provoke an apocalyptic war with the United States and the West.
Over many years, Al Qaeda committed terrorist acts killing many innocent men, women, and children. On August 7, 1998, Al Qaeda terrorists almost simultaneously set off bombs 150 miles apart at U.S. Embassies in the East African countries of Kenya and Tanzania. The blasts killed 12 Americans and about 250 Africans, most of them Muslims. The group was also responsible for the September 11, 2001, suicide terrorist attacks (commonly referred to as “9/11”) on New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon, which murdered close to 3,000 people. On May 12, 2003, Al Qaeda suicide terrorists set off bombs in three housing compounds in the capital of Saudi Arabia. The bombs killed 35 people, including 12 Americans.
Other terrorist groups, often linked to Al Qaeda, have been responsible for attacks around the globe. Bombings of the underground subway in London in 2005 killed 56 people, and shootings and bombings in the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008 resulted in over 160 deaths. A bomber attempted to set off a car bomb in New York City’s Times Square in 2010.
In recent years, a group calling itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (aka ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh) has risen to power in the Middle East. ISIS is an Islamist organization that initially formed in Iraq and that seeks to bring about a war against the West centered in Syria. Now a rival of its former allies in Al Qaeda, ISIS has developed an ideology even more extreme and brutal than other terrorist groups.
The U.S. State Department maintains a list of terrorist groups. Included on the list are, to name a few, Nigeria’s Boko Haram, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Algeria’s Armed Islamic Group, Egypt’s Islamic Jihad, Palestine’s Islamic Jihad and Hamas, Uzbekistan’s Islamic Movement, the Philippines’ Abu Sayyaf, and Pakistan’s Jaish-e-Muhammad (Army of Muhammad) as foreign terrorist groups. Unlike Al Qaeda, most of these groups have not committed terrorism internationally. Instead, they use terrorism to help overthrow the regimes in control of their countries.
What is Islamism?
There is tremendous controversy over which terms to use when describing people who justify acts of terror and violence on an interpretation of Islam. For example, in the United States, some people make a point of saying “Islamic terrorists” in order to highlight perceived links between violence and Islamic fundamentalism. Others will strictly avoid connecting the word “terrorism” to any other term that implies a link to Islam, citing concerns about accuracy and the fear of promoting discrimination.
In this article, use of the term “Islamist” conforms to the definition provided by the Associated Press: “An advocate or supporter of a political movement that favors reordering government and society in accordance with laws prescribed by Islam.” Islamists may form political parties to advance their agenda, and some of these parties may even have extreme views of reform within society. But only a small minority of Islamists turn to terrorism in order to gain power, and that is the main subject of this article. The word “Islamism” is not a synonym for “terrorism,” nor is it a synonym for the religion of Islam itself.
Although their goals may differ, Islamist groups generally want to set up states based on Islamic fundamentalism, or literal interpretation of the Koran, the holy scripture of Islam, and the Hadith, a collection of sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. They believe that government based on Sharia, or Islamic law, is superior to any government based on secular laws, democracy in which multiple political views are represented, or any religion other than fundamentalist Islam.
Islamists reject most things Western (except technology). They generally want a more equal society with less division between the rich and poor, but they want women to return to traditional role and dress. This can mean women taking care of the family, staying out of the political and business worlds, wearing a veil, and even dressing in garments that cover them completely. Islamists call for a return to a strict, “pure” Islam that they believe was practiced in the seventh century by the Prophet Muhammad and his immediate successors, the first four caliphs.
Many Islamist terrorists, often called jihadist terrorists, view themselves as following Muhammad’s example. Muhammad in A.D. 622 had to flee from Mecca with a small band of followers. Yet in 630, he returned with an army of followers to conquer Mecca and then spread Islam throughout the Arabian Peninsula. terrorist groups often see themselves as small bands that will similarly lead Islam to victory.
But terrorist tactics run against the basic teachings of Islam. The Koran set strict rules against suicide and killing women, children, and old people in battle.
The overwhelming majority of Muslims deplore terrorist attacks and view them as violating the Koran. Most fundamentalist Muslims also believe terrorism violates Islamic law. Nonetheless, the Islamic State and other jihadist groups draw their supporters from the ranks of Islamic fundamentalists.
From the Soviet War in Afghanistan to 9/11
Also in 1979, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in order to help Afghan communists who had seized power. Muslims from around the world called for a jihad, or holy war in defense of Islam, to free the Muslim country from the invaders. Thousands from many countries volunteered to be mujahedeen, holy warriors. Saudi-funded religious schools in neighboring Pakistan produced many volunteers for the jihad.
Money poured in from the Muslim Brotherhood, but also from Saudi Arabia and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The Saudis sent many volunteer fighters and spent untold millions of dollars. The CIA contributed more than $3 billion, supplied more than 1,000 small, portable Stinger missiles (for shooting down helicopters and low-flying airplanes), and trained the mujahedeen. Afghanistan had become a battleground in the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States.
One of the Saudi volunteers was 25-year-old Osama bin Laden, a member of a wealthy Saudi family. He had attended Wahhabi schools and completed college studying engineering and public administration. For the Afghan jihad, he raised money through his family connections, set up training camps, and commanded mujahedeen in battle against the Soviets. He also organized his fighters into a network that became known as Al Qaeda (“the base”). After the Soviet Union withdrew its troops from Afghanistan in 1989, Bin Laden returned home to Saudi Arabia as a hero.
But in 1990, Iraq (led by Saddam Hussein) invaded Kuwait. Fearing that Iraq would next invade Saudi Arabia, Bin Laden offered to bring in mujahedeen to help defend the nation. Instead, Saudi King Fahd decided to rely on American military forces to defeat Iraq, and he allowed them to set up bases in the Muslim holy land. The stationing of non-Muslim troops on Saudi Arabia’s holy soil transformed Bin Laden into an outspoken enemy of the Saudi ruling family and its American defenders.
Saudi Arabia expelled Bin Laden in 1991. He went to Sudan in East Africa, a country with a strict Islamist government. He took with him an estimated $250 million, part of which he spent to fund terrorist training camps. Bin Laden had become an international outlaw. Eventually, he made his way to Afghanistan, where the Taliban group had seized power and imposed a strict Islamist regime. (In Arabic, talib means “student.”) The Taliban offered him sanctuary in Afghanistan where he provided the regime with financial aid and fighters. He also created training camps for his growing Al Qaeda terrorist network.
In 1998, Bin Laden proclaimed jihad against Americans and Jews, claiming that “the United States is occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of its territories, Arabia, plundering its riches, overwhelming its rulers, humiliating its people, threatening its neighbors.” Bin Laden decreed that it was the duty of every Muslim “to kill Americans.” After Bin Laden issued his decree, Islamist terrorists began to strike American targets. In 1998, two U.S. embassies were bombed in Africa. In 2000, suicide bombers attacked the U.S.S. Cole warship off the coast of Yemen. In 2001, terrorist airplane hijackers killed almost 3,000 people in the United States.
The Hunt for Osama bin Laden
The United States responded to the September 11, 200l, attacks by declaring a war on terrorism. U.S. troops invaded Afghanistan and overthrew the Taliban. In 2003, the United States and allies invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein, a brutal dictator, though not associated with Islamist ideas.
Both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama vowed to capture or kill Bin Laden. Obama shifted military forces to Afghanistan in part to accomplish it. During these presidencies, U.S. forces and intelligence agencies were successful in targeting and killing numbers of Al Qaeda leaders, but Bin Laden remained elusive.
In August 2010, U.S. intelligence focused on a possible compound deep in Pakistan that had links to the terrorist leader. After months of information-gathering, more evidence suggested that this was Bin Laden’s refuge.
On April 29, 2011, after numerous briefings and security meetings, President Obama gave the order for Navy SEALs (Sea, Land, and Air team) to move in on the compound. On Sunday, May 1, they attacked and killed Bin Laden. In the firefight, four others were killed, including Bin Laden’s son, one of his wives, and two other men. Upon hearing the news, President Obama reportedly said, “We got him.” A ten-year hunt had ended.
The U.S. has continued its strategy to target and eliminate other Al Qaeda leaders, such as Sanafi al-Nasr, a radicalized Saudi citizen who led an Al Qaeda-linked group in Syria. However, Al Qaeda and its affiliates (groups claiming allegiance) remained active in several countries, including Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Somalia, and Yemen. Ayman al-Zawahiri, whom national security experts call the “brains” behind 9/11, has been a prominent spokesman for Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda in Yemen claimed responsibility for the January 2015 mass shooting at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France, in which 12 people were killed. Charlie Hebdo had frequently published cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad, among other non-Muslim religious and political figures.
The Rise of ISIS and Boko Haram
Starting in 2010, protests against authoritarian government in Tunisia quickly spread to other Arab states in North Africa and the Middle East. The widespread protests became known as the “Arab Spring.” In March 2011, the authoritarian regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria imprisoned and tortured 15 young people for writing anti-government graffiti. This sparked protesters in the city of Deraa to demand democratic reforms and the release of political prisoners. Government security forces responded with gunfire, killing four protesters.
By 2011, conflict in Syria became increasingly violent until civil war broke out in 2012, largely along religious lines. Sunni-dominated rebel groups battled the forces of the Shiite-dominated government. The government’s use of chemical weapons and indiscriminate “barrel bombs” against civilians, as well as violent and brutal conflicts among competing rebel groups, drove almost 12 million people from their homes.
In the midst of this conflict, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) rose to power. ISIS is a radical and well-organized Islamist organization that has conquered territory in Iraq and Syria, further driving many Syrians from their homes. The stated purpose of ISIS is to establish a renewed caliphate, or rule according to the earliest leaders in seventh-century Islam, and to become the highest authority in the Islamic world, destroying all it considers the enemies of Islam. The group is infamous for mass murder of civilians, graphic videos of beheadings of captives, and the destruction of irreplaceable archaeological treasures.
Thousands of radicalized fighters from around the world, including Europe and the United States, have traveled to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS, some later returning to their homelands. In 2015, ISIS claimed responsibility for suicide bombings in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 40 mostly Shia Muslims, downing a Russian airliner over Egypt killing 234 people, and for a massacre of over 130 people in Paris, France. Two reportedly “self-radicalized” jihadists in San Bernardino, California, carried out a mass shooting, killing 14 people, in December 2015. One of the shooters had proclaimed allegiance to ISIS on Facebook prior to the shooting.
In the years since 9/11, another jihadist group called Boko Haram (generally defined as “Western education is a sin”) organized a militant rebellion against the government of the African nation of Nigeria. Seeking to conquer the Christian-dominated areas of southern Nigeria and to install an Islamist government for the whole nation, Boko Haram targets Muslims and Christians alike in violent raids and assaults.
The group grabbed the attention of the world in 2014 when its members kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from a government secondary school in Chibok. Most of the girls were Christians who were forced to convert to Islam, and few were ever rescued. Amnesty International reports that the girls were sold into slavery, forced into marriages, and often “brainwashed” and turned into Boko Haram fighters.
Originally allied to Al Qaeda, Boko Haram announced its support for the rival ISIS group in 2015.