Adi Suryana, an Islamic teacher in Indonesia, has just been arrested on terrorism-related charges. Commissioner General Erwin Mappaseng of the national police detective department said, “We have long been looking for him. He is the planner of terror, including the plan to bomb the headquarters of the national police and the Jakarta police headquarters.” Referring to an Indonesian terrorist group, Mappaseng said that Suryana “is sort of their manager.”
In Syria, meanwhile, investigators have just discovered that an Islamic cleric known only as Fouad is referred to by radical Muslims as the “gatekeeper” to Iraq, and coordinates suicide attacks there that are carried out by Muslims recruited in Europe.
Also, Scotland Yard last week warned the Jewish community in Britain that the terror threat “remained high.” Why? Because Mohammed al-Garbuzi, a Moroccan imam who has been linked to last May’s bombings in Casablanca, is apparently on the loose in Britain. And in Norway, Mullah Krekar, a Muslim cleric from Iraq, was recently arrested. Norwegian authorities claim that he is or was the leader of the Iraqi radical Muslim group Ansar al-Islam, a charge he has repeatedly denied. But last month he was identified several times as the Ansar leader on Al Jazeera TV and offered no correction. He also acknowledged on Al Jazeera that Ansar al-Islam was responsible for a suicide attack in Iraq last March.
In Kenya, authorities have begun to investigate Muslim schools (madrassas), which they have reason to believe have become hotbeds of Islamic radicalism and veritable breeding grounds for terrorism — as they have long been and continue to be in Pakistan.
It’s the same story in the United States: al Qaeda continues to recruit in prisons — with a little help from Islamic clerics who have easy entree to both federal and state prisons.
Day after day, all around the world, evidence mounts that Islamic radicalism is a cleric-driven phenomenon. The radical Islam that inspired the destruction of the World Trade Center and innumerable other terrorist attacks around the world is born in the theological arguments used by Islamic teachers in mosques and madrassas. All this is yet more evidence of the hollowness of the still-prevailing view that Islamic radicals are a tiny minority that has “hijacked” the religion. One would think, from listening to some Muslim spokesmen in America, that all these clerics’ immersion in the Koran would calm their souls and make them tolerant, peaceful individuals. The fact that just the opposite is happening — on a global scale — is still a taboo subject in most of the American media, and certainly unspeakable in Western Europe. Conservative and liberal media outlets alike would prefer on the whole to pretend that this is all just an accident, that given the right circumstances there could be Christian terrorist groups around the world waging war in the name of their religion, and that to scrutinize the role of Islam in all this is somehow racist.
In fact, however, such a view, as common as it is, does a grave disservice to Muslims as well as nonMuslims, and leaves analysts with a huge blind spot in evaluating the true dimensions of the threat from jihadist groups. It is no more bigoted to say that there are elements of Islam in need of reform than it would be bigoted to point out that American Catholicism needs to undergo a period of introspection and change in the wake of the priest scandals.
That elements of Islam are being used by terrorists as recruitment tools should by now be obvious to any person of good will. In light of this it should be the highest priority of self-proclaimed moderate Muslim groups to formulate a comprehensive internal response to this phenomenon: to root out these elements of Islam and to teach Muslims, not nonMuslims, that this form of Islam must be relegated to the history books once and for all.
This is not happening, and those in authority who should be calling for it are instead pretending that it need not be done, and that it is safe to assume that the overwhelming majority of Muslims abhor terror and have no attachment to the doctrines of violent jihad invoked by the radicals. Analysts who dare to point out evidence to the contrary have been driven out of the academy, as well as out of government, and are generally ignored by the major media. This is why America could find that, despite her overwhelming technical and military advantage, she could end up losing this war after all.
Robert Spencer is the author of “Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad Still Threatens America and the West” (Regnery).