Wed, Jul 14, 2004 - Page 9 News List

The war is not on `terror' but militant Islam

By Richard Halloran

Ever since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush has urged the civilized world to join the US in what he calls a war on terror. Voices are being raised now, however, to say that this is misleading and the war should be fought not against terrorism but against an adversary defined as militant Islamic extremists.

The argument is this: Terror is a tactic, not an identifiable enemy. Militant Muslims, in contrast, are people with names, organizations and assets like camps and bank accounts who use terror to achieve their political ends. They can be identified and captured or killed.

Further, this contention holds, it is important to know your enemy to devise a coherent strategy to deter or defeat him. Trying to forge a strategy to counter something as elusive as terror only leads down a blind alley.

The godfather of this thinking is Harvard professor Samuel Huntington, who published a seminal and controversial article in 1993 entitled The Clash

of Civilizations? in which he asserted that conflicts in the 21st century would be cultural, not ideological or economic.

Huntington argued that "conflict along the fault line between Western and Islamic civilizations has been going on for about 1,300 years." This quarrel, he predicted, "could become more virulent."

More recently, a member

of the Sept. 11 Commission inquiring into the US failure to guard against the assaults of 2001, John Lehman, said in a speech: "We are currently in a war, but it is not a war on terrorism." Rather, he contended, the West is in a religious war: "Our enemy is not terrorism. Our enemy is violent Islamic fundamentalism."

Similarly, a retired Army colonel who is a specialist on the Middle East, Melvin Kriesel, wrote: "We are in a global war with Islamic extremism ... Our enemy in this war is not `terrorism.' We cannot attack terrorism, because there is no state or political entity by that name."

Instead, Kriesel said: "We are at war with Islamic extremists who have declared a jihad against us." He pointed out that the West is being confronted

by millions of Muslims who directly or indirectly support the militants.

An estimated 1.5 billion Muslims, or a quarter of the world's population, are spread in an arc stretching from the southern Philippines and Indonesia across South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa to Morocco on the Atlantic Ocean.

"If a global conflict with Islam were to occur the number of warriors available for jihad is immense," Kriesel said.

Mamoun Fandy, a Muslim columnist for the newspapers, Asharq al-Awsat in London and al-Ahram in Cairo, traveled a few weeks ago to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Lebanon, and reported that the press there fans the flames of jihad by portraying "terrorists as resistance fighters."

"In each country," he wrote, "I was struck that al-Qaeda and its ideas are no longer perceived as extreme. Indeed, al-Qaeda has become mainstream and being part of the movement is `cool' in the eyes of young people."

Why? Arab culture is being corrupted by the media that glorify violence, but also by schoolbooks that present only one role model for Arab children: the jihadists and those who excelled at battling non-Muslims.

From these experts comes a consensus on the objectives of the Muslim militants: Drive the US and other Western powers from the Middle East, destroy Israel and overthrow Muslim regimes they consider to be secular. The Muslim world is

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