A few days ago I used the term “barbarism” in reference to the Nairobi mall attack. It’s the proper one. And this is an excellent article making a similar point—by a writer who appears to be a liberal, yet.
But here is one part of it with which I disagree:
What we have today, uniquely in human history, is a terrorism that seems myopically focused on killing as many people as possible and which has no clear political goals and no stated territorial aims.
In that sentence I think author Brendan O’Neill underestimates the scope of we’re dealing with. Yes, these terrorists love violence for its own sake; it makes them feel both powerful and powerfully feared. “Feared” is a concept that’s particularly important, for it ties into their “political goals” and “territorial aims” in a way that O’Neill does not seem to credit.
His article mentions two recent terrorist attacks: the church in Pakistan and the Nairobi mall. But both do have political goals, and the same one: frightening and thereby intimidating Christians in Pakistan and Kenya. Although in Pakistan Christians are a minority, and in Kenya they are a majority, the goal of the Islamic terrorists is the same—driving them away, or wiping them out, but above all scaring them into abandoning their faith or at least the public worship of their faith, and ceding the field entirely to Islam. Thus, the terrorists’ “territorial aims” are quite clear too, and related—although this “territory” is partly one of the mind—to ultimately install Islamic sharia governments in these countries. And then, on to other countries.
A good example of an Islamist terrorist organization with these goals is Boko Haram, a group based in Nigeria that has been responsible for a series of horrific attacks, including one yesterday. It is very upfront about its political and religious goals beyond the killings themselves. From Wiki:
[Boko Haram] is an Islamist movement which strongly opposes non-Sharia legal systems, and what they deem “Westernization.” Founded by Mohammed Yusuf in 2001, the organisation seeks to establish sharia law in the country. The group is also known for attacking Christians, bombing churches and attacking schools.
…The group seeks to “purify Islam” and is known for using motorbikes as its primary mode of travel. The movement is divided into three factions. In 2011, Boko Haram was responsible for at least 450 killings in Nigeria. It was also reported that they had been responsible for over 620 deaths over the first 6 months of 2012. Since its founding in 2001, the jihadist terrorists have been responsible for roughly 4,000 deaths comprising mostly innocent people.
In much of its reportage on yesterday’s attack, the MSM could not quite bring itself to call these people “terrorists.” But, as Brendan O’Neill says in the last paragraph of his column (although not referring to Boko Haram itself), “even the term terrorist might be too good for them.” They are killers who wish to sow chaos and fear, but they are also barbaric terrorists and enemies of civilization and learning (other than that of the Koran, of course) who would like to take us back to medieval times by amplifying that fear with the goal of closing schools and taking over education.
Here’s what they did yesterday in Nigeria (and also see how the NY Times dances around to avoid the words “terrorism” and “terrorist”—they are “militants,” “extremists,” “gunmen,” “attackers”):
The attackers drove into the campus of the Yobe State College of Agriculture, in a rural area just south of Damaturu, Yobe state’s capital, survivors said. A student, Musa Aliyu, 21, said Sunday that the attackers had entered the college’s dormitories as students slept and then opened fire randomly in the darkness.
The attack was the second large-scale massacre of civilians attributed to Boko Haram in less than two weeks. The Nigerian military has been pressing a scorched-earth counterinsurgency campaign against Boko Haram for four months and appeared to have halted its attacks in the urban centers of northeastern Nigeria, while hundreds of civilians fled into neighboring Niger to escape the violence. In rural areas, though, killings by the group — including at least 143 reported deaths in the northeastern town of Benisheik on Sept. 17 — appear to be continuing unabated.
In its war against the Nigerian state, Boko Haram has singled out government institutions, especially schools, for attack. One of its tenets is that Western-style education, not based on the Quran, in conventional schools is sinful and un-Islamic; the group has burned numerous schools in Maiduguri, the largest city in the region, and in early July it attacked a government secondary school in the town of Mamudo, killing 42 people, mostly students.
In yesterday’s attack “almost all those killed were Muslims” rather than Christians. At first glance, this might seem bizarre, and would appear to tie into O’Neill’s theories about the lack of logic in the strategy of such groups. But that would be wrong, because in this case the idea is to scare Muslims into being better Muslims by the twisted definitions Boko Haram uses. In their minds, Muslims who adopt Western ways—including studying Western methods of agriculture, or even scientific ones, as it seems these young people were doing—or who read Western books or don’t wear the proper Islamic outfits, are apostates and deserve death. Boko Haram’s political goal is to scare people into complying, close down such schools, and ultimately to establish a fundamentalist Islamic state (think “Taliban”) in Nigeria and elsewhere.
What’s so hard to understand about this? It’s only hard to understand if you close your mind to reality.