The Genesis and Growth of Global Jihad

Nov 17, 2015

PHOTOGRAPH BY ELYXANDRO CEGARRA/ANADOLU AGENCY/GETTY IMAGES

BY ROBIN WRIGHT

The jihad by Muslim extremists against the West began at 1:05 P.M. on April 18, 1983, when a dark delivery van made a sharp left turn onto the cobblestone drive of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. Instead of parking, the van—laden with explosives—accelerated, and rammed into the entrance. The explosion echoed across the city. Black smoke enveloped the Embassy, a seven-story complex that overlooked the Mediterranean. When the smoke cleared, the front of the building was exposed, like the open face of a doll’s house, with bits of furniture and bodies thrown across the floors and onto the coastal boulevard beyond. More than sixty people were killed; many more were wounded. My office was just up the hill, behind the Embassy.

The jihad has mutated ever since; the groups have multiplied. The disparate wings now hold notorious records: in two separate bombings in Beirut, in 1983, the largest loss of U.S. military personnel in a single incident since Iwo Jima, and the largest loss of C.I.A. operatives ever. In 2001, in the United States, the deadliest attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor. In Madrid, in 2004, the deadliest terrorist attack ever in Europe, after multiple bombs went off on rush-hour trains. And in Paris on Friday, the deadliest attack in France since the Second World War. The jihad’s many tentacles have now terrorized Western targets on six continents.
The terror didn’t start in Beirut, of course. The world had already witnessed the simultaneous hijacking of American, British, and Swiss planes by Black September, in 1970; the slaughter of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics; and the 1975 kidnapping of eleven OPEC ministers, by Carlos the Jackal, in Vienna. They’re recorded on the National Counterterrorism Center’s timeline of major incidents since the emergence of terrorism as a popular form of modern warfare, in the seventies. Many terrorists had ties to the Middle East back then, too. But the acts were perpetrated by secular groups.

The ideological tide turned in 1979, with twin eruptions: the Iranian Revolution unleashed Islamic zealotry intent on ridding the region of Western (particularly American) influence. It appealed primarily to Shiites, including the young men who later formed Lebanon’s Hezbollah. The Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan provoked a region-wide backlash in the form of new mujahideen holy warriors. They were primarily Sunni, and included the young Saudi Osama bin Laden. In both, religion became the idiom of opposition, the mobilizer, the rallying cry. Religion was invoked to condone violence—even a takeover of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Islam’s holiest site. Jihad was redefined.

The movement has grown exponentially with each decade. The eighties brought suicide bombings. The tactic, initiated by Hezbollah, was adopted and adapted by its brethren, notably in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Dawa (The Call), in Kuwait. But the groups had largely local and limited goals, such as confronting foreigners or seizing political space. Hezbollah’s attacks in Beirut in the early eighties sought to force American and French forces out of Lebanon. (They did.)

In the nineties, the jihadis went beyond their traditional turf, with Hezbollah’s attacks in Argentina and Al Qaeda’s first attack on the World Trade Center and its bombings of U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The pattern led the Harvard historian Samuel P. Huntington to pen his controversial 1996 book, “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order.” The post-Cold War world was re-organizing around “societies sharing cultural affinities,” Huntington wrote. “The West’s universalist pretensions increasingly bring it into conflict with other civilizations.” The new fault lines, Huntington said, were largely between Muslims and non-Muslims.


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11 comments on “The Genesis and Growth of Global Jihad

  • Robin, you forget to mention the terrorist acts the west committed, like the leveling of Fallujah that killed 70% of the people. Remember “shock and awe”.

    The definition of terrorism is killing civilians with the intent of changing their
    political affiliation.

    ~ Caleb Carr 1955-08-02



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  • Hezbollah’s attacks in Beirut in the early eighties sought to force American and French forces out of Lebanon. (They did.)

    Something else she forgot to mention- Hezbollah’s stated goal of pushing Israel back below their border when they try to invade. (They did.)



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  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-34845977

    Police in Tunisia have foiled a new plot to attack the beach resort of Sousse, where 38 people were killed in June, the interior ministry says.

    More than a dozen suspected Islamists, believed to have trained in Syria and Libya, were arrested, it adds.

    Most of those killed by an Islamic State (IS) militant in the earlier attack were British tourists.

    Tunisia is the biggest exporter of jihadis, with at least 3,000 of its nationals fighting in Iraq and Syria.

    Ah! The fruits of the (initially) much hailed “Arab Spring”, that with a bit of foreign help, brought down governments which previously maintained stability!

    On Monday, the interior ministry said security forces had arrested seven women suspected to be part of the media wing of the Islamic State group’s Tunisia affiliate, Jund al-Khilafa.

    Tunisia is the birthplace of the 2011 Arab Spring, and has been the most successful among the Arab states involved, in efforts to establish multi-party democracy.



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  • This article is incorrectly titled.
    It should be: “The Resurrection of global jihad”.

    The ideology has a much longer history, stretching back essentially to the “genesis” of islam itself.



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  • 6
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    “The Resurrection of global jihad”.

    Now that’s a great point. Jihadists themselves see it as being exactly that: the return of the caliphate. I can’t fathom why the Western world stubbornly insists on not believing them when they themselves keep telling us what their true goal is.



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  • THEM and US

    The west needs to define who is US and who is THEM. If the west decides that all Islam is THEM, then the West will loose. 1.6 billion Muslims. Most of whom are no more threat than a village Anglican. If the West wants to define THEM as extremists ISIS who in no way represent Islam, and embrace the village Muslim, to claim them as US, then the West will win.

    But the west will drive the village Muslim towards ISIS and away from US, every time some intellectually challenge fool declares Islam as the problem, and vilifies all Islamic culture and peoples. One label does not define Islam. Can you tell the difference between and Episcopalian and the KKK. If you can, you can tell the difference between Islam and ISIS.

    I get very angry when I receive emails and Facebook posts from people frothing at the mouth and condemning ALL ISLAM. They are the ones who are assisting ISIS to become a greater THEM. They are doing ISIS’ work driving the village Muslim away from US.



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  • @Roedy
    @LaurieB
    @David R Allen
    @Alan4discussion
    @aldous

    It’s nice to know that not everyone is as ignorant of events, cause-and-effect, and commonsense as journalists and others might like them to be.

    While sympathising with those killed and injured in this tragedy we must not allow ourselves to be manipulated into knee-jerk reactions which compound rather than solve the problem. A commitment on the part of journalists to cease acting as a mouthpiece of the state, obfuscating and misleading, and to start instead providing accurate and unbiased information in place of government propaganda would be a great start.



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  • 9
    Pinball1970 says:

    <“I get very angry when I receive emails and Facebook posts from people frothing at the mouth and condemning ALL ISLAM”

    So we have nothing to fear from that book? In communities that are not terrorist but still follow that book?

    Being taught mosques and Islamic schools accross in Europe?

    Describing non muslims as cursed? diseased? Jews as like Apes and pigs? Violent verses throughout regarding unbelievers?

    They do not have a merciless angry tribe slaughtering god in the first part who mellows into a peace loving cheek turning hippy for the second installment.

    The abhorrent texts are all the way through the book and there are only 23 years separating the first revelation to the last.

    One books lots of chapters one prophet and all relevant to Islam

    The average village Anglican tends to read about jesus and ignore angry YHWH from the OT

    What is the average village muslim view regarding Israel? Women? FGM? Homosexuals? Non muslims? Sharia? Evolution and creationism?

    What was the reaction of village muslims to the Danish cartoons or the satanic verses in the UK?

    I am not talking terror here I am talking ethos, world view, politics, science and reason and bring the next generation of muslims up in Europe in places like Paris and London

    I am talking about that book and the fact the West has positively promoted it as a peaceful document



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  • In some respect you are right, it should not be “US vs THEM.” Instead it should be US vs RELIGION. It is religion of any sort that attempts to convince as many people as possible that whatever the leaders say is the ABSOLUTE TRUTH. And it is the poorly educated masses that fall into their trap. So it goes with Christians as well as Muslims. The senseless destruction of life is an expression of indoctrinated dogma. Remember the words of Voltaire:

    “Those who can make people believe absurdities can also make people
    commit atrocities.”

    Religious leaders are not standing up and pulpit pounding for your good. They only want to control your mind. That is the reason they hate education and prefer indoctrination of their dogma.



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  • Despite your odious claim, there IS a great difference between war and terrorism; to say the intention was to kill ’70 % of civilians’ is a foul lie.
    Where is your evidence for this claim?
    Terrorism is flying aircraft full of innocent people into buildings full of innocent people.



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