Following news of today's murder of a kidnapped US journalist by Islamic State (IS) terrorists, I've seen several comments that IS poses a real threat to our security, yada yada yada. As a matter of fact, IS as such isn't much of a threat at this time. It's busy trying to establish control over the territory in Syria and Iraq that it's annexed (at least temporarily) into its so-called 'Caliphate'. Its main tool in doing so is terrorism, because it has no infrastructure set up and few (if any) trained, experienced administrators in its ranks. It can only try to cow the conquered towns and villages in its domain into compliance with its wishes.
However, the loose alliance between fundamentalist Islamic terror groups in different nations is a different matter. As the President of Somalia said last week:
“Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, all of them, these are terrorist organizations — they are linked, they live for each other, they support each other and they are connected globally,” President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud told PJM in an exclusive interview on Friday. “It’s not just an issue of one country or one region — it’s a global phenomenon that needs to be addressed globally.”
“That’s why at the regional and continental level the African Union is supporting Somalia and, globally, that’s why the United States is supporting the African Union to support Somalia and defeat these terrorists,” Mohamud added.
. . .
“Al-Shabaab is a group based on an ideology, and we all know that ideologies have no citizenship and have no boundaries,” he said.
“Al-Shabaab is Somali for one reason only — they operate in Somalia, they have their base in Somalia, they have training camps in Somalia.” And, he added, they ably use Somalia as a transit hub for terrorists, linking Asia and Africa — “the terrorists move here and there.”
“And these organizations, although they have different names, they’re all linked in some way or another.”
The president stressed to the crowd the concern of Al-Shabaab and Nigeria’s Boko Haram training together even though they’re physically a continent apart.
“There are more non-Somalis than Somalis at the highest level” of Al-Shabaab now, he said. “We have people from North America, people from Europe, people from Asia, the Gulf… we have all kinds of people in place but still Somalia has the name associated with Al-Shabaab.”
There's more at the link.
I have personal experience of this. In South Africa during the 1980's, certain Muslim individuals of a more militant persuasion went to Afghanistan to join the mujahedin in fighting the Soviet occupiers. When some of them came home, they helped to form PAGAD (People Against Gangsterism and Drugs), which rapidly degenerated into a criminal and terrorist organization. Other, primarily Shi'ite Muslim fundamentalists formed Qibla, modeled after the Iranian revolution and aligned with Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations. I had run-ins with both of them, some of which got rather ... er ... exciting. Let's just say that I'm not exactly a novice at dealing with militant Muslims.
I think it's highly likely that IS will establish (probably has already established) liaison with groups such as Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, and similar organizations around the world. Don't forget the growth of fundamentalist Islamic activity in the area where the borders of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina meet - so much so that it's been called 'the Muslim triangle' by some sources. (See this 1994 Seattle Times report for an indication of how long the area has been under investigation.) I think it's highly likely that terrorists and their sympathizers, fund-raisers and other supporters have already entered the USA from that area, or through the joke that is our southern border security at present. I wouldn't be surprised to find plans afoot to smuggle more terrorists and their weapons into the USA right now.
We're frighteningly unprepared for a major terrorist attack. The Department of Homeland Security is a joke - I don't think it has a hope in hell of detecting, let alone preventing, an attack by determined terrorists with even a modicum of security-consciousness. The TSA is absolutely useless - security theater at its most futile. A few DHS agencies such as the Coast Guard do a good job, but they're starved of manpower and resources. I think it'll be risibly easy for terrorists to strike hard - and there are many vulnerable targets for them to choose. My greatest fear is that they'll bring a Beslan-type massacre to our shores, and perhaps in more than one place at once. If they attacked up to a dozen elementary or middle schools across the country on the same day, the carnage would be immense and the impact of their terrorism magnified beyond their wildest dreams. (I'm not breaching security by saying this, or giving them ideas - we know it's already been discussed in terrorist circles.)
(EDITED TO ADD: Some readers apparently found the paragraphs below condescending or 'sneering', to quote one commenter. That was not my intention, and if I gave that impression, I apologize. I've edited them slightly to (hopefully) make that clearer. Nevertheless, I stand by my (extensive) earlier arguments on the subject, as listed in the sidebar under the heading 'Discrimination, distrust and xenophobia'.)
I have to add that for me, an equally great fear remains the unthinking, knee-jerk classification of all Muslims as potential terrorists by so many Americans. Many people have very little real understanding of Islam. Even those who parrot what they regard as "proof" in the form of selected verses from the Koran, or demand that those of us who differ in our opinions should refute their accusations on their terms, are at best ill-informed. Very few of us have the education, intellectual resources and personal experience of Islam as it is actually lived (rather than in a purely theoretical context, or limited to one or two places or sects out of the dozens in the Muslim world) to properly understand it, as I've pointed out before. That includes myself. That's like trying to judge all of Christianity on the actions of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence or the Dove World Outreach Center.
However, if a major Muslim fundamentalist terror attack takes place on US soil, I fear that logic and reason will be ignored yet again. If we paint all Muslims in the same shade of "terrorist red", it's more than likely that even the (many) moderates among them (such as, for example, the President of Somalia, quoted above, who is our ally in the war against terrorism) will, in their anger and bitterness, end up supporting the radicals because we've driven them to it. Wild talk of using nuclear weapons to convert entire Muslim nations into "a radioactive glass-topped parking lot" - innocents and children right along with the guilty - is a good start to doing precisely that. In fact, of course, that would make us terrorists too.
The world is a far more complex and multi-hued place than most of us would like to admit. In our (entirely legitimate) outrage at terrorism and our determination to stop it at any cost, let's not "throw the baby out with the bathwater" and do things that prejudice or negate our own constitution and civil liberties, or risk alienating a quarter of the world's population because we refuse to think before we emotionally react. The Golden Rule is still a Biblical as well as a pragmatic standard.