Our Western mindset blocks a clear understanding of Al-Qaeda attacks
From an Al-Qaeda perspective the double attack on Algeria in December 2007 was both logical and predictable. The many simplistic Western explanations of why the Al Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb carried out this attack offer little or nothing to our comprehension. These explanations ranged from an attack on foreigners, a desire to reignite the civil war in Algeria, or a desire to widen “the war on terror” with the West. All are misplaced as they consider the actions of those who adhere to the world view espoused by Al-Qaeda from a Western perspective. However the West is not involved in orchestrating this campaign – despite the ideas of some conspiracy theorists. Analysing these attacks from our perspective, guarantees that we will never properly understand nor respond effectively to this campaign.
Many know of Al-Qaeda’s opposition to the separation of church and state. This separation is seen by them as the main reason for the “failure” of Islam in both religious and political terms. This view sees Islam as embracing all activities, and insists that only by such “oneness” can Islam be successful today and recover its former glories. If Islam is not all, embracing all activities of and in the state, then it is in essence being “exterminated”, to use the exact term used by Sayyid Qutb, the key ideologist to Al-Qaeda, referring to the separation of church and state in Turkey.
Further, as no state in the world today puts God at its core in the way Al-Qaeda wishes, every state is illegitimate. Parliaments, presidents, dictators, ruling groups or cliques all are seen as illegitimate interference between the will of God in heaven and its expression through his people on earth.
To our minds this seems ridiculous. However, we are not orchestrating this campaign. The “true believer” believes that the only way Islam can be a success is by destroying the current state system, as it embraces or represents the separation of church and state and therefore the consequent inevitable failure, in fact extermination, of the one true religion. From this perspective all states in the world today, including all Islamic states, are completely illegitimate. To those who adhere to this worldview, the only state in recent history that was legitimate was the Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. As all states are illegitimate, force can and should be used against them as they continue “exterminating” Islam. In this upside-down world view the UN, as the ultimate embodiment of the illegitimate state system, is itself totally illegitimate and an attack on it completely justified.
Only when looked at from this perspective do the attacks in Algiers “make sense”. One target was the UN – the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, one of the most admired UN bodies worldwide. This attack was designed to discredit this ultimate representative of the illegitimate state system in our world. The second attack, on Algeria’s Constitutional Court, was designed to send a very clear message that any legal system that represents or implies the separation of church and state is illegitimate and therefore a justified target of attack. The only legal system that is legitimate in the eyes of the Al-Qaedaists is one where an extreme version of Sharia law is implemented fully throughout all aspects of a country, not just in religion, but also in the political, economic and social spheres fully. This extreme form of Sharia is supported by only a tiny minority of Muslims. It was practiced in the Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Based on the findings of Pew Global Attitudes Surveys, other polls, and the research of Professor Shibley Telhami, approximately 6% of Muslims appear to support the implementation of this form of Sharia. Coincidentally only 6% of Muslim countries recognised the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
The attacks in Algiers are already reflected in videos, DVDs and downloads widely available on the internet. They show the “success” of the actions of Al-Qaeda and the weakness of the international state system and its local “apostate” regime. The attack is so used by the Al-Qaedaists as part of their ideological campaign, where the ideas and images are much more important than the death and destruction inflicted on the poor unfortunates at the two target sites. All Al Qaeda attacks rely heavily for the effectiveness on their publicity “multiplier” effect.
The attack was most likely carried out by the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (widely known by its French acronym of GSPC) which pledged its allegiance to Bin Laden on 11 September 2006 and then changed its name to the Al-Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb in January of this year.
Many Islamic states now operate counter-radicalisation programs to reduce the number and severity of these attacks. Until these counter-radicalisation programs successfully challenge this core part of the Al-Qaedaist ideology, such attacks can be expected to continue. At a recent conference on Jihadi terrorism organised by the Belgian Royal Institute for International Relations the keynote speaker Professor Rik Coolsat, made the point that the main focus of attacks by Al-Qaedaists is not the West but Islamic states. He quantified the approximate number of those killed in such attacks since their campaign started in the early 1990s, as Westerners 4,000 and Muslims 175,000.
Through the next few decades until this ideology is challenged and finally discredited by the Muslim world, we in the West and Muslims worldwide will have to endure many similar attacks based on this perverse view of the world.