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The Character of Insurgency

By: Sumantra Maitra
November 13, 2017

n August 17, Spanish police shot down five terrorists who were attempting simultaneous attacks in Barcelona. Meanwhile, a jihadist and his 18-year-old asylum seeking coconspirator deliberately targeted women in a mass stabbing in Turku, Finland. Two died and others were injured. Within another 24 hours, jihadists were on a stabbing spree in Siberia. These attacks were horrific, but not surprising. Over the 16 years since 9/11, Islamism evolved into an ongoing, low-level insurgency. People have become accustomed to it, even bored.

Islamic extremism is truly a global phenomenon—Spain, the United Kingdom, Finland, Russia, the Philippines, India, Israel, and China have all been targets. But rather than highlighting the common variable behind these attacks, the media has hidden their common causality beneath politically correct euphemisms and ideologically motivated obfuscation. They are, in fact, united in apologia. UK’s Guardian implied that backlash to colonialism was behind the Barcelona attacks, and BBC Commentator Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s observation that the Catalans hadn’t done much to Muslims, intimated that attacks in Germany, France, and Great Britain were justified or at least entwined with the victim state’s foreign policy. A “community activist,” writing in the Guardian, warned about the dangers of an “us versus them” contest, without reflecting whether Islamism might be the dichotomy’s originator. The BBC makes it a point to refer to perpetrators as “Asian,” without any reference to their ethnic background or the religious motivations behind their crimes, insinuating that the countless Indians, Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Gurkhas, and other Asians living and working honorably in Europe are equally suspect.

Understanding terrorism requires tracing causality and cultural motivations, which quickly precludes treating it as a matter of law enforcement against criminals. These terrorist events are not isolated but, rather, the product of a culture and ideology that promotes violence against unbelievers. Unless we understand the insurgency character, our responses will be forever reactive. Lone-Wolf terrorism is a myth: even the loneliest wolf has had some sort of help, whether propaganda or planning. And like every other historical insurgency, Islamism has sleeper cells; armed combatants and planners; cultural fronts; media apologists; and well-funded underground financing sectors that include alternate economy through religious charities, foreign funded NGOs, human rights organizations, and think tanks promoting pro-Islamist propaganda.

Britain has 23,00035,000 suspected jihadists, Belgium 18,884, France 1517,000 and Germany around 24,400. Spain has over a thousand. There have been 63 attacks between 2014 and 2017, with over 400 deaths in Europe. This new terrorism doesn’t make political or social demands: its underground army rapes and kills simply for the sake of it. In the post-enlightenment, neo-puritan world of American, British, and European media and civil society, however, it is taboo to single out a specific religion for blame, regardless of the evidence of religious motivation.

None of the perpetrators in these terrorist acts are Vegan Amish. In 2016, Thomas Hegghammer broke one of the fundamental myths of Islamism by linking its chronic economic and social underperformance directly to religious teachings, as well as to the imams who paint the West as a conqueror. Hegghammer corroborates what many UK intel officers have already noted: these attacks are not isolated criminal acts, but a well-organized insurgency, with media apologists and superficially benign cultural fronts. Islamism cannot be explained away with reference to poverty, or a backlash against colonialism and foreign interventions. Members of other religious groups have faced both without targeting fellow citizens for mass murder.

Likewise, Cheryl Benard writes that the recent incidents of mass sexual assault, child grooming, rape and pedophilia carried out by members of the Islamist community are not isolated, but stem from a deep hatred for everything Western, including freedom of speech, free women, and rule of law instead of rule of religion.

To them, Europeans are the enemy, and their women are legitimate spoils, as are all the other things one can take from them: housing, money, passports. Their laws don’t matter, their culture is uninteresting and, ultimately, their civilization is going to fall anyway to the horde of which one is the spearhead. No need to assimilate, or work hard, or try to build a decent life here for yourself—these Europeans are too soft to seriously punish you for a transgression, and their days are numbered.

If the West faces a simmering domestic insurgency, then every calculus changes. We must face some hard truths—our neighbors might be plotting our death or a mass terror attack in our cities. A colleague might be secretly planning to bomb a nightclub, shoot up our workplace at a Christmas party, or mow down our fellow citizens in a rented truck. We must come to accept that terrorists’ family members probably knew of their plans but failed to report them, or worse, were actively complicit in it.

Rethinking our approach requires revisiting classic counter-insurgency tactics, which include community infiltration and monitoring. We should implement mass surveillance, as well as preemptive law-and-order operations. But we have to start by acknowledging that we face a generational social struggle upon which the existential integrity of Europe and the United States depends. One cannot prevaricate or equivocate out of it, and we must name and challenge those who do.