There are countless other examples from both past and present history where popular Islamist leaders were either killed or died naturally and the only thing that changed is that the movement they led grew and consolidated more power.
Indeed, the Muslim prophet Muhammad himself was harassed, attacked, and targeted for killing by his non-Muslim neighbors — sometimes in self-defense — and today, 1,400 years after his death, the movement he started claims over one billion adherents.
Aymin al-Zawahiri summarizes this phenomenon well. Asked in one of his most recent interviews about the status of bin Laden and the Taliban’s one-eyed Mullah Omar, he confidently replied:
Jihad in the path of Allah is greater than any individual or organization. It is a struggle between Truth and Falsehood, until Allah Almighty inherits the earth and those who live in it. Mullah Muhammad Omar and Sheikh Osama bin Laden—may Allah protect them from all evil—are merely two soldiers of Islam in the journey of jihad, while the struggle between Truth and Falsehood transcends time (from The Al-Qaeda Reader, 182).
According to this statement, which itself is grounded in the Koran, Islamic militants are not the cause of the war. They are but a symptom of a much greater cause — the “struggle between Truth [Islam] and Falsehood [non-Islam]” that “transcends time.” The problem, then, is not men like Khomeini, Banna, Qutb, and Yassin — nor is it even bin Laden, Zawahiri, or al-Masri: individually killing them off is only treating the symptom, not curing the malady. The root cause is the violent and fascist ideology that motivates them.
Unfortunately, this ideology is grounded in a religion and a God replete with eternal damnations and rewards, and thus not easily discredited. None of the aforementioned men initiated the many commands that create strife between Muslims and non-Muslims; they only upheld them. Immutable verses from the Koran, as well as countless statements from and examples by Muhammad, are the ultimate source of this animosity:
“Fight them [infidels] until there in no more seduction and all religion belongs to Allah alone” (Koran 8:39).
“When you encounter infidels, strike off their heads” (Koran 47:4).
“I [Muhammad] have been made victorious through terror” (Bukhari B52N220).
No “radical” Muslim fabricated these verses and others like them. These are understood to be the everlasting words of Allah and his prophet.
Even the reckless strikes of 9/11 — where mostly civilians, including women and children, were killed — are justified for al Qaeda through Islam. While it is true that Islam is generally against the killing of non-combatants such as women and children, there are certain exceptions to this generalization, and al Qaeda often cites them to validate 9/11. For instance, Muhammad authorized his followers to use catapults during their siege of the town of Taif in 630, though he was aware that women and children were sheltered there. Also, when asked if it was permissible to launch night raids or set fire to the fortifications of the infidels if women and children were among them, the prophet is said to have responded, “They are from among them” (Muslim B19N4321).
The West’s plight vis-à-vis radical Islam is therefore akin to Hercules’s epic encounter with the multiheaded Hydra-monster. Every time the mythical strongman lopped off one of the monster’s heads, two new ones grew in its place. To slay the beast once and for all, Hercules figured out that he could cauterize the stumps with fire, thereby preventing any more heads from sprouting out.
Similarly, while the West continues lopping off radicalized “monster-heads,” it is imperative to at least acknowledge the malady — radical Islam — in order to ultimately prevail. Victory can only come when the violent ideologies of radical Islam have been cauterized.
But, alas, the Hydra-monster is myth; radical Islam is stark reality.
Just Can’t Get Enough? Erick Stakelbeck and Nir Boms report on moderate Muslims who claim Islam is compatible with freedom. Andrew McCarthy was not impressed with presence of Islam in the Iraqi constitution. Rich Lowry considers the importance of killing Zarqawi.