On this third anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, we have much more to be thankful for than some of our political leaders would have us believe. Islamist terrorism’s global scourge has been unable to launch anything more than verbal tirades at America. And while the jihadists have won successes in lesser form–the train bombings in Spain that unseated a government, hostage-taking dramas in Iraq that forced minor players from the global antiterror team, and Iran’s successful effort to sow divisiveness in the West about its nuclear ambitions while harboring much of al Qaeda’s senior leadership–the fact remains that they have not been able to execute a spectacular strike in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
Osama bin Laden’s global vision–of jihadists crawling from the cracks in every enemy state to strike out at infidels with weapons of mass destruction–is drowning in a swamp of confusion among senior jihadists debating who to attack next, how to do it, and for whose benefit. In short, global jihad has turned on itself, and is being destroyed from within–one botched and more wretched attack at a time.
This is largely a function of the sacrifices made by our fallen heroes–the men and women of the U.S. armed forces, and their Coalition colleagues–in the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. Their courage and valor in conflict zones has battered the very thesis–that the enemy is too corrupt of mind, too decadent in spirit, and too weak of body to sustain the battle to victory–on which bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, have sent thousands of “martyrs” to their deaths.
Zawahiri’s appearance on al Jazeera this week to once again threaten the U.S. was particularly poignant, since it was the Egyptian physician who, in his infinite wisdom, wrote in 2001 prior to the September 11 attacks that if the “jihadist vanguard” improperly executed its plans to spread Islam’s words by force, the movement would become isolated and separated from the Muslim masses. He was right, and is now desperately trying to rekindle the unified spirit al Qaeda had achieved prior to the 9/11 attacks.
Zawahiri went so far, at that time in 2001, to set forth the thesis of “shock-and-awe” terrorism as a way to galvanize the Muslim masses against the infidels and win the hearts and minds of the feeble in the Muslim world. And so it was that he conceived the attacks of September 11. Galvanize he did, but the wrong masses. And now global jihad is showing real signs of coming apart.
Just look at recent terrorist acts to see how desperate the jihadists have become to regain their footing among Islam’s increasingly skeptical masses. The most informative example is what happened in Russia last week.
The massacre of innocent children at Beslan, where terrorists turned guns on each other to coerce obedience to the plan, demonstrated the very failure of extremist Islam’s ideology to inspire–and how the hideousness of their actions could sow doubt in even the most criminally hardened minds. When even the terrorists are at a loss to see how killing over 150 schoolchildren can help their cause, you know they have a problem. Most Chechens have now turned away from the very radicals who seek to free them because they see the horrific lengths to which the extremists will go, and realize that they too could be the targets of the assassins.
Like him or not, Vladimir Putin’s resolve to stare down Beslan’s terrorists–about whom he understood nothing–will (if by accident) be seen one day as a turning point in the war against extremism, because the depravity of Beslan’s architects has turned the silent majority in the Muslim world on its ear. Editors, political leaders, and mullahs from Jeddah to Istanbul to Jakarta are decrying the insanity of the Beslan murders. And they are beginning to realize that always blaming others for their woes won’t help elevate their disaffected people or spread the word of their failed vision any faster or better.
We Muslims (I am an American whose faith remains that of the humane and dignified Islam) have no legs to stand on anymore when those who proclaim our religion are willing to put a gun to a child’s head, pull the trigger, and call it an act of martyrdom. Islam no longer carries a message of hope, only the indelible impressions of cruelty. Its purveyors are bankrupt of ideas that inspire, and have failed in an ideology that in its very heart today has become hypocritical. To top it all off, America’s Muslims–whose freedom to craft and convey an opposition to the terrorist cancer is protected by the very people those terrorists seek to destroy, sit silent–stone cold silent.
Islam’s “vanguard,” as Zawahiri called it, has an opportunity to redefine the message and turn away from the extremists. America will win the war against extremism because America’s values are righteous, and because God, whatever you conceive Him to be, is at our side. But Islam will surely lose its credibility as a great religion if its benefactors don’t stand now and drive the final nail into the coffin of the terrorists who have hijacked a noble faith.
The terrorists have turned on themselves because they have no morality and no code. Let’s now finish the job and rise up against them en masse with ideas that reflect human values, not just Islamic values: to mobilize the Muslim masses against their own extremist creed for the good of humanity. To do otherwise is to show the ultimate disrespect for our fallen heroes, both here in America and now in the fields of Beslan, where the innocence of our children was lost as well.
–Mansoor Ijaz negotiated Sudan’s offer to share intelligence data on Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda with the Clinton administration in April 1997, and jointly authored the cease-fire plan for Kashmir in 2000. He is chairman of Crescent Investment Management in New York.