Al-Qaeda, terrorism and threat to democracy

The war on terror, patronized by the US, gave opportunities to authoritarian rulers in several democratic countries.

M A Hossain

M A Hossain

The Jakarta Post


Maximum escort: Counterterrorism squad Densus 88 personnel take a terrorist suspect onto a waiting bus inside the compound of the East Java Police headquarters in Surabaya on March 18, 2021. The squad relocated the detention of 22 suspected terrorists to Jakarta. (Antara/Didik Suhartono)

November 4, 2022

JAKARTA – Long ago, on one fine autumn afternoon, my friends and I were discussing which one of our friends who had escaped the get-together in that café to penalize. An army general sitting next to us was intrigued by our excitement and dragged his chair closer to us, bringing his vaporized coffee mug.

With very friendly interaction he advised us his theory “channelize, canalize and penalize” as a solution. Two decades of my hawkish eye on the Islamic extremist movement, I find the general’s theory appropriate here.

After World War II, the dollar became the strongest and only international trade currency. In the early 1990s, the world started a reorientation that strengthened the dominance of the Western capitalist economic system, supplanted the primacy of the nation-state with transnational corporations and organizations and eroded local cultures and traditions through Western culture.

The Western nations have enjoyed supremacy in the military and economy and they have been ferrying their capitalistic and democratic ideologies around the world, which are consumerist and materialistic in nature.

Now, Western nations have reached the peak of their vertex in terms of lifestyle, consumerism and prosperity. This creates an ideological vacuum and people have become frustrated. We have found widespread cases of suicide and mass shootings in Western societies, which are flagrant examples of this claim. An Islamic ideology is starting to fill the void.

I will dwell upon one jihadist organization, al-Qaeda (AQ) which has spectacularly gained its capabilities in acting as a transnational militant organization. During my research, I find, interestingly, it is the AQ that lays down the gauntlet for the United States on the battlefield. A

Q founder Abdullah Azzam first accentuated global jihad among all militant organizations. Before that, various Islamic extremist organizations fought for sharia (Islamic rule) sporadically and locally. AQ members around the world gathered in Afghanistan to fight against Soviet occupiers.

In 1989, after the death of Azzam, Osama bin Laden took the helm of AQ. He envisioned his global jihad as “striking the head of the snake” in which the head was America. He wanted to bring the US into a death trap and by compelling US troops to be deployed globally.

AQ carried out a number of attacks on US targets around the world to allure America into war. Laden struck the center of gravity in America on the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, which changed the landscape of global terrorism. After the attack on the Twin Towers, Laden expected US troops in Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria and Libya to achieve an asymmetric war of attrition.

Even the Bush and Obama administrations were unaware that the war on terror was nothing but a booby trap. America lost the war in Somalia, Libya, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. That is how the theory “channelize, canalize and penalize” works.

American political scientist Samuel Huntington asserted in his book The Clash of Civilizations that the future holds a series of clashes between “the West and the rest” and envisioned religion as “perhaps the central force that motivates and mobilizes people.”

AQ wanted the US military to use unilateral military action against Muslim countries, which paved the way for recruiting Muslim youths against US atrocities. Successful examples are the invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.

Globally, democracy is declining. The war on terror, patronized by the US, gave opportunities to authoritarian rulers in several democratic countries. Nations in South Asia, the Middle East and Africa have experienced terrorism as a tool of suppression and intimidation against opposition. Terrorism is solely responsible for the world refugee crisis, which has affected the European Union and Western nations the most.

Even US citizens have experienced draconian anti-terrorist laws embodied in the so-called “USA Patriot Act” that have immeasurably increased government power of surveillance, arrest and detention. The construction of military prison camps for suspected terrorists, the abrogation of basic civil liberties and the call for military trials have undermined decades of progress in developing democratic policies.

Islamic extremist movements linked to AQ have achieved their goals in Afghanistan, Somalia, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger and are strongly emerging in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Pakistan, Nigeria and the Caucasus region. AQ in the Indian subcontinent (AQIS) has started a hidden and secretive network in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Kashmir. AQ in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is going to capture the important port cities and very soon will take control of the Gulf of Aden.

In my opinion, within the next five years several African countries will announce Islamic rule within their country. AQ in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has strong bastions in Algeria and the Sahel.

Ideological conflict must be countered by ideology. If this simple equation is miscalculated, then there will be a catastrophic debacle. Some democratic rulers are trying to politicize terrorism and for God’s sake, they are digging the grave for democracy with their own hands.

During my research, I found that AQ started its preparation on global savagery in 2002. AQ, from the beginning, targeted the dollar system as the enemy’s center of gravity. Just think, if America was not involved in the war in Afghanistan, Iraq and Africa, where would they be now? The war on terror was nothing but a waste of money and lives.

The world is shaping into a multipolar world in 2022. America has used and abused the dollar system as a punitive tool and democratic frontliners have failed to exhibit a stable, executive, beatified ideology in the 21st century. We have seen the eccentric Trump in the US, Hindu extremist Modi in India and a pillow passing show in the United Kingdom.

The world is now considering an alternative trade currency system instead of the US dollar. But it is extremely important to be critical of state terrorism when one discusses this complex and sensitive topic. For decades, the US and Israel have been accused of state terrorism.

It is, therefore, neither the time for terrorism nor reckless unilateral military intervention, but for an ideological campaign against ideological conflict. This campaign should not accept militarism, violation of human rights, the establishment of a police or military state nor the undermining of democracy in the name of fighting terrorism.

No doubt, democracy is in the ICU and misjudgment of this ideological conflict will put the last nail in the coffin of democracy.

The writer is a political and defense analyst based in Bangladesh.

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