Fanaticism and the Assault on Western Democracies

by PATRICK DUNLEAVY June 3, 2013

As U.S. and coalition forces begin to draw down in Afghanistan many are being led to believe that the war against radical Islamic groups such as the Taliban and Al Qaeda is drawing to a close. However several incidents in recent months have shown us that wars are often fought on many battlefields.

The Boston Marathon Bombing demonstrated not only the jihadists' ability to strike at a popular public event but their willingness to kill and maim innocent civilians including children.  We are told that the Tsarnaev brothers' motivation was retaliation for the prolonged wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq and what they called "America's attack on Muslims."  Right or wrong this was the opinion voiced

Officials sought to down play the significance of foreign influences on this attack by saying either the brothers were "lone wolves" or "self radicalized".  Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) sees it differently.  They believe it was a result of their call for jihadists to act within their own countries and that it was not necessary to travel overseas to a training camp to become a bona fide mujahid.  They also took credit for providing instructions on how to construct the IEDs that were used in the terrorist attack through their organizations Inspire Magazine article "How to make a Bomb in the Kitchen of your Mom".

Again whether this was an embellishment of the truth or not, Al Qaeda got their message out.  Why?  Because Wars are fought in many places other than the battlefield. Wars are also fought in the arena of public opinion. They are seeking to influence a whole new generation with their brand of Islamic fanaticism.   Truth matters not to them.

A little over a month later in the Woolwich neighborhood of London a British soldier Lee Rigby, who had served in Afghanistan was brutally attacked by two men as he returned to his barracks. Immediately following the killing the two individuals, Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale responsible stood in front of a video camera with Drummer Rigby's blood on their hands and declared the murder as an act of retribution for the U.K.'s participation in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

The investigation has now linked one of Rigby's killers to Mohammed Hamid, the radical Islamic cleric who conducted training camps for terrorists including the 21/7 London Bombers.  Michael Adebolajo has also been linked to radical clerics Abu Izzadeen, and Anjem Choudary. Their organizations, Al Ghurabba and Al Muhajiroun have been banned in the UK after being designated as Islamic Terrorist Organizations with ties to other international terrorist groups.

In the immediate aftermath of this, British Home Secretary Theresa may call for stringent security measures to address the threat of more attacks by Islamic radicals in the UK.  Among the measures she suggested were steps to; "prevent radical clerics access to universities and prisons, calling those two environments; "the most fertile recruiting grounds for radicalized men who could turn to violence."[i]


Her critics rose up to decry this as overreaching and fear mongering.  They would be proved wrong two days later when a group of Muslim inmates in the UK's Full Sutton Prison assaulted a prison employee as an act of support for the Woolwich killing.  According to prison sources the inmates were led by a known radical insurgent in the prison population with a previous history of violence and a security risk.  The source stated, "It was organized and inspired by the terrible death of Lee Rigby. The ringleader wanted to start a riot and after taking a hostage he was shouting for ‘true Muslims" to join a holy war."[ii]

Full Sutton prison as well as other British prisons have a number of convicted terrorists within their walls.  For them the war (jihad) has not ended.

Why then should we think differently?  And less we should consider this an isolated incident we need to be reminded that prisons are not a world unto themselves.  They see and hear and react to events going on in the world.  Especially when it comes to incarcerated terrorists.  A terrorist is not rendered harmless simply by being put in prison. If he can he will act out. If he can't he will influence others to act.  The threat is real.

The environments where radical Islamic clerics are allowed to influence and recruit is not limited to prisons or college campuses.

A colleague of mine, Abigail Esman, recently wrote an article regarding another threat posed by radical Islamic fanaticism.  The article, "Sharia Reigns in District of The Hague" described a neighborhood, Schilderswijk, thusly, "this is a community, a Muslim enclave in a Western city, where assimilation is not only rejected, but condemned, where even "moderate Islam" is thwarted, a culture of intolerance nestled neatly in a tolerant culture. It is a breeding ground for all that Western society rejects: An environment in which women are oppressed, rights are trampled and religion rules the streets. Worse, still - though not necessarily more dangerous -- it offers welcome to Islamist recruiters for jihad, with an open door, a cup of tea, a stage for them to speak from and an army already in training."[iii]

Over fifteen years ago Al Qaeda and its affiliates issued a fatwa, a religious ruling effectively declaring war against the West and vowing to fight until all the enemies were defeated.[iv]

For some to think that simply announcing a conflict as over ends a war is foolish. History teaches us that.  The battle is never over until surrender is achieved.  The jihadist knows that.  Why should we believe otherwise?





Patrick Dunleavy is the former Deputy Inspector General for New York State Department of Corrections. He is the author of "The Fertile Soil of Jihad: Terrorism's Prison Connection," details of which can be found at his website, and he can be contacted at:   Mr. Dunleavy is currently a Senior Fellow with the Investigative Project on Terrorism. He  teaches a class on terrorism for the United States Military Special Operations School, "Dynamics of International Terrorism"  and has testified as an expert witness before the House Committee on Homeland Security regarding the threat of Islamic Radicalization in the U.S. Prison System.

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