Islam was founded by the Prophet Mohammed in 7th century in the Arabian Peninsula. For the next 800 years, Islam expanded to control a major portion of the world, including the Middle East and parts of Europe, Africa, and Asia. So even though Islam's heartland is in the Middle East, only a portion of the global Muslim population is Arab. In fact, the largest Muslim country in the world is Indonesia. In addition, many of the people of the Middle East are not Muslim. Some countries, such as Syria and Lebanon, have traditional Christian populations. And, of course, Israel is primarily Jewish, which gives its people a historic link with other Middle Eastern cultures, including Arabic, which are also Semitic. Just like Christians, Muslims now live in all the world's regions, being shaped by their new cultures and influencing those cultures right back.
1. Middle East
Even though the people of the Middle East are overwhelmingly Muslim, many countries in the region have been targeted by Islamist terrorists. For example, Saudi Arabia is home to some of Islam's holiest sites and officially sanctions the conservative wahhabi version of Islam but has also had numerous terrorist attacks, because of the close relationship between its ruling family and Western governments. Egypt, the home of several leaders of the Islamist movement, has also witnessed several devastating attacks, particularly in resort areas with a cosmopolitan air, frequented by foreign tourists.
Because of its high rate of immigration and low native birth rate, Europe has a large and growing Muslim population. While most of these individuals are hardworking and dedicated people, thankful for the prosperity they could not achieve at home, a substantial portion of the population takes advantage of the freedoms inherent in a liberal democracy to organize for radical purposes. While Europe offers a high degree of freedom, it also adheres to a largely secular political and social standard that religious groups may find frustrating. The result is a highly volatile situation, in which a vibrant and growing immigrant population uses local freedoms and modern communications technologies to organize for antisocial purposes, under the remote guidance or inspiration of radical leaders in other regions. The death of more than fifty innocent men, women, and children in the London transportation attacks and the murder in the Netherlands of a documentary filmmaker are examples of this expanding threat.
3. The United States
Today, the United States is the primary center of cultural, economic, political, and military power in the world. An attack upon the United States or its interests abroad represents a symbolic victory for terrorists, who often romantically portray themselves as lone fighters, willing to sacrifice their lives to inflict pain upon a looming giant. Additionally, the presence of the United States is felt more acutely by many Muslims than that of any other country. Our military is on the ground in Iraq, Afghanistan, and throughout the Arabian peninsula. Our television shows, music, and movies are available to anyone with a satellite dish. Our government preserves long-term relationships with despised Middle Eastern regimes, such as in Saudi Arabia. Many terrorists look at America as rich in military might, rich in material possessions, but poor in spiritual wealth. Our culture is debased, as evidenced in our entertainment, and thus we lack the will to win a long-term struggle. The examples of Vietnam and particularly Mogadishu illustrate the vulnerability of the American military to bad public relations at home. Therefore, Islamist terrorists believe that enough assaults upon American interests, domestically and abroad, will so erode America's will that we will withdraw our forces from Muslim lands and allow the creation of Islamist states, free from American money, cultural content, and diplomatic influence.