Between 1979 and 2019, 167,096 people have been killed by Islamist attacks according to a new study by the Paris-based Fondation pour l’innovation politique, (Political Innovation Foundation.)
Researchers have identified 33,769 Islamist attacks, which make up 18.8 per cent of all politically motivated terror attacks over the last four decades. Islamists are responsible for 39.1 per cent of all deaths from terror attacks since 1979 and 91.2 per cent of their victims are Muslims.
There was a spike following the decision of David Cameron and William Hague in London and Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris to support the regime change insurrections in Libya and Syria. This gave a massive boost to the best known of all Islamist movements, the Islamic State or “Daesh” as it is also known. Since 2013, violent groups identifying themselves as Islamist have become the main cause of deaths from terror attacks in the world. 63.4 per cent of all terror related deaths in the last six years are linked to Islamism.
Beginning with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, successive northern (a better term than western) military interventions have led to the growth of Islamist ideology. It shelters behind the faith of Islam just as western colonialism, butchery and genocide was often carried out in the name of Christian proselytisation.
The first major surge in Islamist violence was the resistance to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. This, of course, was supported by the West with money and highly advanced weapons, which were given to Islamists under the supportive eyes of western journalists and anti-Soviet ideologues who enjoyed seeing Russian gunships being blown out of the sky by Stinger handheld missiles.
What the anti-Russian West sowed, it reaped, as the battle-hardened Islamists kept on fighting in the 1990s and then mounted the attack on Manhattan in 2001. George W Bush and some gung ho western leaders fell into the Islamist trap by responding with the invasion of Iraq, which launched a new cycle of Islamist terror. Similarly, David Cameron, William Hague and Nicolas Sarkozy helped give birth to North African and Arab Islamism with their help for fighters who destroyed the Libyan state and who have been trying to destroy the Syrian state this decade.
It is not clear how this will end. A core Islamist goal is the elimination of the state of Israel, with Iran financing outfits like the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza who delight in launching rockets into Israeli towns to kill Jews.
The fanatical Israel haters in western politics and on campuses are the useful idiots of Islamist ideology. Too many of them are anti-Jewish, even if they hide behind weasel words like “Zionists”. But equally, the rise of Muslim-phobia is now pervasive on the nationalist populist right, as they target European Muslims born in Britain, France or Germany. This also sends some impressionable young people into the hands of Islamists, as Ed Husain warned would happen in his 2007 book, The Islamist.
The Paris report is a reminder for all policy-makers of the need to draw a distinction between Islam and Islamism. Muslim-phobia is now entering mainstream centre-right politics in the US under Trump, in parts of the Conservative Party in Britain as Baroness Warsi points out. It is widespread in France, Germany, Italy, and now Spain. The Hungarian strong man, Viktor Orban, presents Hungary as a central European bulwark against Islam, even though the last Hungarian census showed little more than 5,000 Muslims in the country.
But the political fight against Islamism is essential for the survival of democracy. So too is the need for strategic restraint, as every military intervention to overthrow an authoritarian ruler targeted by Islamists has only made matters worse. In London, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, set up by George Weidenfeld in 2006, is producing the best reports on what needs to be done.
One of the biggest challenges is to take on Google, Facebook and other behemoths of the digital age, which do little to stop their platforms being used to disseminate Islamist material. Leaders who try and promote a soft Islamism, like Turkey’s President Erdogan who barely bothers to disguise his affiliation to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, need to be confronted.
Islamism is to Islam what the crusades were to Catholicism. Islamist views of women, of the LBGT community, of Jews, the free media and rule of law and free elections, need exposing and shunning.
Early next month, Nato leaders will gather in London. They have different problems on their agenda. President Trump has partly closed down the Atlantic Alliance, preferring idiosyncratic unilateral decisions like withdrawing from the Middle East to the profit of Moscow and Ankara. President Macron of France says Nato is “brain dead”. He is also closing down hopes of integrating Western Balkan states such as Albania and North Macedonia into the EU. These both have large Muslim populations.
Portugal’s former Europe Minister, Bruno Maçães, writes of Macron’s “Islamaphobic undercurrent”. Between them, Trump and Macron are reducing Nato to near irrelevance with little chance of an effective counter-Islamist policy being developed.
Meanwhile, the Islamist killing machine grinds on.