Terrorism Moves West
The words “Allahu Akbar!” (“God is great!”) regularly resound from the mosques of the world as a confession of Islam. Those same words were shouted loudly in Arabic to a group of elderly Greek tourists in Egypt just before they were sprayed with automatic gunfire. The masked Islamic terrorists mistook the Greeks for Jews. Those same words form the religious basis for a holy war against both Jews and Christians around the world—a world that may soon include your hometown.
In the spring of 1996, President Bill Clinton gathered world leaders to Sharm al-Sheikh, Egypt, to discuss ways to combat terrorism. Only three months later, two terrorists detonated a deadly truck bomb in front of a U.S. military installation in Saudi Arabia. Without a doubt, the months and years to follow will witness further assaults against the Western world by militant Moslems.
To understand why radicals would savagely slaughter innocent lives, both in the Middle East and in the Western world, it is vital to learn about the life cycle of this noxious weed known as “Middle East terrorism.”
Islam’s founder left a legacy of politics as well as religion. Muhammad was both a prophet and a king. He founded a state and ruled it. He left written laws that apply to the moral life as well as the political. Directives about taxes, justice, economics, and war form part of the law of Islam. For Americans, the concept of a state church is as foreign as that of a king. However, for Moslems the church is the state, and the state is the church, or, more correctly, the mosque. With the religious character of politics and the political character of religion, it is no wonder that Islam seeks territory and power in its missionary pursuit.
To be fair, it must be said that Islam does not speak with one voice on the issue of terrorism. Just as many Christians rightly cringe at the memory of the Crusades, so many Moslems object to the label of “terrorist.” Muhammad began his life as the prophet of Allah as a revolutionary fighting against the leader of Mecca. Once victorious, he ruled as sovereign for the rest of his life. Moslems choose one of these two models to follow: Muhammad the rebel or Muhammad the ruler. These two paths have engendered two traditions in Islamic thought: activism and submission. Both can be seen in the development of Shi’ism and Sunnism, the two major branches of Islam.
Some would propose that he who is a terrorist to one person is a freedom fighter to another. This mistaken notion must be put to rest. Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s current Prime Minister, wrote in 1986, “Terrorism is the deliberate and systematic murder, maiming, and menacing of the innocent to inspire fear for political ends” (Terrorism: How the West Can Win, p. 9). Terrorists target shopping centers, buses, or schools in an effort to strike at those who cannot strike back. All the while, the terrorists apply for legitimacy. They claim to be soldiers, take on the dress of a uniform, and issue statements to the media, who treat them as those with a right to be heard.
Peace-loving people may wonder how a suicide bomber thinks. What is it that would cause a person to take his or her own life along with the lives of others? The answer lies in a powerful promise made to Moslems. Dying a martyr’s death holds the key to instant immortality. It is not merely suicide that brings this bliss. Only when a person takes the lives of the infidels does the promise find fulfillment. Eternal bliss is not certain for the average Moslem, but an act of martyrdom ensures it. This ideology has found expression in four major Middle East terrorist organizations.
Palestine Liberation Organization: Better known as the PLO, this well-known group was founded in 1964. The group settled in Jordan but was violently expelled in 1970. Lebanon became its new abode until Israel invaded and severely weakened it in 1982. In 1993, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin signed a peace treaty with Yasser Arafat that led to limited Palestinian self-rule in the Gaza Strip, Jericho, and several West Bank cities. The PLO’s primary goal has been the destruction of the State of Israel. Only time will tell whether or not Chairman Arafat has truly amended that part of the PLO’s charter, as was recently claimed.
Hamas: The name means zeal and is an acronym in Arabic for the Islamic Resistance Movement. This extreme terrorist group was created in 1987. It forbids toleration of, peace with, or acceptance of Israel and demands its destruction. It considers that the land of Palestine, once conquered by Moslems, must forever remain in Moslem hands. The Hamas Covenant, published in 1988, states, “Israel exists and will continue to exist only until Islam will obliterate it, as it obliterated others before it.” The means for this end is Jihad—a holy war against the infidels who possess the land of Allah. Jews, as well as any Arabs who collaborate with Israel, face the threat of execution.
Islamic Jihad: With roots in Egypt, the Jihad was founded in 1960 and reorganized in 1993 as the New Jihad. Its headquarters is in Gaza. As the name Jihad implies, members value holy war as essential and “shahada” (Martyrdom) as supreme. It fell out of popularity when Hamas began in 1987, but it still remains a source of concern.
Hizbullah: Known as the Party of God, it was founded in Lebanon and publicly declared in 1985. Both Syria and Iran help train Hisbullah’s fighters in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. Today it receives its funding primarily from Iran. These terrorists periodically shell the northern part of Israel and gained public sympathy when, in 1996, Israel bombed their position located within a Lebanese civilian area.
Five notorious countries have provided weapons, training, and money to Islamic terrorists: Iran, Libya, Syria, Iraq, and South Yemen. All are autocratic states with deep anti-Western sentiments. Libya hosts more than 20 training camps for terrorists from various nations. Syria sponsored the attack at the American Embassy in Beirut in 1983. It is well known that Hizbullah obeys the orders of Syria’s Hafez al-Assad. In the spring of 1996, an Iranian cargo ship bound for Germany failed inspection in Belgium. It carried among its supply of pickles an unusual shipment: two Iranian intelligence agents, along with a powerful mortar and explosives. Iran is the well-known supplier of Lebanon’s Hizbullah.
The United States has approached this problem by placing a full trade embargo on the terrorist country of Iran. A thorny situation exists when countries such as Japan continue to purchase oil from Iran. Both France and Germany continue to trade with Iran in spite of known terrorism on their own shores. The appeal of money has great strength.
The branches of terrorism have grown from their remote countries in the Middle East. The boldness of these organizations has developed because of their initial victories. In Iran, radical Moslems who backed the Ayatollah Khomeini overthrew the government of the Shah. Egyptian terrorists assassinated Prime Minister Sadat in public view. The Mujahedeen fighters in Afghanistan—Islamic radicals but not terrorists—successfully drove out Soviet invaders in the late 1980s. In fact, millions of American dollars trained and supplied the Afghan rebels. With their foundation of major victories, terrorists have now targeted the Western world. The immediate aim of Islamic terrorists is the elimination of the State of Israel. This “lesser Satan” is to be destroyed. However, a further aim of these radicals is the “greater Satan,” the United States of America.
Terrorism is no longer limited to the Middle East. Recent manifestations of this malice have caused Americans to bristle with mixed emotions. The mention of three words—World Trade Center—brings a flood of memories and a feeling that terrorism has come home to America. Who can forget the scenes from that bombing in 1993? Billowing smoke, pandemonium, needless injuries, and senseless deaths put Middle Eastern terrorism on public display. The most powerful nation on the planet stood vulnerable to an Egyptian cleric and his comrades.
How could such radical elements gain a foothold of terror in the United States? The answer is simple, yet tragic. The terrorists have established more than 30 religious entities that are free from government control. More than that, donations to their organizations are tax deductible. Such moneys have been shown to support less than charitable causes through agencies like the Islamic Associates for Palestine in Dallas, Texas, and The Islamic Committee for Palestine in Tampa, Florida. Freedom of religion and freedom of speech—both so precious to Americans—unfortunately make the USA a comfortable home for terrorists.
We should not be surprised to read about Jews being the object of terrorism in the United States. For example, the FBI alerted Jewish groups in May 1996 about warnings received from Islamic groups, who threatened to kill 1,200 American Jewish executives and physicians. Demands came from these terrorists to withdraw the Israeli military forces from the security zone in Lebanon, as well as pay $12 billion in compensation. Although Jewish leaders have heightened their security, they refuse to be held hostage to any such demands.
In a mere span of 30 years, terrorism has become a deadly force throughout the world. The United States has been reeling from acts of terrorism. From the World Trade Center, to Oklahoma City, to the skies above Long Island, to the Olympic Games in Atlanta, no city can boast protection from this omnipresent danger. Given the development of new technology coupled with sinister plans, what is in store for the free world?
The Western world is at war, undeclared as it may be. These attacks will continue. However, this conflict is but a symptom of an unseen war. The forces of Satan have been attacking the plans of God Almighty since the Garden of Eden. As time progresses toward its conclusion, the battle will intensify. Not only will Christians continue to face the enemy’s vengeance, but so will the nation of Israel. God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are irrevocable. The Almighty plans to fulfill those promises to the Jewish people as the time approaches for them to “be grafted into their own olive tree” (Rom. 11:24). Terrorists will never succeed in destroying Israel! Some believe that the Prophet Ezekiel foretold a great military invasion from the north during the seven-year Tribulation period. The enemies listed by Ezekiel include some northern lands that are modern-day terrorist nations: Russia, Iran, and Libya. While Israel enjoys peace and prosperity, this army will attack and be defeated by God Himself (Ezek. 38–39).
The Scriptures are clear: Disaster awaits this world system. In the midst of progressing technology and material prosperity, the spiritual condition of mankind has only regressed. As humanity moves toward global unity, the intensity of its sin will hasten the judgment of Almighty God. When the Tower of Babel brought together rebellious mankind, God knew that “now nothing will be withheld from them, which they have imagined to do” (Gen. 11:6). Their tower of pride suffered the swift and sure judgment of God. Likewise, in the Tribulation period, the city of Babylon, which is representative of this world’s economic and religious systems, will experience God’s judgment. “Thus with violence shall that great city, Babylon, be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all” (Rev. 18:21). That city will be replaced with the New Jerusalem.
God’s people can take comfort in passages such as Psalm 91:5, “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day.” Whatever the future holds, may our confidence be in our Savior and Lord Jesus, the Messiah. “What shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall…distress…or sword?…Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Rom. 8:35, 37).