The recent terrorist attack on innocents attending a Christmas Party at a county social services center in San Bernardino, California, is another chilling reminder of radical Islam’s long reach. This soft target terrorist attack in a Western-nation urban setting follows a similar attack plan in Paris, France a few weeks earlier.
It should serve as a wake-up call to Western nations that these jihadi attacks are not limited to Central Asia, the Middle East, and the North and Sub-Saharan Africa killing fields, but also places where peace-loving people work, play, and celebrate. Now, more than ever, it is imperative to identify, define, counter, and eliminate this threat before more innocent lives are lost.
President Obama appropriately referred to the 14 people killed and 21 others injured as “part of our American family.” They were white and black, Latino and Asian, immigrants and American-born, moms and dads, and sons and daughters. In sum, the victims are the heart and soul of America.
U.S. Federal agents identified the victims’ killers as Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik. The pair reportedly had varying reported ties to, and/or sympathies with, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other radical Islamic terror groups. They were Sunni Muslims and, although Farook was born an American citizen, each traces their family roots to Pakistan. The jihadist pair reportedly stockpiled assault weapons, ammunition, and pipe bombs in their California home – and used their home as a place to plan to launch their attack and kill innocent people.
U.S. President Barack Obama and his former secretary of state and putative successor Hillary Clinton and others continue to refrain from labeling these atrocities as the work of radical Islamists and continue insisting Islam is a religion of peace – while many political opponents and a majority of Americans take an opposing view.
It is important for Americans to have a discussion on the growing influence of Islam and the nature of the radical Islamic threat emanating from within it which produces the likes of ISIS and al Qaeda movement operatives and sympathizers. A good start for those who want to evaluate the radical Islamic threat would be to consider the following:
- According to Pew Research Center, there are about 1.6 billion Muslims representing 23 percent of the total global human population. 62 percent of Muslims reside in the Asia-Pacific region; 20 percent in the Middle East and North Africa; 16 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa; 3 percent in Europe; and less than 1 percent in North and South America. On a national basis, Muslims comprise the majority population in 49 countries, with Indonesia having the largest number. The United States has about 3.4 million Muslims, with California having the largest population.
- The 2015 Global Terrorism Index, produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace with assistance from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism, reported an 80 percent increase in the number of terrorism-related deaths over the previous year, with terrorists in five Muslim majority countries – Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria – accounting for 78 percent of the 32,685 terrorism-related fatalities. It lists Nigeria’s Boko Haram, an affiliate of the Islamic State, as the world’s deadliest terror group.
- The 2015 U.S. State Department Annual Report on Terrorism lists 59 Foreign Terrorist Organizations which, among other things, threaten U.S. nationals and U.S. national security. Forty-four of them (75 percent) have radical Islamic ties.
- The 2015 U.S. State Department Annual Report on Terrorism lists three Muslim majority countries of Iran, Sudan, and Syria as its three designated state sponsors of terror. Iran is a Shiite Muslim religious dictatorship.
- The International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence and New York-based Soufan Group reported an estimated 20,000 foreign fighters from almost 80 countries have traveled to Iraq and Syria to fight with radical Islamic extremist groups. About 75 percent are from Arab Sunni Muslim countries, with the greatest number from Tunisia. An estimated 25 percent are from Western countries. Many of these fighters return from the battlefield ready to partake in jihad in their own countries.
- In 2015, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey stated that his agency has ongoing investigations into the radicalization of young Muslim men in all 50 states.
In his speech to the nation and the world after the San Bernardino terrorist attack, President Obama outlined his four-step strategy to destroy ISIS, focusing on the carnage that the ISIS radical Islamic terror group is inflicting on the peoples of Iraq and Syria. However, many critics believe the enunciated strategy is not a significant departure from what is already being done by the U.S. and its allies.
Many Americans wonder what specific steps President Obama can further take to educate the American public and counter the radical Islamic threat at home and abroad. A few suggestions follow.
One, acknowledge that most of the world’s terrorism attacks emanate from countries with majority Muslim populations, and from individuals and groups within Islam who become radicalized.
Two, explain the difference between Islamists and jihadists from the overall Muslim population. An Islamist is any Muslim who wants to impose and enforce Shariah – whether by violent or nonviolent means. A jihadist is an Islamic terrorist. The Muslim Brotherhood, which gestates Islamists, uses mostly non-violent means to create Shariah-compliant constitutions, though it has collaborated with violent groups to achieve its means, as it did in Egypt during the Arab Spring.
Three, explain that Shariah Law is incompatible with the U.S. Constitution and other Free World laws in that it totally subordinates women and mandates many other human rights violations, such as relegating non-Muslim minorities to a much lower legal status than Muslims and dispensing cruel and unusual punishment. It also rejects freedom of speech and conscience and mandates aggressive jihad until the world is brought under Islamic hegemony.
Four, recognize that the U.S. is facing an international army of non-state jihadists who move about and act with impunity, using international laws of warfare and/or state gun control laws to their advantage. Jihadists were easily able to obtain weapons to use in France which reputedly has the strictest Western gun laws, and California, which arguably has the strictest laws in the United States.
Five, direct Federal agencies to reincorporate radical Islamic awareness training into curriculums. Such training has been phased out mostly due to dubious political correctness and suppressing awareness decisions by the Bush and Obama administrations. An excellent training tool is the New York Police Department’s Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat.
Six, do not engage in a military conflict overseas unless U.S. national security is threatened and Congress approves. This did not happen in Mr. Obama’s Libyan military intervention. Duly elected representatives of the American people should be the ones debating, making war decisions and setting legal war parameters, not a small group of administration officials, U.N. and NATO representatives and bureaucrats with varying security interests and agendas.
President Obama has sought to minimize the threat posed by radical Islam during his presidency. However, evidence presented above strongly suggests there is a rising problem within the domain of Islam that needs to be addressed by freedom-loving people everywhere – which threatens innocent people gathering in places like the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, France to enjoy a musical evening, or a group in San Bernardino, California expecting to participate in a joyous Christmas event. As the president approaches his last year in office, he has a chance to lead the effort to reverse the gains made by ISIS and other radical Islamists. For the sake of the Free World and humanity, let’s hope he does. Many lives depend on it.
Fred Gedrich is a foreign policy and national security analyst. He served in the U.S. departments of State and Defense.