Editor’s note: this piece was written before the jihad attacks in London last night, but its message is all the more urgent in light of them.
It was meant to be a happy and memorable evening last Monday in Manchester Arena, as youth pop star Ariana Grande had ended her concert and her fans started leaving. But in the lobby, a soldier of the Islamic State was waiting, his backpack packed with explosives. He detonated this with devastating effect at 10:30 PM, killing 22 fans and wounding 119, as they were peacefully heading home.
The natural terror of the attack blends with fear and confusion, leading to questions and statements such as “Why on Earth??”, “Will this happen again?” and “We shall not change our way of life!” These reactions are becoming routine, along with odd symbolic statements, such as turning off the lights of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Obviously, our “candles and teddy bears” reactions have not helped us yet, and we need to do something entirely different.
This is not crime – this is war
British police and intelligence services will of course take up their task of discovering networks and connections to the 22-year old Libyan citizen Salman Abedi. As thousands of Islamic warriors before him, he sacrificed his life in order to kill as many “enemies” as possible. In Islamic tradition, this makes him a “Shaheed” (often mistranslated as “Martyr”), a person who dies in the ongoing war against non-Muslims.
The police and intelligence efforts are necessary, yet insufficient. For as the direct perpetrator was the first person to die in the attack, no further punishment of him is possible. His friends, connections and trainers can be found, punished or even assassinated. While that would be effective against criminal networks, it is much less so against networks considering themselves soldiers, proving in word and in action their willingness to die for their cause.
And this willingness is a hallmark feature of Jihadis such as those fighting for the Islamic State. Suicide missions by the hundreds, if not by the thousands, are the most deadly weapons used by the Islamic State in their wars in Middle East. It is a well-known fact that thousands more have been trained and motivated in the battlefield, but have since returned to Western countries who have issued them citizenship and passports.
Further elevating the risk is the declaration of “Total Confrontation” recently issued by the Islamic State, from the start of the Islamic “holy” month of Ramadan – that is, May 27, 2017. Originally a plan devised by Al-Qaeda, this is a call for all Islamic sleeper cells to start attacking their host countries.
As the Islamic State considers itself to be the Caliphate, Islamic tradition and law requires it to be in a permanent state of war against non-Muslims, in order to spread Islam and Sharia. This is expressed in a series of attacks against civilian targets in the West, with more to come. The next logical step is the use of military force to establish Islamic enclaves in the host countries.
An example of using force to establish purely Islamic enclaves can be observed in the Philippines, whose president Duterte recently went to Moscow, practically begging for weapons to restore the constitutional order. There can be little doubt that Russia will, on its own terms, be happy to take over the role previously held by the US as the main supplier of the Philippine Army.
What did the Islamic State say?
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Manchester attack by issuing this statement (emphasis in the original):
“With Allah’s grace and support, a soldier of the Khilafah managed to place explosive devices in the midst of the gatherings of the Crusaders in the British city of Manchester, in revenge for Allah’s religion, in an endeavor to terrorize the mushrikin, and in response to their transgressions against the land of the Muslims. The explosive devices were detonated in the shameless concert arena, resulting in 30 Crusaders being killed and 70 others being wounded. And what comes next will be more severe on the worshipers of the Cross and their allies, by Allah’s permission. And all praises due to Allah, Lord of the creation.”
Here, the Islamic State reiterates that it is the Caliphate, that one of their soldiers carried out the attack, that is was an Islamic act of revenge, and that the intention indeed is to terrorize their enemies.
A key justification for Islamic State to attack the Manchester Arena was that the participants in the concert supposedly constituted “Crusaders.” This, of course, is a reference to the famous European counter-offensive against Islam that took place eight centuries ago. In this famous offensive against Islamic Jihad, European armies conquered Jerusalem and established several Christian kingdoms that existed for some 150 years.
The Crusades seriously harmed the Islamic self-perception as being ever-expanding, and is neither forgotten or forgiven by Islamic jihadists today. The presence of British forces in the ongoing battle against the Islamic State thus becomes a rationale for attacking civilian targets in Britain, probably in order to turn the tide on the battlefields in the Middle East.
And turning the development in the battlefield is something that the Islamic State desperately needs. Their forces are being decimated at the hands of Kurdish, Syrian, Iraqi, Russian and American military, and most of their financial and military supply lines have been cut off. If this battle is allowed to run its course, the Caliphate in the Middle East will not last many months. Thus the need to resort to desperate measures, such as bombing concerts or creating false flag chemical attacks.
Another gripe from the Islamic State concerns the loss of civilian lives in American air attacks in Mosul and elsewhere. This is a delicate problem, for it has great intrinsic propaganda value. Islamic jihadists such as Hamas are known to use civilians as “bomb shields,” forcing them into harms’ way, in order to create civilian losses, and then use it in their propaganda. So when the US complains about “brutal” Russian air strikes, yet gets criticized by the United Nations for excessive use of air force in Mosul, this carries quite a sting, not least due to the impression of hypocrisy one gets.
It takes a stiff upper lip to stay on course in spite of such criticism, and this is what the Islamic State tries to exploit. To do so, it is well worth understanding and publicizing the suffering of civilians – in particular non-Muslims – ruled by the Islamic State and other Islamic supremacists. The liberation of Aleppo (Syria) from Al-Nusrah showed this clearly: As soon as they got the opportunity to escape from the terror regime they had suffered for over four years, they did so, thousands after thousands.
Also well worth noting is the word “shameless.” This can refer to the singer Ariana Grande, whose performances would never be permitted under Islamic law (Sharia), or to an audience with many young women freely in attendance. It constitutes a message to women everywhere, Muslims and non-Muslims: “Such behaviour is in violation of Islamic law, and we shall act to stop it.”
The worst is yet to come
Islamic State had this final thing to say before their mandatory praise of Allah:
“And what comes next will be more severe on the worshipers of the Cross and their allies.”
Thus their act of war in Manchester is far from the last of its kind – they explicitly tell us that they will escalate their terrorist activities. At this point in time, holding on to their last cities in Syria and Iraq seems futile – and their goals certainly are not restricted to that: Based on classical Islamic ideology, their goal is to spread Islamic rule and Sharia globally, eliminating all forms of democracy and human rights in the process.
The Islamic State has repeatedly declared that they consider themselves at war with the West, and they are executing on that. The motivation and training of Islamic warriors drive them to consider the “Cause of Allah” (Jihad) to be more important than their own lives. This willingness to die for their ideology makes it challenging to put and end to terrorism – even if a considerable part of the terror plots are foiled, too many succeed, with deadly results as we’ve seen often in 2016.
At this point, business as usual no longer even seems to work. Countering Jihad with candles, flowers and teddy bears did not cause Islamic warriors to stop attacking us. The proper response to a declaration of war is to conduct war on the issuer, no matter who it is, with an intensity that forces him to either accept defeat, or eliminates him.
We went into a full war against the national socialists during World War II, and can do the same against the Islamic State. As was the case then, it is vital to understand the ideology that drives the enemy, and act on that understanding. And this is getting urgent: the Islamic State has declared that at the start of Islamic Ramadan, it will initiate “Total Confrontation,” calling upon everyone loyal to them to conduct any form of attack they can. This is now.
Thus, we need urgent action against everything that puts us at risk of terrorist attacks. The Islamic State has openly said that it smuggles their warriors to Europe among refugees. Thus, we should halt immigration from Islamic countries at least until the Islamic State is defeated. And we must go after anyone supporting the Islamic State from our countries, just as Germans and Japanese in our countries were controlled or even jailed during World War II. Working for the Islamic State and Sharia simply means working for the enemy, and that is not protected by freedom of speech or religion.
Yet military action is only one aspect of the struggle required, and hardly the largest. More dangerous in the long term is the culture wars: By permitting Sharia to take root in our societies, we are already in the process of losing the freedoms we used to take for granted. This means freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and equal rights for women. This happens while our classical city centers are starting to show that we are under siege by placing concrete blocks everywhere, and the army is being deployed. Dystopian prophecies about our future with Islam are coming true, now.
Urgent action required
After more than 15 years of sorrow, flowers and declarations of sympathy, it is clear that this does not stop the Jihad against us. We need to take the lead in the war that has been forced upon us. This requires an unconstrained analysis of our enemy, of his objectives and methods, and use this knowledge to hit the enemy where he’s weakest. By studying the political aspect of Islam, it becomes easy to separate political aims from religious ones, and act accordingly – even in śpite of the risk of short-term unrest and increases in terrorist attacks.
This means rejecting any and all demands to promote Sharia, to imprison or deport individuals on grounds of treason, and dissolve all organisations supporting this purpose. This is perfectly doable: As we saw in the American Holy Land Foundation trials, proper investigation can easily lead to conviction on a rich number of crimes and felonies, including very severe ones.
Finally, it is high time for NATO to acknowledge the declaration of war that we have been served, and deploy the full force its expensive arsenals against the Islamic State.