By Mustafa Malik
(Published in the Austin-American Statesman, March 20; Columbus Dispatch, March 16, 2011)
WASHINGTON – Rep. Peter T. King had said his congressional hearing on Muslim radicalization would investigate the causes of the problem. It didn’t.
I have long been calling, in my newspaper columns and at public forums, for a serious investigation of the causes of Muslim anti-Americanism and terrorism. Some researchers have made in-depth inquiries about it, but U.S. administrations, Congress and news media have brushed them aside.
Muslim radicalization in America and the West is a recent trend. It’s the outcome mainly of Western Muslim’ identification with their fellow Muslims overseas who are fighting U.S. and Israeli forces occupying their lands or deployed on them. As we know, 15 of the 19 terrorists who hijacked the aircraft on Sept. 11, 2001, were Saudis. They apparently had been pissed off by the deployment of American troops in Saudi Arabia.
In October 1991 I was stunned by the extent of anti-American rage among Saudi youth that I hadn’t seen before. In the Saudi Arabian cities of Jeddah and Medina, some of them vociferously denounced the stationing of American troops on the “holy land of Islam.” Five years later Osama bin Laden would be railing against the presence of these forces “on the land of Muhammad.” And in April 2003 when the United States, at the insistence of the Saudi monarchy, abandoned its Sultan City airbase, Al Qaeda celebrated it as the fulfillment of one of its 9/11 objectives.
Muslims have never hated America per se. During the colonial era, the Muslim world viewed the United States as the only good Western power. In 1956, when the Eisenhower administration forced Israeli, British and French invaders to pull out of Egyptian territory, America was showered with accolade from Muslims everywhere. Then in the 1980s thousands of Muslim militants, including Bin Laden, collaborated with the CIA in the war against Soviet invaders in Afghanistan.
Neither is Islam a source of Muslim anti-Americanism. Muslims have been reading their scripture and practicing their faith for 1,400 years. The so-called “Islamic terrorism” against American targets didn’t begin until the 1990s.
Robert Pepe has done a thorough study of suicide terrorism. He investigated terrorists belonging to the Hindu Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, Marxist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey, Sunni Muslim and Christian Palestinian organizations and Lebanese Shiite groups. “What over 95 percent of all suicide attacks since 1980 have had in common,” concluded the University of Chicago professor in his book Dying to Win, “is not religion but a specific strategic objective: to compel a democratic state to withdraw combat forces from territory the terrorists consider their homeland or prize greatly.”
King is well-known as a staunch defender of the Provisional Irish Republican Army’s terrorist campaign against what he called “British imperialism.” He should know that Muslim terrorism against Americans and American interests isn’t anymore “Islamic” than IRA terrorism was “Catholic.” It is transnational Irish social and cultural solidarity that drove him and many other Irish-Americans into supporting the IRA.
Ever since the Crusades, the bond of the transnational Muslim community, the umma, has inspired Muslims to defend fellow Muslims in different lands against foreign aggression and hegemony. Umma solidarity has now galvanized many of them to support in various ways the victims of America’s invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, bombing raids in Pakistan and Yemen and the occupation of Palestine by Israel, with which America is joined at the hip. These anti-American Muslims include those who, unfortunately, resort to terrorism.
Muslim terrorism in America, a terrible crime as it is, can’t be combated successfully without addressing its source. That source is the U.S. foreign policy of occupation and domination of Muslim societies. A witchhunt of law-abiding American Muslims, which the King hearing could escalate, can only detract America from that overdue task.
■ Mustafa Malik, host of the blog Beyond Freedom, is a Washington-based columnist and blogger. He completed several tours of fieldwork in the Middle East and South Asia as a researcher for the University of Chicago Middle East Center and other American think tanks.