I was recently invited to present at an international conference titled: “How to understand and Co-exist with Radical Islām.” After reading the concept paper, it was clear from the very first paragraph that the issue at hand was with “Islamic terrorism” and that, according to the writer of the concept paper, the only terror that exists in the world or that should be fought is ‘Islamic Terror’, indicating that ”terrorists are immersed in Islamic history and doctrine.” It then goes on to say that “The world has yet to devise a strategy to understand, manage or counter the menace,” and that “we either have to score a victory in this war, which at the moment appears not possible…or have to design a framework to learn to co-exist with this growing global militant threat.”
“Islamic Extremism”, by the implications of the modern age, is a new term. Early Islām saw the rise of the Khawārij, or the Kharijites, during the caliphates of the third and fourth Caliphs of Islām, in the very first Hijri century. They held fanatical views and excommunicated Muslims on very flimsy grounds, considering their murder lawful.
These fanatics were outright rejected by the Muslim community and the organised movement died within a century, albeit that definition of ‘extremism’ is largely different to that being passed around today. Similar behaviour has inspired fanatics in later centuries but they have never gained real currency or larger acceptance amongst Muslims. The only other organised group to hold similar ideas was the Ismaili fraternity of the “Hashashin,” or the Assassins, during the 5th-7th Hijri centuries (10-13th CE). Their targets were the Abbasid and Fatimid rulers of the day as well as Mongols and Crusaders.
The former concentrated their attack in the East of the Arab-Islamic World whilst the latter attacked it from the west. The Crusaders marched on to devastate a vast area from Turkey to Morocco, with their Crusades spanning over nine campaigns, between 1099 to 1369 CE. Not long after, European colonialists began their conquests in the East of the Muslim world. The Portuguese and Spaniards initiated this new, violent and expansionist push in Andalus (Muslim Spain), before most other European powers followed suit and by the 17th-18th centuries, the whole Muslim World, from Morocco to Indonesia, was enslaved. Resistance, or legitimate Jihād movements, sprung up in all occupied areas but were mostly unsuccessful.
The label of Islamic “Extremism” has been coined by colonial powers ever since. An army of orientalists and historians was pressed into service in many countries, especially in Britain, France and Netherlands, to defame Islām and fabricate history with a view to selectively defame Muslim history and religion. Suddenly a religion, which had safeguarded world peace for close to nine centuries, was branded extremist and violent. All kinds of myths were created to defame Islām and Muslims. This was necessary in order to justify the conquest and rule by a supposedly superior civilisation and race; a white-supremacist race ruling a savage world of Bedouins. Lies were spread in India against some of the most civilised and enlightened Muslim rulers like Tipu Sultan and Wajid Ali Shah whose territories had to be occupied. A new concocted and selective history was authored and publicised by the British to divide-and-rule Indians.
Under this planned defamation of freedom fighters, Muslims fighting the British became referred to as “Indian fanatics” while the great Mullah Hasan of Somalia was labelled “Mad Mullah”.
Europeans themselves never refrained from deploying unrestricted violence and terrorism if it served their purpose in all the lands they colonised. Within the framework of this policy, the so-called “Arab Revolt” during the First World War was instigated, armed, financed and led by the British to weaken and finally annihilate the Ottoman Empire. This was not possible without painting the Ottomans in the worst possible colour. To achieve this, the western press was used mercilessly.
During the First World War, Britain and France laid the foundations of the Arab World as we know it today by imposing artificial borders. Under this scheme, while Britain promised the Sharif of Makkah, Husain ibn Ali, the position of “King of the Arabs”, in reward for his revolt against the Ottoman State, it simultaneously promised a part of the promised Arab State of Palestine to the Jews. At the same time it conspired with France under what is known as “Sykes-Picot Agreement” of May 1916 to divide most of the Middle East, from Palestine to Kuwait, apportioning their gains between one another as they wanted. Other areas of the region had already been occupied by France and Britain. This remains the source of most political and social problems in the region, and is now being exacerbated by the US, particularly since 2001, while it tries to further ‘reshape’ the region to suit its long-term strategic plans of controlling resources and markets. Maps have been readied by American think tanks for the kind of balkanised Middle East the US desires.
In 1948, Israel was allowed to be born, through deceit, conspiracy and terror, occupying 78 percent of the Palestine under mandate and turning the majority of Palestinian Arabs into refugees by its dispensation of plain terror. In fact, terror was introduced to the Middle East by the Zionists. The Middle East stood up in revolt against these policies, especially against the creation of Israel. Arab regimes were successively overthrown, in Egypt, Syria, Iraq and later in Yemen, Sudan and Libya. Algeria gained freedom from France in 1962 after a most bloody freedom struggle that left two million Algerians murdered by the colonial force that used everything in its repository against Algerian citizens.
The new world power, the US, began slowly taking over this region, dislodging Britain and France which were weakened by the Second World War. After the emergence of Israel, western countries imposed an arms embargo on Arab countries in order to keep Israel invincible. This led the Egyptian government under Gamal Abdel Nasser to turn to Russians for arms. The result was the “Czech Arms” delivery to Egypt which opened the gates of the Middle East to Russia while providing the western media with more opportunity to defame Muslims. Satraps changed loyalties and became loyal to Moscow, while the still persecuted countrymen of Arab lands did not benefit in the slightest.
Until this point, no such “Islamic Terrorism” had appeared in any of Arab or Muslim countries. The Palestinian faction ‘Fatah’ appeared in January 1965 but pursued a purely national, and rather secular, freedom struggle to liberate occupied Palestine after Palestinians began to realise that Arab regimes would never do so. Muslims in Mindanao on the other hand began their revolt in 1969 against the creeping colonisation of their homeland by the Manila regime. An earlier rebellion during 1899–1913 against the American occupation also occurred for the same reason. The Malayan people of Patani started their revolt in 1959 against the forced ‘Thaification’ of Thailand and the overbearing Thai control since 1934.
The first Islamic ‘terrorist’ movement to appear in the Muslim heartland was Jama’at Al-Takfir wa’l-Hijrah in Egypt in 1973 by a group of disgruntled Muslim Brotherhood affiliated youth. Arrested in the mid-1960s, they began being subjected to severe torture whilst in detention. From this, they developed their own ideology inside prisons that concluded that the rulers of Egypt and all those who paid allegiance to them were Kāfirs (disbelievers or apostates) who should be socially shunned. As a result, they started moving to uninhabited mountainous and desert areas. The most famous terrorist activity carried out by this group was their kidnapping and later killing of Shaikh Husain Al-Dahabi, the then Egyptian minister of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs, in July 1977. To assume a fiercer terror outfit, the Jihad Organisation took shape that was responsible for the assassination of President Anwar Sadat on 6 October 1981 and was mercilessly crushed soon thereafter.
These organisations emerged as a result of a long debate among the Egyptian Ikhwān al-Muslimūn (Muslim Brotherhood) members who had been imprisoned since the mid-1950s. A group among these prisoners concluded that the people running the Egyptian regime were not Muslims. This opinion emanated as a result of the persecution and torture of a section of the Muslim Brotherhood who were hounded, jailed and subjected to worst kind of punishment, taught to the Egyptian intelligence and police by East Germany’s dreaded Stassi.
There became two factions among the imprisoned Muslim Brotherhood members. The larger and mainstream group led by the then head (Murshid) of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hasan Al-Hudhaibi (d. 11 Nov., 1973), who remained opposed to any violence in reaction to the regime’s injustices. Al-Hudhaibi, while in jail, authored a book, Du’at, la Qudat (Preachers, Not Judges) to teach his people that they should patiently bear the trials and tribulations faced in the discharge of their mission and wait for Allāh’s help. The smaller group found support in the thoughts of another Muslim Brotherhood ideologue, Sayyid Qutb, who too was jailed. He wrote Ma’alim fil-Tariq (Milestones) to articulate his ideas. He was executed by the Nasser regime in August 1966 after a sham trial. His thoughts influenced the less-matured youth and led to the emergence of a group of followers called “Qutbiyyun” (Qutbites) who exhibited themselves in the outfits of Jama’at al-Takfir Wa’I-Hijrah and the Jihad Organisation. Such violent tiny groups later appeared in many other Arab countries. Even the Shīʿa in Iraq saw the emergence of similar groups like Jama’at Al-Da’wah.
The simple reason for the emergence of violent groups, by their own assertion, is the utterly dictatorial and undemocratic nature of the West-supported Arabs that have mercilessly crushed any popular movement for change and democracy. These violent groups have historically not limited their antagonism to local regimes but have also loathed the foreign backers of these regimes, viz., US, Soviet Union, France and Britain. Western support for the Israeli occupation and its expansionism have further inflamed these sentiments, along with the destruction of the Ottoman Caliphate in the early 90s that enforced secularism and western liberalism on unwilling Muslim societies.
All this was further complicated by the fact that, although Western governments propagated slogans of democracy, liberty and free speech, it never supported these values in Muslim countries. Instead, in all cases it unreservedly supported dictators, both monarchs and generals. This was the spectacle from Morocco and Turkey to Pakistan and Indonesia. Democratically-elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq was toppled in a CIA-engineered coup in 1953. President Sukarno of Indonesia was unseated in another CIA-inspired coup in September 1965. Western governments supported the Turkish army generals who staged coup after coup against Islām-inclined democratically-elected governments. Election results were nullified in Algeria in December 1991 at the behest of France, only because Islamists won. Likewise, Hamas won the elections in Palestine in 2006 but the results were quickly nullified and the defeated and discredited Fateh organisation was allowed to rule ever since without fresh parliamentary or presidential elections to this day. The “Arab Spring,” which sprouted in January 2011 from Tunisia, was not allowed to bloom although it stood for all the good slogans created in the West. Particularly, American support allowed anti-democratic forces to defeat the forces of democratic change in the Arab World.
The very worst of these scenarios in Egypt was in the western and regional satraps’ support allowing the army to topple the country’s first democratically-elected government in seven millennia. Many of the overthrown democratic government’s members including the elected President languish in jails, facing execution with western support and connivance. Twenty-one thousand supporters of Egypt’s toppled democratic regime have been killed since the coup in July 2013 and forty one thousand are being tortured in overflowing prisons. Yet this fails to stir the western conscience. Likewise, Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian and Syrian lands, the flouting of hundreds of UN resolutions, the building of hundreds of illegal settlements on stolen land, the illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip since June 2007, waging three cruel, one-sided wars against the defenceless people of Gaza during the same period fails to stir western conscience.
This is a clear case of double standards. Western governments preach certain values to Muslim countries and demand Muslims to embrace democracy and liberalism. But, on the ground, it prefers local dictators in whatever form they may come in all these countries. All the while these democratic systems, particularly the US, continue to exploit the resources and control the markets of the Muslim and Third World.
For this reason, there is a near consensus among the masses that the US and its allies used the 9/11 terror attacks as a pretext to attack and devastate Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. The list of countries due for regime-change after 9/11 was extensive but the resistance US troops faced in Afghanistan and Iraq frustrated these plans. Despite this, Western governments, through its dominant media, find the audacity to use terms and phrases like “Islamic extremism” and “Islamic terrorism” to browbeat resistance and rejection to its plans. Western media plays its role to the hilt by overplaying this concept of “Islamic terrorism” which is in fact a small part of the terror attacks taking place all over the world. Evidence shows that less than two percent of terrorist attacks from 2009 to 2013 in the EU countries were religiously motivated. In 2013, just one percent of the 152 terror attacks were religious in nature; in 2012, less than three percent of the 219 terrorist attacks were inspired by religion. The vast majority of terror attacks in these years were motivated by ethno-nationalism or separatism. In 2013, 55 percent of terrorist attacks were ethno-nationalist or separatist in nature; in 2012, more than three-quarters (76 percent) of terrorist attacks were inspired by ethno-nationalism or separatism. These facts, nonetheless, have never stopped the prejudiced pundits from insisting otherwise.
The tiny “Islamic” terror-organisations of the seventies have long since been dead. Later, the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 led the American administration, especially the CIA, to prop up resistance outfits for Afghani refugees in Pakistan. Many were trained in CIA-funded and managed Madrasas on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. They were even provided with specially-designed textbooks, at the cost of US $800 million, which encouraged Jihād using symbols like bombs, guns, hand-grenades and swords. Arab youth participated, influenced by the shrill American-Gulf propaganda. Al-Qaeda was one of these organisations. It was propped up, funded and trained by the CIA. The war against Russian forces badly ruined Afghanistan. The US promised that it would rebuild Afghanistan after the war but reneged on that promise soon after securing the destruction of the “Evil Empire” by proxy, which paved the way for the US to emerge as the sole world superpower with all the destructive Neocon plans and invasions that followed and still continue. America’s going back on its promise to rebuild Afghanistan created the first rift between these groups, especially Al-Qaeda, and the US. This rift widened when the US built a military base in Saudi Arabia’s Hafr Al-Batin cantonment area in 1990. Al-Qaeda demanded the US to withdraw its forces from the holy land of Islām. The US refused. Al-Qaeda since has started attacking its erstwhile ally.
After fighting Al-Qaeda for years, the US had no qualms to use this very same “terrorist” organisation again in Syria and later in Libya. “Islamic State,” or ISIS, or Da’ish, is also a product of the US’ policies. It is a splinter group of Al-Qaeda. It first appeared in northern Iraq in October 2006 as “Islamic State in Iraq” (ISI) and was supposed to fight the Iraqi Shīʿa and Iran as part of America’s hellish divide-and-rule sectarian plan of pitting Sunnis against Shīʿa which had started in that year (2006) with a view to frustrate the Iraqi resistance which until then embraced both the Shīʿa and Sunnis of Iraq. ISIS jumped into Syria in August 2011 with clear help from the US and Israel. We have a classified US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) document dated 2012 (obtained in the US by a court order) which clearly states that the US must create a “Salafist principality” in Syria in order to win the war against the Assad regime.
The US began its sham aerial strikes against ISIS in Syria in late 2014 but the terror organisation was not scathed in the least and continued occupying more and more areas, until Russian started attacking ISIS bases in Syria early October 2015, benefiting from a UN Security Council resolution calling for action against this terror outfit. The majority of the people joining ISIS and similar outfits are actually European nationals even though they might be of Middle Eastern, African, South Asian and Central Asian descent.
The Paris terror attack is most recent. We condemn it unconditionally but we also caution that blame should be apportioned to any group only after a careful probe by neutral experts. At the same time, let us not forget that just before the Paris attack, there were similar murderous attacks by ISIS, killing hundreds the same day in Baghdad, the previous day in Beirut and a few days earlier in Kabul.
It should also be borne in mind that around 95 per cent of the victims of terrorist outfits like Al Qaeda and ISIS are Muslims. A 2011 report by the US government’s National
Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC) said, “In cases where the religious affiliation of terrorism casualties could be determined, Muslims suffered between 82 and 97 percent of terrorism-related fatalities over the past five years.” Therefore, the challenge is not just for non-Muslims. Muslims are the main targets and victims of these outfits.
While Western governments have no qualms about dealing with Al-Qaeda, ISIS and the like, it is terrified about the prospect that forces of genuine Islamic thought, like the Muslim Brotherhood for instance among other organisations, succeed in the Muslim World.
It has been a consistent western policy, since early nineteenth century at least, not to allow political Islām a foothold anywhere in the world. For this, the whole West conspired to destroy the Ottoman State and has, directly and indirectly, fought and defamed Islamic movements which believe in democracy and peaceful political struggle, albeit movements that do not allow the West to continue to rob and control their natural resources and markets. As early as February 1949, the founder of Muslim Brotherhood, Shaikh Hasan Al-Banna, was assassinated in Cairo at the behest of the British embassy in Egypt. Western governments have made no noise over the active persecution of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt since early 1950s and in Syria since early 1970s. More recently, it has actively participated in the defamation and overthrow of the first democratically-elected President of Egypt, his government and party through the July 2013 coup and has openly recognised and invited the stager of this coup. Now this peaceful and democratic organisation has been outlawed by Egypt, with certain Arab countries toeing the American line, despite there being no proof of it ever indulging in terror activities or raising or supporting a terror group.
ISIS has been lionised and given vast coverage in order to defame political Islām which believes in the rule of law, international legitimacy, democracy and co-existence. Western governments have clearly demonstrated their preference of those who believe in bullets over those who believe in ballots, should they prop up in a Muslim or Third World country.
To sum it up, the abusive terms of “Islamic terrorism” and “Islamic extremism” have been coined to defame legitimate, peaceful and democratic Islamic organisations, movements and political parties, so that these popular organisations may not legitimately challenge the dictatorial regimes installed and supported by the West in Muslim countries. Terrorist organisations like Al-Qaeda, ISIS, LeT enjoy no support from mainstream Muslims. Many Fatwas have been issued against them all over the world. In India, we have been very clear about condemning these terror organisations. I myself, as head of the All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat, the umbrella body of Indian Muslim organisations, was the first in India to condemn Al-Qaeda, ISIS and Boko Haram. Yet these organisations grow and get the support of Western countries whenever it suits them.
I would like to say that we, Muslims and non-Muslims, east and west, cannot coexist with any terror outfit regardless of its colour or creed, while peaceful coexistence, mutual understanding and tolerance of peaceful and democratic organisations, movements and political parties is a prerequisite for a better and peaceful world.
I beg to differ with the theme of the conference that we may somehow “coexist” with “Islamic Extremism”. We cannot coexist with any extremism of any colour or creed. At the same time, for a better and peaceful world, we have to coexist with peaceful and democratic organisations like the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as with organisations fighting against occupation anywhere in the world, including Palestine. We cannot have peace without justice.
This lecture was delivered at the 3-day International Conference on “How to Understand and Co-exist with Radical Islam” at RCA Girls PG College, Virindavan, Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, on 18 November, 2015.
 Some of the famous Jewish terror organizations were Haganah, Irgun and Stern gangs. Their exploits against the Arabs and the British are sufficient to fill volumes. Two Jewish terror leaders, Manachem Begin and Yitshak Shamir, became prime ministers of Israel.
 Patani formally became a part of Thailand as a result of the Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909.
 Another group of Muslim Brotherhood, which cooperated with the Egyptian regime was not touched. It included persons like Shaikh Hasan Al-Baqouri, Dr Muhammad Al-Bahi, Shaikh Muhammad Al-Ghazali, Shaikh Sayyid Sabiq and Dr Abdul Aziz Kamil etc., who all held high positions in Nasser’s government.
 Ben Norton, “Our Terrorism Double Standard: After Paris, Let’s Stop Blaming Muslims and Take a Hard Look at Ourselves…,” Salon, November 14, 2015 — http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/our-terrorism-double-standard-after-paris-lets-stop-blaming-muslims-and-take-hard?akid=13657.8667.usGobR&rd=1&src=newsletter1045809&t=4. See also: Beenish Ahmed, “Less Than 2 Percent Of Terrorist Attacks In The E.U. Are Religiously Motivated, “ thinkprogress.org, Jan 8, 2015 — http://thinkprogress.org/world/2015/01/08/3609796/islamist-terrorism-europe/
 This is a normal behaviour of all terrorists. In our own country, monsters like Shiv Sena, VHP, Khalistanis and LTTE stung their Congress chanakya creators.
 Entirely based on secret American documents, Wikileaks materials show “the United States had a deliberate policy of exacerbating sectarian divisions in Iraq following its invasion and occupation, in the belief that the country would be easier to dominate in such circumstances”: Julian Assange in his introduction to The Wikileaks Files, Verso, London-New York, 2015, p. 15.
 “Secret Document shows ISIS is US baby,” The Milli Gazette, 1-15 June, 2015, p. 16.
 Ruth Alexander and Hannah Moore, “Are most victims of terrorism Muslim?,” BBC News, 20 January 2015 – http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-30883058; Danios, “Most Victims of Islamic Terrorism are Muslims… And Why America is to Blame For It,” Loonwatch.com, 18 June, 2012 – http://www.loonwatch.com/2012/06/most-victims-of-islamic-terrorism-are-muslims-and-why-america-is-to-blame-for-it/
Dr Zafar-Islam Khan is an author and journalist based in New Delhi. He is currently editor and publisher of The Milli Gazette which focuses on issues concerning the Muslim community. He is also the founder and chairman of Charity Alliance, author and translator of over 40 books in Arabic, English and Urdu and has contributed to the Encyclopaedia of Islam. He is a regular commentator on Al Jazeera and BBC Arabic and his writings appear in Arabic newspapers and magazines. He has been consecutively been elected as President of the All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat.