While professing unwavering faith in a transcendent deity, radical Islam is a militant, politically activist ideology whose ultimate goal is to create a worldwide community, or caliphate, of Muslim believers. Determined to achieve this new world order by any means necessary, including violence and mass murder, radical Islam is characterized by its contempt for the beliefs, practices, and symbols of other religious traditions. This intolerant creed is cited by Islamists as the philosophical justification for their terrorism.
Radical Islam’s kinship with terrorism, and its willingness to use violence as a means to its ultimate ends, is clearly spelled out in a training manual produced by the radical Islamist terror group al Qaeda, whose operatives carried out the 9/11 attacks. This publication candidly says:
“[An] Islamic government would never be established except by the bomb and rifle. Islam does not coincide or make a truce with unbelief, but rather confronts it. The confrontation that Islam calls for with these godless and apostate regimes, does not know Socratic debates, Platonic ideals nor Aristotelian diplomacy. But it knows the dialogue of bullets, the ideals of assassination, bombing, and destruction, and the diplomacy of the cannon and machine-gun. The young came to prepare themselves for Jihad [holy war], commanded by the majestic Allah’s order in the holy Koran.”
Scholar of Middle East affairs Martin Kramer further describes the goals of radical Islamists:
“The idea is simple: Islam must have power in this world. It is the true religion—the religion of God—and its truth is manifest in its power. When Muslims believed, they were powerful. Their power has been lost in modern times because Islam has been abandoned by many Muslims, who have reverted to the condition that preceded God’s revelation to the Prophet Muhammad. But if Muslims now return to the original Islam, they can preserve and even restore their power. That return, to be effective, must be comprehensive; Islam provides the one and only solution to all questions in this world, from public policy to private conduct. It is not merely a religion, in the Western sense of a system of belief in God. It possesses an immutable law, revealed by God, that deals with every aspect of life, and it is an ideology, a complete system of belief about the organization of the state and the world. This law and ideology can only be implemented through the establishment of a truly Islamic state, under the sovereignty of God. The empowerment of Islam, which is God’s plan for mankind, is a sacred end.”
Both liberals and conservatives assume that the Islamist holy war against the West revolves solely around Westerners themselves, rather than having something to do with Islam itself. For example, people on the anti-war left believe that al Qaeda attacked the U.S. because the latter was imperialist, racist, or insufficiently responsive to the needs of the Third-World poor. By contrast, the pro-war right (including former President Bush) maintains that the Islamists hate Americans for their freedoms, opportunities, and overall success as a society.
A very different perspective on the Islamist mindset is offered by Mary Habeck, a military historian at Yale University. Habeck holds that radical Muslims base their war against non-Muslims on the Islamic sacred writings, particularly the Sira, which, unlike the Koran, tells the story of the Prophet Muhammed's life in chronological sequence. Using Muhammed as their model, the jihadists think and act within paradigms provided by the stages of Muhammed’s political and military career. According to Habeck, the internal logic of Islam, and not any particular provocation, real or imagined, by some outside power, is the key to understanding why the jihadists do what they do. While specific actions by the West might further enrage jihadists, their fundamental strategic and military decisions are not determined by anything done by the United States, Europe, or any other perceived enemy of Islam, but rather by tenets of itself that call for the killing of infidels.
Radical Islamists tend to gravitate toward three major methods of achieving their ultimate objective. The first is to fight the Near Enemy prior to fighting the Far Enemy. The Near Enemy is anyone inside Islamic lands, whether it is an occupier or someone who has taken away territory that used to be Islamic. The second method is to fight the Greater Unbelief—the major enemy, which today is the United States—before the Lesser Unbelief. And the third method is to fight the Apostates (false Muslims) first, and then the other Unbelievers.
The RESOURCES column located on the right side of this page contains links to articles, essays, books, and videos that explore such topics as:
- the history, the guiding principles, and the objectives of radical, or fundamentalist, Islam;
- radical Islam's alliance with the socialist Left;
- the system of Islamic Law known as Shari'a, which Muslims consider to be the divinely ordained commands of Allah -- and which is largely incompatible with Western legal systems;
- the subjugation of women and girls under Islam, which treats females as second-class citizens;
- the radical Islamic quest to establish a worldwide Islamic caliphate, or kingdom;
- the murderous intentions of radical Islamists, as told in their own words;
- the persecution of Christians in Islamic nations;
- the phenomenon of terrorist attacks perpetrated by radical / fundamentalist Muslims;
- the proliferation and influence of radical, militant Islam in the United States and the rest of the Western world;
- outbreaks of Muslim violence in Europe;
- the infiltration of jihadist imams and jihadist literature into the American and European prison systems, for the purpose of converting prisoners to the Muslim faith;
- the curricula, the founders, the financiers, and the affiliations of radical Islamic schools located in the United States;
- how political correctness and appeasement have crippled the West's ability to fight radical Islam;
- the reluctance of Muslims worldwide to speak out against the atrocities and abuses committed in the name of Islam; and
- radical Islam's infiltration of the conservative movement;