Islamic terrorism refers to the tactics by which jihadists pursue their goal of making Sharia law the supreme religious, moral, and legal authority in every region of the earth.
A constant of Islamic history, jihad is mandated by the Prophet Muhammad and by the Koran’s repeated exhortations for the faithful to do battle with the infidels. This fact renders negotiations with Islamic terrorists useless, because the latter consider their actions to be unequivocally consistent with the divine will of God. As Osama bin Laden’s lieutenant, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, stated in the summer of 2006: “War with Israel is not subject to a treaty, cease-fire, ... or disputed borders, but it is jihad for the cause of God until the entire region is for him only ... from Spain to Iraq.”
Indeed, the terrorists are very clear about their intentions. “America,” declared Al-Qaeda spokesman Suleiman Abu Gheith, “is the head of heresy in our modern world, and [as a result] ... we have the right to kill 4 million Americans -- 2 million of them children -- and to exile twice as many and wound and cripple hundreds of thousands. Furthermore, it is our right to fight them with chemical and biological weapons.” In a similar spirit, the Saudi Sheikh Nasser ibn Hamed said it would be "permissible" to "annihilate 10 million" Americans "and burn their lands to the same extent that they burned the Muslim lands." Osama bin Laden wrote in his 1998 “Declaration of Jihad against the Jews and Crusaders” that “killing the Americans and their allies – both civilians and military personnel – is a commandment for every individual Muslim who can do this, in any country in which he can do this...”
Such words do not represent a deviation from Islamic tradition; they are merely a new manifestation of an ancient impulse.
Many, particularly on the American Left, believe that if the U.S. would only pursue certain courses of action that were pleasing to Muslims -- such as decreasing its support for Israel -- terrorist violence would cease. But this view is ahistorical. The Muslim Brotherhood, for instance, the first modern Islamic terrorist organization and the direct ancestor of Hamas and Al-Qaeda, was founded in 1928 -- twenty years before the founding of the State of Israel. Its objectives have not changed markedly since then. The founding of the Muslim Brotherhood was not a response to Zionism, but to the abolition of the Islamic caliphate by the secular Turkish government in 1924.
And though American and European officials continue to press forward with initiatives to grant the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank various land concessions in exchange for peace, there has never been any indication from the other side that such concessions will bring about the coveted cessation of hostilities. In fact, Palestinian terrorists have frequently rejected the path of negotiation and compromise, in no uncertain terms.
Underscoring the fact that the terror jihad proceeds from theological imperatives within Islam, and not from political grievances, is the fact that its foot soldiers are active today in virtually every corner of the globe. The international media focus on conflict in Israel, Iraq and Afghanistan, but terrorism continues on a regular basis in such far-flung places as Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, Chechnya, the Balkans, and Nigeria -- to say nothing of the terror attacks that have struck Europe and the United States.
It should be noted that while non-Muslim Westerners view Islamic jihadists who seek to harm or kill non-believers for religious reasons as terrorists, those same jihadists consider themselves soldiers of Allah engaged in a sacred mission. They view humanity not as a unified whole, but instead as a duality of believers vs. non-believers (kafirs). Because Allah allegedly despises kafirs, Islamic tradition permits Muslims to inflict on them all manner of pain and indignity: deceit, mockery, theft, slavery, rape, beheading, crucifixion, and much more. Therein lies Islam's moral justification for terrorism.
This Summary is adapted from "What Americans Need to Know about Jihad," by Robert Spencer (2007).