Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The "Koran Riots": Not so Spontaneous

Posting at the Counterterrorism Blog, Dr. Walid Phares makes the case that the violence that occurred in the wake of the since-retracted Newsweek story was anything but spontaneous:

The violent marches in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and soon to be elsewhere, were not an abrupt and sudden reaction to the weekly's sentence accusing US personnel of desecrating one copy of the Muslims holiest book. Since the fall of Tora Bora in December of 2001, al Qaida and Taliban remnants were waiting for this moment: They call it "al awda", meaning the "return." Patiently, the leaders of the Jihadists, including Thawahiri, Mullah Umar and the various Islamists of Jamiet Islami and Hizbu Tahrir, were working on mounting the major counter offensive against the new Government in Afghanistan and the US-led coalition in the area. Day after day, from Kabul to Kandahar, the Afghan society was moving away from the mental and political grip of the Taliban. Worse to the Jihadists, year after year, al Qaida leaders were eliminated and arrested, two at least over the past few weeks. Much worse, were the lethal dangers facing the Jihadi ideology: The successes of Democracy in the region. Afghani women voted by the millions, Iraq's 8.5 million voters braved Zarqawi's killers, million marchers challenged Syria's military in Beirut and just this week, Kuwaiti women forced Parliament to release their right to vote. By Jihadi standards, the war of ideas was being lost, slice after slice. They had no choice but to counter attack.

Preparing their "come back," the Salafists understood that demonstrations are their best weapons for the time. Suicide bombings and beheadings made them look very evil, even in the eyes of most Arabs and Muslims. They saw how popular expressions from Kabul to Beirut, from Tehran to Baghdad, captured the imagination of younger and younger Muslims, but also the attention of public opinion in the West. The Wahabi clerics decided to use their enemies' arms: streets demonstrations. Back in the early winter, Ayman al Thawahiri, al Qaida's number two called on his followers to "take back the country and reduce Karzai to his palace." That was the mission order: To find a way to re-conquer the street, and from there on the entire country(ies). On al ansar sites, on al Jazeera and on Hizbollah's al Manar a global propaganda campaign was on since 2002 and increasingly since the fall of Saddam In the chat rooms I visit, the talk of the day was converging on one slogan: There is a war on Islam as a whole, as a religion. The clever clerics played with the doctrinal genes of their followers. Day in, day out, from Saudi Arabia to Virginia, the indoctrination of the new recruits, and the intensification of the indoctrinated Jihadis was building for the moment of the explosion. In a sum, Newsweek's article didn't create the conditions for the "Big Bang," it triggered it. The explosion was coming but the apparent motive had to be significant. It could have been a rape, a killing, a different desecration, or another "story." Newsweek's "investigative journalists," provided the fuse.

The worst fear of Al Qaeda and the Salafists is that democracy will take hold in the Muslim Middle East. They will make every effort to prevent this from happening.


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