Terrorist ‘Sleepers’ – An Ancient Threat
Terrorism is the indiscriminate use of force and coercion against innocent, uninvolved individuals.
In today’s world, terrorism seems to be divided into three distinct types. One type concerns itself with “internal” affairs – directing its terrorist activities against fairly well defined “opposition” elements. Most notable among these are the Irish Republican Army (IRA), Timothy McVeigh types, several African tribal groups, several Southeast Asian and South American “political” organizations, and at least two related to drug-trafficking.
The second type is typified by the now-defunct Baader-Meinhof Gang in Germany – it is entirely commercial, supplying services to the highest bidder. The third type is strictly religious, owing its allegiance to several Islamic orders.
“Internal” terrorists should be handled by the authorities in the countries wherein they operate, unless these authorities request outside assistance. Terrorism for hire and drug-related terrorism are international scourges that ought to be handled like any other heinous criminal activity. Islamic religious terrorism, on the other hand, should be examined more closely, since this has become the next great international crisis.
Islam spread throughout the world after the conquests by the Caliphs in the 7th and 8th centuries. Around 1000 AD, an offshoot of the Isma’ili Islamic sect took root in India under the leadership of Mohammed Agha Khan. Known as the Nizaris, they were reputed to partake immoderately of hashish, so that they were also called hashshashins. In fact, these hashshashins became well known for the carefully planned murder of enemies of their sect – hence the word, assassin.
The Isma’ilis developed a well-deserved reputation of being prepared to sacrifice themselves in the service and for the cause of Islam. They became the legendary swords of Imams (Moslem clerics) the world over. There is a lot of intellectual controversy concerning the origins of the Nizari assassins, and much of the recorded history may well be more the stuff of legend than historically accurate.
Nevertheless, in the early 19th century, the Isma’ili Imam received the official title of Agha Khan from the Shah of Persia, harking back to the [mythical] origins of the sect. This enterprising representative of Allah actually issued his assassin followers letters of introduction to the angel Gabriel in order to secure for them a good place in Paradise.
This ploy has not been lost on modern Islam leaders – especially the late Ayatollah Khomeni of Iran and his successors, and more recently Osama bin Laden – who routinely dispatch assassins throughout the world, promising them a place in paradise. When you are a soldier of Allah Himself, guided by the hand of his holy Imam, you are unlikely to be impressed by international decrees outlawing terrorism.
Today, radical Muslim assassins are located throughout the world, set to destroy target unbelievers upon a signal from their Imams. The killings of Israeli Olympic athletes, the suicide car-bombing of the American compound in Lebanon, the downing of the Pan Am flight over Scotland, the destruction of several U.S. Embassies, the attack on the USS Cole, the attack on the Pentagon and destruction of the World Trade Center Towers – are all verified examples of this activity.
The danger is very real to anyone anywhere who publicly undermines or appears to undermine fundamentalist Islamic beliefs and actions. Several years ago, I personally experienced this danger. The Ayatollah Khomeni had just issued his death sentence on Salman Rushdie for his book, Satanic Verses. I carried the back page of a national magazine, and I dedicated that page to a condemnation of the Ayatollah.
I also wrote a weekly column that was carried in papers across the Northwest. In that week’s column I exposed the nature of the assassins from the past and their very real danger in today’s world. Shortly thereafter I was the object of demonstrations by masked mid-eastern college students, and have received periodic telephonic death threats for the past ten years.
The danger to everyone is all the more real because these assassins jealously guard their identities and association with the sect controlling them. Their services are available to any Imam, and the vast wealth of the oil-rich Arab region is indirectly available to finance their activities in much the same manner that the wealth of western corporations can be tapped by Christian church authorities, except that Islam has more direct access because of the fuzzy distinction between Moslem church and state identities.
Hamza Hendawi writing in The Washington Times on Nov. 24, said that current assassin cells are populated by hundreds of al Qaeda-trained soldiers. They no longer pump themselves up with hashish, but are filled instead with an unflagging belief in their spiritual righteousness and the certainty of their heavenly reward. They are taught to blend in completely, and to await the call of their Imam to Jihad – holy war.
Terrorism in the guise of religion is far more insidious than terrorism for hire. We must deal with it decisively and completely – at the source. These cells won’t work without initializing orders. We need to identify and bring stern justice to bear on those Islamic Clerics who — as opposed merely to expressing viewpoints in opposition to American policies in the Mideast and South Asia — are found actually to control and direct these terrorist cells, or who issue clear death threats or exhortations to violence by their followers.
The U.S. government should not hesitate to use its expanded anti-terrorism powers to monitor and surveill all Islamic Clerics who support Muslim extremists. Any non-citizens residing in this country should not be exempt from the full power of the law aimed at thwarting future terrorist strikes, including tribunal hearings and immediate summary executions following conviction of terrorist actions. And the U.S. government should not hesitate to press upon foreign governments to put the same effort to bear on such clerics operating in foreign countries. Furthermore, where such cooperation is not forthcoming, we should take direct action ourselves to eliminate these overt threats.
Robert G. Williscroft is DefenseWatch Navy Editor