A leading expert on Islamic terrorism says Al Qaeda is different but as dangerous as ever because the U.S. failed to lead properly, and she says confronting the radical ideology is the key to victory.
Brigitte Gabriel says the good news is that more and more in the west are finally acknowledging the destruction radical Islam leaves in its path, but she says we should not hold our breath waiting for moderate Muslims to begin lashing out at extremist acts.
Gabriel grew up as a Christian in Lebanon and experienced terrorism first hand. She is now president of actforamerica.org and author of “They Must Be Stopped: Why We Must Defeat Radical Islam and How We Can Do It.”
Al Qaeda has evolved greatly from how it functioned around the time of the terrorist attacks in September 2001. Instead of a powerful central organization, it now exists primarily as many different regional organizations spread out from east Asia to North Africa and each group largely appears to be making their own decisions.
New FBI Director James Comey recently told New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt that Al Qaeda’s current strength is a major surprise.
“I didn’t have anywhere near the appreciation I got after I came into this job just how virulent those affiliates had become,” Comey told the Times.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper also acknowledges Al Qaeda’s resilience.
Gabriel says those assessments are accurate because the U.S. hasn’t led well in the fight against radical Islam.
“It’s because our government underestimated and did not identify the ideology behind Al Qaeda,” said Gabriel. “So today when we look at terrorist organizations across the globe, whether it’s Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, you name it, Hamas, Hezbollah, etc., what brings them together is the same ideology as Al Qaeda. Now it is metastasizing worldwide because we are seeing radical Islam and groups organized across the world feeling empowered to bring back and resurrect an Islamic caliphate and establish Islam as they see it in their own eyes as it was practiced in the days of Muhammad.”
The splintering of Al Qaeda into regional groups suggests we face a reduced risk for grand attacks, but Gabriel says the threat is more widespread and the terror is just as real.
“We’re not going to see attacks on a mega-scale, the way we saw on 9/11 and carried out simultaneously like attacking the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. So now what’s happening with their attacks is they are more localized and on a smaller scale, shooting at malls, shooting at hotels, kidnapping girls from schools,” said Gabriel.
Gabriel believes the western world is finally coming to grips with the horrific actions of radical Islamic groups and much more attention is being paid to atrocities like the kidnapping of students in Nigeria. But she says the complete lack of condemnation from anywhere in the Islamic world speaks volumes about what is tolerated there and what we can reasonably expect from moderate Muslims.
“We can continually dream on and on and on. Here we are, 12 years after September 11th, and with this thing that happened in Nigeria with the kidnapping of the schoolgirls, have you seen any demonstrations in Saudi Arabia against it, asking to bring back our girls? Have you seen any mass demonstrations in Indonesia calling to bring back our girls? Have you seen any mass demonstration in Pakistan, in Afghanistan, in India?” said Gabriel.
All these countries with a huge Islamic population, the so-called moderate Muslims who are not really jihadist, where are their demonstrations en masse to bring back these girls to their families and not sell them on the slave trade market? None, zip, zero. Yet, when they want to attack Americans, we see demonstrations spring up all across the world and hundreds of thousands of people burning American flags and calling for the death of America,” said Gabriel.
“I think the best service that we can do for our country right now is to remove the fog from our eyes and begin understanding that we cannot wait around for these so-called moderate Muslims to come to the rescue,” said Gabriel. “If the moderate Muslims want to come in and participate and make a difference, that’s great. But we cannot expect them to do so. We have to do what we have to do to protect our country.”
So what does that look like? Few Americans have the stomach for additional military intervention after years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Gabriel says the best thing the U.S. can do tactically is to leave other countries alone because we’ve made things far worse in places like Nigeria and Egypt.
“Nigeria was doing a great job of cracking down Boko Haram. It was America that intervened 2-3 years ago and stopped the Nigerian government from being too hard on these groups and that’s what made them feel empowered on the world stage,” said Gabriel.
“We did the same thing in Egypt. Hosni Mubarak was not the exemplary democratic man but he was a great ally of the United States and he kept his thumb down on the Muslim Brotherhood. He kept them in check. It was America that allowed the Muslim Brotherhood to grow as much as they grew in Egypt,” she said.
“We have no business being the police of the world. We cannot do that, but at least stay out of the business of local governments who understand exactly what they’re dealing with with radical Islamists and let them take care of the problem before it metastasizes,” said Gabriel.
However, Gabriel insists honesty and education are the keys to pulling out radical Islam by its roots. She says citizens must be educated about who these groups are and what motivates them through her organization and others. She also says the media and our government need to report what these groups are really doing. She says nearly all reports on Nigeria focus on Boko Haram’s hatred for western education but very few outlets point out the vast majority of the kidnapped girls in Nigeria are Christians and the ones that escaped or were released are Muslims.
“We as the west must identify that we are dealing with a problem of radical Islamists against anything non-Muslim and that’s what they are pushing. Unless we in the west are are able to report all the intricacies of the story, no matter how uncomfortable the truth may be. We have to speak the truth in order to devise a solution to defeat the problem,” said Gabriel.