WE SHOULD ALL KNOW MORE ABOUT MILITANT ISLAM -- (BY ROBERT M. JENKINS) (Extension of Remarks - September 08, 1993)

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in the House of Representatives



Religious fundamentalism has been on the rise around the world. From the Iranian revolution to the Hindu-led destruction of a mosque in India, events during the past two decades reveal that religious fundamentalism, with its terrorist extremism, is a phenomenon to reckon with. The apparent Islamic connection with the bombing of the World Trade Center has focused particular attention on political Islam and Islamic radicalism.

The popularity of this movement could be explained as a religious reaction to the rapid progress of modernization, which has often included a move away from traditional religious beliefs in many westernized societies. In some parts of the less-developed world, fundamentalists are counterattacking against the perceived threats to their societies posed by secularism and modernity, and some are blaming their societies' failures on the `godless West.'

For the purposes of this discussion, the terms Islamic activists and political Islamists are used to designate Muslims with a primarily religious and political orientation who call generally for a more Islamic way of life through the gradual and nonviolent transformation of societies. Extreme fringe groups of these political Islamists are called militant Islamic radicals. They support the use of violence and armed struggle to attain their political objectives.

Political Islam calls for a renewal of Islamic values in the personal and public life of Muslims. Its manifestations include strict religious observances, the rapid growth of religious publications and readings from the Koran on radio and in television programming, and demands for the implementation of Islamic law. Political Islam often includes growing numbers of Islamic schools, organizations, and activist movements and expressions of resentment against America for exporting a secular `Coca-Cola' culture to the Islamic world.

Hizballah is determined to drive the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) out of the self-declared security zone in Lebanon. It has continued to operate against Israeli targets since 1983, when a suicide operative drove a car bomb into Israeli headquarters in Tyre, South Lebanon.

Last fall, Hizballah agents detonated a roadside explosive in southern Lebanon, killing five IDF soldiers and wounding others. The military arm of Hizballah, called the Islamic Resistance Movement, claimed responsibility. The group is developing the ability to fight a more sustained guerrilla war against the Israelis in south Lebanon as opposed to the random terrorist attacks that characterize a simple terrorist group.

Another prominent group is the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). It is one of the two groups of radical Islamists that operate primarily in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. This small activist group, which now has a terrorist agenda with a small political component, originated among militant Palestinian Islamists in Gaza during the late 1970s with inspiration from the Iranian revolution.

The organization began as a religious and political association and became violent after the Palestinian uprising began in 1987. The PIJ is currently composed of a number of loosely affiliated factions, with at least one element based on Damascus. It is successfully building influence in the Palestinian community.

The PIJ organization is committed to the destruction of Israel through holy war and the creation of an Islamic state there. The group is anti-American because of Washington's close ties with Tel Aviv. The PIJ also opposes moderate Arab governments that are considered to be too secular. Its members operate primarily in the occupied territories, actively in Jordan and Lebanon, and less frequently within the Green Line. The Green Line is Israel's original (pre-1967 war) border not including the West Bank and Gaza.

In the past few years, this radical organization has fanned the flames of religious intolerance among the various groups in that country. In the fall of 1992, more than seventy Egyptians died in serious clashes between Muslims and Coptic Christians in central Egypt. The incidents were encouraged by the Islamic Group. The extremist movement also claims responsibility for attacks against foreign tourists. Recently, the Islamic Group warned foreign investors to leave Egypt. It is estimated that by the end of this year Egypt will have lost roughly $1 billion in revenues from a rapid decline of its tourist industry.

In response to this escalating violence, the Egyptian government has cracked down on the radical Islamists, putting twenty-one of them on trial last year on charges of plotting to assassinate public figures and inciting strife among Egypt's religious groups. More recently, police sweeps resulted in the jailing of 700 suspected Islamic extremists. Egyptian officials believe that Rahman is responsible for planning some of the terrorist operations in Egypt, although U.S. officials believe that his role in violent acts is limited to inflammatory oratory.

Last November, Egyptian President Husni Mubarak repeated his accusations that Iran was formenting trouble in that country, intervening in internal Egyptian affairs, and exporting terrorism to Egypt. The Islamic Group receives support from Iran and has established various kinds of networks with several counterparts in the Arab world, including Afghanistan.

Although a number of terrorist incidents have occurred on American soil in past years, the bombing of the World Trade Center awakened many Americans to the fact that Middle Eastern terrorism has finally arrived. On February 26, a van loaded with approximately 1,000 pounds of conventional explosives and compressed hydrogen gas detonated in a parking garage under the World Trade Center, killing six and injuring more than 1,000. Losses from this, the most devastating act of domestic terrorism in recent history could approach $590 million, including physical repair costs and the associated economic damage.

Although the Abu Nidal organization is a secular group, since 1974, it has been blamed for 100 terrorist attacks that killed more than 280 people. The same organization carried out attacks killing 18 persons at the Rome and Vienna airports in the 1980s. It was also responsible for the vicious killing of 21 worshippers in the bombing of a synagogue in Istanbul.

The growing numbers of both legal and illegal aliens will continue to remain a serious problem in that both groups can be used as a support network for radical terrorist groups that may plan future operations in the United States. The visa issuance policies of the American government continue to be relatively liberal, and its handling of those seeking political asylum will probably not be corrected through legislative initiative.

Overseas, U.S. facilities and personnel will also continue to be targeted. The Islamic Republic of Iran will continue to aggressively export its anti-Americanism and its militant Islamic revolution to target countries in the Middle East and Africa. Already, the Islamic government in Khartoum is providing a support base for Iran's plans to install Islamic governments. Iran has been successful in using international terror as an instrument of foreign policy.

Continuing uncertainty about the Middle East peace talks and the festering Israeli-Arab dispute will continue to fuel anti-American sentiment among radical Islamists in the region and inspire future militant Islamic attacks on U.S. targets in the Arab world and elsewhere in the world.

Despite the recent predictions of many pundits that the age of terrorism is over, security professionals and their programs will likely continue to be confronted with Islamic terrorism and its repercussions that may become more deadly and sophisticated in the future.

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