This Man is a Muslim Jihadist
Not like Him
Three years ago I published a review essay on jihad piracy which focused on the then newly released, “Victory in Tripoli,” a masterful analysis of the Barbary jihadists, and the US experience of this scourge in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, by Joshua London. Timeless insights on the phenomenon of jihad piracy are reproduced here from that essay in light of Bob Spencer’s cogent analysis of the jihadism of the Somali pirates wreaking similar havoc off the coast of East Africa—but as Bob might put it, we are of course to understand, “this has nothing to do with Islam.”
Alas, that is not the opinion of serious scholars of the phenomenon writing in an era before the present day, and the prevailing intellectual and moral idiocy of political correctness which a priori precludes (and vilifies) such important analyses. Hence Bob’s piece is as rare as it is invaluable.
Barbary jihad piracy was merely a 16th through 19th century manifestation of the naval razzias characteristic of Islamic imperialism since its emergence (pp.41-43) in the 7th and 8th centuries. For example, although the Abbasid state (750-1250) “orientalized” the Caliphate, and lacked naval power of any importance, in the west, Muslim forces (i.e., decentralized, “organic formations”), continued the Islamic expansion by maritime warfare. Throughout the 9th and 10th centuries, Berbers and Arabs from Spain and North Africa launched raids along the coastal regions of France, Italy, Sicily, and in the Greek archipelago.
Francisco Gabrieli has described how these naval razzias were concordant with jihad, yet antithetical to the modern rule of law. He also emphasized their capacity for conquest, or, even when “disorganized”, triumphal rapine and destruction:
According to present-day concepts of international relations, such activities amounted to piracy, but they correspond perfectly to jihad, an Islamic religious duty. The conquest of Crete, in the east, and a good portion of the corsair warfare along the Provencal and Italian coasts, in the West, are among the most conspicuous instances of such “private initiative” which contributed to Arab domination in the Mediterranean.
…In the second half of the ninth century, a large number of Saracen (Muslim) raids occurred throughout Southern and Central Italy, but we do not get the impression of their ever having been part of a plan or organized conquest, as Musa’s, Tariq’s, and Asad’s campaigns had been in Spain and Sicily. Their only object seems to have been destruction and looting which was also the object of the armed groups faced by Charles on the Balat ash-Shuhada near Poitiers.
…The no less classical themes of Arabic war poetry, the hamasah sanctified by jihad, ring out in the recollections and boasts of Ibn Hamdis, the Sicilian Abu Firas, who exalts the military successes of Islam on Calabrian soil, the landing of Muslim troops at Reggio and their exploits against the patricians whom they cut to pieces or put to flight.
And here are additional timeless insights excerpted from Snouck Hurgronje’s The Achenese, circa 1906 (in English translation), followed by Bob Spencer’s important piece:
To these peoples in whom the savage is as a rule not yet extinct, nothing can more attractive than the idea that they as Mohammedans are the lords of the world and that all infidels stand far below them while the privilege or obligation of depriving certain of the latter of life or property merely gives a new turn to their favorite pursuits of fighting and pillage”
From Mohammedanism (which for centuries she [i.e., Aceh] is reputed to have accepted) she really only learnt a large number of dogmas relating to hatred of the infidel without any of their mitigating concomitants; so the Acehnese made a regular business of piracy and man-hunting at the expense of the neighboring non-Mohammedan countries and islands, and considered that they were justified in any act of treachery or violence to European (and latterly to American) traders who came in search of pepper, the staple product of the country. Complaints of robbery and murder on board ships trading in Acehnese parts thus grew to be chronic.“
Not only are the Somali pirates Islamic jihadists, but their religious identity is much more important to them than being considered the sons and heirs of Blackbeard and Captain Kidd. On Sunday, Reuters quoted one of the pirates saying, “We never kill people. We are Muslims. We are marines, coastguards — not pirates.”
By Robert Spencer
Posted 04/15/2009 ET
This week, we celebrate the Navy SEALs’ rescue of American ship captain Richard Phillips. Their action, from the night airdrop that delivered them to the waiting warships to the split-second action in which three of the pirates were killed, was what we expect from our best special operations troops.
But while we praise their skill, let’s not lose sight of who Phillips’ captors were. His Somali pirate captors are Islamic jihadists, dedicated to the same goals as Osama bin Laden and other jihadists around the world.
In August 2008, when the pirates became especially active off the Horn of Africa, Andrew Mwangura, head of the East African Seafarers’ Assistance Programme, declared that Al-Shabaab, a group of jihadists in Somalia, use piracy to fund their jihad: “According to our information, the money they make from piracy and ransoms goes to support al-Shabaab activities onshore.”
With ransoms for ships each bringing in at least $10,000 and some in multiple millions of dollars, and the pirates seizing ships at a furious rate (taking four in one forty-eight hour period last summer), piracy is a lucrative source of funding for the jihad. Journalist Stephen Brown noted in November 2008 that “security experts fear the ransom money the pirates are receiving will allow them to buy better equipment and weapons for larger operations.” And with astounding short-sightedness, European governments — with the notable exception of the French last week — have been paying these ransoms. In that light, the American refusal to do so, and the rescue of Phillips, is a welcome step in the right direction.
But now it must be followed up properly, for al-Shabaab has numerous links to jihadist activity elsewhere. Al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (“Jihadist Youth”) is linked to al-Qaeda and advocates the strict application of Islamic law. It came to the fore in that troubled nation after the 2006 toppling by Ethiopian troops of the Islamic Courts Union government that ruled briefly in Mogadishu. And Mwangura notes that currently “the entire Somali coastline is now under control of the Islamists.” Al-Shabaab now controls more of Somalia than the Islamic Courts Union did even at the height of its power, and its reach extends beyond Somalia. Some of the Somali immigrants who have mysteriously disappeared from the Minneapolis area have been recruited for jihad by al-Shabaab, which has also attracted jihad fighters from around the world to join its efforts to take control in Somalia.
Not only are the Somali pirates Islamic jihadists, but their religious identity is much more important to them than being considered the sons and heirs of Blackbeard and Captain Kidd. On Sunday, Reuters quoted one of the pirates saying, “We never kill people. We are Muslims. We are marines, coastguards — not pirates.” Hostages have reported, however, that despite this pious disavowal, the pirates have threatened to kill them on more than one occasion. And the Navy SEALs only opened fire when it appeared they were about to kill Capt. Phillips.
Counterterror analyst Olivier Guitta, exploring Al-Shabaab’s connections with al-Qaeda, explained that the group “intends to take control of the Gulf of Aden and the southern entrance of the Red Sea.” This creates an acute problem for Barack Obama. If al-Shabaab does gain control of Somalia, it will not only continue to threaten shipping but will almost certainly expand its jihadist reach beyond Somalia to destabilize the Horn of Africa and work with other jihadist elements in the area, just as it has attracted foreign jihadists to its own cause. What’s more, the Somali jihad could come to the U.S. itself. In January, Newsweek reported about al-Shabaab that “a jihadist group able to enlist U.S. nationals to fight abroad might also be able to persuade Somali-Americans to act as sleeper agents here in the United States.” Al-Shabaab’s al-Qaeda ties make it quite likely that such a thought has occurred to the group’s leadership as well.
Accordingly, counterterror analysts and the mainstream media would do well to widen their narrow focus upon maritime piracy, and consider the role that this piracy is playing in the larger jihadist initiative. Unfortunately, with the Obama administration moving away even from the language of the “war on terror,” it’s unlikely that it will consider the implications of al-Shabaab’s links with the global jihadist network.
In an April 2008 statement, al-Shabaab vowed to “throw the West into hell.” Does Obama have the vision or the will to stand against this bloodlust before it grows even more powerful? And if so, what will he do?