“When an honest man discovers he is mistaken, He will either cease being mistaken, Or cease being honest.” – Anonymous
‘We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.’ Albert Einstein
This week I’d like to discuss a fascinating topic concerning the popular global response to Islamist terrorism. Governments in both the West and the East are making decisions which are yielding unintended consequences….thus, the Cobra Effect.
The term, “cobra effect” stems from the initial British colonization of India. The British government was concerned about the amount of poisonous snakes in the the New Delhi region, so they offered a bounty for every snake killed. Initially this worked like gangbusters, until the locals started breeding the snakes for profit. When government officials caught wind of this, they cut off the program and the Indian region was filled with even more cobras than before. This is what is happening in the world regarding the global response to Islamist Jihadism. The unthought-through decisions of many government leaders is leading to second and third order effects which can only be described as a “cobra effect.”
In the earnest attempts of government leaders to eradicate terrorism, there are more terrorists in the world today than ever before. The problem is worsening, not improving. Remember, just because you do not see your media bombarded by terrorist events on the evening news does not mean that the problem has gone away or will go away. Terrorist attacks have become the new normal. If a lot of people are not being killed in an event, sometimes the media’s response is an existential yawn. Why? — Because our response has become the same.
Let’s reestablish the magnitude of the problem of terrorism and remain aware of the escalation of Islamist jihadism as we plan our response to it as citizens and Christians. Ignoring the problem will only create a “cobra effect,” not make it go away.
The Institute for Economics and Peace produces an annual Index of Global terrorism. It has recorded over 170,000 global terrorist events. That index enables us to see a clearer picture of the relatively raw data.
On a somewhat positive note, deaths caused by terrorism decreased by 13 per cent from 2015 to 2016. There were 25,673 deaths in 2016 related to terrorism. This is the second consecutive year that the number of deaths from terrorism have decreased. Deaths have now fallen by 22 per cent since the peak in 2014. That is an encouraging number to take into account, but there are other variables that need to be considered.
- A total of 77 countries recorded at least one death due to terrorism. This is an increase from 65 countries in 2015. That is significant.
- Since 2002, eight of the nine regions in the world experienced an increase in terrorism. North America was the only region to see a reduced impact. This was due to the fact that a pretty huge bar was set in 2001 because of the 9/11 attacks.
- Egypt and Turkey witnessed very large increases in terrorism following government crackdowns. In Egypt, terrorism deaths increased nine-fold. In Turkey this figure has increased by 16 times. Both of these countries are considered US and European allies. Turkey is a part of NATO.
- Globally, attacks against civilians increased by 17 per cent from 2015 to 2016. The primary targets of terrorists are private citizens and property. This is not good news for you and me. This means that the norm, increasingly will be softer targets who are unable to defend themselves.
- Deaths from terrorism have risen in tandem with battle-related deaths. From 2006 to 2016, deaths from terrorism increased 67 per cent while battle deaths increased by 66 per cent. This is a staggering number! In the US there were 957,000 automobile accident deaths between 2006 and 2016. If that number has the same growth rate, that would increase to 1,600,000 deaths.
- Since 2014, there has been a shift in tactics toward simpler attacks against non-traditional targets. ISIL has also shown that attacks against soft targets using unconventional tactics are more likely to be effective than elaborate schemes.
- The global economic impact of terrorism was US $84 billion in 2016. This represents a seven per cent decline from the previous year and a 19 per cent decline from the peak in 2014. This statistic is deceptively low. This reflects only direct costs caused by Islamist terrorism. It does not include the cost of US troops deployed globally in the Global War on Terror. It does not reflect the cost that Homeland Security has spent defending airports, energy grid infrastructure, guards hired by private companies or cyber-warfare defense systems. This number is in the trillions of dollars!
Once again, I am not trying to create an environment of fear or anxiety. I believe that many of the decisions being made today are inconsistent with sound logic and while they appear to be civil and humane, they are based on flawed information and assumptions as well as a lack of understanding of history. I am primarily disputing the refusal to associate political Islamism with Islam. Consistently governments in the West continue to espouse a reasoning that political Islamism (another term for radical Islam, jihadist Islamism, violent Islamism etc.) has little to do with Islam. I get their reasoning. None of us believes that all Muslims are terrorists. That is a ludicrous assumption. However, it is also just as true that all political Islamists are Muslims. Rather than denying their connection, reasoning a distinction between the two, accepting the similarities and seeking to understand their differences, many governments simply deny that there is any relation whatsoever. This has, in fact created more “cobras.”
Insisting that radical Islamists have “nothing to do with Islam” has led US policy makers to commit numerous strategic errors since 9/11. One is to distinguish between a “tiny” group of extremists and an “overwhelming” majority of “moderate” Muslims. I, along with Ayaan Hirsi Ali prefer to differentiate between Medina Muslims who embrace the militant political ideology adopted by Muhammad in Medina; Mecca Muslims who prefer the religion originally promoted by Muhammad in Mecca; and reformers who are open to some kind of Muslim reformation. These kinds of distinctions are helpful in understanding the kinds of Muslims in the world today. It begins by accepting that these political Islamists are indeed coming from a historical Muslim context. “Political Islam is not just a religion as most Western citizens recognize the term ‘religion,’ ie. a faith; it is also a political ideology, a legal order, and in many ways also a military doctrine associated with the campaigns of the prophet, Muhammad.”
Many in the mainstream media would have us understand that radical Islamists are a tiny minority. In Pakistan alone, where the population is almost entirely Muslim, 13 percent of Muslims surveyed (more than 20 million people) said that bombings and other forms of violence against civilian targets are often or sometimes justified in order to defend Islam from its enemies. This is increasingly the norm in countries such as Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, and a host of Islamic countries in North Africa. According to one estimate, 10−15 percent of the world’s Muslims are Islamists. Out of over 1.6 billion, or 23 percent of the globe’s population, that implies more than 160 million individuals. Based on survey data on attitudes toward sharia in Muslim countries, total support for Islamist activities in the world is likely significantly higher than that estimate.
Once again, not all Muslims are political Islamists. Most are like most Christian professing Westerners, those I call, “ignorantists.” They are simply ignorant of what the Qur’an teaches and what Islam as a religion or a political ideology propounds. Most are decent, regular people who want to have a job, buy a house, live a peaceful life and raise a family. They have a cultural understanding of their faith which includes a meta-narrative, but they are not totally sure what that meta-narrative entails. Therefore, they hold on to what they have believed: Islam is a religion of peace. There is only one God. His name is Allah and Mohammad is his prophet. Beyond that, they are uncertain of most Islamic teachings. There is little difference between them and most of your neighbors. They all have a sin problem and they believe that somehow they can make it work with their own goodness. Only problem? It runs completely counter to the Good News.
- Seek to gain a better understanding of Islam and Muslims themselves. (Islam is the name of the religion and a Muslim is someone who is a follower of Islam.) There are several good, as well as simple books you may read on Islam.
- Meet your Muslim neighbors. Invite them into your home for dinner. Become their friends. They are as mystified by you as you are of them. Serve them. Love them. If they are in your neighborhood and have come from another country, they may have endured great suffering to get to where you live. Ease their suffering with your friendship.
- Pray for your Muslim neighbors. Ask them how you may pray for them. Pray for them regularly and specifically. Check back with them to see how God has answered your prayers.
- Share the hope that is within you. You do not need to try to force what you believe on them. As you get to know them, listen to their stories and rejoice in their victories. If they are indeed seeking anything spiritual they will ask you about your story. When they do, determine to share with them about the hope that is yours in Jesus Christ. Never argue. It produces nothing. You are not trying to convert them. You are introducing them to someone who loves them and wants to be their Savior.
I guarantee you. The strategy of love and servanthood will rid the world around us of dangerous cobras.
Will Terrorism Go Away?… https://www.brookings.edu/on-the-record/terrorism-threat-will-never-go-away/
The New Normal?… http://natoassociation.ca/terrorism-is-the-new-normal/
Global Terrorism Index 2017… http://visionofhumanity.org/app/uploads/2017/11/Global-Terrorism-Index-2017.pdf
Ayaan Hirsi Ali… https://www.hoover.org/research/how-counter-political-islam
Pakistanis and Islamic Violence… http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/08/09/mu…
CNN Influential Muslims List… https://www.investigativeproject.org/7432/the-divisive-hateful-people-among-cnn-influential
Jihadist Ideology… https://ctc.usma.edu/the-strengths-and-weaknesses-of-jihadist-ideology/
How to Bless your Muslim Neighbors… https://www.crescentproject.org/articles-blog/2016/10/24/how-to-engage-your-church-and-community-in-outreach
How to Understand Islam… https://www.islamreligion.com/ebooks/islam-guide.pdf
Complete Idiots Guide to Islam… https://www.goodreads.com/book/show527090.The_Complete_Idiot_s_Guide_to_Understanding_Islam
A Christian’s Answers to Islam… https://christiananswers.net/islam.html
How to Pray for your Muslims Neighbors https://www.howtoprayformuslims.org