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“The days and nights will not pass until we take revenge like we did on 11th September, Allah permitting.” Ibrahim Al-Qousi, al Qaeda Arab Peninsula (AQAP) 


The Islamic world view divides the world into the House of War and the House of Islam and a state of war, not peace, perpetually exists between Islam and unbelievers. The purpose of waging war is ―one of two things: it is either for (the non Muslims) conversion to Islam or the payment of the jizya. Jihad becomes the tool for advancing the ideology toward its defined goals.” William Gawthrop

 The status of al-Qaeda, once the top terrorism threat to the United States, is in doubt, with many analysts questioning the group’s strength. The possible death of its leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has made these questions even more pronounced. Tore Hamming of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization at King’s College argues that al-Qaeda remains potent and that its leadership, in particular, remains strong, even if al-Zawahiri has died.” I tend to side with young Tore. 

For numerous reasons, I think that counting al Qaeda out at this point would be a huge mistake, especially with the ample weaponry and hiding places now available in Afghanistan. Let me be clear. I am still quite amazed by the boundless naiveté displayed by governments who actually believe the Taliban will honor any agreement concerning anything that takes place within their sovereign boundaries. They are convinced more than most that they are the captains of their own ship and that they have the right to do whatever they wish, especially within their own lands. They will gladly tell you whatever you want to hear to make their reality come true. I believe this to be the case with their promise to not allow al Qaeda to operate from within Afghanistan.

I do not want to exaggerate the dimensions of the problem. I am not saying that the Muslim world is unanimous in its rejection of the West, nor am I saying that the Muslim regions of the Third World have been the most passionate and extreme in their hostility. There are still many countries that see themselves as allies of the West and they do not consider the West to be a foe. That said, we must all be advised that there are significant elements within the Muslim world that are definitely at war with the West and will not be happy until the West has been completely subjugated by Islamic Shari’a law and practices. 

In the classical Islamic view, to which many Muslims are beginning to return, the world and all mankind are divided into two groups: the House of Islam, where Muslim law and faith prevail, and the House of Unbelief (or House of War), where it is ultimately the duty of Muslims to bring unbelievers into Islam. But the greater part of the world is still outside Islam, and even inside the Islamic lands, according to the view of Muslim radicals, the faith of Islam has been undermined and the law of Islam has been abrogated. The obligation of holy war, therefore, begins at home and continues abroad, against the same infidel enemy. 

What I hope to accomplish in this edition of More than Meets the Eye is to briefly discuss why I believe that al Qaeda remains a persistent threat and why their existence is necessary to a radicalized movement within Islam that is significant in both its number and its ability to wreak great destruction on its perceived enemies.


 The Muslim world sees itself as the center of truth and enlightenment, surrounded by infidels whom it will, in due course, enlighten and civilize. I know that sounds like a harsh judgement, but I have talked with many Muslims over the past 30 years, many of whom are nominal in their faith, and they have shared with me that this is simply a part of the overarching Islamic meta-narrative. It just is what it is. It is as much a part of their meta-narrative as Jesus coming again is to the Christian meta-narrative. 

In the minds of Islamic scholars, between the different groups of infidels there is a crucial difference. The barbarians to the east and the south are polytheists and idolaters, offering no serious threat and no competition at all to Islam. To the north and west, however, Muslims from an early date recognized a genuine rival—a competing world religion, a distinctive civilization inspired by that religion, and an empire that, though much smaller than theirs, was no less ambitious in its claims and aspirations. This is the entity known to itself and others as Christendom, a term that for hundreds of years has long become almost identical with Europe.

Why is this important? It is important because fundamentalist Muslims see Christendom, not so much as an enemy to be defeated, but as a civilization to be won. In a sense, it is a very different form of evangelism. That’s right! Jihad is a form of evangelism. Humans have rebelled against Allah and they must be brought back into submission. How do we know this? The word Islam literally means “submission” in Arabic, referring to submission to Allah. A Muslim is one who practices Islam, referring to one who submits to Allah. 

In the end, al Qaeda, ISIS, al Shabaab, Hezbollah, the Taliban, and hundreds of other Islamist Jihadist organizations are about one thing: ushering in a kingdom ruled by an Islamic cleric called the Caliph and governed by a legal system called Shari’ah law. This is the stated agenda of the Islamic State and the unstated agenda of al Qaeda and the others.

Even though not much has been heard from al Qaeda lately, al Qaeda and its affiliates remain an existential threat to the U.S. homeland, while the Islamic State’s danger is more to the stability of the Middle East and U.S. interests overseas. It is for this reason that al Qaeda must not be marginalized as a peripheral player. As important, it must be remembered that it receives preferential treatment from the Taliban and a sanctuary from where it can and will carry out its global terrorist ambitions.

Al Qaeda is a purist group. They exist for a very special ideological purpose. That purpose is a reflection of the Islamic meta-narrative, that it is a Muslim’s responsibility to bring humanity into submission, by one means or another, to Allah. Al Qaeda is not going away. Its leaders and operatives are patiently waiting for the right time and the right place to carry out their nefarious acts of terror. 

It is easy to lose sight of why this is happening. Why is al Qaeda so angry and so willing to die in pursuit of its goals?

  1. To die a martyr’s death is to be assured immediate entrance into heaven. They also get to bring upwards of 25 family members. By the way, the 72 virgins thing? It may or may not be a real thing. There is a lot of controversy over this teaching, but clearly millions of people believe it. Some liberal Islamic scholars think that the word for virgin is a mistranslation. They say the word is actually raisin, not virgin. Hard to imagine a person would blow themselves up for the prize of 72 raisins.
  2. Al Qaeda leadership views the presence of Western Infidel peoples on Islamic lands as an affront to Islamic law. It is incumbent upon every Muslim to run these infidels out of these sacred places.
  3. It is a Muslim’s duty to invite all peoples of the world to convert to Islam. There are three possible responses to that invitation: submit to Allah and follow the way of Muhammad, Pay the Jizyah tax (a tax that allows you to live under the protection of Muslims with minimal status), or die. Full stop. Many liberal Muslims will disagree with my assessment, but to do so would be denying their teachings and their meta-narrative.
  4. As I stated above, The Muslim world sees itself as the center of truth and enlightenment, surrounded by infidels whom it will enlighten and civilize. In their minds, their conquests are a favor to the world. The rest of mankind is wallowing in a sea of voluntary ignorance. It is imperative that infidels be brought to their senses. It is the only pious choice that a Muslim would have.

These are just a few of the reasons that al Qaeda is hell-bent on bringing terror and destruction to those who do not believe. There are, of course, a few other reasons as well. Israel is the first one to come to my mind.


It can be safely assumed that the great majority of Muslims in the world have no desire to join a jihad or to politicize their religion. However, it is also true that insofar as religious establishments in most of the Arabian peninsula, Iran, and much of Egypt and North Africa are concerned, the radical ideology does not represent a marginal and extremist perversion of Islam, but rather a genuine and increasingly mainstream interpretation. Even after 9/11, the sermons broadcast from Mecca cannot be easily distinguished from those of al Qaeda. It all goes back to that meta-narrative that I have been writing about. It is a powerful part of the development of their worldview.

Understanding the Muslim worldview is imperative to the coexistence between Western cultures and Islamic ones. It is unlikely that western ideologies and Islamic ones will ever see eye to eye, no matter how liberal both become, but it could set the stage for a peaceful if tenuous coexistence. 


Read. Take time to understand. Islamist Jihadists represent an existential threat to non-believers.

Seek to understand your Muslim neighbors. Build bridges.

Invite a Muslim into your home. Most Muslims have never been into a Westerner’s home. It is as much a mystery to them as their home is to you. Tear down walls between yourself and your Muslim neighbors.

The follow-up.

Islamic Republic of Iran TV: Women can’t be shown eating pizza…

Qatar: Rape victims accused of sex outside marriage, face up to a year in prison and 100 lashes…

The feed-back.

For your comments or questions about any of our digests please feel free to write to me at:


Nyazee, Imran Ahsan Khan. Islamic Jurisprudence. The Other Press, Selangor, Malaysia: (2003) p. 17. Dr. Nyazee is an Assistant Professor of Sharia and Law, International University, Islamabad, Pakistan. Islamic Jurisprudence is his fourth legal text. His previous assignments within the University included Supervisory Faculty for Training and Publications, Sharia Academy, International Islamic University. 

Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law, Amana Publications, Baltimore: (1994), p. 599

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