In the 1990s, well before the 9/11 attack on America, historian Samuel D. Huntington, in a groundbreaking work called The Clash of Civilizations, noted that throughout the world, every country with Islamic neighbors had “bloody borders.” This book came out at a time that optimists were predicting “the end of history” and, perhaps, the end of war. Huntington was attacked as a pessimist and racist to boot.
Once more, this dazzling scholar proved his critics wrong. He had noted the pattern of conflicts, not only the familiar one between Arabs and Israelis, but also those between India and Pakistan, China and its Muslim minority, and Thailand and its Muslims. In my own book, God’s Law or Man’s Law, published days before 9/11/01, I wrote about the growing violence between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria. I also predicted that there would be ongoing conflict between religious fundamentalists of all sorts and modernity and secular rule.
The latest scene in our now global war with Militant Islam occurred in Algeria in January, when a huge gas plant on the edge of the Sahara Desert was attacked with many foreign engineers and workers taken hostage. The Algerian government wasted no time in trying to take down the militants and rescue those workers not yet murdered by their captors. It was indeed a bloody mess, but before we condemn the Algerians for their heavy-handedness, we need to consider that if they had not done this, the militants would have taken their hostages to multiple sympathetic Muslim sites where it would be impossible to rescue them.
Algeria is an old hand in the Islamist threat business. The military dictatorship tried many years ago to hold a free election, but when they saw that Islamists would win in their most important cities, they cancelled the election. This action set off a civil war in which thousands of people were attacked and murdered by Islamist nightriders, culminating in brazen attacks on Algiers itself, also leaving a trail of headless females who had dared go to beaches to swim or not wear hijab. The military retaliated violently against civilians thought to be protecting terrorists. Howls of outrage came from the European Union over the military’s brutality and cancelling of elections, which angered defenders of elections more than the murderousness of the nightriders.
What makes the present bloody siege interesting is that it is no longer just Algerian thugs leaving a trail of blood through rural villages; it is an international army of sorts, with a well known leader, Mokhtar Belmoktar, all of them wearing military style uniforms. Belmoktar had recruited his army from Egypt, Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Tunisia, native Algerians, and even a couple of Canadian Muslims. A lowly driver at the plant had provided the attackers with inside knowledge of the layout. How terrible it is to have to fear that someone on the inside that you have trusted may be the author of your death. The victims included Japanese, Filipinos, Americans, British, Romanian, and French.
One witness said that about 38 workers and 29 militants died in the siege (although the full extent of this horror are still unknown, with some numbers as high as 81 dead). Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal told reporters that the terrorist chief “gave the order for all the foreigners to be killed, so there was a mass execution. Many hostages were killed by a bullet to the head.”
Meanwhile, in Algeria’s neighbor, Mali, African Al Qaeda’s attempt to take over and destroy the government of Mali continues. The terrorists are far better armed and trained than the Malian army, but now France, once Mali’s colonial master, with US logistics help, has come to the rescue. The rescuing force is taking back control from the Islamist terrorists village by village, much to the obvious joy of the natives.
The only good news out of this is that the Muslim World’s romance with Islamists is beginning to wobble (watch Egypt). Nothing is quite as instructive as being forced to live under fundamentalist Islam to learn to hate it.
Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of How Do You Know That? You may contact her at Lfarhat102@aol.com or www.globalthink.net.