Wednesday, October 09, 2013

9-Oct-13: A very bad month, says New Yorker mag, with worse probably ahead.

New Yorker's July 26, 1993 cover, following the
first Islamist attack on the World Trade Center
[Image Source]
At the New Yorker, famed for its urbane and often witty writing and clever cartoons, they have an unwitty, not-funny online article today ["Islamist Violence and a War of Ideas"] that summarizes events of the past month and leads to several disturbing conclusions.

Here's the meat of the report.
In case you haven’t kept up, below is a very partial box score of global Islamist violence during the month of September:
  • Kenya: Militants of the Somali jihadist group Al Shabaab attack the upscale Westgate Mall in Nairobi, slaughtering visitors with grenades and machine guns, separating out some Muslims from non-Muslims, in a killing spree that ends three days later with an assault by the Kenyan military. Death toll: at least sixty men, women, and children, along with several soldiers and militants.
  • Somalia: Al Shabaab car and suicide bombers blow up the restaurant the Village in Mogadishu for the third time. Death toll: fifteen patrons and staff.
  • Pakistan: Suicide bombers detonate themselves outside a Protestant church in Peshawar. Death toll: eighty-five. A remote-control bomb explodes on a bus carrying government employees near Peshawar. Death toll: nineteen. A remote-control bomb explodes in an old, crowded marketplace in Peshawar. Death toll: thirty-seven.
  • Nigeria: Militants of the extremist group Boko Haram attack an agricultural college. Death toll: forty young male students, most of whom were sleeping when they were killed.
  • Iraq: Car bombings, suicide bombings, revenge killings, and assassinations reach levels not seen for at least five years. Death toll: nine hundred and seventy-nine. Wounded toll: twenty-one hundred and thirty-three, most as the result of Sunni-Shiite sectarian violence.
  • Syria: Al Qaeda-affiliated rebels tighten their grip across northern Syria, intimidating local residents with public floggings and executions.
  • Yemen: Militants from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula stage attacks on soldiers and police in southern Yemen. Death toll: at least thirty.
  • Afghanistan: Sushmita Banerjee, the Indian wife of an Afghan man, who converted from Hinduism to Islam and wrote a memoir about life under the Taliban which was later made into a Bollywood movie, is abducted from her home in Paktika Province, taken to a Taliban safe house, and shot twenty-five times. Two suspects are arrested and claim that they killed her because she had written about the Taliban, and because she had installed an Internet connection in her house.
  • Zanzibar: Attackers throw acid in the face of a Catholic priest as he leaves an Internet café, one month after two young British women were assaulted in the same way.
It was a very bad month.
Indeed it was, and not for the first time. Nor the last.
But the worst thing about September’s violence is how much of it was easy to ignore. The Westgate drama in Nairobi seized the world’s attention for a few days because it involved a glitzy landmark, a prolonged siege, and plenty of non-Kenyan victims. And yet scores, or hundreds, of people—shoppers, shopkeepers, worshippers, government workers, college students, housewives, children, most of them Muslims, none of them guilty of anything more than having been born in the wrong country—are being murdered every day, blown to pieces, burned alive, shot to death, beheaded, in the name of an extremely violent strain of Islam.
All this killing is taking place at a time when America is getting out of the Muslim world...
At its source, the violence flows from ideas, terrible ideas, about the meaning of Islam, the character of non-Muslims, and the duties of Muslims. These ideas are promulgated in mosques and coffee shops and schools, and on satellite TV and the Internet, with the aid of conspiracy theories, half-truths, deceptive editing, and lies. They are remarkably impervious to the ebb and flow of U.S. foreign policy.
Far from letting Americans off the hook, this realization puts us to a very difficult test...
The writer then goes on to articulate the test and some possible counter-strategies. It's certainly worth reading the whole short piece.

Given its name and readership, New Yorker speaks to a specific audience. Needless to say, though, you don't have to be a New Yorker or an American to be on the hook and to have to face a difficult test when it comes to the expanding Islamist terrorism it describes.

In fact, there are some very specific challenges and lessons that we want to write about here, arising from a little-noted report that emerged in this morning's news. We hope to put it up here later today. [UPDATE: It's posted here.]

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