What’s at Stake for the Radical, Violent Islamists

Photo: Sarah Carr

Perhaps surprisingly, there’s nothing scarier for Al-Qaeda, Hamas, and other radical groups–each aiming to achieve different goals–than the Arab people overthrowing their U.S.-backed dictators to achieve democracy and other freedoms.

With Tunisia’s leader ousted, the Jordanian Prime Minister sacked, Yemen’s dictator agreeing to bow out for 2013 elections, and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak seemingly on his way out, the rhetoric of violent Islamic radicals is being lost. The best recruiting tool for extremists is for these repressive regimes to remain in power and continue to be backed by American financial and geostrategic interests.

Regardless of whether Mubarak falls in the coming days or months, the Egyptian people and those of other Arab countries are likely to have more accountable governments in the near future. And that’s bad news for Osama bin Laden and others recruiting young men from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and other countries in the region. A non-democratic Middle East filled with despotic regimes is the perfect atmosphere for radical, violent Islamists to seek out new recruits.

While the repressive regimes of Sudan and Saudi Arabia seem far from crumbling at this point, protests have already started and could create further problems for violent extremist recruitment efforts if democratic reforms continue. Al-Qaeda and other violent, radical Islamists won’t be disappearing anytime soon, but they’ll have to start looking for new rhetoric as the Middle East becomes increasingly democratic.

Why do you think many terrorist organizations have been relatively silent in the past few weeks in response to the protests in the Middle East? Is radical Islam being shut out further by the protests in Tahrir (Liberation) Square?

3 thoughts on “What’s at Stake for the Radical, Violent Islamists

  1. I think one of the major reasons is that the violent radicals want accountable governments. The relative silence of the fundamentalists doesn’t mean anything. Are Egyptians suddenly less Moslem today than yesterday? Islam is in them. They don’t need to wear it on their sleeves to get the message across. An Islamic style government is a government that is honest. The Egyptians want an honest government. The logical conclusion is that it will be more Islamic. Islam isn’t just putting women under a black bag, the thicker the better. Islam is what one does from wake to sleep. The radicals are not screaming at the top of their lungs because they are moving towards the goal of a honest government and that is good for all Egyptians.

  2. I disagree with the premise of this article and its suggestion that after the demise of U.S. backed dictatorships, violent radical Islamist groups will lose ground for recruiting. What is the action plan that follows the ousting of leaders such as Mubarak? Perhaps, there will be more chaos that follows. Perhaps not. Or perhaps not in Egypt but maybe in Sudan and/or Jordan. We do not really know what short-term and long-term change means for these nations. In what forms did change arrive for Pakistan when Musharraf was no longer a welcome leader in 2008? Democracy does not always translate to changes, especially positive change, on the ground level after the momentum of protests fades. Will the voices of the people still be heard when discussions go back to the level of policy making and into the hands of a few individuals? We have to wait and see. Perhaps the violent radicals are doing the same.

  3. While I agree in principle with the article, I will quibble with the lumping of Hamas and Al Queida in the same category. One is an international group which attacks civilians randomly. They are not representing any group but themselves and a very few angry Muslims. The other group is a national group with clear and legitimate goals. They represent a sizable proportion of their constituency and have no interest in outside politics except the politics used to oppress them. They are the legitimate governing party of the Palestinians and have been excluded from that role. It’s true that there have been reports of haraam attacks from inside Gaza on Israeli civilian populations but it is not absolutely clear that Hamas has committed thes acts and in fact there is evidence that they have tried to curb these attacks. That being said, attacks on legitimate military targets should not be labeled as “terrorism” because nations have a right to defend themselves.