The following story in the NYTimes illustrates in detail how stubbornly infectious and poisoning the Wahabi Sunni Terrorist War against the West really is and how perilously taut are relations between nuclear-armed Pakistan and nuclear-armed India. This Religious War of Terror is being lead by Osama Bin-laden and Al Man El Zawahari and other religious fanatics that are using Islam’s embracing of Jihad against infidels as their raison d’etre for attacking Westerners. For them, Western nations, technology, and social development have brought changes (think in these leaders minds as “imposed changes”) in their nations of Saudia Arabia and Egypt primarily, but throughout the Muslim World. These Westernized changes imperil their brand of strict Muslim beliefs. No matter that some of these beliefs have been relaxed or discarded in many Muslim countries.
In fact, that is the Problem of Islam that now confronts the world. Unlike other faiths like Catholicism which has a hierarchy of clergy which manages not just spiritual doctrines/rituals but also all behaviors done in the name of the Catholic Church, Islam has no such fixed hierarchy and titular leadership. Rather, imams or learned ones have varied control over doctrine, rituals, and behaviors done in the name of Islam but which a)are not hierarchically controlled from one leader who speaks for all of Islam and b)are subject to a vast array of divergent practices throughout the Muslim world with imams and other Islamic “authorities” having varied religious, church management, social, and state political powers and authorities. See this excellent book on Religion and State for all the details.
Based on the NYTimes story, a number of observations can be made:
1)Note how perilously helpless the Muslim religious world is at controlling and defusing behaviors done in its name. Many moderates and millions of Muslims the world over are embarrassed and humiliated to find their faith as the source of malicious murders yet again;
2)The Tom Friedman hypothesis gains credibility in that chronic under and unemployment plus drastically varied political freedoms in Muslim countries provides a so-far unlimited source of young and well indoctrinated terrorists willing to commit any heinous acts;
3)The al Qaeda elite/command appear to be critically aware of the changing strategy and tactics of the West and US transitioning administrations. And they have dispatched their terrorist brigades to foment trouble so rapprochement between India and Pakistan(to their own peril) can be stymied if not outright foiled;
4)The Pakistan civilian administrations control over its military and Intelligence services remain a major source of problems. Remember this is the same military and Intelligence service that allowed Nuclear information and technology to be “exported ” and/or exchanged between themselves and North Korea, Libya, Syria, Iraq plus maybe Iran. In short, there is in Pakistan the same question of control and empowered negotiation as with those who would seek to represent themselves as spokes-persons for the Muslim faith;
5)Finally, if you think the religious problems and outright hatreds that have been seen in say Northern Ireland or parts of Indonesia are tough and can erupt sickeningly into malicious violence, consider that Hindu and Muslim rivalry and warfare in the Indian peninsula have been going on for 1400 years. What makes matters worse is that Hindu India is taking off dramatically with economic growth rates second only to China in the World for the past 5-8 years, while Muslim Pakistan is relatively stagnant.
In sum, see these attacks as al Qaeda protecting its Pakistani Waziristan encampments and not necessarily as primary attacks on the West. But also consider that this World Religious Warfare has at its roots economic, political and educational disparities and relative stagnation.