by Barry Rubin
Hussein Solomon is a South African professor who is the leading expert on revolutionary Islamist terrorism in his own country and Africa generally. He has just finished a book, Global Jihad: The South African Front. Equally interesting, though, is the background to his work.
In the book he explains why he is so intent on this subject. Solomon describes how he was affected by an August 1998 terrorist attack on Planet Hollywood in Cape Town in which two people were killed and others injured or crippled.
The people who perpetrated such an act of barbarity called themselves Muslim and attempted to justify the act as a blow against the Great Satan–the United States of America. But, the political mandarins of Washington were not hurt by this outrage. It was ordinary men, women and children enjoying dinner and pleasant conversation who were now held in death’s unyielding grasp or maimed. …
I was both angry and sad. Angry that fellow Muslims would perpetrate such an atrocity and saddened that other Muslims would countenance such behavior.
And then he had an experience even closer to home. In December 2006 he took his children to a park in Cape Town for an outing at a waterfront park, only to hear, shortly after leaving, that an Islamist terrorist had been caught carrying three pipe bombs in his car on the way to bomb that very place. “As I watched my children play…realizing that I could have lost them that day I tried hard to fathom the loathing that drove a fellow Muslim to target such a place.”
While only a small number of radical Muslims “are prepared to kill, radical Islam as an ideology has increasingly penetrated mainstream Muslim society in South Africa” and, one might add, in many other places. “Violence and intimidation have become routine to silence moderate voices.” When he organized a conference to discuss these issues, he was warned not to do so and “labeled in various quarters as a CIA/Mossad agent. Then anonymous callers threatened my life and the life of my children.”
Speakers were also pressured to withdraw, but the conference eventually took place only under police protection.
“The really scary part for me is how ordinary South African Muslims find such intimidation acceptable.” Two years ago, while being interviewed at a Muslim radio station to call for “frank and open debate and discussion for the Muslim community,” he mentioned that he had received death threats for hosting a Palestinian Authority official.
I was then interrupted by the interviewer and was told that the death threats were understandable since I should have hosted Hamas and not someone from Fatah viewed as more moderate. I was shocked that a journalist, a Muslim or any other, should show such disdain to free speech, which lies at the bedrock of his profession.
Other moderate Muslims and groups have also faced threats and intimidation, leading Professor Yusuf da Costa to lament, “The West is full of Islamic scholars who have had to run for their lives from their countries of birth. What have we done to Islam that Muslims have to seek asylum under the Cross?”
“Under apartheid,” Hussein notes, “it was morally incumbent upon White South Africans to stand up. … Similarly at this juncture of our history, it is morally incumbent upon Muslims to stand up and declare that Usama bin Laden and others of his ilk do not speak for us. If we do not do this, we are all complicit in our silence at the deaths of the innocent.”
The position often taken by the South African government and security services is that there is no terrorist threat in the country because South Africa hasn’t done anything aggressive toward Muslim-majority societies. Yet as several European countries have discovered, while
Legitimate grievances might well be exacerbating Islamist rage, however; it is certainly not the catalyst for it. Rather, Islamist terrorism is motivated by a worldview which expounds the position of world domination through the violent seizure of governments and the establishment of an autocratic state where dissent, political opposition and the proverbial other does not exist.
Only when more Muslims follow the wisdom of Solomon and more Westerners truly support and help true moderates will there be hope for dealing with this huge problem posed by revolutionary Islamism and terrorism.
Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs
(GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International
Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction, has just been published by Yale University Press. Other recent books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center and of his blog, Rubin Reports. His original articles are published at PJMedia.