The savage slaughtering of a British soldier on the streets of Woolwich, England is not a common random crime; it is an act of terror, an expression of relentless war that is inspired by a jihadist ideology and sponsored by an international network of Salafist indoctrination. The reason we are making this assertion hours after the killing is to simply repeat what we have underscored in reports on similarly-inspired bloody attacks in the West in recent years. Rather, it is to prevent disorienting a shocked public by propaganda being diffused by apologists spreading intellectual chaos, covering up for the real culprit, and confusing audiences in Great Britain and around the world with irrelevant arguments. We will hear some pushing the argument of root causes being the Western presence in Muslim lands. The two assassins made sure to shout their “political motives” and the cri de guerre, “Allahu Akbar,” in a determined way. They said their actions were in response to Western occupation of Muslim lands. That is the same excuse that was repeatedly given by Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda jihadists in the 1990s, and increasingly since 2001. The two perpetrators are British citizens, but they act as citizens of the “umma” in defense of an emerging Caliphate. They do not speak on behalf of a community; they speak on behalf of a movement that claims to speak on behalf of a community. In short, they are jihadists, regardless of whether they are rank and file al Qaeda or not. They are part of a movement solidly anchored in a doctrine whether they act as individuals, a pair, or two commandos dispatched by a larger group.
The attackers spoke openly to witnesses on the street where they committed their treachery and spoke with predetermined certainly, not spontaneity. "We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you. We must fight them (the infidels-kuffar) as they fight us.” These words matter, not because of their content alone, but because they come from the Salafi jihadi dictionary used by committed operatives, fighters and killers around the world. In his letter to the American people Osama bin Laden said, "It is commanded by our religion and doctrine that the oppressed have a right to return the aggression. Do not await anything from us but Jihad, resistance and revenge." The commander of al Qaeda and his successor and other jihadi leaders around the world, have consistently used the expression “as long as we won’t have our security, you won’t have yours.” Translated strategically, the proposition means that as long as the enemies of the jihadists are obstructing the rise of a Caliphate, a Taliban-style empire to cover one fifth of the Planet for starters, all those who resist are enemies and will be treated with the full force of militants continually produced by pools of indoctrination.
The Woolwich butchers had no personal quarrel with the UK soldier they hacked to death with medieval weapons. They had no mandate from the Afghani people to commit bloodshed in Great Britain as a way of provoking a withdrawal. The mandate the two terrorists acted upon was from a standing, growing, creeping political ideology with a name, Salafi jihadism (al Salafiya al Jihadiya). Some will rush to connect their words to Islamic religious texts, invoking verses and chapters. Others will rush in another direction to counter attack by charging “Islamophobia” as the root cause of the craziness of the perpetrators. Some may fall into the trap of making the link proposed by the terrorists, that their killing is necessary for the liberation of a “Muslim land.” But the Arab Spring, gone bad with the rise of Islamists across North Africa and the Levant, is sending us a strong message: Civil societies in the region, youth, women and minorities dislike the “Islamist fascists,” a term used by Muslim democracy activists from the Arab world and Iran to describe the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafists and the Khomeinists. This refutes the notion that the killers have any shred of legitimacy. Add to this illegitimacy, even in regulated conflicts, the Woolwich murders are war crimes, regardless of the motives. Verses or not, Afghan related or not, the terrorists who beheaded the British service member on an English street are war criminals, just as Major Hassan of Fort Hood and the Tsarnaev Terrorists of Boston are. Moreover the butcher Jihad of England has precedents in Europe. In March 2011 a Terrorist shouting "Allahu Akbar" opened fire on a bus carrying U.S. airmen in Frankfurt, Germany, killing two and wounding two others before his gun jammed and he was subdued. In 2012 a Jihadist known as Merah had killed twelve French citizens with a rifle, including members of the military, in Toulouse and Montauban. Similar attempts were stopped across Europe over the past few years.
Jihadists kill the British, Americans, Spaniards, Swedes, French, inasmuch as they kill Malians, Algerians, Tunisians, Tanzanians, Iraqis and Pakistanis. They are as keen to kill Muslims they describe as apostates (Mushrik) as they are to butcher those they label “infidels” (kafir). This assassination is one in a long chain, on many continents, at the hands of a terror movement inspired by a radical ideology, often described as “criminal” by Western leaders including by the US Administration, but never explained. This is where the British people should be looking and where the international community should act. Expose the specific doctrine that generates violence and identify the networks that propagate it and produce jihadists. Otherwise, humanity will be living in fear, waiting for the next bloodshed, always between one terror attack and another. The methods implemented in these war crimes are not the main issue; the focus should be on what binds them together. Nuremberg’s proceedings are just few decades behind us. They showed the world that Nazism created the greatest barbarism of the twentieth century. Jihadism is now seizing the twenty first century. Lessons should be learned.
Dr. Walid Phares is a Congressional advisor and the Co-Secretary General of the Transatlantic Legislative Group on Counter Terrorism. He is the author of several books on Terrorism including The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad