10 August, 2022


Strengths & Fragilities Of Jihadism

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

A primer on leading “Salafie Jihadist” movements; Strengths and fragilities of Jihadism

The literature on Islamic Jihadism (also called Salafi Jihadism) is huge; more on the web as an outpouring of opinion pieces, rather than in print, as movements rise and decline, split or fuse and disappear as new ones surface. Al-Qaeda seems no longer to be in command and the Taliban only has regional clout in Afghanistan and the mountains of Pakistan though army sponsorship endows it with alarm for India. This rapid turnover and rise and fall of fortunes of jihadists motivate this taking stock exercise at the end of Q1 of 2015. It is not my intention to compete with full length books which I have mined, nor can I be as up to date as the staccato reporting of wire services. Rather I blend ideological exploration with an update of the state of play in the troubled world of Islam.

My focus will be Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) (or ISIS, replacing Levant by Syria or just IS), Boko Haram, and the fortunes of al-Qaeda. First I need to introduce words unfamiliar to non-Islamic readers. Of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims 83% are Sunnis, only 13% Shia and small numbers adhere to sects like Sufism and Ishmailism. The Salafist doctrine within the Sunni mainstream, is a turn to puritanical practices of the three generations after the Prophet emphasising texts and strict practices (salaf = ancestor). Its fundamentalism underlies the incorrect use of the adjective Salafist for militant jihadism. Harshness (chopping off heads, proclaiming caliphates, rejection of discourse in favour of strict adherence to revealed texts) has earned jihadists this epithet, but Salafist scholars strongly dissent that theirs is an unconnected and much older belief system.

pakistan-child-jihadiWahabism overlaps the older Salafi tradition. Founded by Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792), though similarly stern and puritanical, Wahabism is political. Islamic scholar al-Wahhab aligned with and provided a religious prop for tribal leader Muhammad bin-Saud and when the House of Saud rose as the long-lasting royal family of Saudi Arabia, Wahabism became state theocracy; Saudi is 75% Wahabi and 25% Salafi. Then, what it is derisively called Petro-Islam, poured millions in state cash into Islamic education and such causes all over the world ($100 billion since 1973, 80% after mid-1980s) undermining relaxed easy going Islam worldwide; think Indonesia, Malaysia and Lanka. The Saudi state funds some jihadists, but private donors do more, enough to make Hilary Clinton blurt out “Saudi donors are the most significant source of funding for Sunni terrorist groups”.

This is not a “learn all you need to know about Islamic jihadism in three paragraphs” crash course, but I need to make two more points for non-Muslim readers. The Shias trace their roots to the assassination of Ali, the Prophet’s cousin, son-in-law and fourth caliph. This sparked the longest schism in religious history, as bitter and as cruel as the Catholic-Protestant rift of the late Middle Ages. The vast majority of Shias live in Iran (90%), Iraq, India and Pakistan. Though Shia terrorism is not gushing like the Sunni variation, powerful Shia partisans terrorise and slaughter in Iraq. Finally, the word jihad: Muslim texts offer a variety of definitions; struggle, resist, holy-war on non-believers. A softer version, “Struggle for Good”, like Gandhi’s satyagraha (struggle for truth), is also circulated.

Al-Qaeda is not on its last legs

I intend to provide only a brief update on al-Qaeda because so much is known. It is true that it is in decline and no longer exerts hegemony over ISIL, Boko Haram or the Taliban but this may be brief or illusory since it is politically serious and the least mentally primitive of jihadists. Actually it is too sophisticated to call jihadist; better what it sees itself as: An Islamic liberation movement; but we should add with a pronounced proclivity to use terror. Al-Qaeda’s traction with ISIL ruptured because it denounced the latter’s head-chopping bloodlust and its practice of raping captives; it understood this was counterproductive. Al-Qaeda has a long term ideological orientation whose starting point is opposition to Western control and its economic power over the politics and natural resources of Muslims. It does not make a hash by mixing this with an excess of pristine fundamentalism. The obscenity called Palestine, which American and Israeli public opinion alone in the world does not fathom, is of course a common cause of all Muslim political and cultural angst.

Proclaiming a caliphate and declaring himself supreme spiritual and temporal leader of the Islamic realm as successor to the Prophet was never bin Laden’s objective. He was Emir, commander, not caliph (king-cum-pope with suzerainty over all Muslim lands and peoples). Al-Qaeda was created in 1988-89 by bin Laden and present leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian surgeon and theologian, with the objective of expelling Soviet occupiers from Afghanistan. Though it has little sway over ISIL, Boko Haram and the Taliban, when these are reduced to rubble by military might and the exertions of an emergent Arab national-bourgeoisie, a weakened al-Qaeda will remain a staging post of radical Islam. But I am unwisely speculating decades ahead.

The weakness of al-Qaeda is also its strength. It has no national base, it has no nation. The Taliban has Afghanistan, ISIL is a Sunni resurgence after American intervention destroyed Iraq and left nothing in its place (certainly not plural interfaith democracy for Shias and Sunnis); Boko Haram is rooted in local tribes. Al-Qaeda has no such home, but it is the most internationally networked of all the groups with five strong international affiliate branches and about 20 lose ones. It is hardly Salafist in ideology compared to the others.


I do not intend to recapitulate what the wire-services are full of; swings on the battle front, victory of the Kurdish Pashmera and what it portends for a Kurdistan, nor my overestimate a year ago that Syria’s Assad “was finished”. This overview fits the objectives of this essay, viz; where is jihadist Islamic fundamentalism going. The first point is that of the combined 60 million population of Iraq and Syria about 31 million, that is just over 50%, is Sunni. But Iraq is ruled by an unsympathetic Shia government and Syria a frankly hostile Alawite (Shia) regime. The statistics are: Iraq population 33 million of which 60% is Shia and 35% Sunni, Syria 26 million population of which 75% is Sunni and Alawites and Ishmailis 13%.

All borders in the region are artificial; creations of British and French chart-makers at the end of the First World War. There is justice in the claim that the Sunnis of Iraq and Syria are a people without a nation. This grievance is the root of Saudi donors funding rabidly anti-American Sunni ISIL; conversely Iran, not the West, is the big provider of military assistance to Shia Iraq, and more important, Shia militias. Is the map being redrawn in line with entrenched population allegiances?

The war in the region is more a Sunni-Shia sectarian clash and a Saudi-Iran proxy war than a war on terror. ISIL has grown into a 10,000 strong army with Sunni support, worldwide recruitment and funding. It has penetrated Libya and Afghanistan. There is full blown war in Yemen and the (Sunni) Arab League is forming a regional army to fight Iran backed Huthi rebels. ISIL is opposed to the Shia Huthis and therefore it is on the Saudi (American) side! In Iraq-Syria America is on the anti-ISIL and therefore on the Iranian side! How the chips may eventually fall is hard to tell but the clash of civilisations is not exclusively an East-West thing but also an inter-Islamic sectarian massacre. I believe that ISIL’s brutality will bring about its eventual downfall; the world will not have it.

Jamaican born Nobel Prize winning writer VS Naipaul says: “ISIL is dedicated to a holocaust. It has pledged to murder of Shias, Jews, Christians, Copts, Yazidis, anyone it can, however fancifully, accuse of being a spy. It could credibly abandon the label Caliphate and call itself the Fourth Reich”. Clearly he is reacting to ISIL’s indiscriminate bloodlust and its declaration of a caliphate not just over Muslims but its stated aspiration to “Raise the flag of Allah over the White House”.

Boko Haram

Boko Haram is active in North Eastern Nigeria and among associated tribes (mainly the Kanuri) that straddle Nigeria and neighbouring Chad, Cameroon and Niger. Prior to British annexation this region was a sovereign caliphate named the Sokoto Caliphate. After dismantling it the British introduced an education system with Christian trappings which the local population eschewed. Self-proclaimed Nigerian spiritual leader Mohammed Yusuf (1970–2009) established a religious complex in 2002 that included a mosque and school where poor families from neighbouring regions enrolled in the hope of a decent education; in this the colonial administration had utterly failed.

Boko Haram is said to have 10,000 fighters, an annual budget of $10 million (peanuts compared to ISIL) mainly ransom money, and its arms come from fleeing Nigerian troops. Its motto: “Anyone not governed by the word of Allah is evil”. The word Haram means forbidden; Muslims who partake in activities (education, culture, elections) associated with the West are legitimate targets. It is audacious in bombing public places, kidnapping, raping and selling schoolgirls and young women into slavery. In 2014 it declared itself a caliphate on the fringes of the Sahara, but later swore allegiance to the ISIL Caliphate. In the midst of poverty and despondency the sayings of the Prophet rise phoenix like as liberation.

The failure of American policy

Note carefully that I say American, not Obama. Obama’s initiatives in the Middle East were scuttled by Republican hawks who control Congress and who in cahoots with Israel guide American opinion. America has taken an ideological turn to the right in the aftermath of the 2008 financial jinx. In Europe there is sharp polarisation to the right (France, UK) and the left (Greece, Spain). Dismayed by the banality of moribund capitalism and in the absence of a credible left alternative in France, UK and Germany, bewilderment in the public mind is not unexpected.

I harbour a forlorn hope that Obama may, under his breath, tell this Republican Congress to go to hell and reach a nuclear deal with Iran. This will ease murderous sectarianism in the Middle East and Africa north of the Equator. The US-Israeli relationship is entering a period of flux, as it should have long ago if US public opinion was less sclerotic. Inevitable though it be, it will take years to mature.

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Latest comments

  • 5

    I am yet to see the appeasers of ZION talking about the Jewish crimes in a mass scale that created the WORLD wARS…

    We are fed up with Jewish funded fake journos talking about Jihad…

    The Coverup of Zionist Organized Crime!

    SIS leader is Simon Elliot, a Jewish born zionist CIA and Mossad agent.

    911 False Flag – American Traitors & Mossad – Where are the Oath Keepers? – Ken O’Keefe

  • 2

    Prof. Kumar David

    RE: Strengths & Fragilities Of Jihadism


    Iblis, Satan, Lucider, Shaitan Followers: Wahaabis and their Clones, Al Queda, Wahhabis, Salafis, Deobadi, Taliban, Boko-Haram, and few others.

    “as movements rise and decline, split or fuse and disappear as new ones surface”

    They All follow the Devil, Iblis. People with low IQ, plenty of them, are fooled by them.

    “The Salafist doctrine within the Sunni mainstream, is a turn to puritanical practices of the three generations after the Prophet emphasising texts and strict practices (salaf = ancestor). Its fundamentalism underlies the incorrect use of the adjective Salafist for militant jihadism. Harshness (chopping off heads, proclaiming caliphates, rejection of discourse in favour of strict adherence to revealed texts) has earned jihadists this epithet, but Salafist scholars strongly dissent that theirs is an unconnected and much older belief system.”

    They truly are deceived by Iblis, Satan.

    The unfortunate issue is that many Muslims cannot tell the Fake Wahhabis who follow Iblis from those Muslims who follow the Quran.

    Until the Wahhabis and Salafis are exposed for what they are, agents of Iblis, Devil, this conflict will continue.

    The failure of American policy.

    Thre are a lot of Stupid people in America too. Some of them in are in positions of taking policy decisions, that makes matters worse. Satan is laughing at them all. The Great Satan, and the Satan Followers Wahhabis and their Clones, as defined above.

    1 in 4 Americans think the Sun goes Around the Earth. Among Muslims it must be 1 in 2.


    Does the Earth go around the sun, or does the sun go around the Earth? Ask the Wahhabis and Salaafis.

    When asked that question, 1 in 4 Americans surveyed answered incorrectly. Yes, 1 in 4. In other words, a quarter of Americans do not understand one of the most fundamental principles of basic science. So that’s where we are as a society right now.

    The survey, conducted by the National Science Foundation, included more than 2,200 participants in the U.S., AFP reports. It featured a nine-question quiz about physical and biological science and the average score was a 6.5.

    And the fact that only 74 percent of participants knew that the Earth revolved around the sun is perhaps less alarming than the fact that only 48 percent knew that humans evolved from earlier species of animals.

    Here’s the thing, though: Americans actually fared better than Europeans who took similar quizzes — at least when it came to the sun and Earth question. Only 66 percent of European Union residents answered that one correctly.

    We won’t know the full results of the survey—or its methodology—until the National Science Foundation delivers its report to President Obama and U.S. lawmakers. But on this evidence we may end up getting a new national holiday out of this: Spread the Word That the Earth Revolves Around the Sun Day.

  • 4

    Just another nutty professor displays publicly his ignorance.

  • 4

    Dr. David writes “The obscenity called Palestine, which American and Israeli public opinion alone in the world does not fathom, is of course a common cause of all Muslim political and cultural angst.”

    Perhaps he means the obcenity called Palestine & Isreal”?

    • 1

      The obscenity is Israel, imposed on the world after WW2, and NOT Palestine.

  • 0

    You are silly to have a wet soft spot for Obama. OBAMA and Cameron were responsible for destroying the secular non-Islamist Libya where Gaddaffi had come out of his radical ways to seek rapproachment with the West. Look at how Wahabi Sunni terrorists are now controlling parts of Libya. Look at Obama’s duplicitous policies in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood won fair and free elections but they started following a backward Islamist agenda in a way and not in a secular manner. Obama instigated the US funded US controlled rich and corrupt but secular, Egyptian army to overthrow a democratic government. Egypt is the second largest recipient of US aid: most of it is military aid. Israel is no 1. But pragmatic smart leaders of Egypt and Jordan accept and recognize Israel’s RIGHT TO EXIST as a nation. The foolish hatefill Tribals governing Oil Rich Saudi Arabia and some of the other potentates which are not democracies either, do not even want to recognize Israels right to exist. Iran also does not accept this fact. Israel and Palestine could have existed side by side after 1947 if the stupid backward Tribal Arabs didn’t reject the UN resolution for the creation of TWO STATES and declared war on new Israel. The Israelis having suffered them most under christian German fascism, decided to stand up and fight with help from some western sources(not Britain because British declared war on them too). Guess what? the stupid Arabs LOST that war, they lost again in 1956 and the backward Arab armies were routed in 1967. They gained some respect in 1973 even though by the end of Yom Kippur war, Arabs were routed and the Egyptian third army was encircled on African side of Egypt after Ariel Sharon brilliantly crossed the Suez. but Arabs gained a pyrrhic victory of sorts because it led to the famous Camp David accord and Israel withdrawing from Egyptian Sinai and both recognized each other’s right to exist.

    The Arab Oil nations are backward and their mentality is backward. All these silly Muslims screaming about zionism should realize Arabs are backward and have zero gains in science, medicine, engineering or even military developments. It is Jews who are smarter and no matter what Arabs throw at them they are proud and will stand and fight and defeat Arabs who are hate filled backward Islamists. Look there are more women fighter pilots in the Israeli Airforce than women driving in Saudi Arabia.

    ISIS, BOKOHARAM and rest are all savages.. ISIS hates even Hindus and Buddhists and they think their low life savages can re-establish the ways of medieval times. Not gonna happen. Your Socialist rubbishy anti american stuff is way off. yes it is fact Taleban and Bin Laden were a creation of USA where US sent billions of dollars worth of weapons to them via Pakistan. So that part is right. However, right now ISIS and Sunni Wahabis need to be killed and wiped out like how the Tigers were wiped out. Tigers with their human shields and brutal oppression of Tamils were partially responsible for their own demise too; that is why now except the Kirubarans, Thirus and other expats yearn for Eelam wars the people in North do not want war. Wipe out ISIS the way Tigers were wiped out.

  • 0

    To destroy shiiate Iran ISIS is created by US. It’s ally Saudi hates Iran and its nuclear deal with US making Iran virtually the sub-regional power of the Persian rather Arabian (?) gulf. The position Saudi assumed so long de facto empire of gulf kingdoms after the overthrow of Saddam. US and the allies never allow Iran or Saudi to reign the gulf states so the rivalry is fomented to weaken them, no real threat to the existence of Israel!

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