February 3, 2015 · 12:44 pm
BLOG 238 February 2, 2015
Of course, the terrorist spill over in France and Belgium continues to create concern. The beheading of a Japanese journalist on Saturday conveys how ruthless and tyrannical the ISIS group and other jihadists truly are. After these attacks, one jihadist said, “Is there anything better than jihad or martyr?”
The attacks in France have backfired in Belgium. Terrorist are being identified and rounded-up. Pieter Van Ostaeyen, a Belgian researcher said the actual number of jihadists in Belgium is around 450, less that half of what France had to deal with. On the other hand, that is still a large number in a country of only 11 million people. The large Muslim population amounts to 5 percent of the population. For example, in the Molenbeek district that are 22 known mosques and that is four times the number of churches in the same area. It is suspected there are other secret mosques in the area and the police are hot on their trail.
The reason for this large number of mosques can be found in the unemployment statistics in the Molenbeek district. The unemployment rate is 40 percent and the district is the second poorest area in Beligum. Within this area are groups like Sharia4Belgium that are actively recruiting for fighter in Syria. This group’s leader Fouad Belkacem has a long arrest record for crimes like theft and assault.
The mayor Francoise Schepman believes that the “social networking” on the streets produces these jihadists. She notes that they could have just as easily tumbled into criminality. The recruiting approach is an appeal to their exclusion from the larger society. Of course, Muslims are well known for not amalgamating with the local society. Unemployment and social struggles are a more significant factors that religious conviction she believes.
On the other side of the world, the government of Yemen has undergone a violent change through the attacks of the Houthis group. It would appear the United States is a big loser. Signs proclaim, “Death to American, death to Israel, damnation to the Jews.” The Houthis wear these mottos on their arm bands, paint them on buildings and walls.
Their political convictions appear to be obvious.
However, on the scene political observers suggest it may not be as bad as it first appeared. They note Houthis is not Hezbollah. Charles Schmitz, an expert on the group and professor at Towson University, says the group has deep roots in Yemen, going back thousands of years. While they do have an alliance with Iran, it is believed they will not do the bidding of Iran. Houthis are also bitter opponents of Al Qaeda who consider all Shiite Muslims to be apostates. Others note there is more common ground between Houthis and America than might be expected at first glance. It is hoped that now that they are in power, the Houthis will seek some form of relationship with the United States.
The world of jihadists terrorism and revolution continues to evolve. It is always a challenge to stay up with the players.
Stay tuned. More to come.
January 19, 2015 · 7:13 pm
BLOG 235 January 19, 2015
The past week has exploded with jihadist terrorists spreading terror in Paris and across Europe. However, a second look suggests, the Al-Qada and ISIS extremists have not come off nearly as good as the media coverage of the two hits in Paris might portray. In fact, the extremists are in a worse position as the week comes to an end.
The attack on the Charlie Hebodo weekly and the kosher supermarket killed 20 people but left the three jihadists dead and their female accomplice on the run. In turn, anti-terrorist raids across Europe captured dozens of these criminals. In Brussels, Belgium, the army hit the streets to stop potential attacks by Mideast Islamic extremists. French, Germany, Belgian, and Irish police captured 30 extremists and put them in jail. Rifles, hand guns, and explosives were captured. Police uniforms were found that suggested an attack was planned by terrorists masquerading as police officers. In the eastern industrial city of Verviers two suspects were killed and a third wounded.
With the largest rally in French history filling the street with millions declaring that freedom of speech would not be halted, French president Francois Hollande put 122,000 police on high alert and sent ships to the Middle East. Far from crippling Europe, the jihadist are on the run.
The truth is that ISIS fighters are losing ground in the Middle East. More than a thousand militants were killed and territory lost in the border town of Kolani that stands on the edge of Syria and Turkey. USA led air strikes and Kurdish fighters have turned back the jihadists. No longer can the Islamic State fighters claim unstoppable momentum and inevitable victory. This loss of ground also robs ISIS of the psychological edge used for recruitment and intimidation. The truth is that extremists have been knocked backward. The US-led coalition air strikes tipped the balance of power,
In response to the French national rallies supporting Charlie Hebdo, two churches were burned in Niger. The death toil rose to 5 after a burned body was found in a Roman Catholic Church. Of course, the churches and their congregations had nothing to do with the rallies in far off France. But again, another meaning is hidden in this disruption. The antagonists revealed their hatred of Christians. For many of these jihadists, they see themselves in a religious war. Their violence gives the West a clear read on what they are about.
When you add up the score, the terrorists are actually not doing so well. Hard days are ahead for them.
September 9, 2014 · 9:29 pm
BLOG 217 – September 8, 2014
Like it or not, the American public must take a second and more penetrating look at the crisis that has evolved in Iraq. While it is true President Obama ran on the promise to get America out of Middle Eastern wars and Iraq in particular, he has been dilatory in his slow response to this new crisis. The hastiness of the Bush-Cheney era has caused Obama to be overly cautious in reacting to severe changes in the Syrian crisis. Probably one of his biggest errors was drawing a line in the sand over the use of chemical weapons in Syria’s civil war, retreating, and then calling on Putin to pull him out. Now, Putin’s aggression in the Ukraine is a sign of his reading Obama as a paper tiger.
The West can’t allow such indecision with ISIS.
ISIS is a lineal descendant of al Qaeda and its efforts in Iraq. When Sadaam fell, a vacuum was left and the remaining government proved to be prejudiced and inept. Jordanian Abu Musab al Zarqawi moved in and set up shop in Iraq. Instead of listening to guidance from al Qaeda, he exploited the growing sectarian grievance with the Prime Minister Nouri Malaki. Zarqaui was betting Iraq could be overturned in a civil war that would give Sunnis more power in the country. By creating a radical Islamist country, Zarqawi looked toward a superstate that would be able to create the unity that existed in the early days of Islam. Consequently, the current barbaric killings and assassinations reflect his thinking.
An air strike in 2006 killed Zarqawi, but he was close to achieving his goal. However, his vision survived and moved men and equipment to Syria to fight against Assad and the Alawite sect. During the civil war, the army grew as they robbed banks and stole loot on both sides of the Syrian-Iraqi border. American did nothing.
As time progressed, the original al Qaeda organization distanced itself from this movement because of its violence. What worried Ayman al Zawahiri (Ben Ladin’s successor) was the violence of this group toward other Muslims. There was no middle ground or allowance for a variation of opinion. Their motto was “join, fall on your face, or die!” They proved to be particularly strong in working the “dying” angle.
Out of this cauldron of intolerance and pain came the ISIS movement that swept across Iraq and immediately captured Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq. Of course, the ISIS movement has a visceral hatred for America and Israel –their ultimate objectives for attack. Should they be able to attack an American target, they would recruit a new army of extremist overnight. One of the greatest dangers of this organization at this point is their persistent ability to sweep through Iraq and appear invincible. The ISIS organization knows well how to make propaganda out of such an endeavor. The two recent be-headings were aimed for recruiting purposes.
Unfortunately for ISIS, their barbarism has back-fired as recent American missile strikes have demonstrated. Rather than creating fear, they have raised the ire of Western nations that are now coming for them. The time is long passed getting serious. If America doesn’t stop them today, the US will face a more terrible threat tomorrow.
May 11, 2013 · 1:43 pm
A communiqué came across my desk that you should know about. As I have reported in other blogs, there is an on-going tension between Islam, Jews, and Christians that has been exacerbated in recent years when the extremist wing of Islam became a terrorist force in the Middle East. Previously Christians, Jews, and Muslims lived side-by-side with little tension. Unfortunately, this reality has shifted and war escalates the problem. Here’s the problem you should know about.
On April 22, Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim, head of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Aleppo and Bishop Boulos Yaziji from the Greek Orthodox Church were kidnapped. They had travelled to the Turkish border to negotiate the release of two priests that had been kidnapped in February. The driver of their car was later killed, leaving behind a wife and two children. The tragic situation created intense alarm.
Since their captive, nothing has been heard of from these two important leaders. During this time, efforts have been made at all levels to obtain their release. The Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the East released a communiqué requesting all members of their churches to pray for the release of these men. Because the Eastern Orthodox Churches operate on a different calendar from the West, they are just now approaching their Palm Sunday and Easter season. The communiqué will be read in all of their churches and prayers offered for the return of Patriarchs John X and Ignatius Zakka Iwas I.
The civil war in Syria has fundamentally been between Sunnis, Shei’ites and Alawaits. However, from the days of Bashar’s father the Assad regime has protected minorities that include Christians. Consequently, the Christian community has tended to support the Assads. Possible, this history has come back to haunt these two significant church leaders if captured by Muslim rebels.
Of course, holding people who are considered opposition for ransom is an old story. However, capturing church officials of such high rank is an exception. Possibly, some small rebel unit that has not been that significant could be behind the capture. Such a possibility could make this abduction even more dangerous.
The bishops are hoping that Syrian Christians will not see this incident as an incentive to leave the country, but I am sure it will have exactly that effect. Please join with me in praying for these two leaders and their people.
As General Sherman observed during the American Civil War, war is hell.