Islam’s Radical Fringe
Even though, out of roughly 1.5 billion Muslims, Islamist radicals are but a tiny minority, many Americans would like to believe that there are vast numbers of moderate Muslims in the world who will rein in the small factions of radical Islamists.
Although there are few Muslims who are willing to strap a bomb around their waist, extremists nevertheless enjoy an extensive base of moral and material support. Countless international polls show that approval for Islamic violence is widespread. A 2011 Pew global research poll revealed that even though support for al Qaeda is declining, support for the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah is still strong in Islamic countries—42% – 61% in Jordan, Egypt and Palestinian territories; 33% – 38% in Lebanon and Indonesia, and 5% – 14% in Turkey and Pakistan. Among these same countries, support for suicide bombings against civilians ranged from 4% to 68%—averaging 23.5% for all seven nations. These percentages add up to tens of millions of potential aides and sponsors of terrorism from these countries alone. Globally, the number could be in the hundreds of millions.
Support for terrorism does not stop at U.S. shores. A recent study published in the Middle East Quarterly concluded that of 100 U.S. mosques surveyed, a total of 81% had literature that either directly advocated violence (51%), or supported violence (30%), in the interest of spreading Islam and implementing Shariah law. Also, although Muslim-Americans are apparently more culturally assimilated than their community and religious leaders or their European counterparts, a 2011 Pew research poll found that a total of 13% of Muslim-Americans believe that suicide bombings against civilians can be justified—5% rarely, 7% sometimes, and 1% often. With an estimated American Muslim population of 2.75 million, this translates to 220,000 Muslims (8%) who sometimes or often support suicide bombings. Vigorous efforts are underway to recruit these as potential terrorists from the fringes of the Muslim community. In view of the 9/11 attacks and the Fort Hood shooting, their possible impact could be much larger than their small numbers suggest.
Moderate Muslims will also not rein in radical Islamists as extremists are the ones who drive the train. In many Muslim countries the majority does not rule. Instead, a fervent minority imposes its agenda on large populations through persuasion, or, failing that, through intimidation – often justified by appeals to Islamic tenets. This model was developed in the seventh century by Muhammad and the first generation of Muslims: a relatively small band of followers conquered and converted the entire Arabian peninsula by the sword in fewer than 30 years, during which thousands of Arabs and Jews were slaughtered. The promise of democracy, heralded by the so-called Arab spring, is already being extinguished by the sword of Muslim supremacism. If there is a large majority of moderate Muslims, they are either unable or unwilling to resist the advance of Islamists.
To put this “tiny minority” of extremists in perspective, consider the numbers. Muslim world population is approaching two billion. Even a “tiny minority,” say 1%, would number 20 million (not to mention the tens of millions of willing adherents). Though scattered throughout the world, this is an army sufficient to destabilize governments, subvert cultures, and terrorize millions of innocent people. There have been, since 9/11, tens of thousands of documented terrorist attacks carried out by this “tiny minority” of Islamic supremacists.