What if it's not just al-Qaeda?
“Shocking”. That was the general assessment in the UK in July 2005 as the public learned that the London bombers were British. In 2007, it is the UK medical community that is in shock in discovering that the London and Glascow bombers worked in their field.
Above all, these revelations damaged the reputation of British investigators who were working overtime to prevent such attacks. In both cases, the terrorist profile did not correspond to that drawn up by police.
The first conclusion to be drawn is that social status and poverty have nothing to do with the root cause of terrorism. Many observers had ascribed the attraction of Jihadism or Islamism to young people to idleness, lack of education and unemployment, as was the case with the 2007 Casablanca bombers. Those behind the attacks of September 11, 2001, in the United States all had an advanced education: they were engineers, technicians or other professionals. Ayman el-Zawahiri himself is a physician just as the authors of the recent attack in London. Without forgetting that Osama Bin Laden is a very rich Saudi millionaire. Also to be noted that most of them led a quiet life, were married and had children.
But another aspect must be pointed out. Jihadist ideology does not have a national dimension. It is equally erroneous to ascribe terrorism to a specific conflict. The end of the Israeli-Palestinian problem is not going to resolve the issue. Nor is the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. Salafist Islamic thought has, in effect, transcended nationalism to become a transnational belief. Any time there is a real or imagined threat to Islam somewhere in the world, a believer is obliged to support his co-religionists. From the independence movement in East Timor to the Afghani resistance to the former USSR or to NATO, without forgetting the Islamic veil affair or the cartoons of the Prophet, from Kosovo to Bosnia, from Lebanon to Chechnya -all these events are seen as an attack on the Islamic umma. Sitting in his living room watching the TV, a British Islamist may be feel concern as he views the images from the war in Iraq or in Afghanistan. An Egyptian Islamist is revolted by the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, while an Algerian Islamist feels obliged to fight alongside his co-religionists in Kosovo or Chechnya.
Thus, globalization and the blossoming of means of communication (Internet, cable TV) are going to help Islamist ideology to spread rapidly and efficiently, chipping away at the nationalist or moderate Islamist domain. Hence, to the Salafists, modern states, democracy and human rights are all manifestations of Westernism which aim at sullying “pure Islam”. Suddenly, the enemies of Islam are not only non-Muslims, but any Muslim who associates with and accepts the different Western systems. The recent message from Zawahiri a few days ago confirms the shift to attacking Arab political regimes and pro-Western Muslims.
Obviously, this analysis inspires little optimism because the multiplication of Islamist actors throughout the world is not solely based on an international terrorism network linked to al-Qaeda. Islamist cells in Western countries and even in the Near and Middle East are proliferating more and more on their own. Thus, there exists millions of anonymous actors ready to enter into action at any time, in Great Britain, in the United States, in Spain, in Morocco, or in Lebanon without a direct link to the shadowy Osama Bin Laden. Today, al-Qaeda no longer appears to be an organization that directs a international terrorist network. It is merely the most well-know entity of a Jihadist movement founded on engaged and violent Islamist ideology.