The blind soldiers of Islam

The two deadly bomb attacks on the Moscow metro were harsh reminders that Russia continues to be a target of Islamic terrorism. Other links in this chain of bloodshed over the past few years were the attack on the Chechen capital Grozny, the bombing of two Tupolev passenger planes and the siege of a school in Beslan, northern Ossetia. Even though it would be a mistake to link the Chechen separatist movement to al-Qaida, it is obvious that there is a certain level of cooperation given the Islamic fundamentalist component; the «black widows» who caused the Moscow attack were members of the self-proclaimed «Caucasus Emirate» of Doku Umarov. The term Islamic terrorism alludes to the common denominator of Islamic fundamentalism, but also to a practice that has no moral compunction. Blind violence and the use of any means to cultivate fear in the enemy are acceptable. The enemy, meanwhile, is not just the machinery of a regime, the enemy is Western values, the ideological legacy of the Enlightenment. Islamic fundamentalism represents an asymmetrical threat and, on an ideological level, is a war of civilizations. This aspect is even more pronounced in al-Qaida’s international network but it also has a knock-on effect on Islamic fundamentalists acting on the national level. The Chechen militants are no exception even though their target is always Russia. Part of this violence stems from Russia’s own occupation of the region and the brutal repression suffered at the hands of pro-Moscow regimes in Chechnya. Complete hatred breaks all the written and unwritten agreements forged by humanity to define the nature of conflict, while repression becomes a hothouse for recruiting soldiers to the cause. From the moment that these «soldiers» feel they are sacrificing themselves for the common good, they have no moral qualms, not even about causing the death of children. Politics on its own does not lead to such extreme reactions. The catalyst here is the religious framework and the Islamic concept of «holy war.»