Combating Islamist ideology and understanding the Islamism-Antisemitism nexus will be key in the battle against terrorism and antisemitism
A review of terrorist acts over the last 15 years shows a sharp rise of Islamist terrorism– that is, terrorist acts justified by an Islamist-Jihadist ideology, the perpetrators’ interpretation of “true” Islam. Most indications suggest that Jihadist terror attacks are likely to increase worldwide in the next few years, particularly in Africa and Western Europe but in the US, as well. Security measures will have to be increased, possibly to similar levels instituted in Israel, a country which has been confronted with Islamist terrorism for decades and whose experiences might be valuable in preventing and fighting terror in other countries. The revelation that Jihadists in Brussels, affiliated with the Islamic State, are interested in nuclear sites has contributed to fears of even more devastating attacks.
As has often been pointed out, the fight against terrorism can only be successful if its ideology is confronted, as well. However, journalists and politicians do not even agree on the terminology to describe this threat. Some omit any reference to Islamism and even terrorism experts and experts of Jihadism often lack an understanding of the antisemitic ideology that is a core element of the radical nature and irrationality of Islamism. Few attempt to understand (and counter) the ideology driving the perpetrators. Indeed, many commentators rationalize and effectively justify terrorism by subscribing to the portrayal of the perpetrator as angry underdog, protesting injustice on a global scale rather than pinpointing the Islamist and radical antisemitic worldview at the core of Jihadist ideology.
Suicide attacks as strategic warfare have become a key and celebrated element of Jihadism, as well as a highly effective tool in spreading terror. Despite scriptural passages from the Qu’ran forbidding both suicide and the killing of innocent civilians, Islamists find ways to justify its use. It has been argued that Shia Islamists and Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeni, in particular, introduced this form of warfare in the 1980s. Support for suicide attacks is a minority position among Muslims, but is not negligible. At the end of 2011, 15 % of Muslims polled in Turkey believed attacks against civilians in defense of Islam can be often/sometimes justified. Support for suicide attacks were found to be 29 % in Egypt, 12 % in Tunisia, 9 % in Morocco, and 11 % in Kosovo, respectively. Earlier research demonstrated support for terror attacks to be higher among younger Muslim populations.
After reviewing PEW and World Values Survey data on attitudes among Muslims in a number of countries, Arno Tausch came to the “conclusion that it would be wrong to define radical Islamism only in terms of the identification with outright support for the immediate ‘bomb-throwing terror’, while neglecting the underlying ideological and dangerous radicalism and also ongoing radicalization of such organizations as the Muslim Brotherhood or the Turkish Milli Görüs, which both start, like the most radicalized factions of Islamist terrorism, from the intense hatred of ‘Jews and Free Masons’ and Western civilization as such, and which for many on both sides of the Atlantic appear as ‘moderate Islamists’ and worthy partners of dialogue, while in reality they provide the fertile ground from which the armed terrorist groups only can develop.” A rejection of Sharia law, on the other hand, correlates with the rejection of Islamist violence.
One of the prime target groups for terror has been Jews, as a review of the last fifteen years of Islamist terror demonstrates. Indeed, many of the terrorists’ methods have been “tested” first on Jewish diaspora communities and Israel before being applied to other groups, making the Jews a veritable canary in the coal mine. Jihadist terrorists today operate and threaten civilians in almost all countries, but the majority of attacks and victims are still in Muslim countries—interestingly, in countries where Sharia forms an integral part of society and law (one of the aims of Islamist organizations). This may be an indication that appeasing Islamists by accommodating some of their demands is not a successful strategy.
Other preferred targets aside from Jews and the general public consist of tourists, soldiers, “islamophobes” (such as Salman Rushdi, Theo van Gogh, or Charlie Hebdo journalists), and the police. This is no coincidence but rather a reflection of the ideology and strategy of Islamists. Islamists endeavor to build a society under (their interpretation of) Sharia law. In an Islamist worldview, democracy, that is, man-made laws, are evil. Islamists therefore see themselves in conflict or war against all who do not accept a Sharia-based society. What is more, Islamists perceive Islam to be under attack by non-Muslims on a global scale. In this Manichean and conspirationalist worldview “the Jew” becomes a symbol for evil, represented by the individual Jew. Jews are seen as those who are behind the alleged war against Islam and Muslims worldwide. It is therefore no surprise that Jihadists target Jews.
A brief examination of the history of the ideology of Islamist groups demonstrates this mindset is intertwined with a hatred of democracy. Sayyid Qutb, one of the most important Muslim Brotherhood ideologues whose pamphlets are widely circulated among Islamists, expounded on this theme in his influential book with the telling title “Our Struggle Against the Jews.”
 Bassam Tibi, Islamism and Islam (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012); Bassam Tibi, “From Sayyid Qutb to Hamas: The Middle East Conflict and the Islamization of Antisemitism,” in Global Antisemitism: A Crisis of Modernity Vol. IV, ed. Charles Asher Small (New York, NY: Institute for the Study of Global antisemitism and Policy, 2013), 21–46.
 The first Islamists to employ suicidal war methods were Iranian Shia, sending young boys knowingly into the minefields in the Iran-Iraq war in 1982. Khomeni, the leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, argued in 1980 that “soldiers of God” are provided gratification through their mere participation in the conflict. Access to paradise is allegedly granted to those who perish in the violent conflict with the “enemies of Islam.” This was taken up quickly by Shia Islamists in Lebanon from 1982 onward. Richard L. Rubenstein, Jihad and Genocide (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2011). See also Matthias Küntzel, “Die Menschheit muss Selbstmordattentate ächten,” Die Welt, March 24, 2016.
 PEW Research Center, “The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society,” 2013, 70.
 Arno Tausch, “Occidentalism, Terrorism, and the Shari’a State: New Multivariate Perspectives on Islamism Based on International Survey Data,” February 12, 2016, 22–23, http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2731640.