Is Sunni Extremism Getting out of Hand? And what to do about it...

Today's Norway bombing may still turn out not to be perpetrated by Sunni Extremists, however this is the current hypothesis (the article on this link was amended later to point to what is known at this moment that the shooting and probably the bombing were all the doing of a lonely white norwegian man acting on the basis of probably right wing political motives including hatred of Islam).

Sunni extremism has a long history of being used by different countries to fulfill a political aganda. The Mujahidin were used by the west in order to oust the soviet republic from Afghanistan. But this utlimately resulted, after the end of the war in Afghanistan, with a disorientation of the goals of jihad to finally rest their sight on the US with multiple targets hit by Bin Laden and his allies over several years that culminated in 9/11. Whatever the official reasons behind 9/11, the reality is that global sunni jihad was getting out of hand the moment it losts its main enemy, the USSR. New goals were eyed by these jihadis including their own home countries, mainly Saudi Arabia and Yemen. This is probably the main reason why Saudi Arabia worked tirelessly to maintain the money flowing to the global sunni jihad while succeeding at keeping its monarchy out of its line of sight. Evidence from the 9/11 commission points to this complexe relationship between the kingdom and the global sunni jihad.

There are also many local examples in the ME of this flow of Sunni jihad from one country in crisis to another. Lebanon experienced this first hand when an extremist sunni group, Fatah El Islam, fought the Lebanese army for three months in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr El Bared which led to the total destruction of the camp in 2007. This group was formed by former Al Qaida combatants in Iraq. It infiltrated Palestinian camps in Lebanon with the financial help of local sunni politicians.

Similarly, there is a flow of sunni jihadis now from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, from where the US has been reducing its military presence and from where Nato, exhausted by the Lybian campaign, will be pulling out soon, to countries experiencing the Arab spring. The Arab spring could well be hijacked by these extremist movements. In Syria for example a genuine revolution based on specific grievances turned quickly to an organised armed revolt the Syrian government has been fighting for the last four months with these movements. There is an indication that Syrian exiles, as well as Lebanese politicians who are opposed to the Assad regime, are trying to use these movements. There is also an indication that the Lybian revolution has been infiltrated by Al Qaida.

There is actually two possibilities to contain this flow of sunni jihadis:

1. The jihadis are used in an open sectarian war against Shias and this is a prospect the neocons, Israel and Saudi Arabia have been caressing recently because it serves the immediate political goals of each of these countries or political movements. It keeps the kingdom and other Arab monarchies, for now, out of the line of sight of the jihadis for political vindication and unrest due to the fact that the Arab spring proved to be a fertile ground for Sunni Islamist groups activism, and for the neocons and Israel, it pits sunnis against shias, a strife that may keep Arabs busy and Israel safe to occupy and oppress, with its usual unrestrained will, Palestinians and the land of Palestine...The Arab spring took Arab monarchies by surprise and they are trying now to protect themselves against it while playing the counter revolution in countries where the Arab spring took hold by using Sunni extremists.

This scenario is gloomy since, even though it may cynically seem at first contained to the US, Israel and the EU, touching only middle eastern countries where citizen lives are of absolutely no importance to the west, there is no guarantee that it will not spill and materialise in terror threats in the west, since the west will be actively engaged in the political transformations and wars of middle eastern countries, as ever.

2. The west is serious about the war on terror and will work to contain the global jihadi network with its many affiliates. In this case, the west won't be fuelling sectarian sunni-shia tensions and wars in the middle east since these wars will increase the likelihood that we will not be able to get rid of this network for a long time and that the west might see some of its side effects if we are to believe that 9/11 was a side effect of the end of the war in Afghanistan against the USSR.

There are many indications now that we are heading for the first case scenario, the first of these indications is the Qatari channel Al-Jazeera's misleading coverage of Syria spilling sectarian hate through sunni tele-preacher and Al-Jazeera frequent commentator, Al Qaradawi*, from day one of the Syrian revolt. But those who think that sunni-shia tensions will somehow weaken the global sunni jihadis might just be playing with fire, because as much as they think they are using these sunni jihadis to attain their political goals, as much as those same jihadis will be using them to attain their own political goals and it will be a slow war of attrition, including many regional wars, for which Arabs and Muslims will pay a hefty price in lives, livelihood, progress and development...

*Al Qaradawi moving to Norway!

Initial claim of responsibility for the Oslo attack.

Norway charges radical cleric with death threats.

P.S. A reader commented on the term 'Sunni extremism'. He wrote that 'Salafi' would be a fairer term. I think he is right. However, I chose 'Sunni extremism' because this extremism is actually condoned by countries with a Sunni majority like Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries who finance the terrorists worldwide in their operations against western targets and direct them regionally at shias in Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.


Syrian Commando said...

I would call it Salafi extremism not Sunni extremism myself, but otherwise quite accurate.

Sophia said...


You are right, it is a bit controversial to use this term. The term is used however by experts on terrorism, and I did some search before using the term.

Where I think it is justified to use it is where this kind of extremism is directed at shias and used to highten sectarian tensions between sunnis and shias.

Since March 29th 2006