The Real Root Cause

As the investigation into yesterday’s unsuccessful attacks in London and the manhunt for suspects proceeds, it becomes increasingly likely the perpetrators were members of the same organization that carried out the 7/7 attacks. Police indicate the backpacks, explosives and design of the bombs were identical to those used in 7/7. The bombs contained nails to maximize their killing power. A suspect wearing a backpack and winter coat was killed by police in the London tubes.

The attacks on London have given the Jihadis the opportunity to voice their opinion on the legal justification of suicide bombing, the murdering of innocents and the role Islam plays in violent jihad. Jihadi scholars openly voice opinions contrary to Professor Robert A. Pape’s claim that suicide bombers are motivated by the “occupation” of Muslim lands and not Islamist fundamentalism.

Omar Bakri Mohammed, one of Britain’s resident jihadi clerics speaks out, and gives lie to Professor Pape’s statements. His contempt for westerners, Muslims who assimilate and the country which he resides is palpable. “Self-sacrifice operations” are an inherent duty of Muslims, according to Bakri.

He branded any Muslims who attended the Trafalgar Square vigil last week as “hypocrites and apostates”. In an interview, Bakri said: “God forbids us from praying with Jews and Christians side by side. These are part-time Muslims or chocolate Muslims. I cannot be British. I cannot be English. Even if I change my colour, like Michael Jackson, I could not be English  This is a way of life in Iraq and in Palestine. The self-sacrifice operation, it is the Islamic way of life for those who resist. Self-sacrifice operations in Muslim countries, it is part of the Islamic culture.”

The Salafist Group for Prayer and Combat (GSPC), a violent Algerian terrorist group that has openly allied itself with al Qaeda, recently issued a statement of support for the London attacks, and reiterated the religious responsibility of Muslims to “terrorize our enemies” .

As long as Britain remains in a state of hatred and disbelief, then terrorizing it is a duty because it has appropriated the responsibility of fighting and wounding the Muslims and stealing their natural resources. Also, it supports America, the Jews, the Arab oppressors, and everyone else who is fighting against Islam in the new crusader war against so-called terrorism in Afghanistan, Iraq, and against the mujahideen everywhere… It is incorrect to claim that [British] civilians are innocents since most of the men and women are considered combatants by Islamic law because general public surveys have shown that the majority of the British people support Tony Blair in his war against the Muslims and mujahideen.

Regarding the children and women, while children are indeed innocent civilians and should not be deliberately killed if they are recognized by the attacker as children; however, if it is difficult to distinguish children from other people surrounding them (i.e. in a group of people) then killing them is permitted…Islam has ordered us to terrorize our enemies and whoever denies that is an infidel himself. Terrorizing our infidel enemies is a legal obligation. Whoever says that Islam is not related to terrorism has committed an infidel act–terror comes from Islam.

The GSPC’s interpretation of the obligations of Muslims for wage jihad is the prevailing view in the Salafi/jihadi intellectual circles. In an analysis of a fatwa (religious edict) issued to refute jihadi cleric Abu Basir al-Tartusi’s condemnation of the London 7/7 attack, Reuven Paz provides further examples of justification for terrorism and suicide operations. [Hat tip to The Counterterrorism Blog. Note: names of clerics have been edited out for readability.]

According to the author of the counter-Fatwa himself, the response to Abu Basir is composed in the style and form of the legal Islamist justifications for the September 11 attacks, written by a number of clerics  using his almost identical title (The Base of Legitimacy for the Destruction in the U.S.); the famous fatwas of the Saudis  and the article by the Egyptian Jihadist  titled- “This is a public statement – Terrorism is part of Islam, and whoever denies it is an Infidel.” The position that Islamists should be proud to be called ‘terrorists’ since it is part of Islam is a well-known argument that has been made by several Jihadi-Salafi scholars and clerics, since September 11, 2001. In October 2004, that argument was made even by an Iraqi Shi`i cleric  who published this unusual position, in a pamphlet titled “There is no Jihad without Terrorism.”

Professor Pape’s theory shrouds the nature of the enemy we fight and rejects the statements of the jihadi theorists and practitioners. Ignoring the motivations of our enemy will lead to disastrous policy. Stating the Western “occupation” of Muslim land is the root cause of terrorism naturally leads to a policy of withdrawal from the Middle East and any other nation the extremist believe to be Muslim lands (like Spain). Professor Pape’s definition of occupation is so nebulous as to be meaningless, as by his lights the elected Iraqi government is occupying Iraq, the House of Saud is occupying Saudi Arabia, etc. Occupation to the jihadis includes any foreign presence in their lands.

Withdrawal from the Middle East would provide a false sense of security for the West, cede the initiative to the jihadis, allow them to gain strength, and delay the inevitable confrontation, a confrontation that will be fought on their terms, not ours.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.


  • vucommodore says:

    Professor’s Pape’s analysis is right in MOST cases. Most terrorist organization’s have been motivated by freedom-type causes. However, Al Qaeda and this form of terrorism though is the exception.
    Overally, this thread is pretty accurate. The Salafist/Wahhabist ideology is what is driving this terrorism.

  • Justin Capone says:

    Most people in Britian and the US believe that it was the coalition being in Iraq that was to blame for the attacks. I have the feeling that we really need to increased support for the war in Iraq at least in the US and our closest allies if we are going to be able to fight this war effectively. As long as the European and no Americans are extremely unhappy about the US being in Iraq we are going to have trouble not just waging the Iraq War, but also the entire War on Terror.
    General Mattis said last year the center of gravity for the war is the US public, if that is the case the war is nearly lost.
    look at these numbers, and of course Zarqawi’s daily suicide bombers (mass killing civilians) are to blame more then anything else.

  • Justin Capone says:

    Bah, I meant to say
    “As long as the European and Americans are extremely unhappy about the war in Iraq we are going to have trouble not just waging the Iraq War, but also the entire War on Terror.”
    And, the link again is

  • Justin Capone says:

    More Americans Believe Iraq War Hurts Fight Against Terrorism
    WASHINGTON, D.C., Jul 22 (OneWorld) – Nearly half of Americans say the war in Iraq has hurt what the White House calls its ”war on terror”–the highest percentage since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003–according to a major new poll released Thursday in the immediate aftermath of the latest bomb attacks in London.
    The survey, by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, also showed that 49 percent of respondents now believe that Washington should set a timetable for withdrawing from Iraq.
    Forty-five percent of Americans believe that the war in Iraq has increased the chances of terrorist attacks in the United States, up from 36 percent last October, the Pew survey said.
    This number has shot up big time since the London bombings, it looks like the US public is quickly losing its will to fight and terrorists attacks on our allies now damage the support for the War.

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    CNN/NY Times/LA Times Headline – war in Iraq increases terror risk
    Poll next day – more people believe terror risk increased by war in Iraq
    Pentagon Declares “Victory at Hand”…US public demands US troops return now
    Pentagon Declares “Defeat Certain”…US public demands US troops return now
    Reality – insurgencies ebb and flow…the Iraq insurgency is on a 7 month cycle…the last peak occurring June 6th, which was 50% the previous peak.
    Source hostile-non hostile deaths by month(chart)

  • Justin Capone says:

    Yes, insurgencies ebb and flow, but they also take time, lots of time, and given public support for the war time is right now not on our side.
    If the Constitution isn’t drafted and we aren’t able to have elections in the next 6-9 months support for the war will be near non-existant.

  • Brad J says:

    These islamic radicals are going to learn the hard way that “freedom of speech” does not mean “freedom to say anything”.

  • Walter E. Wallis says:

    We need to burn the infestation out in the nest. Anyone who advocates the destruction of the United States should be killed. Anyone who obstructs that should loose their freedom, or at least their right to vote and hold office.

  • Justin Capone says:

    At least 49 killed in Egypt and hundreds are wounded and the toll is climbing from several car bombs.

  • lgude says:

    The defeatism in the polls mentioned and reflected in the comments seems to me to reflect a very high level of defeatism in the west. I think it is based on an illusion that if we just stopped opposing them the terrorists they would stop. That illusion is based as far as I can see on the belief that the west is responsible for the state of mind that leads to terrorism. Specifically the belief that the root causes are a reaction to western colonialism and that even the Iraq war is just an extension of that colonialism. I think this view fails to see that Islamic terrorism is an integral part of the culture from which it arises. Many people have suffered under colonialism in one form or another- India, China, South and Central America yet it is only the Muslim culture that has produced a suicide bombing Jihadi movement. Colonialism is only a contributory factor. Even the distortions introduced into Muslim countries by oil money and its misspending and maldistribution are still only contributory. Until the opponents of the war, the timetable for withdrawal crowd, and the root causers get it that the juhadis are going to keep coming at the west, the west will be divided. Perhaps those of us who supportthe war should cross over and oppose it so that we all get a taste of real defeat so nearly everyone can see that appeasement isn’t going to work. Or would that be too Stalinist of me?


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram