Monday, February 9, 2009

Islamic Website Called for 'Forest Jihad' - But Still No Evidence in Victoria

(Why do I use the phrase "Islamic website" in this post? Al-Ikhlas Islamic Network made it, and they clearly think they're Islamic.)

I think we may be seeing the phrase "forest jihad" for a while. The idea that Australia's bushfires in Victoria were the work of Muslim terrorists has been discussed in a few online news services, and the catchy phrase "forest jihad" has been used.

Australian Police still haven't mentioned evidence that Islamic terrorists torched Victoria. Yes, South Australian Premier Mike Rann said that whoever set the fire were "terrorists" - but he's a politico, and politicians have been known to make over-the-top statements in stressful times.

Forest Jihad and Al-Ikhlas Islamic Network

A European news resource, mina, discussed "forest jihad." Looks like there's more than just wild speculation behind the idea that Islamic terrorists torched Victoria.

American intelligence spotted a website that urged Muslims in Australia, America, Europe, and Russia to torch forests - and that scholars said it was okay.

"The website, posted by a group called the Al-Ikhlas Islamic Network, argues in Arabic that lighting fires is an effective form of terrorism justified in Islamic law under the 'eye for an eye' doctrine...." (mina)

I see that, according to Al-Ikhlas Islamic Network's view of things, if the fires in Australia's Victoria state prove to be the work of lions of Islam, it will be America's fault - as well as Australia's, Europe's, and Russia's. My guess is that, at least among the more 'intelligent, open-minded' Americans, it'll be mostly America's fault.

Torching brush and letting people fry doesn't seem to be quite Al Qaeda's style: or that of any other Islamic terror outfit. Approved by scholars or not, it's just not all that macho.

Or, as an Australian professor put it, "glorious." "...Adam Dolnik, director of research at the University of Wollongong's Centre for Transnational Crime Prevention, said that bushfires (unlike suicide bombing) were generally not considered a glorious type of attack by jihadis...." (mina)

Islamic Terrorists in Victoria? Maybe - and Maybe Not

The handful of "forest jihad" articles, including mina's more detailed one, referring to a website which advocated fire as a terror weapon, make the idea of Muslim terrorists being responsible more plausible.

But I am still not convinced that it's the most likely explanation. I tend to agree with Dolnik on this point: a suicide bomber makes a much bigger splash than an arsonist.

Islamic terrorists do seem to prefer more hands-on death and destruction: whether flying airliners into skyscrapers, beheading someone with a sword, or blowing yourself up in a market. That sort of mayhem is 'glorious' in a way. Setting a fire and running: not so much.

Not Discussing the "Forest Jihad" Scenario: Conventional Wisdom vs Good Sense

I'm not surprised that the idea of Muslim terrorists being responsible for Australia's disastrous fires is being ignored in traditional news media: so far.

Old school American news media, like The New York Times and the old ABC-NBC-CBS triumvirate, have certain standards. One of these appears to be that the sensibilities of non-western cultures and beliefs should be taken into account.

So far, so good.

But, like most good ideas, it can get out of hand. It looks like open discussion of a possible connection between an Islamic website advocating 'forest jihad,' and massive bushfires in Australia, is being ignored.

Maybe 'forest jihad' isn't being ignored - but it's hard for me to believe that one man, here in a small central Minnesota town, can out-research and out-write The New York Times, and other traditional information gatekeepers.

If traditional news media knows about the possible Islamic terror connection with the Victoria fires, and isn't writing about it - they're either ignoring it, or maybe waiting until they know more.

My guess is, they're ignoring it.

There are 'good reasons' for doing so. Coming right out and saying that some Islamic group said to burn the forests, and then Victoria bushfires got set, might prejudice people against all Muslims. Never mind that it's one (relatively unknown) group, on one website: and that real terrorists who think they're defending Islam have a history of getting up close and personal with their victims (Palestinian rockets notwithstanding).

So: is it a good idea to ignore the idea of "forest jihad" because some people would go way beyond the facts?

Maybe. But those "some people" may have done so already (judging from search terms I've been seeing), I'd say that old fashioned news services ignoring an issue won't keep people from knowing about it.

Beware Unintended Consequences

Keeping carefully quiet about "forest jihad" could, however, make it look like there's a cover-up going on.

No, I don't think so.

This diffidence about discussing "forest jihad" is (I think) more likely the traditional gatekeepers' reluctance to seem critical of non-western values and cultures.

Unhappily, it creates an information vacuum (or low-pressure system, at any rate) that allows genuinely biased ideas to fly around - without resistance.

More-or-less related posts: In the news: Related posts, on tolerance, bigotry, racism, and hatred.


Anonymous said...

Re: possibility of 'forest jihad' phenomena. It may not be as 'glorious' or 'in your face' as other tactics but by no means rule it out. If given as an instruction by the more devoted Islamists to one or more of their unthinking jihadi followers (Islam means 'submission', remember), then there is no need for it to be as up close and personal and theatrical as say a suicide bombing. They play hardball and want results. Their tactics vary - the end justifying the means. It can be cases of dynamite as in the case of the exploding Buddha statues in Bamayan, IED's in Palestine and Iraq or 8 year old retarded girls with a suicide vest.

From here

we read "The posting said that setting forest fires were legal under extremist Islamic law as part of a “eye for an eye” and that can produce “amazing results.”"

Remember we are dealing with - as your Mr. Biden says - "a small number of violent extremists (who) are beyond the call of reason,"

who listen to ravings such as :

“Act like you are his friend. Then kill him.” – Sheik Muburak Gilani explaining how to kill American infidels.

The very recent prior jailing of Sheik Benbrika - for amongst other things planning to set off explosives at the Melbourne Cricket ground - could be a trigger for other psychopaths to act out their jihadi fantasies. And arson, being a crime that is hard to detect - and harder to prove intent to murder - would be an 'ideal' crime to commit.

Brian H. Gill said...


I've been collecting information about the 'forest jihad' idea. There seems to be more behind the notion than that one Islamic website.

When I've got enough, I plan to post on the topic again.

I'm not sure that the Taliban's destruction of the Bamayan Buddhas is equivalent to the abhorrent practice of using people of diminished responsibility as weapons.

At the time that the Buddhas were demolished, the Taliban was in control of the region. Their destruction was not so much an attack, as (from the Taliban's point of view) an administrative action.

Islamic terrorists, when attacking targets, do seem to like the theatrical - as you pointed out - and generally seem to prefer a hands-on approach, if only vicariously.

A relatively anonymous bushfire doesn't quite seem their style - but it is by no means inconceivable ("Sierra Madre Fire: It Could Be Worse" (April 28, 2008)).

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.