World

Islamist manifesto seen as motivator for gruesome tactics of jihadists

Washington Post columnist sees bright spots in fight against extremism

A man takes a pictures as the truck, riddled with bullets, that was driven by a man through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day is towed away by a breakdown lorry in the French Riviera city of Nice on July 15, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / BORIS HORVAT

BORIS HORVAT / AFP

What’s driving the actors behind terrorist attacks, such as the axman who seriously injured five people in Germany Monday and the truck driver who killed 84 Bastille Day revelers in Nice, as well as the fighters of the Islamic State group who behead Christians and burn “infidels”?

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius thinks he knows:

People looking for insight into the extremist strategy that inflames the fighters of the Islamic State might begin with a book chillingly titled “The Management of Savagery.”

Published in 2004 by a jihadist who called himself Abu Bakr Naji, the book posits a world in which the superpower halo of the United States has disappeared and the Muslim world within the colonial boundaries known as the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement has descended into chaos — “savagery,” as the author bluntly puts it.

The name of the author is strikingly similar to the name of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Ignatius points out that the manifesto proposes that jihadists “draw an overstretched America into a war,” while it deals with mounting domestic problems. All of this eventually will lead to exhaustion and prompt the U.S. to give up. “This strategy requires polarizing the Muslim world and convincing those moderates who had hoped for U.S. protection that it’s futile,” Ignatius explained.

The key to undermining American power is raw violence, the more shocking the better, [Naji] argues. It wasn’t just that this ultra-violence would expose the West’s feebleness but also that it would force Muslims to make a choice. In the disorder of formerly stable Arab lands, the jihadists would make their name through “management of savagery.” …

Violence is beneficial, Naji argues: “Dragging the masses into the battle requires more actions which will inflame opposition and which will make people enter into the battle, willing or unwilling. . . . We must make this battle very violent, such that death is a heartbeat away.”

Ignatius sees a ray of hope in all this, however: the jihadists are creating so much brutality and bloodshed that it appears to be alienating Muslims. “One sign of this is the broad coalition of Muslim nations that have joined the fight against the Islamic State,” the columnist points out.

“Two factors should be encouraging,” Ignatius concludes. “First, the West isn’t so exhausted that its halo of power has disappeared altogether; and second, most Muslim states (with little apparent public opposition) seem as disgusted by the ultra-violence of the Islamic State as the West — and ready to join a coalition to fight it.”

Shawn Neal

John Burger

John Burger is a news editor at Aleteia. He formerly worked at the National Catholic Register and Catholic New York in the Archdiocese of New York. He has also written for a wide variety of Catholic publications.