Why the Disturbing Silence on Jihadi Violence Against Those Who Do Not Share Their Religious Worldview?

Woke and political correctness cultures prevent us from talking honestly about the single greatest terrorism threat globally: that carried out by jihadis

This piece first appeared in The Epoch Times Canada on May 15, 2024.

Why does no one seem to care that jihadis target other religions?

We in Canada and elsewhere in the West live currently in a secular society, with church and state separated.

In general, the West derives from a predominantly Christian culture and some nations—here I am thinking primarily of the United States—are still overtly beholden to Christian tenets. And yet, mostly through immigration, we have seen an increase in adherents to other beliefs. While there are exceptions, we all seem to get along.  This is consistent with the idea of a “post-religious society” where citizens have no issue with anyone following his or her own sect (provided it does not interfere with the actions and freedoms of the rest of us).

More recently, however, and especially since Israel’s war in Gaza in the aftermath of the barbaric terrorist attack by Hamas in the south of Israel last October, we hear constantly of a rise in religious hatred. The two most common accusations are anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. In typical Canadian fashion, officials are quick to condemn both (a good thing) although I suspect acts against Jews (threats and violence) are orders of magnitude higher than those against Muslims (in fairness, I have seen no concrete statistics).

And yet there is a disturbing silence when it comes to community rejection of and speaking out against groups which clearly threaten those of another faith and vow to kill them. ISIS is a good example. Several of its African “provinces” regularly attack Christians and brag about it in their online publications. Recently, the terrorist group claimed to have attacked Christian villages in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique, burned churches, schools, and houses, and killed civilians.

ISIS-Khorasan, the most lethal branch of late, told its followers in January of this year, “Lions of Islam: Chase your preys whether Jewish, Christian or their allies, on the streets and roads of America, Europe, and the world.”

These actions are of course not new. Under its so-called caliphate, ISIS systematically killed Yazidi men and raped/enslaved Yazidi women, having dismissed this ethno-religious community as “devil-worshippers.” Hamas, a listed terrorist entity in Canada, in its original covenant calls for the destruction of Israel and even the killing of Jews (it cites religious sources to justify this plan). A little aside from the conviction by some that Hamas is a heroic resistance movement, no?

I fail to understand two things. Firstly, why these terrorist intentions seem to fly under the radar. Even when I worked as a terrorism analyst at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) in the 2000s and 2010s, organizations like ISIS and al-Qaeda were very good at putting out propaganda (two of the more popular publications were Inspire and Dabiq) in which they listed their successes, cited religious texts to support their violence, encouraged others to “join the caravan,” and sought to instill fear in the rest of us. This information and the explicit plans of these groups is publicly available: you don’t have to be an intelligence professional to access it. I suspect two of the reasons for its under-reporting are a sense of post-9/11 fatigue (more than two decades of the ill-named “war on terrorism”) and a sense that calling this what it is constitutes “racism.”

Secondly is the conviction that this form of terrorism has been eclipsed by other forms—namely varieties of far-right extremism. This belief is mystifying, as the statistics, again publicly available, show a very different picture. Well-researched studies, such as the annual Global Terrorism Index, demonstrate categorically that jihadi violence rules the terrorism waves as it has for the last four decades. While it is true that the far right is a growing concern, it has a long way to go before it approaches the level of death and destruction carried out by Islamist terrorists.

The debate on what to do about terrorism needs to be based on reliable data, not feelings or suspicions. That jihadis seek the utter annihilation of those who do not share their religious worldview—Christians, Jews, Yazidis, Hindus and, yes, other Muslims—is one of those facts. It must be acknowledged before we can get anywhere. Complaining of Islamophobic insults pales in comparison to having your head removed from your body (i.e., decapitation, usually of a Christian or Jew).

We need to be honest in our comparisons and not give in to common, inaccurate tropes.  We need to call this what it is: Islamist terrorism.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.