I know it sounds bizarre to us –how exactly does one attack a holiday, and who could hate Christmas so?– but it’s not as farfetched as one might think. In an article for PJ Media, Bridget Johnson looks at the religious angle to what fools were initially describing as “workplace violence:”
But there’s been little attention paid to why [jihadist Syed] Farook’s co-workers were gathered together, technically away from their workplace: the Christmas party.
And terrorist groups have a fondness for the holiday season.
In 2001, shoe bomber Richard Reid attempted to down a transatlantic American Airlines flight on Dec. 22. Acting for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight heading from Amsterdam into Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009. On Christmas Day 2011, Boko Haram launched a series of strikes against churches in four cities that killed 41.
That spring, AQAP released an issue of Inspire magazine that explicitly suggested staging attacks during the holiday season and exploiting Christmas for strategic advantage.
In a bomb-making how-to with the AQ Chef — the nom de guerre for al-Qaeda’s bomb instructor for “open-source jihadists” — the magazine stressed that “choosing the place and time is a crucial factor to success in any operation. Choose targets in your own country. You know the enemy better, you are within.”
Suggested targets were sporting events, election campaign, festivals and any other gatherings regardless of whether or not there’s a landmark involved — “the important thing is that you target people and not buildings.”
Recommended times to strike? Christmas and campaign season, said Inspire.
There’s more: be sure to read it.
One thing many people don’t realize is that, for the jihadist, this is a religious war. Sure, we might recognize that superficially, but most of us don’t really understand its implications. This is a war waged by adherents of one religion, Islam, against all other religions to prove that their god is superior (“Allahu akbar!” means “Allah is greater!”), to reserve all worship for him, alone, and to subjugate and even destroy the other religions, which are seen as, at best, misguided (Christianity), or at worst as downright evil. (Hinduism and Judaism, for example.) The Believer is under religious command to fight these other religions:
And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out, and persecution is severer than slaughter, and do not fight with them at the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you in it, but if they do fight you, then slay them; such is the recompense of the unbelievers. But if they desist, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. And fight with them until there is no persecution, and religion should be only for Allah, but if they desist, then there should be no hostility except against the oppressors.
(See also, for more)
Like I said, the concept is almost incomprehensible to us Westerners, raised in a secularized, rational society shaped by the Enlightenment, something the Islamic world has never experienced. We burned that need to make war on other religions out of our psyches during the horrific religious wars in Europe in the 16th and, especially, the 17th centuries.
True though it is that the West is still superb when it comes to waging war –we can fight and win savage wars to the death when needed– we don’t go attacking Christmas parties. That makes no sense to us from a military standpoint and it offends our sense of decency.
But, to the jihadist Muslim, it makes perfect sense because the religion is the real target, and therefore you must attack its symbols and celebrations. By doing so you tell its believers that their religion is weak or false, that their god cannot protect them, that safety only lies in submission or conversion to your religion.
When your Lord revealed to the angels: I am with you, therefore make firm those who believe. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.
This is why Syed Farook and his wife attacked the Christmas party and killed their coworkers and their guests. It wasn’t just a soft, undefended target — it was a celebration of the enemy religion and thus a legitimate target.
This is a religious war, with all the implications those words carry. And until we understand the doctrines and teachings of the religion for which this war is waged —Islam— we’re going to keep losing.