The New Old Frontier Of Islamist Terror

Monday, April 5, 2021
Image credit: 
Poster MZ 6, Poster collection, Hoover Institution Library & Archives.

Image credit: 
Poster MZ 6, Poster collection, Hoover Institution Library & Archives.

Largely ignored for years, the hyper-violent Islamist terror in northern Mozambique has begun to receive international attention—now that Western oil and gas projects are threatened. As long as only impoverished locals suffered, years of beheadings and other atrocities registered only on the most avid observers. Now, as the Islamist extremists pledged to ISIS have captured Pemba, Cabo Delgado’s energy boomtown, and held it for a week, we’re interested.

And, once again, we’re missing the deep story. While the terrorists certainly want to expel the foreign presence, that’s a secondary goal. The local population remains the target. Thousands have died, with hundreds decapitated, because their version of Islam is impure.

Yet again, the Middle East has exported its inextinguishable tyranny and ferocious intolerance to Africa.

In the course of a research visit to Cabo Delgado in 2004, I found a situation not unusual in nominally Muslim stretches of Africa that left the general population less susceptible to Islamist fanaticism than Muslims elsewhere. As a bemused Western expat put it, “They’re fine Muslims during the day, but the drums come out at night.” Sincerely espousing Islam when fitting, the population still adhered to the comfortable traditions of folk religion when that better-suited their needs. Rural people who lived under medieval conditions (albeit wearing cast-off Cleveland Browns t-shirts) maintained a post-modern attitude toward faith: “Whatever works.”

This is, literally, anathema to fanatics obsessed with achieving an inhuman purity of belief. In essence, the Middle East is, again, exporting, through grim force, another alien faith on Africa. While many of the insurgents are young men recruited locally, their ideology and leadership are invasive: While the Covid pandemic has lasted over a year, the terror pandemic afflicting the globe has resisted our vaccines for generations.

Western apologists for Islamist fanaticism, be they academics or activists, have consistently refused to engage with the history of Middle-Eastern exploitation of Africa—even though Arabs have been the most-virulent slave-takers and slave-traders in history (and you will search long for records of abolition movements in the Middle East). Indeed, the greatest slave revolt in history did not occur in ancient Rome, or in Brazil or even Haiti. A millennium ago, the “Revolt of the Zanj” broke out in Basra as black slaves rose against their Arab masters. The uprising spread widely, lasted a decade, and millions died.

Slavery takes various forms, from chattel slavery to behavioral slavery under an imposed faith. ISIS, wherever its franchise appears, enslaves. And enslavement is imposed through bloody terror.

Western energy concerns have begun to withdraw from northern Mozambique. Should they continue to do so and if no whites are graphically butchered en masse, the torture and slaughter of Africans will again be reported only in stray paragraphs, if at all. And the true history of African subjugation—not the brief European interlude but nearly fourteen hundred years of Middle-Eastern slaughter and slave-taking—will continue to be ignored.