Lessons from Beslan

9 years ago, on September 1st 2004, a hostage crisis involving the capture of more than a thousand innocent people took place in a school in the small town of Beslan. As a result of this barbaric act of terrorism, 380 persons died including a great number of children. The tragic nature of those events and the sadness permeating their memory taught the world another lesson uncovering the horrific plight caused by Islamic terrorism. Nothing, no objective, no ideology and no belief can justify the atrocities committed under the black banner of international Jihadism. While the dead of Beslan should be remembered, their souls need to be honored through our alertness in the face of Islamic terrorism as we seek to grasp its nature, its modus operandi and its goals.

It is an outmost error to think that terrorism is only a tool used by certain movements at certain periods of time to further a political goal. Cultural relativists would like to impose a vision in which Jihadist movements worldwide are linked to an overall rational strategy that uses the targeting of civilians simply as a method among others to obtain a given result. Islamist terrorism is not a tool; it is a goal in itself. Hundreds of thousands of blood thirsty killers operating from Morocco to Somalia, from Syria to Yemen and from Chechnya to Indonesia see in the destruction of innocent lives their only way of obtaining a place in a supposed paradise. The killings of civilians through rocket fire, suicide attacks, beheadings and mass killings cannot be linked to any rational long term strategy as these acts will in no way provide loose terrorist organizations with anything else but gruesome notoriety. The fact that these hordes of soulless assassins are fully detached from reality becomes visible through their continuous quest to conduct genocidal attacks. while they are nothing more than the most vivid example of their relentless effort to spread annihilation. Jihadists consider themselves to be the spearhead of an imagined divine army that achieves salvation through destruction. No negotiated process and no rational discussion can be undertaken with a group of people that not only disregards human life but also harbors a deep love for death as a measure of personal achievement.

It is an outmost error to think that Jihadist terrorism is a regional threat restricted to a few locations in the world. International Islamic terrorism spreads like a cancer to all places providing a viable environment. From the periphery of the Russian Federation to the opera houses of its capital, from fast-foods and buses in Israel to villages in Syria and the suburbs of European metropolis, the global wave of Islamist death cannot be differentiated by superficial objectives. The supposed liberation of a dreamed Palestinian land is no different than the fight for a Chechnya or Mesopotamian state. In the same way, the conversion of Europeans and the cessation of combat operations in Afghanistan are similar to the fight against the Algerian or Nigerian government. The essence of Islamist terror is found in a global will to kill and destroy everything that is not part of the Jihadi group in itself. As Algerians and other Arabs took part in the killing of innocent children in the school of Beslan, Chinese and Africans are now part of the Syrian branches of Al Qaeda to destroy the country’s Christian population and its social fabric. Because of its nature and operating structure, Jihad is vowed to be global. Since in the Islamic vision of geopolitics the world is divided between Dar al Islam and Dar al Harb, no peace can be expected with those who are not Muslims. Even the non-Jihadi Muslim are deemed not devout enough to escape the sword of the terrorist rage.

It is an outmost lie that terrorism stems from national aspirations. No Islamist terrorist organization should ever obtain a state or any kind of international recognition as a result of its murderous fever. Hamas’ ideology, supposedly based on Palestinian statehood is nothing less than a first step to the destruction of anything that is not Muslim in the Land of Israel. Al Qaeda objectives in Syria and Iraq cannot possibly be limited to territorial gains as the genocidal annihilation of all minorities and their religious places is the evident structure of their modus operandi. For this, the international community must agree on the fact that Jihad should never be a tool leading terrorist movements to recognition.

While the slaughter of innocent civilians in the school of Beslan is remembered, the opportunity for policymakers, commentators and good-willed citizens to condemn unanimously Islamist terrorism is once again in their hands. In days of grief, the world leaders and individuals should conduct a deep soul searching to understand how their actions and decisions may be facilitating the work of those who live to kill us.

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About the Author
Riccardo Dugulin is an independant international affairs analyst. He holds a Master in International Security from the Paris School of International Affairs (Sciences Po) and has worked in leading think tanks in Washington DC, Beirut and Dubai and has held the position of security coordinator for a security assistance firm.