“Islamic radicalism in Southeast Asia is not a sudden and recent phenomenon. In reality, it has been in the making for more than 20 years; its roots originate in events in the Middle East, the effects of which have reverberated worldwide. This in turn was facilitated by the impact of globalization and technological advancement. However, the catalytic role played by Al-Qaeda, especially since the early 1990s, is perhaps the single most significant factor in the global terrorist threat confronting the world today.” (Desker, 2003, p.491)
The seeds for Islamic militancy against western targets were sown by three major events of western intervention in Islamic affairs. The first and the seemingly perennial of the three is the Israel-Palestine conflict. Ever since the installation of Israel in 1948, a status of second-class citizenship was imposed on the native Arab Muslims in the region. American interference in Iran, where it deposed democratically elected government and handed over the reigns to the Shah. The subsequent dilution in Islamic values in Iran as a result of Shah’s inclination toward modernity and his apathy toward declining economic conditions had enraged Iranians, a radical section of who have pledged participation in Jihad. And thirdly, when the United States and the erstwhile Soviet Union played out their Cold war conflict in Afghanistan, its people felt “used and exploited” by the hegemonic western powers (Charle, 2003, p.19). These blatant political indiscretions on part of the First World and the more subtle cultural imperialism in the form of capitalism and material consumerism have provided sound rationale for organizations such as Al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah to fight for their right to self-determination. Any action on part of the Australian government to tighten security should be historically informed. Otherwise, the primary causes for Islamic militancy will continue to provide more emotional and intellectual fodder for violent responses (Charle, 2003, p.19).
The most brutal act of terrorism to date on western interests has been the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon. Nearly 3000 innocent civilians perished in this event. Following this, there were bombings in London subway and Madrid. While the casualties on these later attacks did not run into the thousands, they nevertheless increased the fear and threat of terrorism in the First World. The closest act of terrorism near Australian soil was the Bali bombing of October 2002. This was the Jihadists’ way of warning Australia and deterring it in collaborating with the United States. But unfortunately, the message was ignored by the Australian government, putting its citizens at ever greater risk. Bali might not be officially Australian soil, but with the organization and skill with which the Islamic militants operate, it might not be long before Australia is made to pay for its ill advised alliance with imperialists further north (Ronczkowski, 2004, p.102).
The key to the success of outfits such as Jemaah Islamiah and Al Qaeda is their common precept. These organizations are not defined by distinguishable from one another, for they all claim to fight for Islam in their respective regions. The following passage explains how Osama bin Laden was able to bring together people of different ethnic and national identity under his leadership: