“The potency of Al-Qaeda rests in its ability to channel the Islamic forces it inspires. More than any other leader before him, Osama bin Laden has been able to unify radical Islam and to focus its rage. However, Osama’s success must be seen in the context of two parallel historical developments–namely, the polarization of Islamic extremist forces coinciding with a broader current of increasing religious orthodoxy and the politicization of the ‘ummah’ (Islamic community) throughout the world. These phenomena have been going on for more than the last 20 years.” (Burke, 2004, p.19)
Location/Area of Operation:
A powerful leader such as bin Laden was able to successfully franchise Islamic Jihad to a broad range of local Muslims, each with their own unique history of suffering and grievances. Hence, there is an aspect of fluidity in the locations/regions in which various units operate. Jemaah Islamiah was initially founded in Singapore, but now has spread its tentacles to other parts of South East Asia. It now poses the greatest threat to Australian interests. But even Jemaah Islamiah was inspired by Osama bin Laden and in that sense all these terrorist groups with different labels are essentially the same for all practical purposes. In other words, the common mandate provided by Osama bin Laden–a broad based jihad against the enemies of Islam–facilitates these outfits to persevere with their domestic struggles, but is contained within the broader global cause, namely, the defence of Islam. In Southeast Asia, some important groups that came under the influence of Al-Qaeda, include “the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), the KMM, and Jemaah Islamiah” (Bleiker, 2003, p.430).
According to Malaysian intelligence sources, Jemaah Islamiah’s leader Hambali, who also has links to Al Qaeda has close to half a million US dollars for carrying out his operations. In Islamic society, social cohesion is high and class differences are mitigated by universal brotherhood. Hence, there is an array of sources from which these Islamist organizations gather their funds. These are:
* Cash brought into the country by individuals
* Funds skimmed from Islamic charities
* Corporate entities (some very overt, others are self-sustaining fronts for terrorist activities)
* Proceeds from hawala shops and gold sales
* Contributions (zakat and infaq) from its own members
* Contributions (infaq) from outsiders
* Al Qaeda investments and accounts already established in the region, especially in the region’s Islamic banks, and
* Petty crime, racketeering, extortion, gun-running and kidnapping (Zachary, 2003, p.174).