Though a vast majority of Muslims oppose violent extremism, it is a reality that most extremist and terrorist violence does occur in largely Muslim states, although it mostly consists of attacks by Muslim extremists on fellow Muslims and not some clash between civilizations.
Non-state actors who while not affiliated with, directed by, or funded through any sovereign government, often exercising significant political influence and territorial control, are increasingly calling the shots in world affairs much to the detriment of peace, progress, and development.
Terror is creating extreme fear in the face of violence. Terror is also an instrument of the weak to fight, in an unorganized manner in the face of profound grievance perceived or real. Using terror to instill fear is an age-old tactic. However, only in recent times has terrorism been recognized as the unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence directed primarily at civilian targets, or which produces primarily civilian casualties or causes property damage, to coerce or intimidate governments or societies to achieve political, religious, or ideological objectives. Militancy refers to extremist groups that seek to achieve everything through war or violence. There is a debate about true militancy. Because, for some, it is a struggle for survival, for others it is a struggle for independence, for some it is a struggle for establishing ideals and for others it is a terrorist act. All said and done militancy operates in an informal sector and is often termed a non-state action, meaning it has no legitimate backing.
Active terrorist groups
The Middle East The ongoing war in Gaza, prompted by a deadly terrorist attack by the Palestinian militant group HAMAS on Israel on 7 October 2023, poses a new challenge with the conflict spreading to other areas of the Middle East (ME) and possibly beyond. The immediate focus of the World today is on the instability in the shipping lanes of the Red Sea passing through the Strait of Bab al-Mandab and the Gulf of Aden, through which more than 12% of world trade passes, caused by the attacks by the Houthi militia from Yemen, in support of HAMAS. Most shipping companies have been forced to divert their merchant ships on a longer route via the Cape of Good Hope, in southern Africa, to avoid being hijacked or attacked by the Houthis. This adds more than 10 days of travel, delaying deliveries and increasing costs of goods and raw materials such as gas and oil, which in the past passed through the Red Sea and entered the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal. The attacks on commercial shipping by militia have even reached the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. The main fear is another rise in the price of oil. According to the IMF, a 10% increase in crude oil prices would reduce global gross domestic product by about 0.2% and would increase inflation between 0.2 and 0.4%. A widespread disruption in world trade is imminent. This illustrates that these militant groups can cause chaos to peace and economy across the world through their illegal actions.
This conflict has also brought to the fore the dangers posed by Islamic militant and terrorist groups in the Middle East and also in some other parts of the world. Prominent active militant/terrorist groups in the ME area are HAMAS in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis of Yemen. In addition, there are the primary terrorist threats in Iraq, from ISIS remnants and various Iran-aligned militia groups (IAMGs), including U.S.-designated Kata’ib Hizballah, also, Harakat al-Nujaba, and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, as well as smaller militias claiming to be a part of Iraq’s “Islamic Resistance.” There is an active presence of terrorist threats in Syria too. The Syrian government repeatedly claimed that the actions of security forces against the Syrian civil war were a response to armed attacks by "terrorist gangs", a claim strangely rejected by Western human rights groups, Western governments, and other observers.
Afghanistan-Pakistan border Since the Afghan Taliban reclaimed power in Kabul, there has been a gradual increase in terrorist acts in the region. The Afghanistan-Pakistan border has been the main theater of vulnerability. There has been rising insecurity in Pakistan being posed by banned outfits such as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), Baloch Nationalist Army (BNA), Sindhudesh People’s Army (SPA), and Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP). Terrorism trends over the two years indicate that militant activities will continue to target security forces, particularly the army and police. KP and Balochistan would continue to be under the target of banned terror outfits, which may become a looming threat for the major metropolitan cities of Pakistan.
India–Pakistan border The more prominent terror groups active from Pakistan across the India-Pakistan border, now mostly in the Union Territory of J&K, are Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET), changed name to Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM), Harakat-ul Jihad Islami (HUJI, Harakat ul-Mujahidin (HUM) and Hizbul Mujahideen (HM). These groups, for now, do not pose a problem outside this area.
The following link will give details of most militant / terror groups across the world. https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/references/terrorist-organizations/
Nonstate actors and radical Islam
This draws attention to the elephant in the room – radical Islam and militancy. While Muslims aim to clear up misconceptions about their faith, the religion continues to spread rapidly. Today, Islam is the world’s fastest-growing religion. It is easy not to pick on the small threat the Islamist extremists pose to non-Muslims in the West and demonize Islam and drift into some form of Islamophobia – blaming religion for violence driven by a tiny fraction of the world’s Muslims and by many other factors like population, failed governance, and weak economic development. There also could be a trend to avoid analyzing the links between extremist violence and Islam objectively so as to not antagonize Muslim countries, who themselves may be quiet on the issue fearing reprisals from the same extremist groups. Though a vast majority of Muslims oppose violent extremism, it is a reality that most extremist and terrorist violence does occur in largely Muslim states, although it mostly consists of attacks by Muslim extremists on fellow Muslims and not some clash between civilizations.
Call out militancy and terrorism
That Islam is the very predominant religion in the Middle East region has not helped to stem the geopolitical instability in the region, with the presence of many militant and terrorist groups in the area. The reasons for militant and terrorist groups thriving there can also be attributed now to the presence of the State of Israel in the Levant, the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, and more importantly the endless internal squabbles among various sects of Islam. In recent years,
Islam’s association with terrorism and mass murders has thrown up the controversial term “radical Islam” to describe its connection to acts of violence. Recent surveys have found that countries where Muslims are in the majority have overwhelmingly negative views of terrorist and militia groups. It is time Muslim nations call out the terrorists and the militants while withdrawing any clandestine moral and monetary support given to them. All grievances perceived by these groups can be adequately addressed by the Muslim nations if they have a will. The world must work towards this.
(The author is an Indian Army veteran and a contemporary affairs commentator. The views are personal. He can be reached at email@example.com )