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Understanding Islamic Militancy; Part I: Where is the Most Trouble?

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The issue of Islamic militancy, violence and unrest appears more and more in the international media. We are asking why and now envision a series of researched essays to forge a better understanding of this phenomena.

In this first article, we are attempting to document the places in the world most impacted by Islamic militancy and unrest. We need your help. Please you can post comments here, post comments on this article at "Peace and Freedom" click here or you can email your information, facts and references to jecarey2603@cox.net to contribute to our understanding.

Southern Thailand

The death toll in the sectarian violence in southern Thailand is now approaching 2,000 over the course of the last three years. Muslims in Yala and two other southern Thai provinces want their own Muslim state.

Beheadings and other atrocities are common.

The government of the previous Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was unable to control the violence and was deposed by a bloodless military coup last September. But the new Thai government as been equally unable to stem the violence.We frequently hear from Wantanee in Thailand who gives us insights and reports.

Philippines

Islam may be the oldest organized religion to be established in the Philippines. Muslim traders brought Islam to the Philippines as early as the 14th century.

Today Filipino Muslims only form about 5% of the country's population, while the rest of the general population are mostly Roman Catholic (84%) and Protestant (8%).

Friction between the Muslim south and Christian north has been a continual problem for centuries. Occasionally, it flares up into open conflict. The largest guerilla force is currently the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). They claim to control 26 southern "territories;" but the government only credits them with controlling only ten.

The MILF wants to form its own government and break away from the Philippines.

Western China

The government of China says its western most province of Xinjiang is alive with Islamic separatists. Xinjiang borders the Tibet Autonomous Region to the south, Mongolia to the east, Russia to the north, and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and the Pakistan-India controlled parts of Kashmir to the west. Xinjiang is somewhat like the autonomous tribal regions of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border where national police and armed forces fear for their lives.

Pakistan-Afghanistan Border

The border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan is a largely uncontrolled area. Not only is human traffic between Afghanistan and Pakistan largely unregulated but there are also camps of Muslim rebels and terrorists in this mountainous region. The government of Pakistan claims to have made inroads in regulating the area but many of these steps have been tentative.

Pakistan is becoming more strident in defending its war against terror record.

The speech of Pakistan's Foreign Minister at the February 9-11 43rd Munich Conference on Security was recorded this way:

"In a flaming speech, Mian Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, defended his country against accusations as to a lack of commitment in the fight against international terrorism. Mr. Kasuri cited a long list of measures taken by Pakistan to support its neighboring country to the west and to prevent the infiltration of Taliban fighters. For example, 1,000 posts had been set up at the Afghan-Pakistani border. As this alone would not suffice, biometric identification procedures were now being introduced as well. In contrast, the Afghan side had just under 100 posts, he added. What was more, over 700 Pakistani soldiers had lost their lives in border fights. Mr. Kasuri explained that military force could only be one element of a holistic security concept, and that socio-economic programs had been initiated in the tribal areas of the border regions. These programs were successful in marginalizing the extremists. When seen in overall context, his efforts were testimony to his country's interest in a stable and prosperous neighbor. "

We frequently hear from Muhammad in this region and we thank him for his regular reports.

Somalia

After the failed U.S. Army humanitarian operation in Somalia from August 1992 to March 1994, the government was practically non existent. Rebels and tribal leaders attempted to assert control. Al Qaida targeted the area as a potential region to establish Islamic terrorist training areas. Recently, a movement has been made toward all inclusive diplomatic talks to get Somalia on the road toward lawful government.

The UN and others want the talks to include prominent Somali warlords, leaders of the breakaway Somaliland region and leaders of the ousted Islamic movement.

Somalia remains a very troubled land.

Afghanistan

Islamic radicals continue to engage in conflict against U.S. and NATO troops. The Muslim people of Afghanistan are mostly tribal and follow their orders from their tribal elders. We talked recently to some Afghanis who expressed revulsion at the use of suicide bombers in religious strife.

Iraq

The U.S. effort to establish a democratic government has been marred by sectarian violence.

All Around Israel

Lebanon seems to be a nation divided with Hezbollah fomenting unrest that could lead to Civil War. In the Gaza strip peace has eluded Israel and may still be a long time in coming.

Russia

In Russia's Tatarstan region more and more young people are switching from Western-style dress to Muslim attire. More than just a fashion, the trend reflects a surging interest in Islam among the youth of this largely Muslim region on the Volga River, some 450 miles east of Moscow. Violence still sometimes erupts in Chechnya.

The population of Chechnya is largely Muslim and has been striving for years for complete autonomy from Russia.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the government of the republic of Chechnya declared independence, calling itself the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. Only one other "nation" recognized this claim: the Afghan Taliban government, which was subsequently ousted by the U.S.

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John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.

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