September 24th, 2013
09:49 AM ET

Zakaria: Jihadi ideology one of great cancers at heart of Muslim world

CNN speaks with Fareed about the Nairobi attack, reports that attackers singled out non-Muslims as infidels for slaughter, and a suicide bombing at a church in Pakistan that killed 81 people.

What's going on here with these attacks on Christians? Now, there are reports in Kenya, a slaughter of Christians in Pakistan. We know Coptic Christians in Egypt have been targeted, including at their church. Give us some perspective.

It’s a very serious and tragic situation. Remember, many of these groups have always had this kind of very strong, violent attitude towards what they regard as heretics, any non-Muslims. What's interesting here is in most cases, these terror groups are now attacking locals because they have despaired of the prospect of doing the kind of large attacks on Americans, on American military installations.

In al-Shabaab’s case, they have been driven back in Somalia very effectively. But it’s always possible to attack civilians. It’s always possible to do terrorism. So, where they are failing to advance politically and even militarily in places like Somalia, in Pakistan, they then turn to these more spectacular acts of terrorism as a way of getting attention.

But underlying it is, of course, a very hateful ideology. It is at some level a sign of their weakness, but it’s also a sign of this incredibly warped agenda they have. You know, it has happened quietly for years now. The Christians in Iraq have fled in droves. There used to be, I think, close to a million Christians in Iraq. They’re down to a few hundred thousand.

More from CNN: Could Kenya-style attack happen here?

Egypt is having the same problems. In Syria, many of the Syrian Christians fear that these jihadi groups are going to do the same thing to them and they have begun to flee. This is one of the great cancers at the heart of the Muslim world.

On the other subject that's big here at the U.N. this week, the possible meeting between President Obama and the new Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani. I know there are pros and cons and we're hearing from U.S. officials no final decision has been made. Where do you think this decision should be?

I certainly think that the secretary of state should meet with President Rouhani, if that's possible. I know that's not quite at the same level, but often that does happen. Whether the president should meet with him, I think, would depend on whether or not they got some really encouraging signs out of the Iranians.

I would be hesitant about a presidential meeting. That's a prize that the Iranians probably want and it's probably worth delaying that until there are some actual achievements on the ground. But what is coming out of Iran right now, it’s just all quite encouraging. There has been a consistent pattern. It has come out of the mouth of the president, the foreign minister and the supreme leader.

Perhaps the most encouraging thing was last week, when the supreme leader talked about the importance of flexibility in negotiations. He talked about how Iran had no intention of ever having a nuclear weapon, that this was not something it was doing to please the Americans, that it was un-Islamic. He also said crucially to the revolutionary guard – the hard line elements of Iran – he said your job is to defend the republic, not to be involved in public policy and foreign policy.

That was a way of telling them, let the president take the lead role here. So all of this is very encouraging. It has to be tested, but you know how do you test it? So, I would say at least John Kerry should begin some kind of process of human contact. Remember, we have not had any contact with Iran in any meaningful sense since 1979.

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Topics: Islam • Terrorism

soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. sand

    this attack was great long live islam only islam.

    September 24, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • Towel Head Detector

      Warning!!!!!!!.........Warning!!!!!!!!!!............Warning!!!!!!!!!!!!........Towel Head detected!!!!!!!!!!!

      September 24, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
    • maryam

      Following the violent path of Shaytaan will allow you to be embraced by him in the end.

      September 25, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
  2. Towel Heads

    Towel Heads is what Towel Heads do.

    September 24, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
  3. JAL

    I think the ideas of Jihad are misinterpreted. Want to fix the world? Look inward, only.

    September 24, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
  4. Josh

    The President of Iran said "Iran had no intention of ever having a nuclear weapon, that this was not something it was doing to please the Americans, that it was un-Islamic."
    Let's try to understand this.... Having a nuclear weapon is un-Islamic, whereas punishment by beheading is an acceptable Islamic practice in Sharia law?
    Is that really believable???

    September 24, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
  5. Phelix Unger

    Somebody should tell Pakistan that their being un-islamic. It may be a good sign that Iran has come so far as to want to discuss its nuclear program, just because they are showing a willingness to deal with this issue doesn't mean a whole bunch. How long has North Korea been playing the on, then off again game with its own nuclear program. Iran is not talking about drawing its people out of Syria, its not talking about ending the years of suppying weapons to Hezbollah. This is strictly about getting the sanctions lifted, I don't think the US is in any hurry to lift the sanctions and they shouldn't be. Iran may have finally come to the table, but they are mistaken to think that they will control these talks. Rouhani has said that he would like to resolve the issue of the sanctions in three months or at the longest six months. This won't be happening and he knows this, he just trying to make America look bad by saying to the world " look we are ready to talk, yet the Americans won't deal". By doing this he hopes to bring legitimacy to his governments plans and their continued support of the nuclear program and the assistance Iran provides to the Syrian regime as well as Hexbollah. He might as well cool his jets because this will be longer then six months.

    September 26, 2013 at 9:36 am |
  6. Mikey

    Based on Statistics:
    ISLAM=TERRORISM=ISLAM => PAKISTAN INVOLVED SOMEWHERE ALONG THE LINE in each terrorist activity => PAKISTAN ARMY (which rules Pakistan with a puppet government)

    September 28, 2013 at 10:54 am |
  7. j. von hettlingen

    Indeed, what these Islamists want is attention. The attack on the Westgate Mall had been possible, because of the inability of the Kenyan security to act efficiently. We in the West are more vigilant and wary of the possibility that Islamists could also target crowds at venues.

    September 30, 2013 at 9:35 am |

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