Hamas has been presented by many in the West, and especially in the media, as a legitimate liberation movement that should be officially recognised by Western states. This view accepts almost intuitively that radical Islamist terrorist groups are the only true and authentic representatives of their societies and nations.
Other powerful forces within these societies are ignored. It is argued that Western governments should recognise these "moderate" Islamist movements that have a political wing, have entered the democratic process in their countries and have gained legitimacy from large constituencies within their own societies. Another argument is that violent movements have always influenced world history, and that, historically, states finally had to deal with terrorists who later became leaders of their new nations or of political parties within their states. Based on these precedents it is argued that recognition, negotiation and appeasement are the best way of dealing with them.
Most of these commentators have a shaky knowledge of Islam, accepting the myth that it is inherently a religion of peace and tolerance. They reason that expressions of violence by Muslims are not rooted in Islam, but in the oppression and poverty of the Muslim masses whose most basic need is to be liberated from their oppressors. This of course is basic Marxist theory incorporated as well into Christian Liberation Theology. These observers advocate that Western governments engage in dialogue with Islamist terror groups, get to understand them better, and induce them to participate in a peace process along the lines of South Africa and Northern Ireland. Such observers seem to be ignorant of the fact that Islamists are masters of taqiyya, the long standing Islamic practice of deception in favour of Islam and its goals. Islamists will not knowingly convey to a Westerner their true aims and motives. There is a real danger that efforts at legitimizing Islamists will marginalise Muslim moderates, liberals, secularists and democrats who are already under tremendous pressure from the Islamists.
The brutal Hamas takeover of the Gaza strip in mid-June 2007, which included murders of wounded Fatah soldiers in their hospital beds in full view of patients and staff and the throwing down of the President's cook from the roof of a 15 storey building, shows that Hamas fully ascribes to the radical Islamist doctrine of emulating Muhammad's migration model (hijra) by stages(1). This is a staged programme that seeks to establish an Islamic state under shari'a modelled on Muhammad's practice. Islamists are out to capture the state in stages following Muhammad's paradigm of first setting up an alternative Islamic society which when strong enough will take over full control of the state and its centres of power. The methods are dictated by the stage in which the movement finds itself: in the first stage of weakness it focuses on peaceful mission work recruiting individuals to its ranks. In the second stage of consolidation it organises its infrastructure, builds up its armed forces and engages in dissimulation such as the acceptance of the democratic process in order to strengthen its position. Finally in the stage of strength, when it deems the right time has come and it is strong enough, it uses violence with no holds barred to take over the state and initiate a jihadi campaign to expand its sphere of dominion. A similar process has been going on in Lebanon with Hizbullah, which is poised to take over the centres of power and the state itself from the legitimate Lebanese government.
It is time leaders in the West recognise that Islamists are focused on gaining ultimate power in all states and societies they operate in. Appeasement only encourages them to speed up their programme in the face of perceived weakness of their enemies. The lesson from Gaza is that it was a mistake to allow Hamas to build up its military wing over decades. It was a mistake to allow it to build up its social infrastructure as an alternative to that of the official Palestinian Authority. It was a mistake to allow it to enter the political democratic process as a legitimate party while maintaining and expanding its military wing.
For those with eyes to see, similar processes are underway among the Muslim communities in Western states, including Britain, as Islamists build up a vast infrastructure of organisations and institutions while presenting themselves as liberal and democratic. There can be no doubt that their final goal, according to their published dogmas, remains an Islamic state under shari'a. The tactics will differ and change, but the goal remains the same and the method of attaining it in well defined stages will continue to be used. Most Islamists in the West reckon they have moved past the first stage into the second, that of building up and strengthening their infrastructure while using deception to enter the democratic process so as to gain new positions of power. Once they judge they are strong enough, they will move into the third stage of power when violence will be used, if necessary, to gain total control of state and society.
(1) Fatah itself also has a history of brutality, especially as perpetrated by its al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.