(CNSNews.com) - Radical Muslims engaged in holy war -- jihadis -- are waging a worldwide campaign to advance their goals, particularly in moderate Arab states, in Russia, and in the liberal democracies of the West, according to Walid Phares, author of "The Confrontation: Winning the War Against Future Jihad."
Phares, in a recent lecture at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said the jihadis' international campaign should not be seen as a hodgepodge reaction to Western foreign policy but as a structured and well-organized movement.
For instance, Phares said that extremist Muslims have successfully engaged in the war of ideas and penetrated the educational and policy centers of Western democracies.
"Jihadis have inserted into the Western education system tens of millions of dollars in campuses, think tanks, and beyond," said Phares. "That has created a systemic change that created one or two generations of analysts and experts who impact decision-makers who did not see the threat coming because they were under the influence of the money."
Islamic scholar Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, founder and president of the libertarian think tank Minaret of Freedom, said Phares's notion of a highly organized, structured campaign to penetrate the policy processes of free countries is not accurate. The radical Islamist movement, in Ahmad's view, is scattered and is motivated by Western foreign policies that are perceived as meddling in Islamic affairs.
"I am not aware of any evidence to support" the Phares's claims, said Ahmad. "If he means there are people with extreme views in American think tanks and colleges, then, of course, that's true. But a suggestion that there is some sort of conspiracy to affect American policy is silly."
The problem is foreign policy and dictatorial regimes in the Middle East, said Ahmad. "Violent extremism in Islam is absolutely a reaction to American foreign policy and intervention from other powers like France," he said. "Radical Islam has become a problem for the world because it has been nurtured by the existence of occupations and foreign meddling."
Phares told Cybercast News Service it would be a mistake to view the jihad movement as a random or disorganized response to the West's foreign policies.
"We are not dealing with a mere reaction to foreign policy," he said. "It cannot be defined as such. The global jihad movement has a doctrine and world vision."
"It is sui generis, born of a vision," said Phares. "This is absolutely clear if you can see it. You have to see it. Though we don't see clearly the nervous system of the Muslim brotherhood or Al Qaeda, for example, we do see the organization in their network. We see the organization even though we don't see the actual center."
Ahmed agreed that jihadis communicate with each other and do so effectively. "But my knowledge is that it is a network rather than an organization," he said. "I think people who have done detailed studies support this idea."
In addition to being an author, Phares is a senior fellow and a director of the Future Terrorism Department at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, teaches at the National Defense University.