The lesson from the Boston Marathon bombings could not possibly be clearer. Yet few people, due to various complications, will address that real issue.
Part of the problem is this. Most powerful institutions and people say that Islam is a religion of peace. There’s no problem, except for a few mysterious extremists who just seem to pop up either at random or due to American and Western sins.
The next largest segment says that Islam is an inherently violent and extremist religion. Thus, since the problem is Islam, there’s nothing to do but to combat it directly in some form.
Both of the main Western responses, then, deny the importance of waging a real and serious battle within Islam.
Yet where do the terrorists come from? In the case of these two brothers, they were Muslims all of their lives and yet suddenly they became—without any major direct experience—radical terrorists.
The cause, of course, was revolutionary Islamist propaganda, especially but by no means exclusively from al-Qaeda. There are literally hundreds of Internet sites, videos, preachers, books, and everything else you can think of that promote revolutionary Islamism. They tell Muslims that they should and must be revolutionaries and terrorists; they cite holy works to do so.
What the heck is there on the other side?
Let’s think for a moment about some of the things that don’t exist:
–A Radio Free Islam that systematically preaches (the last word is not chosen at random) an anti-extremist approach to Islam. Obviously no Western government could do such a thing but there are supposedly enough wealthy Muslims to finance such an operation.
–There are virtually no programs at mosques to explain why terrorist, Islamist, and extremist Islamic positions are wrong and bad. Wrong because they don’t accord with what those who say so deem to be a “proper” Islam; bad because they are immoral, ruin the lives of those who embrace such ideology, and hold back the societies where enough people have such a view.
–There is remarkably little literature and few preachers—especially ones who are as well-financed as the radicals—that a young Muslim is going to read on Internet or hear on videos or elsewhere to learn about an alternative path.
–Where are the videos? Where are the web sites? Where is the social disapproval among Muslims?
On that basis, one could argue that there is no moderate—or at least no non-violent, non-revolutionary– Islam that can be developed. But that simply isn’t true. The works and the moderate individuals exist, but they are not given support, even in Western countries, nor do they have the resources to wage the battle. Everyone who ignorantly drones on about Islam being inevitably radical doesn’t know how hard Islamists have had to work for forty years or more to create what exists now, nor how many people who are Muslims oppose this movement in Iran, Arabic-speaking countries, Turkey, and other places. One mistake–made by President Obama in his Cairo speech among other places–is to extol Islam as the main political identity people who are Muslims should have.
Everyone who ignorantly drones on about Islam being inevitably radical based on religious texts doesn’t know how hard Islamists have had to work for forty years or more in the real world to create what exists now, nor how many people who are Muslims oppose this movement in Iran, Arabic-speaking countries, Turkey, and other places. One mistake–made by President Obama in his Cairo speech among other places–is to extol Islam as the main political identity people who are Muslims should have.
It is like the situation in the Cold War when the Soviets and their supporters were well-organized and well-financed, but the social democrats, liberals, and conservatives opposing them were not. Not only the U.S. government–through covert and other means–stepped into the breach, but so did lots of organizations, foundations, non-governmental organizations, and others.
In the era of Islamism, there are a lot of major problems in terms of its opponents’ responses.
First, any Western, non-Muslim financing or help to those groups would be used to discredit them.
Second, in a bizarre manner Western societies favor the radicals, giving them good press and praise.
Third, moderate Muslims are penalized and ignored.
Fourth, the ability to critique precisely what is radical in Islam and what is wrong with Islamism is handicapped by the successful effort to brand any attempts at making such distinctions as “Islamophobia” instead of a sensible fear of revolutionary Islamism. It is equivalent to branding any such attempt to critique Communism as anti-Sovietism or as a mindless antagonism to liberalism or pure reactionary views. Communists tried such techniques, but they only worked to a very limited extent.