COUNTERING POLITICAL ISLAMISM: A “must read” assessment by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (via the Hoover Institution).
Insisting that radical Islamists have “nothing to do with Islam” has led US policy makers to commit numerous strategic errors since 9/11. One is to distinguish between a “tiny” group of extremists and an “overwhelming” majority of “moderate” Muslims. I prefer to differentiate among Medina Muslims, who embrace the militant political ideology adopted by Muhammad in Medina; Mecca Muslims, who prefer the religion originally promoted by Muhammad in Mecca; and reformers, who are open to some kind of Muslim Reformation.
These distinctions have their origins in history. The formative period of Islam can be divided roughly into two phases: the spiritual phase, associated with Mecca, and the political phase that followed Muhammad’s move to Medina.
By not fighting a war of ideas against political Islam (or “Islamism”) as an ideology and against those who spread that ideology, we have made a grave error.
If Islamism is the ideology, then dawa encompasses all the methods by which it is spread. The term “dawa” refers to activities carried out by Islamists to win adherents and enlist them in a campaign to impose sharia law on all societies. Dawa is not the Islamic equivalent of religious proselytizing, although it is often disguised as such by blending humanitarian activities with subversive political activities.
Dawa as practiced by Islamists employs a wide range of mechanisms to advance the goal of imposing Islamic law (sharia) on society. This includes proselytization, but extends beyond that. In Western countries, dawa aims both to convert non-Muslims to political Islam and to bring about more extreme views among existing Muslims. The ultimate goal of dawa is to destroy the political institutions of a free society and replace them with strict sharia. Islamists rely on both violent and nonviolent means to achieve their objectives.
Dawa is to the Islamists of today what the “long march through the institutions” was to twentieth-century Marxists. It is subversion from within, the use of religious freedom in order to undermine that very freedom. After Islamists gain power, dawa is to them what Gleichschaltung (synchronization) of all aspects of German state, civil, and social institutions was to the National Socialists.
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