Herbert London: Perversion Of Islam?
In what can only be described as a “reassurance” speech is, President Obama in addressing the terrorist murders in San Bernardino, California said we should not be overcome by fear. Once again, he noted this terror is not a reflection of Islam. His Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, went further in contending that the real fear is anti Islamic prejudice, even though there is little evidence to support her concern.
The continued denial that violence can be associated with Islam and that Islamic ideology in a variety of forms is what we are obliged to oppose in the long war before us, befuddles law makers in the United States who apply the First Amendment to a religious ideology that is eager to destroy the very freedoms that protect it.
Whether moderate or radical, the establishment of a caliphate is a goal within Islam. The method of achievement may vary, but it is not a “perverted interpretation of Islam” to recognize that goal. Hence, the imperial dimension of the faith is a reality. Of course, most Muslims will not employ force to achieve that goal. But a caliphate is part of the ideology accompanied by Sharia – a way of life including laws. As a consequence, the ways a Muslim can reduce the natural tension of residing in a democratic republic are by rejecting democracy and self-government as subordinate to Sharia or rejecting a basic precept of the religion. Reconciliation of these ideas is difficult at best.
Since the war in which we are engaged is not only on the battlefield in Syria and Iraq, but in the minds of Muslims, it is incumbent on our leaders to recognize the ideology of the enemy and the counter ideological position we should advocate. At the moment we do neither.
For militants fighting for Islam, death is more desirable than life. Their belief is that the afterlife provides wonders unrealized in this life. Winston Churchill in defending British interests in the Sudan described this fanaticism as a form of “hydrophobia,” an obsession beyond reason. Second, this ideological bent is obsessed with jihad. Some would describe jihad as the road to spiritual fulfillment. But most analysts contend it is the violent accretion of power in the name of Allah. Third, since the Koran was theoretically written by the Archangel Gabriel at the behest of Allah, it must be treated as the Lord’s word. While interpretation is possible since the document has many contradictory statements and interpretations, imams in authority hold the final word including Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the self-appointed head of the Islamic State and a leader thought of as a theological expert.
What then is the counter ideological position? First, one should recall and even reprint President al Sisi’s speech at Al Azur, the theological center of Sunni Islam. He said “we,” meaning Muslims, should recognize the violence within our faith and take steps to combat it by calling for a “revolution from within.” This stance should be encouraged instead of the manner with which it was ignored.
Just as ISIS uses social media to attract young men yearning for sex and adventure, the West should take advantage of these web sites to illustrate ISIS is the “walking dead,” corpses waiting for the flock of hungry vultures. Once in the clutches of ISIS, there isn’t any turning back.
In some respects, ISIS is a symbol of militant Islam that manifests the hateful strategy engaging in any act rationalized as Allah’s will. Even if ISIS is defeated, this anti-humanitarian condition must be opposed as the opposition to Allah. As al Sisi noted, are 1.6 billion Muslims going to force the rest of the globe’s population to submit or die? It is, in his opinion, a self-defeating proposition that Western leaders should reiterate.
In any ideological conflict the position of each side should be defined and understood. We do not define and understand. We do not define the enemy; we do not understand his position, even when we have empirical evidence of his barbarism. On the other side of the equation, we have lost a sense of what we stand for and what is worth defending. The loss of confidence emerges from the lips of leaders who use mealy-mouth words when they address the pubic.
Confusion reigns. Any sensible person is appalled by the savagery of our enemy. But our leaders say the savagery is not conducted by our enemy. These are the so-called outliers. Yet they claim to be inspired by religious conviction. And most significantly, they are not condemned universally by authoritative imams. So are they products of religion or not? More importantly, what should Americans believe and what should we do? The answer lies in leadership that can offer direction to a public hungry for it. When that will come isn’t clear, but the longer it takes to clarify a strategy, the more difficult it is to enact.
Herbert London is President of the London Center for Policy Research, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America). You can read all of Herb London’s commentaries at www.londoncenter.org
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