Overcoming Islamism

Posted by permission from AIFD; its appearance is independent of this blog, and should not be construed to either agree or disagree with the opinions expressed on this blog, or on any other website.

Editorials/Op-Ed – The Washington Times:

Defeat the ideology and claim majority victory

By M. Zuhdi Jasser
August 4, 2006

Islamists fear any real ideological battle within Islam against Islamism and its clerics. To that end, they seek the removal of American and Western involvement from Muslim majority countries. Americanism is founded upon an anti-theocratic ideology that is a global ideological threat to Islamism. “Jeffersonian” Muslims who depart from Islamism are similarly the greatest threat to the influence of Islamists within the Muslim community.

Disengage Islamism from Muslims and Americanism will flourish among Muslims. With the deconstruction of Islamism (the ends), Islamist terror (the means) has no cause.

Muslim activists should find it commonplace to address the central ideological issue of this war -Islamism vs. Islam vs. anti-Islamism. Islamist moderation, vis-a-vis anti-terrorism and anti-autocracy, should not dismiss the remaining overriding Islamist philosophy. This philosophy is what needs to be understood.

The issue is not one of patriotism. Islamists can be intensely patriotic while having a differing vision for America. It is the ideology of political Islam that needs to be engaged. The following questions may begin to help opinion leaders discern an Islamist from an anti-Islamist: Do you believe in the strict separation of religion and politics? Do you support the development of religious (Islamic) political parties and movements? Should the imam’s “mimbar” (pulpit) be the place for the advocacy of domestic and foreign policy opinions? Should clerics be politicians or legislators?

Also: Would you prefer (if Muslims were a majority) to see legislatures argue interpretation of scripture and religious law over secular non-theological argumentation? Do you believe in a movement at any time to return a global Caliphate into existence? Where do you stand in regards to the stated global goals of the Muslim Brotherhood or the Wahhabi Movement? Is the American system of government and the Constitution inferior to the basis used for an “Islamic” state? What is the role in local and global society of the Muslim “ummah” (community)? Of the mosque? Do you believe individuals who leave Islam should be a legal concern of society? In the hereafter, by your theology, do you believe that God will only judge individuals or will He collectively judge entire communities overriding the individual?

Moderate Islamists are not an ideological threat to the radicals of al Qaeda, Hamas or Hezbollah because they generally seek similar “Islamic” governance, albeit a more moderated, non-violent, even democratic playing field in the end. Moderate Islamists will usually also avoid identifying radical Islamists by name as the enemy.

We are five years behind and only just beginning to delve into the intellectual debate we should already be having with the Muslim world domestically and abroad. This debate needs to be at the forefront of our mass media and our “public diplomacy programs.”

Our public diplomacy leaders must no longer avoid these central questions when meeting with Muslims all over the world. Engagement involves real dialogue and debate where ideas conflict, not superficial photo-ops and sporadic ineffectual comments. Such superficial discourse actually makes the work of anti-Islamist Muslims much more difficult, for it publicly mainstreams Islamist ideology.

President Reagan did not defeat communism by creating photo-ops and a few verbal exchanges with non-Soviet communist nations during the height of the Cold War. Our leaders need to emphasize the ideological chasm between Islamism and Americanism and begin to methodically deconstruct Islamism. Our officials should also find and engage Muslims who are on the same wavelength against political Islam.

In the meantime, the United Arab Emirates just announced the provision of a very disturbing endowment to the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) of reportedly upwards of $50 million. Not only is this unprecedented foreign interference, but these monies are also unlikely to be used to deconstruct the ideological basis for Islamism, Wahhabism or the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah or other enemies of the United States. They will rather be used to continue the focus on apologetics, non-Muslim “education” and political empowerment (Islamism) with very little attention to internal renewal (ijtihad), anti-terror work and the ideological incompatibilities between Islamism and Americanism.

All civil human beings and their organizations condemn terrorist acts. The real question is what separates Islamists from “Americanists”? In order to fight an ideological battle against the Islamist enemy, we must not only seek to understand them, but we must make sure that we understand ourselves. If we remain unclear about America’s ideology, then we will never understand what drives the ends of our Islamist enemies.

Our forefathers understood what was needed to extricate the oppressive influence of theocrats in England. Muslims have yet to articulate this understanding about Islamists. We must quickly embrace the openness and pluralism of our American religious heritage.

At our nation’s 230th birthday this July, we can no longer afford to dismiss the Islamist threat. Just as Islamism is a threat to the essence of the America we love, it is also a threat to the essence of my personal faith of Islam which I love. Many pious Muslims can engage in this debate to defeat Islamism. Defeat Islamism and its political ideology, and we have achieved a major victory for our nation’s security.

Part 1

Part 2

M. Zuhdi Jasser is chairman of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and a former Navy lieutenant commander.

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Posted on August 4, 2006, in Islamism, News and politics. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I agree entirely. You don’t win ideological wars with guns. (although they are often necessary) We have to encourage forward-thinking theologians in Islam to help “liberalize” it in more open, tolerant directions.

  2. so….

    how do we encourage “forward thinking” if we are bombing them all to h – e – double hockey sticks?

    it is easy to make war. it is hard to make peace. Which road do you want to be on? The easy one or the hard one? A famous quote says, “I didn’t say it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it.”

  3. Adam, that is where moderate Muslims come in. This is not a “clash of civilizations”, it’s a clash over the very soul of Islam’ its a clash among the members of one civilzation-between Muslim radicals and Muslim moderates. The U.S.A. et al cannot fix the problems of the Muslim world. We are outsiders of a sort. We can only help influnce who the victor will be by weakening the militant side and helping the moderate one.

  4. Dan, your pie-in-the-sky statement is odd. How would you apply your statement to WWII? Would you tell America to “make love” and “not war.” Answer this question: when in your mind, Dan, is war justifed?

  5. ldspatriot,

    you’re comparing apples to oranges. WWII is nothing like this current conflict. That’s what you tell me. Now you use it to justify our current actions.

    As to when war is justified, there is no black and white answer to that question, and you know it. you choose the example of one of the few times in history that war was actually justified to justify a war of choice. But as we see, with this war of choice, the results are horrendous. 3400 Iraqi civilians were killed in July alone! Can you comprehend that number? In America in 2003 for the entire year the homocide total was 16,000. In one month in Iraq, 3400 civilians die. Multiply that by 12 and you get 40,800. Can you imagine such a death toll in America?

    When you go into war, you have to either go in all the way, destroy everything in sight, or not at all. Any attempt at “saving civilians” will ensure you will lose, as is proven in both Iraq and Lebanon. This is the folly of war. On the one hand you don’t terminate your enemy, on the other you lose moral support because you’ve killed non-combatants. The Israelites of old were commanded by God to destroy all living things when entering Canaan. There was a reason for that. As we know, the Israelites failed to do so, and let the worship of Baal continue to their utter detriment.

    But then there is the third option. It is the option righteous Nephites used. They did not destroy their enemies. In fact, they never entered Lamanite land. They simply repelled their enemies and went back home in peace. After a long time, the Lamanites actually converted. Then there is the example of the Nephites having to deal with the Gadianton Robbers. In 3 Nephi 3:20-21, we read the following:

    20 Now the people said unto Gidgiddoni: Pray unto the Lord, and let us go up upon the mountains and into the wilderness, that we may fall upon the robbers and destroy them in their own lands.
    21 But Gidgiddoni saith unto them: The Lord forbid; for if we should go up against them the Lord would deliver us into their hands; therefore we will prepare ourselves in the center of our lands, and we will gather all our armies together, and we will not go against them, but we will wait till they shall come against us; therefore as the Lord liveth, if we do this he will deliver them into our hands.

    The Gadianton Robbers were quite similar to our modern terrorists, hiding in caves and coming down to cause carnage among civilians. What was the Prophet’s response to the people’s desires to go into the mountains to root them out?

    So in conclusion, wars are not our saviors. they do not solve our problems as some of us think they do.

    But alas, I honestly believe that in these last days, calls for peace will continue to fall on deaf ears, much like in the last days of the people of Jared. Ether had gone and told them to repent and stop fighting. Did they listen? Nope. I’m sure they felt justified in their anger towards their enemies. I’m sure they felt quite strongly that their enemies were out to destroy them, and they needed to do it first. Peace cannot be achieved if people desire war. It is impossible.

  6. Dan, I question your numbers as well as your interpreation of those numbers.

    I suspect that 98% of the “civlians” killed in Iraq by Americans are insurgents, i.e., terrorists.

    The Iraq War is the most humane war in world history.

    For an intellectual look at the numbers, check out this site:

  1. Pingback: Islamism as politics « LDS Patriot

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