Saturday, November 14, 2015

Radical Islam: A political movement and religion

To use a common challenge: “What would Jesus do?”

I’m certainly not an expert on that! But I am quite sure that he would not surrender his faith, and would not try to force anyone else to adopt his, and would not stop speaking to anyone willing to hear his words.

Jesus was a man of peace. He did not take up arms, forcibly convert people to his faith, or rule in this world.

Buddha likewise was a man of peace who lived a modest life.

When Christians or Buddhists engage in violence, they are perverting the teachings of their founders.

Islam, alternatively, has a deeply embedded foundation of violence at its core–violence promulgated by Mohammed on his enemies. When Muslims engage in violence, they are emulating the founder of their faith. This is why the vast majority of religious violence is fomented by Islamists.

Speaking the truth is not thoughtless, though it might be politically incorrect.

Islam must deal with the rot at its core: Mohammed conquered by the sword, forcibly converted people to his beliefs, murdered with his own hand, and took child brides. This is the example he sets for his followers.

People of Islam who wish it to be accepted as a modern faith must repudiate these acts of Mohammed, which are repugnant to modern life. Until they do, their faith–which is really a political philosophy tinged with religion–will be repugnant to most of humanity.

I don’t think that pointing to the barbaric acts of Mohammed is an ad hominem attack either on him or on Islam. Those actions, which are documented historically, are central to the creation narrative of the Islamic faith.

The teachings of the man and his actions cannot be conveniently divorced, no matter how much people would like to separate them. Calling Mohammed a man of peace, or Islam a religion of peace, is not sufficient to change the foundation of it in violence.

When Muslims engage in violence, they are emulating Mohammed. When Christians engage in violence, alternatively, they are going against the teachings of Jesus. There is a difference, and it is profoundly meaningful. Christianity is a superior religion for these reasons.

I also reject moral relativism, a philosophical theory that is used to justify abhorrent behaviors such as are engaged in by jihadi Muslims. There is an objective right and an objective wrong for many, nay most, human interactions.

What I would have Muslims do is publicly repudiate those acts, words, and teachings of Mohammed that are used to justify violence. These acts must be repudiated by Islam so that jihadis can no longer use them to justify themselves.

The problem is, these acts were committed by the founder of the Islam religion, which is why you will not find any Muslims who are willing to do what I have suggested.

This is the conundrum that is at the center of Islam, and cannot be reconciled.

As a rule, freedom of religion and speech are not respected in Muslim countries and religious minorities are persecuted.

In Pakistan, blasphemy laws provide a legal way to persecute non-Muslims, though offenders often do not go to trial because they are murdered by vigilantes with wide support of the Muslim community. In Egypt, Coptic Christians require approval from the governor to build or even repair a church – a standard that does not apply to mosques. Egyptian Muslims regularly target Copts with violence, intimidation and destruction of property, and the government looks the other way.

Christian populations in Muslim countries are in danger, are shrinking, and are on the move. Islamists are using the so-called Arab Spring to consolidate their hold on politically unorganized populations. The Copts of Egypt and Christian communities of Lebanon, Iraq, Gaza, and the PLO-governed areas of the West Bank are all living in fear and on the move, seeking a place where they may practice their faith in freedom and safety.

Americans need to remember that our hard-earned right of freedom of religion does not extend to our “friends” in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries.

So it really burns me when I hear Muslim groups in America insist on a wide berth of religious tolerance, complaining about a “climate of suspicion,” while ignoring the unbelievable violence and blatant persecution of religious minorities in Muslim countries.

Why don’t they advocate for the religious freedom of minorities in the broader Muslim world? Do they really believe in tolerance? Or do they just want to manipulate us with our own values?

I am offended by the combination of the ultimate usage of our religious freedom coupled with the egregious restriction of religious practice in Muslim-majority countries, and by the demands for passage of restrictions on free speech in western countries because of the sensibilities of Muslims while asserting the right of all Muslims everywhere to say anything, however defamatory, about the followers of other religions or of no religion.

Europe, the United States, and some other countries, are moving away from defense of religious freedom with the single exception of the liberals obsessive concern about the discomfort of Muslims. Our western press and politicians seemed more appalled by the publication of the infamous cartoons of Muhammad than they were by the death threats and the riots and violence across the Muslim world in protest. Embassies and western business were attacked, fires set, a few individuals killed.

Legislatures in various countries have seriously considered specific speech restrictions to protect Muslims from any insult or offense. Is anyone asking the Muslims to moderate their anti-Jewish and anti-Christian speeches and publications and sermons and textbooks?

“Islamophobia” is much less prevalent than is often assumed. Our elites assume it is the source of any objection to any Muslim proposal or statement or action. But we never hear anyone complain about rampant Hebrewphobia or Christophobia on the part of Muslim leaders or the men on the Arab street.

When is the last time you ever heard the members of a western legislature chant “death to” anyone? It is commonplace in Iran. When is the last time you heard a large crowd of protesters on a western street chant “death to” anyone (unless the crowd were Muslims)? Commonplace in the middle east.

Legislatures have also flirted with the thought of allowing the application of Sharia law in their courts when dealing with Muslims. Any such authorization would severely restrict the legal rights of Muslim citizens and residents in those countries, including loss of the right to choose a different religion. Efforts to create just this situation are underway in various European countries.

Does every Muslim work and yearn for the new Caliphate? No. Would they allow it to happen? Hard to say.

Are there groups using every technique they can devise to make it happen? Absolutely! They are using our laws and freedoms and our political systems to tilt our societies in their direction, while rigidly applying their religious law to all persons within the borders of Muslim-majority countries.

Liberal progressives following the lead of President Obama argue that what we’ve seen the last few years are isolated acts and that this kind of terrorism doesn’t represent Islam. Yet two of the most important countries in the region, Iran and Saudi Arabia, are governed by radical Islamist.

Remember that Wahhabism, not to mention Salafism, is one of the more extreme versions of Islam, that Saudi Arabia is governed by a more than 200 year old alliance between the House of Saud and the House of Wahhab. I don’t think that it was an accident that most of the culprits of 9/11 were “Saudi Arabian.”

Moreover, I suspect that to some degree ISIS is a wild bronco of sorts in part supported from Saudi Arabia. I further suspect that the Saudis try to use the West to help them ride that bronco.

And then there are the Iranians who need no introduction. They even use well trained official Revolutionary Guards to get people they don’t like, and even to export terrorism.

The history of Islam is one of violence, extending even to the conquest of non-Islamic countries, with an eye to converting the infidel to Islam (consider the Moorish conquests in Northern Africa and into Spain, as well as the more contemporary Ottoman Empire). That history persists even today – consider the Islamic State and Boko Haram.

It is easy for one to say that the general Islamic population does not aspire to a global Islamic state, but as has been noted, Muslims (also in general) do not actively condemn and strive to end the aspirations of those who do seek Islamic dominance.  Note that the U.S. was welcomed to combat Saddam Hussein, but would Arab nations have overtly acted to eliminate him?

Terrorist activity is a convenient weapon to use against Western nations, particularly those that – like the U.S. – have become afraid to strike an overtly inhospitable public attitude towards those who seem to provide a willing cover for their violent brethren.

It’s true that there are a lot of peaceful Muslims around the world, in that the vast majority of Muslims do not engage in terrorist assaults on newspaper offices or the bombing of trains. Yet those same peaceful Muslims support laws in their own countries which make it a crime to “insult the Prophet”, preach any religion other than Islam, and even, in some cases, to be a Jew or Christian in the privacy of your own home.

How many mass demonstrations do we have to see in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, or Saudi Arabia over some minor “offense” like a stupid movie few have ever seen before we’re allowed to say that even the peaceful Muslims are an intolerant bunch who rarely offer up the kind of consideration they demand from everyone else?

I think the problem with Islam is that we look at it as a religion. At one level it is that, but Islam is also a political movement. I think the real problems arise when Muslims and we mix the two.

Let’s start with the fact that the prophet Muhammad was also a warrior and conqueror. This was not a man of peace. Moreover, if you’ve read history you’ll know that his followers then set out to methodically conquer the lands around them and all the way into Europe.

I’ve long-held that religions can also be viewed as a set of rules that help unite a people towards common objectives and that being the case it is then easy for leaders with agendas to take advantage and use them for their own purposes.

In the West the secular and religious started going their own separate ways with the 11th century Gregorian Reform, a separation that reached its pinnacle with the American and French revolutions.

Arguably this also happened in Islam, but less decidedly. In Saudi Arabia there has been a governing partnership between the very religious House of Wahhab that still controls education and the thought police, and the more secular House of Saud that controls the administrative apparatus. And then of course there is the Iranian Revolution of 1979, when the religious leaders took over overall control of the country and its government.

So while in the West there has been a decided separation between the secular and religious worlds for governing purposes, this has not happened in Islam decidedly and there remain some very major exceptions. These exceptions present major obstacles to a process of separation, especially with their oil wealth and prospects of both going nuclear.

Theocracies like the one in Iran and the so-called ISIS caliphate are dangerous and violent. Muslim nations should be called to cooperate for their own security to stop this malignant cancer emanating from radical Islam.

Progressives and their push for multiculturalism played a major role in the rise of Islamic terrorism. From Carter to Obama, progressives have allowed radical Islam to grow and develop in America and abroad.

Carter’s impotence to prevent the takeover of Iran by the Ayatollah Khomeini gave rise to radical Islam. Iran became a theocracy that mixes politics and Islam. It has inspired Islamic terror groups such as al Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS, Boko Haram and many others.

President Obama, an inept progressive President, has provided cover to these groups by denying their existence at our own peril. He uses misinformation that they were decimated to fool the country and give protection to the terrorists. Obama even called some of his actions in Yemen a success.

In reality , the jihadists have been growing under Obama’s watch all over the world. Al Qaeda is based in Yemen. The French terrorists were trained in Yemen and most of the prisoners in Gitmo are from Yemen.

If our government doesn’t accept that radical Islam is a threat and a violent political movement, we will be in mortal danger and should expect more terrorist acts, here and abroad. It is time to play offense and not defense.

Sometimes it is in our interest to be the cop on the beat. Obama’s removal of troops from the Middle East has in effect been a removal of that cop and it has exposed the country to danger. At one point last summer Obama said disdainfully that playing Whac-A-Mole was not productive and that the US would no longer be doing it.

Yet that game was actually strategy to take the fight to the terrorists and keep them in their caves so they wouldn’t have a free run at us. It worked for George W. Bush but now look at what happened in Paris, look at the strength and freedom of action to mount attacks that ISIS and its franchised terrorists have gained.

How long before they come to the United States?

Have you noticed how the leaders of the European countries have called for a Europe-wide meeting of leaders to discuss the problem and what to do about it while Obama is out campaigning? Are we to assume that the person leading the analysis of how to best defend the United States is the lady of Sunday show fame who blamed Benghazi on a video?

President Obama, can you take this threat seriously for a change?

Let’s get real. ISIS, al Qeada, and other radical Islamic groups are warriors with dreams of empire, while Obama is a naive pacifist. Throughout history there have been wars. Indeed, war can be said to be the one constant in history and common to all of them have been the warriors and pacifists, those that led and those that followed with many who cowered.

A few months ago I was browsing the history section in Barnes & Noble to see what is new, and I came across a new version of the Hundred Years War that spanned 1337-1453 and helped make England. I was reminded how many other periods of such wars there have been in history. The Thirty Years War that culminated with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 and the creation of the modern nation state. The World Wars between 1914 and 1945 that actually trace their roots to the previous century. And many others.

So what changed between then and now? A thought crossed my mind. Although the wars that plagued Europe for so many centuries came to an end with WWII and the creation of the European Community, that all was possible under the auspices and defense umbrella of the US. Yes, the US has been the stabilizing factor the last 70 years.

That the U.S. has been the policeman of the world has not been for naught. That included a tense but relative peace in the Middle East that started with the French and English as policemen during the first half of the last century, with the baton passed to the U.S. at mid-century.

Indeed, the overthrow of Saddam in Iraq was just a continuation of that role.

But that all has now changed again. With the arrival of Barack Obama, the U.S. has relinquished its role. With that the radical Islamists are returning in full force. You see, there is no longer a policeman on the beat. Not even a forceful headmaster that commands authority and respect.

A redrawing of the map and a realignment of forces is taking place in the Middle East and for better or for worse we seem to have decided to let it go forward pretty much uncontested, even if in the process radical Islam and terrorism take root. Let us remember that two of the most extremist Muslim countries in the world are Iran and Saudi Arabia with its Wahhabis and Salafists.

Where Sunnis, aligned with Arabia, and Shias, aligned with Iran, were mixed in Syria and Iraq, they will now be clearly separate with ISIS, essentially unmolested, controlling Sunni territory. The Kurds will likely all be pushed back into a corner between northernmost Iraq and Turkey.

In the meantime Iran is continuing its quest of nuclear weapons, also essentially uncontested by us or anyone else. Sure, we are negotiating but in the meantime the centrifuges are spinning and new ones are being installed.

Both of the major regional players, Arabia and Iran, it would seem are getting something, while we remain bystanders. The danger is that for sure the Arabs too will get nuclear weapons, probably from North Korea or Pakistan, if not both.

When, not if, but when that happens, however, we will enter a more unstable world with the danger of the millennial Arab-Persian conflict reigniting, this time further fueled by the religious Sunni-Shia divide. The Middle Eastern oil supply to the world will then be in jeopardy.

Some say that should not trouble us because we are rapidly moving towards self-sufficiency in oil. That is true, but our economy will continue to be highly dependent on its interconnections to a highly interconnected world economy that may sputter with some of its oil cut off.

That’s the future we are leaving our children and grandchildren. Maybe it has always been inevitable. Let’s be clear, however, that while in the West we continue our pluralistic quest to live together as one whole, in the Middle East the divisions and battle lines are being sharpened.

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