radical islamThe official position of the Obama Administration seems to be that our country is at war with extremism, including but not limited to those who commit acts of terror in the name of Islam. It is also the position of the executive branch that proclaiming war against radical Islam specifically is unjustified, and for two reasons: first, because the differences among various terror groups (al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, etc.) are greater than their similarities; second, because those terror groups are unrepresentative of the Muslim faith and Muslims both at home and abroad. That much has been made clear by White House press secretary Josh Earnest, State Department spokeswoman Marie Hart, and to a lesser extent, by President Barack Obama and Secretary John Kerry themselves. Conservative and liberal critics alike have repeatedly pointed out that no other form of extremism holds a candle to the Islamic, though explanations for this are varied.

To say the unpopular thing, I think the Obama Administration is right in more ways than it is wrong. But it is wrong in counterproductive, naïve, even dangerous ways.

The President’s apologists have pointed to the fact that more terrorists have been killed under this Administration than the Bush administration, with particular success in eliminating high-profile targets like Osama bin Laden. Actions speak louder than words, they say, and the Administration has been successful in combating what the right would call Islamic extremism without using such aggressive and (in the words of Ms. Hart) “overly-simplistic” language.

That is true: the Obama Administration has done a good job of carrying out targeted strikes against terrorist operatives and thwarting potential domestic threats. But there is no hope of ending the threat of the specifically Islamic variety of extremism without using that potent language: “radical Islam.”

The simple fact—a fact really so simple we should not have to talk about it—is that extremism is propagated through otherwise “legitimate” power structures in the Muslim faith. In many cases, as with the Tsarnaev brothers (who carried out the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing), it is a matter of children being radicalized by their parents. Also very common is self-radicalization through exposure to Internet propaganda, which appears to be the origin of the Charlie Hebdo and Martin Place shooters. The most visible cause is the cooperation between state and religious authorities, as with Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and, more subtly, modern Pakistan. Some fall under the influence of lay preachers and youth leaders, as with the chilling case of Sydney’s “Street Dawah Movement,” which was banned before a series of raids in 2014 revealed its participants’ connection to terrorist cells. A considerable number of inmates in the United States, most of them African-American, are radicalized by the widespread Nation of Islam presence in our prison system. Then there’s the old cult of personality, like that of Anjem Coudary in the United Kingdom.

Families, church-state relations, public proselytism, prison chaplaincies, and even charismatic lay leadership—all of them are either perfectly neutral or benevolent in and of themselves. But, as with any network or belief system, they can be hijacked by operatives who would use basically humane mediums to inhumane ends. That is not necessarily a reflection on Islam as a religion, but rather on a general tendency in human nature to cloak evil with righteousness or, more ingeniously, neutrality. Yet it is no coincidence that radical Islam is being propagated by certain Muslim chaplaincies, certain Muslim civil groups, and certain persons originating from predominantly Muslim countries, either. Again, this seems mind-numbingly simple. Probably it is. But if we deny the existence of a uniquely Islamic variety of violent radicalism at face value, of course we will be inclined to dismiss these deadly patters of infection as regrettable coincidences.

This means, frankly, that we cannot say we are seriously addressing the threat of terrorism at home unless we are willing to interrogate the social organization of the Islamic faith, which confusingly looks authoritarian from one angle and totally decentralized from another. We have to be willing to monitor suspected clerics, chaplains, and religious congregations. We have to collect background information on immigrants from state sponsors of terrorism and areas with large fundamentalist activity. It is absolutely impossible to solve the problem of radical Islam without looking at how radical Islam spreads–even when it spreads through otherwise legitimate channels.

The north side of the White House looking at the Rose GardenI think this is the conversation going on the White House: They say “radical Islam” till they are blue in the face behind closed doors, but refuse to do so publicly. This is part of a grand strategy to alienate as few Muslims as possible while carrying out surgical strikes against known radicals. In theory, it is not a bad plan. But it also suggests that the White House believes it holds a monopoly on  understanding this nuanced approach to Islamic radicalism. It implies that the American people are too prone to engage in Islamophobia and thus must be excluded from the solution to the problem of Islamic terrorism.

Aside from the patronizing and heavy-handed tone, this is plan is doomed to fail because we absolutely need both the Muslim and the non-Muslim to be involved in curbing the threat of radical Islam. Whether we like it or not, the only way effectively to counter extremism  is by placing social and legal pressure on moderate Muslims to “dob in” their extremist co-religionists. Most instances of radicalization are not as obvious as Nicholas Brody’s in Homeland. Usually they are self-radicalized or influenced by radical family members, friends, or neighbors. So where it is possible to catch a terrorist before he strikes, our best ally will be those in his immediate circle.

This approach need not be seen as vindictive or “Islamophobic.” Only in our modern culture could reporting potential threats to public safety be considered a regrettable, or even exceptional, duty. We simply have to hold American Muslims to the same standard to which we hold members of any faith (or no faith at all), adherents of any creed, and members of any organization. Expecting Americans to defend our republic and help keep their fellow citizens out of harm’s way is not bigotry. On the contrary, it is one of the most noble and universal vocations of all—one that any person seriously desiring to live in a democracy would undertake joyfully.

Our system of government demands that each participant take an active interest in each other’s well-being. This has always been the key to our survival. It will be for as long as the republic endures. And it is as true today as it ever will be.

We ask to what degree immigrants should assimilate, and to what degree they should retain their own culture and values. This is the bare minimum of assimilation: Do what one can to ensure no harm comes to one’s fellow citizens. We desperately need the Muslim community’s support in isolating the threat of radical Islam, and the United States has every right to expect such support from those living under her care. The process begins with acknowledging that common arch-enemy by name: Radical Islam.

Books on the topic of this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore

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52 replies to this post
  1. I wonder if Radicalized Islam may be the better term, implying that its proponents have done something to orthodox strains of Islam that remain strong among hundreds of millions of Muslims outside of the Saudi-born extremist minority. In that way non-Muslims are spared from identifying a heresy better defined by mainstream Sunni and Shia. In London and elsewhere, the anti-ISIS fatwas are still flying out of the printers, and Muslim parents are scared stiff, since they often know no more about what their kids do online than the rest of us do.

  2. There is not a single line in this essay that even gives consideration to the thought that maybe Muslims are furious at the West for a reason. The reason may be that we are blowing them to bits, so they are returning the favor. Every one of our interventions in the Middle East has been an utter Failure, and the “hearts and minds” we sought to win over have resulted in…perpetual butchery.

    Please spare me the “making excuses for Terrorism” line. Innocent victims cannot distinguish between the bombs of a drone and those of a punk running loose.

    The origins of what is going on is rather simple, it is called an Eye for an Eye. As to the willing recruits in the jails and other places, to paraphrase one commentator from this section some weeks ago, secular nihilism is not much of an argument against religious nihilism.

  3. If we can call groups like Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Boko Haram ‘Radical Islam,’ then we can call the KKK and some who supported Jim Crow ‘Radical Christianity.’ After all what could be said about the connections between some Muslim circles and these violent, terrorist groups like ISIS could also be said about some Christian circles and the KKK and some who supported Jim Crow.

    Of course, us Christians would be highly offended by any association with the KKK and those who supported Jim Crow. Is it any different for the overwhelming majority of Muslims when their religion is associated with these violent, extremist groups? If so, are we failing to follow the Golden Rule here?

    By removing the association of Islam with these groups, Obama and others are following both an ethical approach, due to the differences between what the Koran teaches and what these groups practice, as well as a practical approach. The practical side says that the war against these groups is most effectively waged when these groups are isolated and marginalized from what they claim to be their base group. And if we think about it, wouldn’t a more effective message in describing these groups to those who could become sympathetic be that these groups have left the faith rather than have merely become ‘radical’? After all, the term radical is a relative measurement that, as history teaches, sometimes becomes a badge of courage for those whose ideas and acts were before their time.

    There is a practical side for some Christians in calling those groups ‘Radical Islam.’ That is because for some Christians, they want a competing faith like Islam to be marginalized here. That is not the only reason why some here insist on using the term ‘Radical Islam.” But it is for some.

  4. Well yes, and well done. But, can we go one step further and consider the problem rooted in Islam, itself?

    I’m no expert, and I have only a cursory knowledge of Islam and its history but it seems that via the Qu’ran, Hadith, and other writings and doctrines it’s a very easy step to either participate in terrorism or contribute to those who are active?

    I understand that this position raises some challenging questions regarding Muslim immigration and Muslim-Americans (citizens) but the sooner they are addressed the better. And, it seems we’ve been calling for and waiting on Muslims to come forward and it just hasn’t happened, at least to the degree that peaceful Americans had hoped.

    • “I’m no expert, and I have only a cursory knowledge of Islam and its history, but it seems “…

      With all due respect, Sir, this is where the problems start, I am sorry.

      Please see my comment above. This has nothing to do with ancient tirades. The Christian West, with Crusades, WItch Burnings, and Abu Ghraib, has not always acted so piously, now has it.

      Have you checked in on Libya lately? What our killing of Qaddaffi has wrought?

      What is going on is *political. We never had this level of wrath from Muslims, or radicalized Musllims, in modern times. This is a relatively new phenomenon that has emerged As A Result Of our actions in the Middle East. Let us please stop acting like “the West” has not played the center role in this.

      For years, long before things became so violent, Arab/Turkish/Persian etc intellectuals, well bred and well spoken, sought in vain to try to get media attention or substantial academic attention on the views of the Arabs/Muslims with regard to US foreign policy. They were ignored. And now Americans act as if this all just sprung up out of the Quran. I suggest you re examine the quote of yours that I have singled out and perhaps try a different approach.

      • “What our killing of Qaddaffi has wrought?”

        Actually, Khaddafi was killed by his own people. But hey, why let facts get in the way of a good rant?

  5. It should be said that no extremism has a history that goes back roughly twelve hundred years, which unhappily for its apologists is unmatched in the annals of history. The latest resurgence of this nightmare has been greeted by our president by abandoning Iraq, and then back peddling, by seeking treaties with Iran and then castigating the American opposition. “Targeted strikes”?, pinpricks given who the enemy is, and to whom we are the “Great Satan”. Things are not looking good.

  6. In a narrow ethnocentric way, we might think we know what “radical Islam” or a “moderate Muslim” is — but does it convey what we want it to to the Muslim world? With regard to religion and religious belief “moderate” is an odd adjective to describe others, or even oneself. Am I a “moderate” Christian; is that fellow over there a “moderate Jew”?
    Is a “radical Christianity” characterized by a cloistered nunnery, an Amish community or a bunch of missionaries? Or Quaker pacifists? But, collectively, do they entail “radical Christianity”?
    “Islamic terrorists” is a good description. Violent or militant Muslim groups is descriptive.
    Radical can mean “fundamental” or going to the roots; or well beyond the norm; etc. Since many of the violent Muslim groups wreak violence against each other, are they, too, all “radical” or only those who are violent in the West or towards Westerners?
    Furthermore, a very odd sentence in this essay: “Our system of government demands that each participant take an active interest in each other’s well-being. This has always been the key to our survival. It will be for as long as the republic endures. And it is as true today as it ever will be.”

  7. “There is not a single line in this essay that even gives consideration to the thought that maybe Muslims are furious at the West for a reason. ”

    Which explains putting a Jordanian Muslim in a cage and burning him alive as well as sawing off the heads of 23 Egyptian Christians, all filmed and broadcast on the Internet, how, exactly?

    “The reason may be that we are blowing them to bits, so they are returning the favor. ”

    Seems they started that “Favor” by crashing planes into buildings, killing 3,000 innocent people who had no grievance with their religion at all.

    • Eric,
      See, the genesis story of terrorism, as written by some, always starts with what one’s enemy does. For us, the war on terror started with the attacks on the twin towers or the attacks on the marine barracks. It never started with England and France divvying the Middle East or America orchestrating coups or using tyrants as proxy leaders or supporting terrorists. And none of that counts Israel’s brutal occupation against the Palestinians which has spurred brutal reprisals.

      It is tribalism when our ideology moves us to externalize evil. That is not to deny the evil in others. We just can’t say that we are innocent and wash our hands of the sins others are committing. We are guilty too, not only.

      • Mr. Day, I say the same thing to you that I did to the other person: These posts of yours are all the same. Always America/Israel/the West generally are blamed, but never the terrorists and dictators on the other side. In moral terms, it is all completely one-sided and thus is not a serious argument but merely propaganda.

        • Eric,
          I never denied the fault of others so you are wrong in your assessment of my comments. Please note the last line of my comment.

          We are guilty too, not only.

          See, we can both cite historical events to determine who’s at fault in our current battle. And when you combine the events we cite, the combination confirms what I just reposted above. We are at fault too, not only. To deny we have any culpability here is to externalize evil.

          • “I never denied the fault of others”

            Yes you do. Or, more accurately, you always make excuses for it. Every time Islamic terrorism is mentioned, you always say how it’s **in response** to something America or Israel did, but never do you give America or Israel credit for **responding** to Islamic terrorism, in other words, that they are acting in legitimate self-defense as well as having a legitimate right to fight terrorists who, by design, deliberately murder the innocent.

          • Eric,
            I’ve never made excuses for the terrorism. But as I wrote somewhere else here, there is a difference between what is justified and what is understandable. And the point here is this, both Israel and Modern Zionism are first movers. Modern Zionism started in the 1800s as because of Christian Europe’s anti-Semitism. That means that it was also a European venture. And currently, it is the occupation that spurs the violence.

            Is the violence justified? No. If you go to before Israel became a nation, did the Arabs start the violence? My readings say yes. Was that violence in response to perceived threats of a Jewish takeover of the land? Again, according to my readings, the answer is yes.

            The difference between us is this. You have nations to root for like teams. I am more concerned with applying the same standard to all groups involved. The team approach is not scriptural. Trying to understand the fears and anger of both sides is. Pointing out the injustices done by both sides is scriptural.

            You seem intent on proving how one side is relatively good and the other is absolute evil. I don’t see it that way. Both sides have practiced horrendous atrocities against the other. But the most responsible side is the first mover and more powerful side. That is because the other side’s actions are reactionary. And we can’t tell if eliminating the first mover’s and most powerful agent’s actions will reduce the violence practiced by the other side until the first mover’s actions are eliminated.Plus, as an American, and I have said this before, I am more responsible for my nation’s actions than the actions of other nations.

    • Mr. “Eric”, you continue to underscore the very point that I am making, though you do not seem to be aware of it.

      We are burning them alive, as well. They are being dismembered as well. Only, you are seeing videos touted by the media.

      When you drop bombs on civilians, from, say, the drones we have flying over Pakistan and idiotically bombing civilians territories, do you know what happens? You do not get bruises and scrapes. You blow apart. You see the limbs of your family members of neighbors fly off. You see people burning alive.

      When you invade countries and kill tens of thousands of Iraqis as we have (though we will never know the exact figures), when you turn a blind eye to our (fake) Friend and Ally in the mid East who has been treating an entire nation of people like cows awaiting slaughter, when you have US soldiers turning prisoners of war at Abu Ghraib into some perverted torture show, do you know what happens? It gets you hated.

      The ousting of Saddam Hussein and Qaddafi was not worth this in the least. Not worth the life of one American, or one Muslim/Arab. We are reaping what we sowed.

      • “We are burning them alive, as well. They are being dismembered as well. Only, you are seeing videos touted by the media.”

        You COMPLETELY missed my point. The guy burned alive, the Egyptian Christians whose heads were cut off, had NOTHING AT ALL to do with America. You keep trying to justify evil and hatred because “America did it first”, but it seems in real life, Islamic extremists need no such excuse to murder with glee and then publicly revel in their acts.

        • Sir, firstly it is not necessary to “scream” in caps. I read every word in the quieter font sizes too.

          Secondly, please do spare me the “you are justifying terrorism” line, the favorite of the US Neocon set–argument-by-intimidation.

          I am explaining that this anger comes from somewhere, and it is not the 8th or 13th century. It is a modern phenomenon, relatively recent, and is in response to the horrid violence that we have both tolerated (Israel) and unleashed ourselves (our invasions) which have resulted in Zero security for the West or the US.

          We never had this level of poor relations with the Muslims until the late 80s, when our support for the Taliban started to breed the proverbial ten headed monster.

          Have you seen pictures of the carnage of civilian men, women and children as a result of our bombing raids? I didn’t think so. Somehow these are not on the Internet.

          Whether burned in a cage or burned alive at a wedding as a result of a US drone, it is death by terror.

    • You are talking about, I assume, the flying aces who flunked flying school but managed to commander Boeings into skyscrapers, who managed to slip through the domestic security network of the greatest military in the world, who managed to pull the wool over the eyes of Condolezza Rice who had cable after cable of report about some impending attack….and you do also mean this Osama bin Laden guy who was friends with the Bush family for generations…you mean that attack, correct?

  8. “After all what could be said about the connections between some Muslim circles and these violent, terrorist groups like ISIS could also be said about some Christian circles and the KKK and some who supported Jim Crow.”

    Ah yes, the oh-so-predictable Left Wing Moral Equivalency game …

        • Eric,
          First, how moral equivalency and moral relativism are used does not deny what I wrote:

          the rejection of moral equivalency is the embracing of moral relativity.

          So please note, that if you are rejecting moral equivalency, you are embracing moral relativism. And if you are embracing moral relativism to condemn the actions of one group but not the other, then you are justifying evil.

          But since I never justified “Islamic” terrorism, how have I used moral equivalency to justify evil when I have written the following?

          That is not to deny the evil in others. We just can’t say that we are innocent and wash our hands of the sins others are committing. We are guilty too, not only.

          • Curt, please see my piece above. You have yet to condemn terrorism in any form without first justifying it by pointing fingers and saying “But they do it, too”. OTOH, you routinely condemn America and Israel without any such qualigications, refusing, for example, to acknowledge the moral reality that the Israelis have been up against decades of bloodthirsty terrorists right on their borders, and that they have every right to protect their own people from them.

          • Eric,
            You are simply wrong here. My statements about America’s and the West’s unjust actions in the Middle East do not justify the terrorism you’re referring to. But it does make it understandable in the sense that we know what it is a reaction to. And it seems that you have a problem in understanding that one can say both that a particular set of actions are unjustified and say that they are understandable reaction to other events. There is not an exclusive-or choice here between saying both statements.

            The same goes for Israel. History shows that Modern Zionism is the first actor in the current conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The attacks on civilians by both sides are immoral and unjustified. But the hatred and anger of either side toward the other is understandable when one considers the violence they’ve experienced. And note that not all from both sides have reacted to the violence they have experienced with violence or even hatred.

            And please note that you need to qualify a statement here lest you overstate your case. When you write:

            refusing, for example, to acknowledge the moral reality that the Israelis have been up against decades of bloodthirsty terrorists right on their borders, and that they have every right to protect their own people from them.

            Here, you are exclusively referring to the Israelis who have terrorists on their border. Do you think that the Israaeli IDF are any better than the terrorists you’re referring to or that the Palestinians have no right to defend themselves against Israeli aggression? Do the Palestinians not have a right to resist Israel’s taking of the land and control of its resources?

            We have a choice here. We can either embrace the tribalism and join one side or the other. Or we can condemn both sides and reflect on the complexities of the conflict. We can also, and this is just as important, note the joint ventures of Palestinians and Israelis, along with internationals, who are working for peace between the two sides. This is an exclusive-or choice, we can’t choose both.

            As a Christian, to refuse to embrace the region’s tribalism and its highlighting of the sins of one side but not the other is a scriptural obligation. Remember the parable of the two men praying. And Romans 2 states that God shows no preference to any of us. Please note in Philippians 3 how Paul voided himself of any significance of his Jewish ethnicity and national identity. Why? Because the significance of belonging to Christ is so great that that it is the only significance he needs. That doesn’t mean he denies that he is a Jew. But it does mean that that identity, like any other identity, can never add to the significance of belonging to Christ.

            See, Christianity recognizes something socialism pointed to later on but Christianity does it in a far superior manner. Both point to an international over the national. That international says that we have more in common with believers in Christ than our fellow countrymen. And in fact, there is an implied international from the Genesis creation account that comes into fulness because of the New Testament. That no national identity should override what we have in common with everyone by virtue of the fact that all people are made in the image of God. My fellow socialists point only to an international of workers. Those in the Bourgeoisie are also made in the image of God.

  9. “Well yes, and well done. But, can we go one step further and consider the problem rooted in Islam, itself?”

    Yes, that’s the proverbial 800lb gorilla in the room that no one wants to wrestle with. Indeed, a while back I started writing a book that deals with Islam and the Middle East, so in doing some research I came upon (and reviewed) the following title. Here is that review, originally posted on Amazon.com:

    The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Islam (The Complete Idiot’s Guide)
    by Yahiya Emerick
    Edition: Paperback
    112 used & new from $0.01

    This review is from: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Islam (The Complete Idiot’s Guide) (Paperback)

    A mix of facts and propaganda

    This book is, on the whole, a pretty good guide for Westerners who know very little about Islam and want a basic description of what this religion is about, how it was started, and what it purports to stand for. It is well organized and informative without being either simplistic or intimidating. Unfortunately, it is seriously marred by a lack of objectivity once it moves beyond the realm of factual information and delves into issues of interpretation and judgment. The author, an American convert, seems to feel obligated to offer up an apologia for every aspect of his newly chosen religion, no matter how offensive or contradictory. For example, he blames the colonization of the Middle East by Western powers in the past couple centuries for the current decline of Islamic civilization, yet he crows about the “advanced” state of Spain after being invaded by Islamic armies in medieval times, never mind that the Spaniards never accepted this foreign domination and fought valiantly for centuries until the hated invaders were finally expelled in the late 15th century. In short, the author sees imperialism as bad when done by Christian Westerners against Muslims, yet it is perfectly OK when the reverse happens. This kind of blatant double standard hardly buttresses the author’s credibility. Finally, his “explanations” for such incidents as the bounty put on Salman Rushdie’s head by the late Ayatollah will strike any liberal-minded person (regardless of their nationality) as being downright bizarre. “The Satanic Verses” may (or may not) have been religiously offensive, but by no means does this justify incitation to murder, as the author breezily suggests. His lame excuse that Rushdie was never in any “real” danger just does not fly, civilized people simply do not behave this way. And that, ultimately, is the problem with this book. As long as the author sticks to the facts as regards Islam, he performs a useful service. But when he delves into inserting his opinions, all he does is support the notion, held by many Westerners, that Islam is a backward, primitive, and barbaric religion.

  10. Sorry, Eric, but this goes back way before 9/11. In fact, 9/11 was itself a response to America’s deadly meddling in Iraq and elsewhere. Try the post- WWI partitioning of the Middle East. Or how about the US overthrow of Iran’s government in 1953? Sanctions on Iraq in the nineties?

    Sorry if this doesn’t fit your jingoistic ideology, but the facts are what they are. The U.S. is reaping a harvest it sowed over decades, and it looks like it will continue indefinitely.

    • “Try the post- WWI partitioning of the Middle East. ”

      Which America had nothing to do with.

      That’s the problem with left wing ideologues. There’s always some past event that America (and/or the West generally) needs to apologize for, but never are foreigners ever held to account. Thus we hear endlessly about the “Invasion” of Iraq but never the horrors committed by Saddam Hussen. Or Israeli “Oppression” but never Palestinian terrorism. It’s obvious that the goal of such one-sided propaganda is to weaken America and strengthen our enemies.

  11. Peter Hitchens comes to mind. “Islamiphobia” is a word used by Liberals to slander their culturally Conservative opponents and shut them up. I personally agree with Robert Spencer on this issue. Not that we should stoop to the terrorist’s level and massacre all Muslims that would be diabolical. No, we should just accept Islam for what it is and work like good men of the West and fix this problem in a Just War like mentality.

  12. We are not at war with radical Islam. We are at war with Islam. From the beginning. Have you ever considered what the universal Islam El Fatiha prayer expresses, gives times daily?

  13. “Radical Islam” — as opposed to what…”moderate Islam?” The problem with this article is that it implicitly buys into the notion that a group of outliers — “radicals,” if you will — have distorted an otherwise decent religion. Horsefeathers. There is no other form of Islam but the radical version. Islam, by its very nature, is radicalism, and of an usually pernicious kind. “TGordon,” at least gets it right.

    • Seek: Right on, brother. Conversations like this wider one evince what insanity abides in America. Even WESTERN EUROPE is less insanely inclusive of its mortal foes than America, which says it all. Islam is our enemy. Just look at what they pray five times daily.

      Too many words wasted on this thread.

      “Forcibly convert infidels and kill those who abstain.” There is NO sect of Islam that holds otherwise: Sunni, Shiite, Sufism.
      Islam–all of it–is the enemy. The issue is an intellectual turd, which is precisely why it remains the favorite topic of sociology grad student flunkees. Many nuanced and midnightly issues require careful qualifications, demurrers, distinctions, and reassessments. Not this one. It doesn’t bear debating…except in the hapless, clueless, meaningless, Bush-era manner you see on this thread. But hilariously, even the stinking neocons lack the courage for the simple truth.

      Men of the East act like animals; men of the West act like women. Which means the confrontation which eventuates will not go well. Too late for that, however. Europe is already done. Next topic…

  14. Dear all,

    Thank you for your thoughtful replies. I’ve written elsewhere stating the irrelevance of whether “Radical Islam” (or whatever you’d like to call it, so long as we’re talking about the same concept) is integral to Islam itself or a perversion of the same:


    Throughout history we’ve seen barbaric and civilized interpretations of Islam flourish in different parts of the world. Which is the “true” Islam isn’t so important as recognizing that both interpretations are *plausible*.

    Muslims in the West who choose to follow a civilized interpretation of Islam–Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi’s, Bashar al-Assad’s, Seyyed Hossein Nasr’s, Rene Guenon’s, Averroës’s, etc.–they should be afforded the same freedom of religion as other peaceful, civilized traditions. If they choose to follow a violent, barbaric interpretation, they should be rooted out and prosecuted just as we would members of any faith tradition. If Muslims are disproportionally violent, we shouldn’t allow that to stay our hand; but to blame Islam itself lacks historical perspective.

    ~ Michael W. Davis

    • As an Aristotelian, relevance is singularly determined by assessing essential properties of a thing, in this case, Islam. Thus, blaming anything BUT Islam is what lacks historical perspective. Peaceable or sensible interpretations of Islam are what are the outliers to the faith. Like I said above, there is not a single sect of Islam that diverges from the view that The Qu’ran requires domination and force, no surprise. Your list of copacetic infidels might as well be 50 times as long, to no effect. Look what 12th/13th Century Islam did to the teachings of Averroes. It was at precisely THAT point in history that Islam chose against Aristotelianism and decency.

      • I see your point, Mr Gordon. But–and I say this to make a point, not to be flippant–no one cares about your interpretation of Islam. No one cares about my interpretation of Islam, either. Nor should they.

        I’m neither a Muslim nor an Aristotelian; I’m a Christian. I believe Islam is in itself a folly. My saying that “true Islam” is inherently peaceful (or violent) makes as much sense as my saying “true Marxism” is Trotskyist rather than Stalinist. It doesn’t make a difference to me which interpretation is right and which is wrong. I don’t think people should be Marxists at all.

        But I also don’t believe I have any right to violently suppress adherence to political or religious doctrines. I believe we should root out and punish those who commit acts of violence, or conspire to do so.

        Insofar as Muslims are happy to peacefully coexist with the rest of us, I’m content to do the same. They might be “wrong” in the eyes of Allah by doing so; but I don’t believe Allah (in the Islamic sense) exists at all, so what difference does it make to me? Behaviours and actions, not beliefs or ideas, are condemnable in the norm of the Anglo-American legal tradition

        • Yes, Mr. Davis, private interpretation is valueless. nothing nee there: but there is only ONE Muslim interpretation on Islamic conversion. There is NO Muslim sect (secular white liberals doesnt count) that puts forward something other than Sharia law and the other violent aspects of the late surahs of the Qu’ran (Qu’ranic interpretation functions on the principle of abrogation, like American common law). The Sunnis and Shiites might disagree as to how to celebrate Ramadan, but they do not disagree as to forcible conversion, religious toleration, or the penalty for homosexuality. Sharia IS Islam, as their saying goes. Whether it makes white liberals uncomfortable or not.

        • PS: many people are very confused on this thread, by irrelevant tangent issues like war. (Yawn.) This couldn’t be simpler: forcible conversion of infidels, discriminatory taxation, and rape of prisoners of war are not allowed by my Christian faith. NOT doing these is not allowed by the Muslim faith. In other words, I have to abstain from these, to be a good Christian; a man has to engage in these, to be a good Muslim. Couldn’t be any plainer.

          • Mr Gordon,

            If you’re sleepy, I recommend you get some rest!

            Any organized religion can and will advocate atrocities, because no human organization is impervious to original sin. Even Roman Catholics don’t expect their Church to never commit some wrong. It’s inevitable wherever large numbers of organized human beings are involved–and sometimes those errors are long-term misinterpretations of doctrine, i.e. the religious element of the Crusades, the persecution of Protestants by Catholics during the Reformation and vice versa, the witch trials and various persecutions of heretics in the early colonial era, etc.

            Thankfully they’re few and (more or less) far between. But if you think atrocities have never been committed in the name of Christianity, you’re badly mistaken.

            Of course, you feel that’s wrong, and I feel that’s wrong. As Christians, that’s important, because we can put moral pressure on the Church to keep it in line with Christ’s teachings of love, forgiveness, and so on. We ARE the Church, and so we have some influence on how the Church interprets Christ’s teachings.

            But what are you going to do to combat those men and women who bomb abortion clinics in the name of Christ (presuming you don’t support such terrorism)? Argue with them at length as to why they’re failing to live up to Christ’s teachings? That’s fine in the long-term, but it’s (a) not going to remove the clear and present danger, and (b) not within the powers of the government. In the short-term we need to arrest those people and root out their network, which will indeed keep people safe AND is the appropriate place of the government.

            We can do the same for Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Rastafarians, whatever. Let their co-religionists work out the doctrinal business, and let the government relentlessly pursue violent extremism however it manifests itself.

            And again, Mr Gordon, as happy as I am for you that you’re so confident in your interpretation of Islam, you simply can’t speak for the world’s population of Muslims. If you don’t intend to, and just want to have a debate online, okay; but we can’t form public policy around one non-Muslim’s interpretation of Islam. Whatever you think the Qur’an REALLY teaches, whatever sort of person you think Mohammed REALLY is–none of that can seriously have any bearing on our counter-terrorism strategy.

          • Mr. Davis: you’re wrong that Roman Catholics expect our Church to commit atrocities. Individuals err; the Christ-instituted Church does not. And that’s why Holy Mother Church has never contradicted a single dogma…or endorsed rape, forcible conversion, or something like Sharia. Every sect of Islam, however, does, private interpretation notwithstanding.

    • Michael,
      As long as we apply that same approach to Christianity, then we will have been fair even if we were not accurate. We can look at the European Christian wars and persecutions, the Christian supported ethnic cleansing of America’s indigenous people, the enslavement of Blacks up to the Civil War and the harsh persecution of Blacks during Jim Crow along with the current resistance to equality, the Christian supported invasions of other nations such as the Philippines around the turn of the 20th century and Vietnam during the 20th century, the support for Israel’s brutal occupation of the Palestinians, and I could go on.

      See, the issue is what is the criteria being used to determine whether a certain set of behaviors or beliefs are deemed to be ‘plausible’ interpretations of a given faith. Certainly, those within a given faith will be most likely using different criteria than those outside the faith. And similarly, those inside the faith will approach determining what is a ‘plausible’ interpretation with some different motivations than those outside the faith. In other words, people have different axes to grind. And none of this includes the syncretisms embraced with one’s faith by the people being studied and whether they will be identified. Thus, motivations of those doing the study must be examined especially when those doing the study use their own faith as a canon for the faith they are examining. For example, the cited work seems to exude an idyllic view of the cited writer’s own faith community.

      Then there is also the review of reference material written by others, especially of material that is contrary to what is being proposed in one’s own study.

      In the end, the real question is how much careful thought, concern for accuracy, and fear of misrepresentation was put into writing the article? I ask this because of the study I’ve had to put into “radical Islam” in order to teach a couple of college courses I taught.

      • Dear Mr. Day,

        Thank you. By all means, pursue and punish Christian terrorists just as you would Muslim ones. The point of my article was to work toward a realistic, non-discriminatory approach to counter-extremism. We need a way to understand and address radicalization in Islam (and every religion) without having to judge the legitimacy of a religion/interpretation of a religion. The American government simply can’t be allowed to weigh in on matters of religious jurisprudence.

        But I will say this: if you’d expect truly fair, unbiased anti-terror laws to root out as many Christian would-be terrorists as Muslim ones, you’ll be sorely disappointed!

        • Michael,
          Besides the question of accuracy and what efforts were made, perhaps one of the ways to counter the radical violence of those who claim to be Muslims is to note the contradictions between their actions and Islam. To separate them from having an legitimate claim to being Muslims. And to recognize that it isn’t their religions that is the driving force, but the inadequacies of their political resources to meet their current problems. At least those are the views of a couple of journalists who have lived in the Middle East and have intently studied those groups.

          And see, it isn’t the laws that would directly root out these extremists, it is the alienation of them from what they would claim to be their base that would contribute to their demise.

          • Dear Mr. Day,

            I wholeheartedly agree that Muslims should be “to note the contradictions between their actions and Islam” and to “separate them from having a legitimate claim to being Muslims”.

            It isn’t, however, my place to do so. It isn’t reasonable or helpful for non-Muslims to tell Muslims how their religion ought to be interpreted. As I said above, for one, it’s a self-evident fallacy for Western Christians, Jews, atheists, and whomever–non-Muslims- to make truth-claims about a religious system they believe is inherently false. How can we say what Allah (in Islam) “really said” when we don’t believe in Allah to begin with?

            Secondly, it follows that none of us would be making such judgments because we’re deeply interested in the “true interpretation of Islam” winning out in the end. We’re interested in minimizing the threat of radical Islam. We couldn’t give a toss about whether the Vaishnavism or Shiviti school of Hinduism wins out, whether the Mahayana or Theravada schools comes to dominate Hinduism. Our motives are primarily political, not religious. No Muslim would (or should) take the social interests of non-Muslims as reason to believe one interpretation of Islam as true and another false. That “infidels” don’t want to fight against the jihad isn’t a serious incentive for Muslims to abandon the jihad. The political considerations of another faith-group are very unconvincing reasons to take a certain stance on one’s own religious jurisprudence.

            As I said, I’d be more than pleased if Muslims suddenly decided that Islam isn’t a violent religion, but it’s silly to think we can wage a theological war against radical Islam. Our arguments for pacific Islam are obviously self-interested and have nothing to do with the good of Islam. Muslims have no reason to take those claims seriously… and they won’t. If we really want to curtail Islamic violence, we’ll have to take another tack.

          • Mr. Davis: it is a fallacy to hold as you have that religious propositions cannot be scrutinized on some subjunctive level. For example, when a liar is caught in a lie, precisely such subjunctive scrutiny is at work: “before you said you missed my party because you were out of town; now you’re saying you missed it because you were at home sick.”

            You’ve given absolutely no reasons why this sort of scrutiny cannot be applied against false religions, as well as other false propositions. All I’ve offered (which you haven’t refuted) is that Islam’s published claims about conversion/Sharia have been accepted by all parties/sects within Islam. Which sects beg to differ?

          • Michael,
            Since your last reply didn’t have a reply button, I’m using mine.

            A minor disagreement here, if we are talking about a group, regardless of the reasons, part of our job is to be as accurate as possible in describing that group.

            When I taught World Religions and I had to deal with this subject, when possible I sought the feedback of those whose religion I was lecturing on.

            Therefore, if we are talking about ‘radical islam’ for whatever reason, we should strive to be as accurate as possible. And if their violence is inconsistent with Islam, we should note that because we are describing Islam.

            And that applies to every group we discuss. The purpose here isn’t for an outside to tell an insider what they believe. The purpose here is so that one outsider can accurately report to another outsider what some group believes.

      • “the Christian supported invasions of other nations such as the Philippines around the turn of the 20th century and Vietnam during the 20th century, the support for Israel’s brutal occupation of the Palestinians, and I could go on.”

        First off, we never “Invaded” Vietnam, we simply came to the aid of our ally, South Vietnam, a peaceful nation that was being invaded by the hostile Communist forces from the North. And you cannot mention Israel without also mentioning the decades long campaign of terrorism by the Palestinians.

        The fact that you are so glibly one-sided with the facts indicates that your posts here are aimed more at spreading ideologically based propaganda as opposed to having a genuine discussion.

        • Eric,
          We did invade Vietnam. That invasion followed our failed attempt to help the French recolonize the nation–we committed to helping them recolonize before the end of WW II. Then we supported dictators and defied and sabotaged the Geneva Accords that would allow the South Vietnamese people to vote on reunification. Something else you should note. the leader of North Vietnam back then, Ho Chi Minh, was an American ally during WW II. Also note that Vietnam was divided as a way of managing the removal of Japanese forces. Our invasion of South Vietnam was in support of brutal, corrupt dictatorships simply because they opposed Communist North Vietnam. So our alliance with South Vietnam was somewhat comparable to the Roman Church’s Konkordat with Nazi Germany during the 1930s.

          And yes, the brutal occupation of Israel has been met by a brutal terrorism. But the terrorism is a reaction to the occupation, not vice-versa. In addition, we need to realize that modern Zionism started in the 1800s because of Christian Europe’s anti-Semitism. Here, we cannot separate the Christian part from the anti-Semitism because much of it was religiously based. Here, one only needs to read Martin Luther as he wrote against the Jews late in his life.

          Modern Zionism itself has always been a European venture and, from the beginning, had elements in it that believed in the domination over or ethnic cleansing of the land. Those elements gained power as Israel was forming into a nation. Both Arabs and Jews were at fault there. But the start was with Modern Zionism, not the Palestinians.

          Now it seems that you are more intent on focusing on me rather than the subject at hand. I have neither denied nor justified the violence from those who have attacked us. But the bulk of the aggression in many of the instances talked about on this blog has been from Western powers. In addition, as an American, I a more responsible for what my country does than for what other nations or groups do.

          • “Now it seems that you are more intent on focusing on me rather than the subject at hand. ”

            I focus on both, since in any dispute, the credibility of the people making the arguments is very relevant to the credibility of what they say. And the fact that your arguments are almost entirely one-sided and lacking in any kind of moral objectivity speaks volumes.

          • Eric,
            Credibility only matters to authoritarians. To attack the credibility of someone is to tell others not to listen to or read them because their words are not worthy of being read.

            There is a difference between credibility and consistency. By trying to note inconsistencies, one is saying that a person is contradicting themselves.

            But here is the problem, where are the inconsistencies on my part? When I briefly mentioned the history of Vietnam, where were my mistakes that would contradict what I said? The same goes for when I talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

            I think the problem is that you want to frame the issue in a way that justifies picking a side. And please correct me if I am wrong here. And the facts I point to challenge the side you want to support.

            It is quite simple. As an American who lives in a democracy, I am more responsible for the actions of my nation than the actions of any other nation. That means that if I believe my nation is wrong, it is my responsibility to point that out. That doesn’t mean that I support the other side or believe they are exonerated. But I am more responsible for what America does than for what other nations do.

            So those factors might be two reasons why what I have written seems to so one-sided to you. I am never justifying the immoral actions of others. I am inquiring into what role did America play in those actions. And that is an important inquiry to make when I consider how America should react to what is going on in the world.

  15. Obviously, Vietnam was not a jihad. Because some Christians supported it–but were not required to do so by their faith–it does not follow that it is analogous to a jihad. In fact, the very disagreement among Christians (tolerated by the Church) proves that such a war was not central to Christian doctrine the way that jihad is central to Islam.

    This is a VERY basic distinction: one is surprised to have to spell it out on a thread like this.

  16. “Credibility only matters to authoritarians.”

    Wrong! Credibility is perhaps the most important quality a person can possess. If a person can’t be counted on to tell the truth, that person is essentially worthless, or worse.

    “To attack the credibility of someone is to tell others not to listen to or read them because their words are not worthy of being read.”

    Exactly. People who routinely lie, or who use clever language to push a malevolent agenda (Communism, for example), should never be listened to, other than to use as an example of what people *shouldn’t* do.

    • Eric,
      Again, credibility, and I should say in many instances, only matters to authoritarians. Why? Because what people say can be tested. We can test the facts cited and examine the logic use.

      Authoritarians want us to determine truth by the credentials of the source. By using credentials to determine the truth of a claim, we eliminate the need to both test the facts and prove the logic.

      Now again, this is in many instances. And those instance include our discussion here. Whether our involvement in Vietnam was an invasion or the mere response to a request can be examined by going through the history of Vietnam as well as the history of our involvement there. Yes, our conclusions might clash, but we can test the facts and examine the logic each person uses to compare the conclusions.

      What the following line of yours does is to follow a precedent practice by some people you may not want to imitate.

      People who routinely lie, or who use clever language to push a malevolent agenda (Communism, for example), should never be listened to, other than to use as an example of what people *shouldn’t* do.

      Please note that I believe it was the leaders of the French Revolution who called those who disagreed ‘counter-revolutionaries’ so those dissenters would not only lose the public voices, but their heads too. Lenin did the same thing to fellow socialists who did not agree with him. If an agenda is malevolent, then that can be shown. Otherwise, what we encourage by saying ‘some people should never be listened to’ is a departure from reason and the practice of externalizing evil. And we should note that once we give into the practice of externalizing evil, we surrender to an all-or-nothing thinking approach.

      BTW, did you know the there are other forms of Communism other than what the Bolsheviks forced on their country?

    • Eric,
      Thought I responded to this already, but perhaps I messed up, so I will try again. It’s not that credibility is not important for some situations. But in a debate, where facts and logic can examined, credibility only matters to authoritarians.

      As for your last paragraph, you are basically following the logic of those who led the French Revolution and Lenin as he hijacked the Russian Revolution. They called all of their opponents, even those who were involved in their respective revolutions, ‘counter-revolutionaries.’ And in so doing, they gave themselves and others permission to cause those opponents to not only to lose their voices, but in some instances, their heads too.

      Also when you refer to Communists as those who use lies and rhetoric to deceive, which Communists were you referring to? There is more than one kind. And who determines who will be on the no-listen-to list? And isn’t it possible for a group to be totally wrong on some issues, but have something significant to say on other issues?

      To the authoritarian, truth is primarily determined by the credentials of the person speaking or writing.

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