Terrorism is Un-Islamic
By Foday Justice Darboe
Note: A reader response, by Peter Bergel, appears below.
In the wake of the coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris and the double suicide bombing in Beirut on November 12th, many Muslims took to Twitter to loudly and unequivocally condemn the terrorists attacks with the hashtags— #NotInMyName, #MuslimsAreNotTerrorist, but is this enough to counter Islamic extremism? When will “moderate Muslims” stand up and speak against the terror and mayhem committed in the name of Islam? Thanks to Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Al-Shabab, Boko Haram, etc. Islam is facing a major branding problem. Islamic extremism is damaging and endangering the place of Islam and Muslims in the world. As Daniel Pipes argues, if militant Islam is the problem; moderate Islam is the solution. “Moderate Muslims” all over the world, particularly those living in secure environments, must speak out more to condemn and further isolate the medieval extremist elements.
As a moderate/progressive Muslim, I want to note that ISIS does not speak for me nor do I share any iota of their twisted beliefs. ISIS poses a direct challenge to the principle and vision of Islam and a threat to humanity. To say ISIS is un-Islamic is an understatement. In essence, ISIS is an international band of thugs using religion and terror to rape, kill, and extort money. Arguably, ISIS and their sympathizers are willfully and pridefully ignorant. Of course, cognitive dissonance is difficult to overcome. The sad part is that ISIS followers truly believe they have the right interpretation of Islam. Thus, they have created some delusional reality where they ignore tolerance, acceptance, inclusion and coexistence—the core principles of the religion.
As Fareed Zakaria once alluded, both those inside and outside the Muslim world must recognize that the fight against violent Islamic extremism is not a clash between Muslims and the West or a clash between civilizations. “Moderate Muslim” leaders—by far the vast majority–must condemn jihadist ideology and issue Fatwas against extremism. Islamic extremism has to be defeated ideologically and its narrative reformed. As in World War II or the Cold War, the ideological opponents had to be defeated, followed by transformation of the societies in which the ideology took hold. There are more than 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide and the vast majority are peace loving. It is within these “moderate Muslims” that the problem lies. The term “moderate” has lost its standing in the Islamic world and “moderate Muslim” voices are often drowned out by the extremists. We must lead the way in promoting counternarratives to extremist ideologies.
Complete military success in Iraq, Syria and other ISIS controlled territories will not destroy the terrorist threat. Reciprocal violence will not stop terrorism over the long term; there are always more recruits to fill the ranks and there only needs to be a few terrorists to inflict destruction. Other counterterrorism methods such as targeted killings, infiltration, arrest, military repression, or marginalization may not work, may be insufficient on their own to end a campaign, or may even worsen the problem overall. The West should focus on winning the hearts and minds of moderate Muslims to counter Islamic extremism. Though the creation of an Islamic state is an important factor among ISIS’s grievances, but there are other grievances that proved fertile recruiting ground for ISIS. The threat of Islamic extremism will disappear only if the region manages to reduce chronic poverty, unemployment, end rampant government corruption, promote democratic principles, and end political disenfranchisement.
To any extremist or ISIS sympathizer reading this, call me in infidel. I will proudly take that name. I’m not committing blasphemy; I’m challenging your twisted ideology.Φ
Foday Justice Darboe is a Ph.D. candidate in Conflict Analysis and Transformation at Portland State University, Portland, Oregon.
Terrorism Is Un-American
By Peter Bergel
Thanks to Foday Darboe for setting an example to those he calls “moderate Muslims.” I will follow his lead to set an example for “patriotic Americans.”
In the wake of the coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris and the double suicide bombing in Beirut on November 12th, many “patriotic Americans” spoke out against terrorists and demanded a renewed “war on terror.” But will this counter Islamic extremism?
When will “patriotic Americans” stand up and speak against the terror and mayhem committed by our country in the name of “democracy” and “freedom?” Using military terrorism, such as drone attacks and bombing, in an effort to encourage democracy and freedom to prevail is damaging and endangering the potential for peace in the Mideast and the reputation of the United States in the world. As Martin Luther King argued, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.” “Patriotic Americans,” most of whom are living in secure environments, must speak out to condemn and further isolate medieval extremist elements.
As a patriotic American, I want to note that my government’s militarized foreign policy does not represent me, nor do I share its twisted assumptions. Such policies pose a direct threat to the principles that made this country great and to the vision of a peaceful world that most Americans share. These policies are – literally – a threat to humanity. To say that a foreign policy built on military over-kill is un-American is an understatement. In essence, U.S. military capacity – when used as it is in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria – is international terrorism just as reprehensible as anything ISIS is doing or taking responsibility for. The sad part is that many Americans truly believe the terrorism wielded in their name is justifiable, even theologically sanctioned. Thus, they have created a delusional reality where they ignore tolerance, acceptance, inclusion and coexistence — the core principles of their religions.
As countless people have noted – both inside and outside the United States – the U.S. must recognize that the fight against violent Islamic extremism is not a clash between Muslims and the West, nor a clash between civilizations. “Patriotic Americans” – by far the majority – must condemn their own jihadist ideology and issue repeated protests against extremism. Islamic extremism has to be defeated ideologically and its narrative reformed. There are more than 300 million Americans and the majority are peace loving. It is with these “patriotic Americans” that the problem lies. The term “peaceful” has lost its standing in post-9/11 America and calls for peace are often drowned out by extremists. We must lead the way in promoting counter narratives to extremist ideologies.
Complete military success in Iraq, Syria and other ISIS controlled territories will not destroy the terrorist threat. Reciprocal violence will not stop terrorism over the long term; there are always more recruits to fill the ranks and there only need to be a few terrorists to inflict destruction. Other counter-terrorism methods, such as targeted killings, infiltration, arrests of both foreigners and Americans, military repression, or marginalization will not work and will worsen the overall problem. The threat of Islamic extremism will disappear only if the region manages to reduce chronic poverty and unemployment, end rampant government corruption, promote genuine democratic principles and end political disenfranchisement.
“Patriotism” means taking a stand to protect one’s country. That is what I am doing by writing this article. My country is endangered far more seriously by abandoning its founding principles in order to use its muscle to create a climate of fear, threat, anger and desire for retaliation in the world than by ISIS and Al Qaeda, et al. Please join me in helping to make this clear to other Americans.Φ
Peter Bergel, former Director of Oregon PeaceWorks, is a peace musician and independent activist who lives in Salem, Oregon.