Persecution Blog: Islamic Terrorism

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July 26, 2005


Glenn Penner

You may be interested in an editorial that I recently wrote for The Voice of the Martyrs in Canada (Yes, there is more than one Voice of the Martyrs).

Is the War on Terrorism Really Winnable?

by Glenn Penner

The July bombings in London once again focused the attention of the free world on the questions of what kind of people would commit such acts of barbarity and what motivates them.

I was in the United Kingdom when the attacks on July 7 occurred, safely celebrating my wife's 41st birthday in a little town south of Glasgow, Scotland. Moderate Muslims and careful politicians in Britain were quick to disassociate the bombings from Islam. Those responsible are not "real" Muslims, we were assured; this is not what real Islam is all about.

This disassociation, however, has a hollow ring to it that, I suspect, many hear and are confused by. How can we say that these and other such terrorists are not real Muslims when every one of them comes from a Muslim background, often deliberately acts in the name of Islam, receives instruction from Islamic schools and practices their faith devotedly up to the point of blowing themselves and their targets to smithereens. Are they real Muslims or are they not?

The fact is (and no humour is intended), the answer to the last question is "Yes." Islam is not a monolithic religion; it is a house with many rooms. Claiming that these terrorists are not real Muslims may provide comfort and a degree of protection to the many moderate Muslims who live in the West who abhor these attacks done in the name of their god. And it may help to maintain civil peace in societies like Britain, Europe, Canada and America with large ethnic Muslim populations. But refusing to acknowledge that these are real Muslims who commit such atrocities is both dishonest and dangerous and serves no one's interest ultimately.

Personally, I believe that the phrase "the war on terrorism" is misleading and unhelpful. We are not at war with terrorism but with a branch of militant Islam. Let's be honest about it. Terrorism is their weapon but their religious beliefs are what provide their basic motivation. These militants sincerely believe that they are the "real" Muslims and that the moderates are apostates. The war on terror cannot be won if we refuse to acknowledge what we are up against. Ideologies breed violence. We must lump militant Islam in the same category as Fascism and Marxism, whether we want to or not, as dangerous ideologies that cannot be appeased, reasoned with, excused, or ignored.

We must acknowledge the reality that this present terrorism is a problem within Islam and moderate Muslims must begin to acknowledge it openly and assume responsibility to effectively deal with it, both publicly and privately. For starters, Islamic religious leaders in the West must begin to actively cooperate with local police and security services. They must encourage their congregants to do likewise. To their credit, Muslims in the West often know and appreciate their rights in a free society far better than most. Now they must also join us in accepting the responsibility to maintain such a society. Cooperation with police and security forces are among these responsibilities. This also includes an active isolation and exclusion of militant elements within their own midst that promote violence and hatred as a means to an end. This must include public repudiation of teachers of such hatred and violence, identifying them by name. Such civil responsibility must include refusing to allow mosques to be used as recruiting grounds for militants and counselling parents not to send their children to schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan which are known to promote militant Islam. Until the Muslim community in the West begins to do more to actively uproot militancy from their own midst both publicly and privately, the claim that these terrorists are not "real" Muslims will never and should never be taken seriously.

Muslims living in the West must also learn to stop making exceptions to violence. As David Frum put it in his National Post editorial of July 12, "It's hard to take a principled stand against al-Qaeda if you privately support Hamas and Hezbollah (in their actions against Israel)." And to cry out that this violence in London would never have taken place if the West had not stirred Muslim resentment by invading Iraq is short-sighted rhetoric. Forgotten is the fact that al-Qaeda actively recruited, conceived, strategized, and set in motion the events of 9/11 at a time when the United States and its Western allies were actively protecting Muslims in Kuwait, Kosova, and Bosnia. Nor can we blame the policies of the Bush administration for the rise of militant Islam. It was during the Clinton administration that al-Qaeda supported militant organizations like Laskar Jihad and similar groups in Indonesia, and received support and sanctuary from the murderous government of Sudan. It was during Clinton's presidency that al-Qaeda blew up two American embassies in Africa and first attempted to bomb the World Trade Centre in New York.

To be certain, the US-led invasion of Iraq has contributed to the galvanization of more Muslims against the West and helped convince them of the truth of Osama bin Laden's vision for the world. But we must not forget that the roots of militant Islam go back much further than the beginning of the Iraq war. Al-Qaeda, itself, was founded in the 1980's with the expressed purpose of overthrowing the Saudi monarchy (a goal that remains unchanged). And lest we forget, as Charles Krauthammer recently noted in Time (July 18, 2005 edition), al-Qaeda has always been quick to invent some excuse or historical injury to justify its barbarism. Today it is Iraq. Yesterday it was Palestine. And if all else fails, bin Laden refers to Andalusia and the loss of Muslim control in Spain to Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492. Rest assured that in the future, as conditions change, new excuses will arise and new causes will be invoked to justify the unjustifiable.

And if present attitudes prevail, many Muslims living in the West and their sympathizers, will parrot these new excuses and causes, attempting to shift (or at least share) the blame, justifying acts of terrorism or, at the very least, deflecting criticism. Western Muslims (and their supporters) cannot continue to hold to this modus operandi and ever expect their fellow citizens to accept their claim that Islam is a religion of peace.

The crux of the issue is, of course, can Muslims who have moved to the West come to accept the fact that Islam's status in their adopted society is that of being one religion among equals? David Frum correctly points out that it is far from clear whether Western Muslims accept the Western way of doing things or yearn for a Middle-Eastern future. The number of mosques in western nations that preach violence and call for the overthrow of western society and the imposition of Shariah law in the West is worrisome. It also undermines claims that Islam is committed to peace.

I am prepared to accept this claim, but with conditions. I will believe that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance:

1. When Western Muslims are prepared to fully embrace living in inclusive, democratic countries governed by the rule of law.

2. When Western Muslims support attempts to transform their former homelands into societies where freedom of religious belief is as welcome there as here.

3. When Christians, Jews, Hindus, and others can openly worship in Saudi Arabia and Muslims can be invited to consider the claims of Christ without fear of imprisonment, torture, and execution.

4. When Muslims can actually choose to change their religion anywhere in the world with the same ease that others can become Muslims today.

5. When Muslim moderates actively work to create Muslim societies around the world where religious minorities can feel safe from violence and retaliation for the actions of fellow religionists perceived to be against Islam, in the same way that they expect protection in the West from acts of vigilante retaliation for the acts of al-Qaeda.

6. When Muslim moderates actively work to end once and for all, the discriminatory practice of dhimmitude that disguises oppression for protection of religious minorities in Muslim societies.

7. When Muslim moderates act to make effective legal changes that recognize equal rights under law to all citizens, regardless of gender or religion.

This is the crux of the matter. While Islam is a house with many rooms, the entire building rests upon a foundation of religious intolerance and discrimination that we must insist on being abandoned and rebuilt. Such fundamental changes must be made.

Am I optimistic that such changes can be made? Not really. That's why I am not sure that the so-called "war on terrorism" can ever be won. While we are fighting against one room in the house of Islam, the room shares the same foundation with the rest of the house. This is perhaps why so few moderate Muslims are prepared to speak up. While they abhor the violence and the terror done in the name of Islam, they know that they share too much in common to address the real issues that could put an end to militancy in Islam. How do you begin without dismantling the house entirely?

(Persecution and Prayer Alert - Special Supplement - July 20, 2005)


Quote: "The extremist Muslim’s view of their scared writings..."

I definitely agree that their writings are scary!!

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