Islam and Extremism: What Is Underneath

by William DiPuccio:

Islamists seem to be driven not only to establish the hegemony of Islam by supplanting secular governments and legal systems, but also by enforcing religious purity according to their own standards. Muslims in America – most of whom were undoubtedly fleeing abuse, not trying to bring it with them – should of course be treated with the same respect and deference extended to people of other religions But our civility should not blind us to the potential for extremism – a concern shared by 60% of Muslim Americans – or to the religious connections between Islam and terrorism.

An excursion into the blogosphere reveals the polarization which attends Islamic issues. Comment areas are populated with readers who seem to think that Islam is a monolithic belief system. This myth, maintained by both “Islamophiles” and “Islamophobes,” has overshadowed any nuanced discussion of Islam.

Islam is a diverse religion. Many Muslims who have immigrated to America and Europe have adopted Western ideals of free speech and religious toleration. Those in the United States have done particularly well in assimilating these values.[1] In a democracy, in which the individual is regarded as the basic unit of society, a person is judged not by his ethnic or religious associations, but by his ideas and behavior.

Although nearly half (42%) of the American public, as well as the U.S. government, believe that Islam is no more likely to encourage violence than any other religion,[2] the radical tendencies which exist in Islam are unambiguously present and they continue to fuel terrorism and supremacist ideologies, such as Islamism, on a scale not seen in other modern religions. This fact, though politically incorrect, has not escaped the notice of Muslims here in the U.S. According to a 2011 Pew survey, 60% of Muslim Americans are concerned about the rise of Islamic extremism in the U.S., and 21% feel that there is significant support for extremism in the Muslim community.[3]

Americans and government officials who deny that there is a religious link between Islam and terrorism face a disconnect between their idealism, which seeks the good in all things, and the hard edge of historical reality. Western liberal optimism places its faith in reason and the essential goodness of mankind. According to this worldview, Islam is a religion of peace, and, given favorable political and economic opportunities, even terrorists can be persuaded to live in harmony with the rest of the world.

By seeing Islam through this lens, American idealists and their European counterparts are projecting Western democratic values upon the Islamic world in the sincere belief that in the end, reason and human goodness will triumph.[4] As many of these values, discussed in detail below, are at the core of America’s identity, errors in judgment can have grave consequences for American foreign policy, domestic security, and even our constitution.

Islam and Democratic Values

There is a popular belief, especially in America, that all people, deep down, want democracy, individual liberty, toleration, peace, and equality under the law. While undoubtedly true of many, this modern ideal assumes that everyone is the same; that anyone who is educated in the ways of Western democratic ideals will embrace them if given a chance, and that inequalities in the world are the product of bad governments, not bad people.

The reconstruction of Germany and Japan after WWII, and the successful adoption of democracy by those countries, appeared to validate this notion and emboldened the U.S. to employ the same nation-building strategy in the middle east. Among these Muslim nations, however, universal democracy has proven to be an illusion leading to a over a half century of misguided foreign policy that has repeatedly failed. In what can only be characterized as an embarrassing display of ignorance, the U.S. has consistently underestimated the depth and determination of Islam’s political ideology.[5] Nazism, Japanese imperialism, and Soviet-brand communism were a mere flash-in-the-pan compared to Islamic supremacism, the roots of which go back fourteen centuries. Islamism looks here to stay.

U.S. military and economic intervention in Iran, Iraq, Egypt, and even Afghanistan have failed either to hold Islamists at bay or to establish stable Islamic democracies. The so-called “Arab Spring,” which re-energized hopes of establishing democracy in the middle east and North Africa, has turned icy; in every country, fascist regimes collapsed under the pressure of popular uprisings, only to be replaced by radical Islamic governments. It is clear that many Muslims either prefer Shariah law to democracy, are willing to acquiesce to the will of militant Islamists[6], or have no capability with which to fend off the militant Islamists

Globally, the story is the same. Out of the 57 nations which comprise the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, only three rise to the level of flawed democracies, according to the 2010 Democracy Index by The Economist.[7] With the exception of communist and former communist countries, Islamic nations impose the highest level of government restrictions on religion. Among the predominantly Islamic countries in the middle east and North Africa, 80% have anti-blasphemy laws and 60% of these nations enforce them.[8] Democracy, individual liberty, free speech, toleration, and equality are simply not consistent – or even compatible – with traditional Islamic theology and Shariah law.

Read more at Gatestone Institute

2 thoughts on “Islam and Extremism: What Is Underneath

Comments are closed.