Over the last several decades, nearly every Muslim country and essentially the entire Muslim world has experienced a religious resurgence or the unmistakable revival of Islamic fundamentalism. Anti-Americanism has a vice-like hold on the entire population of the Islamic world, including those from countries considered to be moderate and our allies in our war on terror. Knowing this, the governments of our Muslim allies, as well as the prominent leaders of “moderate Muslim” groups in the U.S. have been reluctant, if not altogether silent, on condemning the terrorists who are allegedly acting in violation of the principals of the religion of Islam.
Political leaders, media personalities and other pundits describe Islam as a “religion of peace,” stating that Muslims who kill in the name of their religion are not true Muslims. They insist that that the term “jihad” does not refer to a holy war, but a “personal moral struggle” against the evil within oneself – or some similar variation.
Commenting this past weekend on a recent “terror convention” in Iran, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated that recruiting suicide bombers in the name of Islam violates the fundamental tenets of “a great world religion.” This violent cause “has nothing to do with Islam.” Rice added:
“Islam is a peaceful religion. And so the notion that somehow flying airplanes into buildings or strapping a belt on yourself and blowing up other people is in the service of Islam is something, I think, that clearly perverts the religion and is resented by most respected Islamic scholars for very good reason. By the way, I think probably rejected too by most people, because who wants that to be the future for your children?”
Based on lengthy historical precedent, her statements lack the necessary acknowledgement that there are a great many Muslim people who stand willing to die for their faith. In America, we attempt to apply secular beliefs to make sense out of such terrorist acts as religious “martyrdom,” suggesting that only a small percentage of Muslims are extremists. What about the larger numbers who display similar tendencies, especially those in the Muslim hotbeds of Islamic fundamentalism? We again apply secular logic to their fervent religious convictions, and suggest that dying for Allah is not their ultimate motive, and assert that they are merely pawns in a political struggle and are not really acting as “true” Muslims. By applying such characteristics to our enemy, we are able to be falsely comforted in the premise that we are fighting a relatively small group of thugs instead of throngs of people who possess centuries-old, deeply religious convictions and motivations.
Condolezza Rice’s statements are alarming insofar as they are either based on misinformation or more likely, are deliberately sophistical. Perhaps they were made with the intent of maintaining the tenuous coalition of a handful of “moderate” Muslim countries reluctant involvement against the war on terror. Even in consideration of the most noble of causes, her statements serve to reinforce misconceptions that ushered in the attacks of 9/11. Fighting terrorism is one thing, but winning the war against Islamic terrorism is another. The latter requires moral clarity and honesty about the enemy we are fighting. To misunderstand or deliberately mischaracterize our enemy for the sake of political correctness is to adopt an inappropriate and inadequate strategy in this war, and is one that will lead us down a perilous path – the same path that we have maintained for the last 30 years.
We need to take a look at history to understand what is at stake and realize that we cannot afford to misunderstand the religious convictions of our enemy. Noted historian Bernard Lewis wrote the following:
“In the Muslim worldview the basic division of mankind is into the House of Islam (Dar al- Islam) and the House of War (Dar al-Harb). Ideally, the House of Islam is conceived as a single community. The logic of Islamic law, however, does not recognize the permanent existence of any other polity outside Islam. In time, in the Muslim view, all mankind will accept Islam or submit to Islamic rule. A treaty of peace between the Muslim state and a non-Muslim state was thus in theory impossible Such a truce, according to the jurists, could only be provisional. The name given by the Muslim jurists to this struggle is jihad.”
Accordingly, those in disagreement with jihad as meaning a holy war are themselves apostates to their religion. They are the infidels who are perverting Islam, not those who engage in the armed struggle. Perhaps this is the reason so many so-called “moderate Muslims” have been silent on condemning the terrorists in acting in violation of the principals of the religion of Islam. Perhaps this is the reason we maintain military superiority, yet unprecedented vulnerability.
When we know our enemy, or at least admit that the war we are currently fighting is steeped in centuries-old fervent religious ideology, then and only then we will be able to fight and fully beat them. We must make no mistake that our initial successes in Afghanistan and even Iraq are purely military victories. Our enemy continues to conduct their operations in nearly every country in the world, including here in the United States. Consequently, we will not be able to be victorious by military strength alone. It will take honesty to identify our enemy and know our enemy as well as they know us, or we will be fighting this war for generations to come.