By Tom Maertens
Mankato Free Press, January 28, 2015
France has suffered a series of terrorist attacks recently, the worst being the Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris. Religious extremists were behind those actions, shouting allahu akbar as they executed twelve journalists. As is well known, they were Muslims acting on behalf of Islam.
Slimane Nadour, head of communications at the Grand Mosque of Paris, acknowledged that fact, saying that “Everyone in France, including Muslims, is afraid of the radicals. Muslims themselves are the biggest target of radical Islamist terrorism.”
Radical Islamist terrorist groups include ISIL, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Al Shabab, AQAP, and the Taliban.
Pope Francis attributed the recent killings in France and the strife in the Middle East to “deviant forms of religion” such as religious fundamentalism, noting that perpetrators use God as a pretext for their crimes. …”Violence is always the product of a falsification of religion…whose only goal is power over others.”
There is a predictable result of such religiously-based terrorism: three separate polls show respectively that 60% of Italians view Islam as a dangerous religion and that 60% of Germans and 74% of the French say that Islam is not compatible with Western society. In contrast, has anybody ever worried about Unitarian suicide bombers, Amish jihadists or Quaker sleeper cells, for example?
One explanation for the growing extremism cites the background of Muslim immigrants from the most rural areas of Morocco, Algeria, Turkey, and Pakistan. The immigrants are poorer, less educated, and more religious than their host societies.
Yet there are millions of Christians in the Middle East who don’t blow themselves up to become martyrs, even though they live under the same economic and political circumstances as the supposedly oppressed Muslims.
The immigrants’ concept of nationhood is based on Islam, not on common language, history and ethnic group as in Europe. For them, the Qu’ran is seen as the constitution of an Islamic state; it uses religious rules – Shariah -- to enforce its control over all aspects of society. A 2013 Pew survey shows, for example, that 88% of Muslims in Egypt and 62% of Muslims in Pakistan support the death penalty for people who leave Islam.
Accordingly, many immigrants have refused to assimilate and instead, agitated for Islamic law, which is anathema in pluralistic and secular Europe. Many Europeans believe that immigrants should adapt to the host countries’ culture and traditions; instead, the immigrants frequently attempt to install the same dysfunctional systems they fled.
Some, such as ex-Senator Joe Lieberman, believe the response to Islamist terrorism should be open warfare, starting with a formal declaration of war. He asserted in the WSJ that the West must go on the offensive against radical Islam; that the U.S. and the European powers should form an alliance against the jihadist groups with the goal of destroying them militarily. Unfortunately, such an approach has not met with notable success; historically, it has created more jihadis, as happened in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan led eventually to the creation of al Qaeda, and the US invasion of Iraq was instrumental in the formation of ISIS.
Other commentators, such as David Ignatius in the Washington Post, believe the role of religion is exaggerated. He points out that the three Paris attackers were less religious zealots than career criminals for whom jihadi groups apparently provided a sense of belonging and an outlet for adventure and their criminal proclivities: ISIS’s funding comes from pirated oil, kidnapping for ransom, bank robbery, theft, abducting and selling slaves – all sanctioned by Shariah as “spoils of war” -- and from wealthy Arabs.
Ignatius’s approach would be to have prominent Muslims explain that violence is not the real Islam, essentially, to talk them out of jihad.
Another “soft” approach is that of Denmark which attempts to steer returning jihadis towards education and jobs; it has seen the number of ISIS recruits drop from thirty in 2013 to one in 2014.
Others, like Fareed Zakaria, have pointed out that the Qu’ran does not have any prohibitions on blasphemy or criticizing the prophet: these are cynical inventions by political leaders to manipulate the naïve, which should be exposed.
No approach is likely to be successful, however, if weak governments cannot police their national territory, and equally important, cut off the groups’ financing.
The outcome of this campaign is uncertain, but it will be lengthy and expensive; civil liberties and individual privacy will likely suffer in the process. We will be lucky if we do not also suffer further major attacks in the process.