Lewis at From Across the Pond comes to the decision that he will no longer refer to terrorists as Muslim or Islamic. He says,
I know that is how they identify themselves, but that does not matter. To allow them force us to mis-use the name of Islam, just at the IRA forced a mis-use of the term 'Catholic' - is to grant them a power they do not deserve. These people are not Muslims, they are simply evil.
I do not disagree with this statement. But there can be little disagreement that those involved in terrorism currently are Islamic. And it is in the nature of that religion from which they take their passion to continue in the fight. After all, what is the goal of the terrorist? To kill us? Why? So that they might establish their own culture in the lands that they claim we have invaded, occupied, influenced. Or is to to re-establish the greater Islamic caliphate that fell so many years ago? Or is it the destruction of Israel? Or is it all three and more? But what goal do they have that falls outside of fundamentalist Islamic thought?
It is interesting because previous practitioners of totalitarianism (fascism, communism, etc.) generally throw off religious pursuits and practice, mainly because they wish their own form of control to be what is worshipped. But in the terrorist world, their religion already informs their pursuit - the infidel. They fight specifically because we are that, and thus not adherent to Islamic law or beliefs. We infect their culture with thoughts and habits that go against their religious beliefs, they might say, and thus we must be destroyed so we cease doing such.
This is not to say that the entire religion of Islam believes this strongly, but thus far, they have done little to stand up to this themselves. Notice Iran. Or Palestine. Their young have never known a world that was not as it is today - a theocracy in Iran...the "refugees" of the Palestinians. They are taught a religion that takes a much more fundamentalist approach in practice. Whether it is correct or not as an interpretation of Islam, it is by this authority that these people go out and kill. They are extremists, to be sure. But they act out of passion for the very same religion Islamic moderates do, and the moderates do little to denounce this.
It is a flaw in the religion, I believe. Islam has never had a reformation as Catholicism has. And that reformation took close to a hundred years to come to peace. Prior to that, the Catholic church was just as controlling as the Islamic religion is today. They did not want people having the freedom to interpret the Bible for themselves. They feared losing their power and control. This is very similar to the current state of Islam. It is by this power and control that terrorists are informed of our supposed "wickedness." It is this power and control that rules over Iran today. It is by this power and control that the Palestinians are generationally convinced of their victim status. It is this power and control that the terrorists seek to establish over the whole of the Middle East. It is the threat of losing this fight in Iraq and elsewhere that keeps them coming back for more. If the people of the Middle East are presented with the choice between liberty and fundamentalism, they might choose to be free to make their own choices. This would doom the desired power and control.
We cannot make this reformation happen. We cannot make Muslims decide that they will take back their admittedly impressive religion. But we can press the issue in our own interests because our safety is on the line while they figure this out and go through the motions the Catholic church had to four hundred years ago. Do I think it will be as bloody? Quite possibly. But truth be told - I would just as soon it be them killing each other rather than them killing us.
No, I don't think Islam as a religion is bad or evil. But the interpretation of it by terrorists is and the only people that can alter that are fellow adherents to the religion. They must make that stand for it to be effective. Not us. Decision '08 linked to a Thomas Friedman column that argued some of the same as I have. A choice bit from Friedman,
And because I think that would be a disaster, it is essential that the Muslim world wake up to the fact that it has a jihadist death cult in its midst. If it does not fight that death cult, that cancer, within its own body politic, it is going to infect Muslim-Western relations everywhere. Only the Muslim world can root out that death cult. It takes a village.
What do I mean? I mean that the greatest restraint on human behavior is never a policeman or a border guard. The greatest restraint on human behavior is what a culture and a religion deem shameful. It is what the village and its religious and political elders say is wrong or not allowed...
The reason I link to Friedman through Decision '08 is for a few reasons. One, I refuse to link to the Times anymore due to them charging to read columnists. Two, I like the site (so check it out.) Three, because of this that echos much of the same as the rest of this post,
I only speak for myself, but I grow frustrated with calls to attempt to understand a culture that apparently is unmoved by beheadings, untroubled by suicide bombers and terrorists, yet riots over reports that a book has been mishandled in a prison holding these terrorists (true or not). I feel little sympathy, that is, for a culture that apparently feels my life has no worth, and it's not putting me in a tolerant mood.
And four, (to argue slightly with the end of the post) I would suggest that there have been some Muslim communities that have called out the fundamentalist wing of the religion, but not forcefully enough and to little effect. Further, there seem to be some elements of the Sunni insurgents in Iraq that may be willing to stop fighting and participate in the Iraqi government so they don't get left out in the cold. That is a large wing of the resistance in Iraq that would assist in moving general public opinion, both there and here, as well as decreasing the strength of their fight.
But it still does not solve the issue of Iran, Syria, Saudi and Pakistani jihadists, and all Israeli hating Muslims. That issue right there remains the one issue in the room that only the religion can fix. Until Muslims re-learn to accept Jews, I see little peace in the region. All part of the needed Islamic reformation.
UPDATE - Make sure to check out this informative (and lengthy) paper by Donald Sensing that goes well with the above thoughts. Pay close attention near the end when he discusses science and Islam. I did not mention it above, but I think it plays in easily with the need for a reformation and acceptance of science within Islam if they are ever to move into the modern world and co-exist with western ideas. That is all.