The Rise and Fall of Radical Islam

Recent events with the attempted blockade run have gotten me thinking about the twin problems of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and radical Islam’s war on the West.  Now, I don’t think I have any magical solutions, but I have learned some important facts that put the current conflict in perspective.

The most important thing to realize is that although violence in the Middle East is older than the Old Testament, the dominance of radical Islam is not.

The age of secular Islam started with the fall of the Ottoman Empire.  Out of the ashes of that collapsed regime, a Turkish hero named Mustafa Kemal Atatürk arose:

Atatürk became known as an extremely capable military officer during World War I.  Following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, he led the Turkish national movement in the Turkish War of Independence. Having established a provisional government in Ankara, he defeated the forces sent by the Allies. His successful military campaigns led to the liberation of the country and to the establishment of Turkey.

The most important thing about Atatürk, however, was that he was a committed secularist.  Not only did he adopt and adapt the infrastructure of modern western nations, but in 1924 he took the extreme step of abolishing the caliphate.  Saying, “The religion of Islam will be elevated if it will cease to be a political instrument, as had been the case in the past,” he seized all the political authority of the religious office and then erased it.  The repercussion of this action echoed throughout the Islamic world, and in 2 or 3 different conferences it was decided that a new caliphate must be created to continue the Islamic world, but none was ever made.

Throughout most of the rest of the 20th century Turkey was a model for modern Muslims living in a secular world.  This is part of the reason that – up until the 1970s a lot of the Arab-Israeli conflict was largely secular.

How did that work out?  Not so well.  From the founding of Israel onwards the Arab nations were repeatedly humiliated by their smaller foe, and as a consequence the prestige of secular authority fell.  Then, in the 1970s and 1980s, two events brought Islam back into the world of politics.

The first was the Islamic Revolution in Iran, and the second was the successful expulsion of the Soviets from Afghanistan.  Radical Islamic clerics seized the opportunity and milked everything they could out of it.  According to them the Islamic Revolution proved that Islam could humiliate the United States, and the mujahideen in Afghanistan proved that the Islam could humiliate the USSR.  Where secular power had failed, the radicals claimed, Allah had prevailed.

Of course there are problems with those claims.  The fact is that the Islamic Revolution was not initially Islamic.  It was a populist Iranian revolution bringing together fundamentalists, moderates, and even atheist Marxists together in a united front.  Only after the Revolution was largely successful did Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini turn on his less-theologically pure allies and eradicate them.  The Revolution was quickly rewritten as a religious movement, but that was a lie.  Radical Islam was claiming credit for a revolution that was only partially theirs.

The case of the mujahideen is even worse. The holy fighters got more benefit from CIA funding and American Stinger missiles than anything else.  In reality they were pawns fighting a proxy war between the United States and the Soviet Union.  But, due to the secrecy of the American effort and the lack of follow-through after the war, the radicals were once again able to claim credit for a victory that was not theirs alone.

These two events – combined with the losses to Israel of the various Arab states – created the perfect storm that led to a tsunami of Islamic radicalization across the world.

The question we face now is what to do about it.

The West doesn’t like religious wars.  This is more than just political correctness.  Our deeply held tradition of religious tolerance makes us extremely reluctant to see the extremism we face at home and abroad as a fundamentally religious question.  And I agree with this assessment.  Even if refusing to utter the words “radical Islam” is a ridiculous excess of political cowardice, it’s equally simple-minded to see the world as simply “us vs. the Muslims”.  Evil men have hijacked a religion, and they have found – since the West doesn’t like to attack religions – that it’s a very convenient sheep’s clothing for this wolf to wear.

I only see two possible scenarios out of this situation.  And – if it’s not obvious yet – I’m no expert.  I’m just a guy reading Wikipedia, talking to friends, and trying to figure things out.  But the way I see it radical Islam cannot be militarily defeated outright, but it must be discredited wholesale.

I believe that was the real impetus behind the invasion of Iraq.  If the reconstruction had gone as planned, then we would currently have a prosperous, stable, powerful Arabic state compatible with secularism and moderate Islam.  That would have been a wonderful, peaceful way to discredit radical Islam, but – due mostly to bungling of the occupation – that can never happen now.

So the first of the two scenarios left to us is a highly visible, decisive military confrontation with an emblem of radical Islam.  It’s not hard to figure out the most likely candidate.  Al Qaeda is too nebulous and – frankly – too conventionally weak to suffice.  Saudi Arabia is too closely allied with American interests and – as a result – most of the Arabic states are out.  After all, a strike against an Arabic nation incites cultural as well as religious blowback.

But Iran isn’t Arab.  More than that, Iran is certainly the most clear and present danger to regional and global stability.  Given the long-standing hostility between the Arabs and Persians (ask them whether it’s the “Persian Gulf” or the “Arabian Gulf”), blowback from an attack on Iran would be much less than any other state in the region.  Whether they are willing to admit it or not the Arabic states are not much happier about a nuclear-armed Iran than the rest of us.

With an occupation of Afghanistan underway and a decisive defeat of Iran leading to regime-change, the two pillars of credibility for radical Islam would be permanently shaken.

The second alternative also involves Iran, and I vastly prefer it to the first.  The people of Iran are not thrilled with their own regime, as the recent and ongoing protests and political unrest demonstrate.  I have no wish to punish them for the sins of their insane, despotic theocratic leaders.  If the people of Iran – with or without foreign aid – overthrow their own government and institute a moderate/secular replacement then we will have achieved the same objective with far less cost in human blood and misery.

I know that a topic as heated as this one makes a lot of people feel like any careful, nuanced argument is just spineless hair-splitting.  I understand that.  But I also understand that what serves the interests of our nation and the principles we believe in is knowing who the real enemy is.  It’s like the basic rules of firearms: know your target and what’s behind it.

We aren’t at war with Islam, and we don’t make America safer by pretending we are.  We are at war with a hardcore of radical Islamists who are hijacking Muslim, and we don’t make America safer by pretending we’re not.  That’s the line we need to tread.

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Comments

  1. William A. Rose says:

    Robert, I recommend you consult your Bible concerning the statement, “The most important thing to realize is that although violence in the Middle East is older than the Old Testament, the dominance of radical Islam is not.”.

    Also, for a very in-depth look at what Islam really is, I recommend this: http://prophetofdoom.net/Prophet_of_Doom_Islams_Terrorist_Dogma_in_Muhammads_Own_Words.Islam

    Let me know what you think.

  2. Michelle Zhang says:

    @ WIlliam

    What I’ve learned from my years of debating Christianity against non-believers is that religious text, when not fully studied as a whole can be used to say pretty much anything about the religion. You want Christianity to sound violent? That can be easily done, and has been done.

    I caution anything that takes selected words from religious text to make an argument that the religion in itself is violent without fully reading and studying the text as a whole.

  3. Robert Wallace says:

    William-

    Are you suggesting that radical Islam played a role in the Old Testament? Keep in mind that the “Old Testament” is “Old” because it takes place prior to the birth of Christ. And Muhammad didn’t show up until several centuries after the birth of Christ. So – short of some serious time-travel – I’m not sure what you’re getting at.

  4. Michael Pigg says:

    Robert,

    All you need to do is study the life of Muhammad using the 3 core religious texts of Islam (Qur’an, Sira, Hadiths). Most people never read the Sira or Hadiths, which is where all the damning stuff is. The Qur’an is not the sole authority in Islam and actually can’t be properly understood without the other 2 sources. The Hadiths are the “saying’s of Muhammad and the Sira is biographies of Muhammad. You will learn that Muhammad invented Islam to benefit him militarily, politically and monetarily. Islam has been violent ever since Muhammed got expelled from his tribe in Mecca and went to Medina, and there is no arguing against that point unless you are either ignorant or illiterate. Based on your past writings, I will go with you being ignorant about Islam. Like Jesus is who Christians should emulate, Muhammad is who Muslims should emulate. Look at the life of Muhammad and let me know if you would want others to emulate him. Muhammad lead battles, took wives from the dead men he helped kill, watched men get beheaded, and asked others to lie and kill for him. This man was no man of God, maybe Allah, but not the God of the Old and New Covenant.

    The first post, referencing “The Prophet of Doom” is good to a degree. I have listened to every CD that was produced in that series. The problem I have with Craig Winn is that he has an agenda to pull others into his “religion”. I did not realize that until I started reading his writings at http://www.yadayahweh.com. He makes some good points but I think he took his calling a little too far when he started attaching the Catholic Church and traditional teachings of Christianity, such as the Trinity. I would caution everyone regarding any of his teachings, even though I believe he is correct with his take on Islam. I have read other commentaries on this same topic and he is not outside the main stream. http://www.politicalislam.com is a good site to get basic information regarding the politics of Islam and how it is so infused in Islam, that without it, you won’t have Islam anymore. It presents evidence for the duality of Islam and how there really is no “Golden Rule” within Islam, using their own sources and not proof-texting.

    Also, the Qur’an directly conflicts with the New Testament of the Bible in many ways. They both can’t be correct or the “Word of God”. You can’t compromise this dichotomy away or simply ignore it. It will forever exist. Pretending that we are not at war with Islam is basically saying that we are at war with Muslims, since they are the instruments by which violence is being carried out. Our war is with the ideology that sanctions the things Muslims do. It is not with Muslim men an women. We need to love them enough to tell them the truth and hope they accept it. We need to quit coddling this perverted ideology and attack it at its core, and that is its doctrine. We need to expose it for what it is and people like you only stifle the progress by buying into their propaganda. You are a pawn in their game and you don’t even know it.

    Michael

  5. Jenna says:

    I am guessing he is referring to the fact that Abraham had Ishmael through Hagar (not his wife) and his wife Sarah had the promised son, Isaac. Muslims argue that Ishmael was the chosen son of God, hence why THEY say the God of Abraham, Ishmael…and in the OT it talks about God including Ishmael in the covenant, but it is believed to be the ‘birth’ of Islam, hence the birth of the divide between the beliefs… It boils down to whom people believe was the chosen heir…the ‘firstborn’ or the firstborn to his legitimate wife…

  6. Jenna says:

    Sorry…mis-type…not the chosen son–the chosen heir-promised son to Abraham! (I’m tired-hope it makes sense!)

  7. Anonymous says:

    11:50….. another birth certificate issue.

  8. Anonymous says:

    @11:50 Annon.

    BAW HA HA HA!!!!! right there, that’s funny. HOW TRUE, how ironic.

  9. Very Anonymous says:

    I’m too busy to read this article as I am doing a life size full color painting portraying the great prophet.

  10. William A. Rose says:

    Michael, Jenna, well said. Robert, all I was saying is that there was nothing before the Old Testament. God was around, but nothing had been created. Anyway, that’s irrelevant to this topic.

    What Jenna mentioned is really not even the beginning of the division of people. For the division of people, the stage was set when Eve ate Adam out of house and home (and he didn’t help matters any). The actual deed was between Cane and Abel. As for Islam, it wasn’t established through Abraham and Sarah and Hagar and Isaac and Ishmael. Only the stage was set. Muhammad didn’t come on the scene until around 700 years AD. In all the time previous, pieces were simply being put into place that would allow these other things to come to pass. The same thing has been going on since and is going on today.

    Ishmael is the father of the Middle Eastern people. Read what God tells us about how he’d have lotsa descendents and how they’d get along with the world and even with each other. That is a very uncanny description of the Muslim world of today.

    As for Islam or Christianity, the followers of either belief system have one very grave problem in common: the vast majority of professing believers of either set of beliefs really do not know what is contained in the writings of their respective belief system. I can attest to that personally – for most of my life, though having had accepted Christ and being baptized by immersion, I knew next to nothing of God’s Word. Worse, I did not care. I did not return to God until 2001. I still have lots to learn.

    Michelle, Good admonition! I read everything with caution. If there is no verifiable bibliography to support an author’s statements, or I cannot pesonally do my own homework and verify said statements, then I find it real difficult to believe what I am reading. I am not familiar with the author of the book I recommended. As for anything, you are right, it must be taken as a whole. Any other way, we lose the context and then we can make anything say anything we want. And THAT is a cocktail for disaster of epic proportions! I bet we can all identify with that, personally. I sure know I’ve made decisions based on a faulty perception of circumstances and it’s resulted, every time, in even stuff being really slung around by the proverbial fan.

  11. William A. Rose says:

    I wish we could edit our posts. My sentence structure appears, at times, to have been written by a monkey. But, nope, it was me. And my keyboard absolutely refuses to spell correctly.

  12. John Buyon says:

    @ Robert : brilliant article you have an amazingly good understanding of the middle eastern mindset.

    I have friends in Iran, who say this “Islamic republic” is on its way out. the leadership caste is changing and its bound to be brutal the Islamic revolution will eat it’s own.
    Lets hope the sanctions placed today have an effect in destabilizing the regime.
    fight theocracy there and at home !

  13. Leah says:

    Michael Pigg, in your first comment about Islam, you left off one point about Mohammad … how about the part where he had relations with a minor? That is why it is acceptable for a 40+ old man to marry a 9 year old girl and consummate the marriage. That is beyond sick and perverted to me!

    Radical Islam has hijacked the Muslim religion. Many Muslims are terrified of them, for good reason. I don’t know how to reach them, when the media won’t even use the words radical Islam.

    It is also my understanding that their goal is now to infiltrate regular life ever where. They do it by moving in and having a lot of kids, and over taking the area. They have done it in England. They are doing it in France. It is happening all over Europe. If we don’t wake up quickly here, we are going to find ourselves surrounded by shariah law very quickly.

  14. Nein Milly Meeter says:

    “we are going to find ourselves surrounded by shariah law very quickly”

    I wouldn’t count on it………
    A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

  15. story says:

    whta is tremendous is Turkey belonging to NATO & friends @ Israel decides to war on Israel and sides with IRAN
    when this guy became president and decided to act religiously no body gave hood about it, and little by little he has been eating up democracy
    maybe coup d´etat could be the answer, since Turkey seems to be the only country where coups are given to restore democracy

  16. Gail B. says:

    Robert, I’ll just take you at your word. You’re wiser than I am, and it’s two o’clock in the morning.

    William Rose, if a pink curly line shows up after you type a word, pull up a new tab and Google the word. If misspelled, it will come up “Did you mean “so-and-so?” Correct the spelling when you return to the AR tab and delete the Google look-up!

  17. SenatorMark4 says:

    Confrontation with an ideology requires IDEOLOGY! You can’t beat an ideology by making martyrs of their agents. You must humiliate it! When are we going to learn that giving money to regimes that DO NOT SUPPORT the brilliance of the First Amendment, Second Amendment, and Article I, section 2 of our Constitution encourages flaky attempts at government using ideas that have failed over and over. Enact our Constitution or be denied our blood and treasure.

  18. Transposed says:

    Common sense trying to sneak in here at 3:17. Article 2, Section 1 interests me.

  19. See: Photo Op-Ed: Pictures Worth a Million Scimitars at http://www.earnedmedia.org/ccn0621.htm

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