Op-ed: Renowned Muslim activist says weeding out radical Islam from West is first step in defeating global jihad
Political Islam is the major force shaping the Middle East region today, and a dangerous one at that. The real question is if it can be tamed, and, more pointedly, what the West can do to bring about positive change during this pivotal time in history. But first, we have to understand what we’re dealing with.
Political Islam, or “Islamism” as we call this phenomenon in the West, is an armed political ideology similar to Bolshevism and Maoism. It’s essentially religiosity cloaked as a movement which operates as a virulent ideology of warfare (jihad.) It demands radical reorientation of Muslim societies to comply with Sharia Law that repudiates modernity in all its forms and it has brought death and devastation both within the Muslim world as well as outside its borders. In some ways, Islamism is more dangerous than outright terrorism, as terrorism can be identified by violence, while Islamism is a war of ideas.
It is essential to note that historically this aberrant thinking has only been espoused by marginal groups and kept in check for centuries. However, there was one pivotal moment in world history when they were not. In 1926, a marginal sectarian movement inside Arabia, the Wahhabis, allied with the Saudi tribe, captured power, and established the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It now serves as the bastion of Islamism, most notably spawning Osama bin Laden and various militant youth groups that spread the ideology.
What are the defining characteristics of Islamism? It’s anti-modern, misanthropic, misogynist, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, triumphalist, jihadist, terrorist, and suicidal. Put simply, it is Islamic-flavored totalitarianism. It is based upon the intolerance of others, including Muslims, and the glorification of violence as martyrdom, to be exercised against all who disagree with the Islamist rendition of Islam.
So, where is political Islam headed? To answer this, we must look to the Arab Spring, which has fast become the ‘winter of discontent.’
Countries that originally showed promise are now headed down a dark path. The mandate of The Muslim Brotherhood, stemming from Egypt, is taking hold, while traditional Islam is pulling back. The youthful voices of change and reason have often been stilled in harsh ways, including through sexual violence against women.
As Muslims in the West, we want to explain that the Muslim world is presently in an upheaval of historic proportions. We have important inside knowledge regarding the extent to which Wahhabi teachings generating from Saudi Arabia and Islamism have together undermined what was once a rich and tolerant culture within Islam.
As once Christendom and Europe transitioned from the pre-modern to the modern world of liberal and secular values, the painful redefinition now begins in the East. The internal struggle among Muslims will likely continue over several generations, as the Muslim world painfully makes its transition, and begins a renaissance of its own.