In view of the recent Congressional hearings re the threat from domestic Islamic groups, I thought it worthwhile to revisit the topic of Islam. Is it just a religion like any other?
Those of us who live in Western society, and most notably the USA, rightly take pride in our racial, ethnic, religious and political tolerance, and our commitment to preserving individual freedom. We believe in "innocent until proven guilty"; in "everybody has a right to his own opinion"; and in all the other rights so eloquently laid out in our Bill of Rights.
We, however, must ask, is our commitment to freedom, to the Constitution and its Bill of Rights a suicide pact? What do we do when faced with powerful organizations here at home that don't believe in freedom? Organizations motivated by hatred precisely for those freedoms and the practice of tolerance? Organizations that openly seek to use our freedoms to destroy them?
During the Cold War we faced such a foe, Soviet Communism. We adopted common sense measures at home to limit the ability of Communists to undermine our nation. Communists, for example, could not hold certain sensitive jobs; they were denied security clearances; the CPUSA was treated as the agent of a hostile foreign power and was subject to penetration and surveillance by the FBI. Foreign Communists were ineligible for visas to the US or for citizenship. Did we infringe on the freedom of Communists? Yes, no doubt. Given, however, what we all should now know about the extent of Soviet espionage against the USA, and the role that the CPUSA played in efforts to undermine America, those measures seem eminently reasonable. We have had similar restrictions on Fascists, Nazis, and KKK members. All infringements, all justifiable.
As practiced in every country of the world, Islam is a totalitarian ideology that openly advocates intolerance, death for non-believers, and relegates women to the status of cattle. As we have seen repeatedly over the past few decades, this isn't just talk. Islam, at least as now practiced, is a violent and intolerant totalitarian ideology, and an enemy of freedom. Those of us who have served in Muslim states know that when we go to those countries we must respect their culture -- OK, fine. It, however, turns out that when foreign Muslims come to our country, we also have to respect their culture -- or at least the Disney version they peddle. As I have said on many occasions, try to build a church or a synagogue in Saudi Arabia, not possible; try to prevent Muslims from building a mosque in your home town, not possible. We all, especially those of us in government, have to recite the mantra of "Islam is a religion of tolerance and peace." Once that is said, we must loudly proclaim, a la the crew in Battlestar Galactica, "So say we all!"
Some Muslims, admittedly, have begun to realize -- ever so tepidly -- that their civilization is a sick one; that they must reform it from within and take it away from the hate-mongers. Good, but how long should we wait? How long should we pretend that the problem is NOT Islam, when, in fact, it is, or at least the Islam that has gained currency in the modern world. We are at war with a totalitarianism as much as we were with Communism and Fascism. It's going to be a long, long war, one in which we have to inflict repeated defeats on the Islamists, be it in Chechnya, Gaza, Kashmir, Kabul, Baghdad, or in the streets and suites of America. In the end, we'll all be better off, including the Muslim world. Don't forget that the greatest victims of Islam are Muslims. Don't forget that the greatest burners and desecrators of the Quran are Muslims--a lot of Qurans, for example, get desecrated every time some Sunni blows up a Shia mosque.
I don't pretend expertise on the Quran, although I have read most of it, and will take on faith (so to speak) the accuracy of various citations seeking to prove that Islam, the religion, does not advocate the intolerance and violence of the Islamists. As some have pointed out, one also can find examples of intolerance in Judaism and Christianity, both in theory and historical practice. With all due respect to those arguing on behalf of the tolerant and peaceful nature of Islam, much of the debate is reminiscent of those long-ago, late-night sessions in university arguing whether or not the Soviet Union was socialist or communist. We always had the Karl Marx expert who could cite ol' Karl's teachings and "prove" that the Soviets were violating them and that Marx, in fact, had a truly wonderful vision for mankind -- the problem apparently being that pesky humans just didn't cooperate with the vision. Defenders of the USSR would quote the Soviet constitution and its long list of "rights' granted citizens.
Let's concede for the sake of this argument that Marx and the Quran provide idyllic visions of life, and lay out the path for all of us to follow. OK, so the theory is good. What about the practice? The Soviet Empire in practice was a social, economic and human disaster by just about any measure you care to use. Islam, likewise, as it is practiced in the modern world has produced some of the most retrograde, repressive, and violent regimes and organizations in existence. Nearly all Muslims might not be terrorists, but nearly all terrorists are Muslims. They draw their inspiration from somewhere. Wonder what that would be? Looks like we're back to religion.
Yes, we have heard theories that terrorism comes as a result of poverty, but the poorest on earth are sub-Saharan Africans, Haitians, Bolivians, and Mongolians; they aren't the terrorists. No, there seems to be something about Islam itself that provokes the terror craziness. Certainly Christianity had its intolerant phase, but is that the rule today? Did it not go through a process of evolution, reformation, and, above all, enlightenment? "Christian" countries today are the most tolerant and free on the planet. And, of course, Israel is a functioning democracy with well over one million Arab citizens who vote and pray freely--the freest Arabs in the Middle East, by the way.
When is Islam going to move beyond the Middle Ages? Is it capable of doing so? Can a person be a "good" Muslim and be a "good" person? Until then, why do we have to keep pretending that Islam is just like Judaism or Christianity?
Bottom line: Do we have the right and obligation to defend ourselves against a brutal and totalitarian ideology, or do we have to put up with it because it has the label "religion?"