With so much unsubstantiated verbiage over the past decade – especially over the past few weeks – about Islam’s inherent incompatibility with world peace, one thing is almost always forgotten: not only has every major Muslim political and religious leader across the globe publicly denounced al Qaeda (an organization whose leaders lack any formal religious training), but more importantly, Muslims – in their vast, overwhelming majority — have rejected al Qaeda’s call for global Jihad. More than just the logistic and military dismantling of al Qaeda by the hands of the U.S., al Qaeda has suffered a devastating moral defeat by failing to rally the faithful.
Just consider the basic numbers. There are over 1.5 billion Muslims spread across the globe. If Islam really required militant Jihad – as Newt would have us to believe — we would be powerless in the face of the carnage. So where are the billions of suicide bombers? Where is violent Islam? The fact of the matter is that the world is not in dire need of “moderate” Muslims because it is already filled with them. While at the onset of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. was concerned with how the Arab Street would react, the Arab Street never radicalized. It never even showed up. The European Street was more antagonized and vocal than anyone else. There were no mass uprisings in Casablanca, Cairo, Amman, Damascus or Jakarta.
Nevertheless, we love to point at the hordes of Muslims – arms raised and enraged – protesting a Danish cartoon or some other matter we believe they should “rise above” and get the joke. But these headlined few are no more representative of the masses than those Americans who show up to protest the Ground Zero Mosque or to burn the Koran. (Ironically, it looks like Muslims aren’t the only ones without a sense of humor: the French government asked for an apology from the Iranian government when an Iranian newspaper slurred Madame Sarkozy, and the Spanish opposition party, the Partido Popular, demanded that the Spanish government seek a similar apology from Morocco when a group of Moroccan citizens held up posters mocking female Spanish policy officers. Should the Danish government have been required to apologize for the free speech of its citizens when they poked fun at Islam? Should the U.S. government apologize for South Park or for a radical Floridian?)
Of course, there is violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. That is not only expected in any war torn nation invaded and occupied by a foreign power, but it is what has always happened throughout history (you can imagine Americans, Second Amendment in hand, acting accordingly under similar circumstances). Just ask Dick Cheney in 1994 why Bush 41 decided against invading Iraq. As Graham Fuller explains, the tensions in the Middle East would persist even if Islam didn’t exist. For example, there is no history of suicide bombings in the Middle East prior to the Palestinian/Israel conflict, regardless of hundreds of years of Islam. Remember that one of the first Palestinian terrorists was a Christian, Arafat’s PLO was not a religious movement, and Hamas has emerged as other forms of violent Palestinian nationalism have failed.
But viewed from outer space, one may reasonably come up with the conclusion that Democracy – based solely on the actions of the United States over the past decade – is an inherently violent ideology. Consider that after a low tech terrorist attack by twenty fanatics mainly from Saudi Arabia – having received training in Europe, Florida, and Afghanistan – murdering over 4000 Americans, the United States – with its now heavily military dependent economy – disproportionately responded with the largest military expenditure in the history of mankind, spending more resources than it had during the Cold War against the nuclear armed Soviet Union, passed draconian legislation to curtail the rights of American citizens, built a Top Secret Security State, implemented an illegal rendition, detention and torture regime (above the law and beyond judicial review), attacked and occupied various Muslim countries (and in the case of Iraq on unquestionably false pretenses), directly causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and displacing a few million more, and even after largely dismantling al Qaeda in the region in the early 200os, we continue to fight on in full force – all with the support, encouragement and cheerleading of the American people, politicians and press. And you have to wonder who is violent in this world?
Go to any European or Muslim country, turn on the TV, and there are no talking-heads, security experts, military officers, and politicians promoting air strikes, drones, surges, justifying torture, and rationalizing civilian casualties. In that we are unique and exceptional. We are the only ones who worship the warrior state, with our daily dose of pundits, politicians, and experts – none of whom actually go to battle themselves (not Cheney, W. Bush, Obama, David Brooks, Tom Friedman, Bill Kristol, etc) – advocating for more and more war. Just today, the news reported record levels of drone strikes in Pakistan – those would be the non-combatant, non-uniformed, non-military covert CIA drones.
There’s a particularly bitter irony here. The campaign against the Park51 community center in Lower Manhattan is being condemned, rightfully so, because it is driven by a desire to stigmatize all Muslims and even institute a generalized war against Islam as American policy. But far from Ground Zero, having nothing whatsoever to do with the warped right-wing fanatics driving that campaign, we’re increasingly engaging in actions perceived — understandably so — to be exactly the War against Muslims which, with our pretty presidential words, we renounce. Escalation in Afghanistan, a sustained bombing campaign in Pakistan, all sorts of increased covert actions in multiple Muslim countries, the ongoing imprisonment with no charges of Muslims around the world, bellicose threats to Iran, and now a proposed expansion of our drone campaign into Yemen: we can insist all we want that we are not waging a War Against Muslims, but it’s going to look to a huge number of people as though we’re doing exactly that.
It goes without saying that it is counter-productive for Americans to be banning Mosques, threatening to burn the Koran, and attacking Islam when the key to al Qaeda’s demise over the past decade has been its inability to rally the world’s Muslims to violence. Why? This may seem counter-intuitive because we are constantly fed the opposite: because Muslims simply are not violent. If the opposite were true, then wouldn’t our ongoing wars, occupations, air strikes, due process-free imprisonment and torture of Muslims only cause the 1.5 billion evil beasts to strike back in full battle armor? And that is not happening.