The West is failing in our conflict with Islam because we fail to acknowledge that Islam, itself, is the problem. Not hyphenated Islam, not merely the familiar terms used by many writers like Islamic-Terrorism, or Islamic-Fundamentalism, but ISLAM, Islam itself. Full stop.
That’s not something that most people are comfortable with saying or even thinking, because (in the West) it seems to run counter to some core beliefs, and reminds us of seemingly similar formulations that have terrible dark history associated with them.
However, these impressions, upon further examination, are incorrect. The formulation “Islam is the problem” does not violate our core beliefs, nor is it synonymous with similar sounding pronouncements.
As a first step in defeating Islam we must clearly understand that it is not merely acceptable to say that “Islam is the problem” but that it is required. Let us begin with the obvious objections.
Many people’s first instinct upon encountering a clear exposition that “Islam is wrong” will equate it with the persecution of the Jews. The statement however is in no way analogous to a Muslim-targeting version of Antisemitism.
Antisemitism has always been almost exclusively a hatred of the Jewish people, not the Jewish religion. The Germany Nazi Government could care less if a Jewish person were an atheist or if they had converted to Catholicism, they still persecuted them. Classic antisemitism has always been a virulent form of racism. (It’s a little difficult to see that instantly because Judaism is a religion, too. But the ethnic component has always been the one that antisemites focus on).
It goes without saying that Islam, as a proselytizing religion which has spread across continents is not, and can not serve, as a code word for a particular ethnic group. While the terms Jews (the ethnic group) and Jewish (the religion) are nearly identical and synonymous in many people minds the same can not be said of Islam and (even) Arabs. Arabs, the ethnicity from which Islam arose are most closely identified with it, but they are still not superimposed on each other. Frequently we encounter terms like ‘Druze Arab’ and ‘Christian Arab’. Today there are many more non-Arab adherents of Islam than Arab ones.
Clearly Islam refers to a system of belief, not a particular ethnic group. Logically then opposing Islam is a ideological position, not a thinly veiled racist one. This is a critical distinction that we must understand to proceed.
The other reason that saying “Islam is the problem” strikes many of as a wrong way to frame the problem is that part of the American credo has always been to give the widest possible leeway to religious belief. This begins in childhood for most Americans, when we are told to respect other’s beliefs. And it continues through life, where most of us work and live with people from a huge variety of faith traditions, and increasingly many with no faith. Even the strongly religious among us would be extremely hesitant to challenge the Mormons we know on their beliefs, even ones that are far outside the norms. It is the practical manifestation of our First Amendment injunction on State religion, and a social convention that has done much to foster a peaceful and productive society. The consensus began with various Protestant sects toleration of their small differences in belief, and was slowly enlarged to include Catholics and Jews, over the last century, and not without conflict and objection on occasion.
This social convention can be stretched pretty far. For instance the widespread support for American Indian use of peyote and other hallucinogenic drugs eventually led to a law being passed by Congress to permit it.
Limits to tolerance of religion does exist, and occasionally we read about cases of Christian Scientist and other medicine-shunning sects refusing to treat sick children. More recent conflicts between the claims of gay-rights advocates and conservative Christians have also shown other areas where the American tradition of religious tolerance reaches it’s limits. So even in our society, where we strive to provide an extremely wide raging tolerance of belief, there are limits, and they typically involve the beliefs being manifest in the real world. (Kids not getting shots, bakers not serving gay clients, etc.).
Clearly, if ever there was an area when the American reflex of religious toleration needs to give way to the larger social context it’s not in the trivial case of gay wedding cakes but in the existential threat of Islam, the totalitarian ideology of conquest and subjugation.
The net result of our reluctance and unclear understanding of these social norms has led to a consensus view that the problem isn’t the religion, itself, but merely some adherents. That is: the problem isn’t Islam, the ideology, it is some group of people who are using Islam.
Unfortunately this is simply wrong. And, given the stakes in our present conflict it is an extremely dangerous and destructive error in critical thinking that we must correct.
Being anti-Islam is not akin to being anti-Semitic (a form of racism) but rather it is in the same category as being anti-Communist, or anti-Slavery, or anti-Free Trade. It is opposition to an ideology, or set of beliefs. To be anti-Islam requires understanding the ideology of Islam and disagreeing with both the content of the ideology and the visible outcomes of implementing the ideology.
The ideology of Islam is poisonous and toxic to Western civilization. The ideology requires imposition, by force if possible, by subterfuge if not, a set of laws, customs and social organization that is completely incompatible with Western Civilization. Indeed Europe itself arose after the fall of Rome as “Christendom”, and much of this after the beginning of Islam, was defined by opposition to the totalitarian ideology (Islam) and it’s followers, the various invading Muslim armies of the next 1000 years following Mohammed’s death in 632 AD.
The largest failure in the Western approach to defeating Islam is that we are not yet trying to defeat Islam, because we are still caught in the conventions of anti-racism (which doesn’t apply) and deference to religions (which must be set aside.)
We must set these conventions and prohibitions aside and attack Islam at its source, the ideology, and work directly to destroy Islam (the ideology), because it is a hateful, stupid and profoundly destructive to both ourselves (the West) and humanity as a whole, including its own adherents.
The closest and best analogy is the war against Communism, which today we commonly refer to as “The Cold War”.
The Cold War did include some rather large military campaigns, including major wars in Vietnam and Korea (aka “major proxy wars”) and dozens of smaller scale armed conflicts including those in Nicaragua, Cuba, Argentina, Chile, Guatemala, El Salvador, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Angoala and Grenada, to name only a few.
But an equally important component of the Cold War was the war on the ideology of Communism, itself. The focus was not even foremost on the people who believed and supported the communist ideology (the Russians, the Chinese), as it was on the ideology itself. Nixon’s message to China was “you are wrong about Communism, but a great people none the less.” Nixon simultaneously outreached to the Chinese nation while never wavering in his condemnation of the ideology of Communism.
In fact, one could argue that the war on the ideology was the more central and important front in the war. An, as a proof point the victory in the war came when the ideology finally gave way, and was not as a result of the military defeat of any particular or combined group of followers of the Communist ideology.
This then is a recent successful model for fighting and winning a war against a multi-faceted enemy enthralled to a destructive and violent ideology. While fighting defensive proxy wars may at times be a necessary component (and, how necessary the proxy wars were in the fight against Communism is still a very contentious subject), the central necessity of an ideological war against the belief system itself, against Islam is paramount, and can not be sidestepped or ignored any longer.
Islam itself must be countered, opposed, deconstructed, ridiculed, subverted, and argued against as vehemently and as consistently as the Free World opposed Communism. The concerted effort to destroy the Communist ideology took approximately 40 years, from 1946 (Churchill’s ‘Iron Curtain’ speech) to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
It may talk longer than that to destroy Islam as an effective ideology, but the time to begin is now, because the stakes are every bit as high as they were in the fight against Communism.
Islam is a negative system of belief that must be debunked and rendered powerless in the minds of people.
Islam is the problem.