Each time a new atrocity is committed in the name of Islam in a Western country, the government and the network of think-tanks are put in high gear to face the inevitable question: what can we do to stop this black series?
Typically, three answers are offered. The first, coming from the politically-correct crowds, asserts that all this had nothing to do with Islam and that we should rather guard against Islamophobia as the greater danger to social cohesion. This is the position taken by British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and his entourage.
The second answer comes from those who insist that every Muslim is a potential threat if only because he is duty bound to proselytize the world for The Only True Faith. The answer, therefore, is to stop more Muslims from coming in and, wherever possible to ship those who have already arrived back to their original homes.The latest to adopt that position is Newt Gingrich, the man slated to become US Secretary of State if Donald Trump wins the presidency.
The third answer would have Western democracies transfer responsibility for large chunks of their foreign policy to Islamist groups that use terror. The argument is that the West is responsible for every misery that Muslim peoples across the globe have suffered or will suffer till the end of time. This is a position taken by people like the linguist-activist Noam Chomsky.
The fourth answer recommends security and military measures that could put the Western democracies on a war-footing at home and abroad for at least a generation.
Each of those answers appears problematic to me. The ”it-has-nothing-to-do-with Islam” narrative is full of holes. In Islam, we don’t have a mechanism for ex-communication or an authority to promulgate it. Anyone who pronounces the two testimonies (shahadatayn) must be regarded as a Muslim. If he or she lies, the decision is left to the Divine Will.
The second answer, blaming every Muslim for whatever any Muslim does runs counter to a fundamental principle of Western civilization: the rejection of guilt by association. While you are required to be your brother’s keeper and love your neighbor as yourself, you are in no way to blame for whatever any brother or neighbor might do.
In any case, there are at least 30 million Muslims in the 28 member states of the European Union with a further seven million in the US and Canada. Rounding them up and shipping them back home is no easy task, as elements of the European extreme Right seem to think.
The third answer, blaming it all on the West especially the American “Great Satan”, is both naïve and insulting to Muslims. It implies that Muslims are not grown-up enough to make their own mistakes and pay for them. It further means that the electorate in Western democracies is not mature enough to decide which foreign policy to adopt. Also, it cannot tell us why we should justify the knife-killing of Japanese tourists by Islamists in Bangladesh, to cite one recent example.
The fourth answer suffers from ambiguity. Are Western democracies required to transform themselves into police states by systematically spying on at least some of their citizens? Should they go around the world to bomb any place associated with Muslims?
The other day in Nice, the French resort city which was hit by a suicide-attacker apparently inspired by the Islamic State, Prime Minister Manuel Valls tried to suggest an alternative to those answers. “There will be more attacks,” he said as the crowd booed him. “Maybe we have to get used to it.”
However, the key question remains: What do we do about people who are prepared to court a certain death in exchange for killing others?
The question was first asked when the Hashasheen (Assassins) terror groups struck in the heart of Islam over 1000 years ago. More recently, the question has been asked by some 40 nations, many in the “Muslim World”, who have experienced “Islamist” terror attacks since the 9/11 tragedy.
The first thing to do is not to be impressed by the fact that an individual who has been brainwashed out of his or her humanity is ready to die in order to kill others. The only reasonable way to treat such individuals is as a new form of weaponry. Just like all other weapons that impress when first introduced, these suicide-killers will continue to terrorize and fascinate until we find an antidote, which we are certain to find.
Cyrus the Great used camels as a weapon when he conquered Babylon. Hannibal used elephants for his raid on Rome. In a pre-Islamic battle against an Abyssinian invader of the Arabian Peninsula, birds intervened on the side of the Arabs as miniature versions of helicopter gunships.
David’s sling and the Parthian bow-and-arrow were innovative and terrifying weapons at first but later became routine parts of any arsenal worth its name. At their introduction, battleships and later submarines also enjoyed the advantage of surprise for some time. Using aircraft for reconnaissance and then bombing raids was certainly a novelty at first as was the German V-1 and V-2 the precursor of drones, in the final phases of the Second World War.
And, what about nuclear weapons? In 1945 they certainly were a marvel. Now the fear is that they may fall into the hands of any gangster or self-styled Caliph or mullah.
The Islamist terror leaders who wish to conquer the world and convert the whole of humankind to their brand of religion have gone one step further by using the human body both as a shield and as a weapon.
However, like all other arms, this new weapon is designed by some people, financed by investors, manufactured somewhere, and deployed by leaders who can be identified and destroyed.
These human weapons are designed and shaped by a constant flow of anti-Western propaganda from satellite television, the internet, so-called religious associations, and countless madrassas and mosques throughout the world, including in Western capitals.
The root cause of the tragedy is a discourse that divided mankind into the believers and the infidels, inciting hatred among followers of different faiths. This discourse is based upon a litany of woes about the cross-worshippers and the plotting Jews who supposedly want to destroy Islam. You will hear how the West is mired in corruption, its womenfolk exposing their midriffs in public, and its governments sanctioning gay and lesbian marriages. You will also hear how the Crusaders have invaded Muslim lands and are trying to impose their democratic system on Muslim nations.
Such a discourse leaves most Muslims indifferent or annoyed. Nevertheless, it is enough to seduce even one per cent of the world’s Muslims, that is to say 13 million, for everyone to be in trouble.
The attacks on Western nations since 9/11 have claimed thousands of lives. However, the suicide-killers and their allies are responsible for the death of almost half a million Muslims in Algeria, Egypt, Turkey, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghanistan, among others, during the past two decades.
In other words we all face the same enemy: the enemy of humanity.