Exclusive: To Seek a Newer World – Confronting the Reality of Terrorism
June 17, 2008
On September 11, 2001, this nation was attacked by an enemy whose vision of the future, whose culture and value system, and whose concepts of life and death are a universe apart from ours. In Gaza City recently, an Israeli air strike killed two Hamas terrorists who were about to launch missiles at the Israeli cities of Sderot and Ashkelon. One of those killed was a son of senior Hamas leader Khalil al-Haya. At the funeral of his son, al-Haya said, "I thank God for this gift. This is the 10th member of my family to be martyred". And in Pakistan, another Salafist wrapped a baby in an explosive belt and detonated it killing scores of Muslims.
If it is not yet clear, the rules of war have changed. Until this enemy has been vanquished, there can be no Islamic Renaissance. And unless this enemy is vanquished, the horrors of the 20th century will pale in the face of what lies ahead. Whether we choose to believe it or not, we are engaged in the defining ideological war of the 21st century with an enemy much of our leadership fails to understand. Historically, the enormous changes in the West that took place during and after the Renaissance in the 16th century barely made a ripple in the Arab world, and only with the dawn of the 20th century did the Arabs finally begin to realize the implications of their backwardness at which point, they chose to portray themselves as victims, searching for scapegoats and excuses rather than confront their own inadequacies. As the Reformation, the Renaissance, the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions took root in Western Europe, the West grew in wealth, power, scientific and technological achievement. It broke the monopoly of the Church, separated church from state, and created, for the first time in modern history, an educated, secular, free thinking middle class unfettered by religious dogma - a middle class that was prepared to challenge ancient traditions of learning in virtually every field of human endeavor. It was this Renaissance in thought that led to the supremacy of Western civilization - and, in doing so, it left the Arab world far behind.
Prof. Bernard Lewis of Princeton University argues that the success of Muhammad in establishing not merely the Muslim religion, but a state dominated by and inseparable from that religion, created a society and a culture that was totalitarian by its very nature, bound by rules and restrictions that simply made it too static to adapt and compete with a West where Christianity, after the Reformation and the Renaissance, no longer demanded absolute control over all spheres of life, as does Salafism today.
Napoleon wrote that when his forces landed in Egypt in 1799, there was not one single printing press in that country. Centuries of Western learning and scientific advancement had simply passed the Arab world by. Few Muslims visited Europe and their governments didn't even establish consulates in the Christian West, because Muslims were taught to regard Christianity and Judaism as inferior religions, so they simply didn't think much of anything useful could be learned from these infidels. After all, Islam represented the final word of God, and Christianity and Judaism were simply flawed precursors, and one doesn't go forward by going backwards - or so they believed. As a result, Islamic religious law began closing in on itself, prohibiting any imitation of or any interaction with this inferior European culture. Any discussion or debate designed to adapt Islam to a changing world was considered heresy. And even as the last caliphate that theologically guided Sunni Muslims for more than 500 years ended at the beginning of the 20th century, the Ottomans still failed to grasp the significance of the dramatic changes in the Christian West. Instead, they squandered their vast wealth that had been accumulated during the days when they controlled the trade routes between west and east, and never allowed mass education or industrialization to become part of the social fabric of their empire. Literacy, instead of becoming a universal right, was restricted only to male study of the Koran - an activity wholly inadequate to establish a modern society - and the Ottomans compounded the problem by importing the guns, military advisers and factories from the West, but not its culture or its values.
Centuries of isolation from Western Enlightenment have now taken their toll on the Arab world. According to the UN Arab Human Development Reports, the amount of literature translated into Spanish in all subjects, in a single year, exceeds the entire corpus of everything that has ever been translated into Arabic in a thousand years. And according to a recent UN study, fully 1/3 of the Arab world or 99.5 million Arabs are illiterate which, in large measure, accounts for the appeal of Salafism today.
Since the superiority and invincibility of Islam had always been considered a given in the Arab world, the Arabs were hard-pressed to explain their military defeats at the hands of Christians in Spain in 1492, and again at Vienna in 1683, or by Jews in 1948 and 1967. But these Salafists had an explanation. The Arabs could restore and expand their ancient Empire, they said, by returning to the pure word of Allah as laid down in the Koran 1,400 years ago. Thus, Arab defeats throughout the centuries could be easily explained. They were simply Allah's punishment for Muslim faithlessness.
As a result, "Islam is the Solution" has now become the battle cry in the mosques and madrassas of Europe, the Middle East and Asia. In Egypt, for instance, in 1986, there was one mosque for every 6,000 Egyptians. Today, there is one mosque for every 700 Egyptians - and with a largely unemployed, young and religiously conservative Arab population, they have become easy pickings for the Salafists. Either Arab governments on their own or in conjunction with their tribal councils will gradually begin delivering the benefits of democracy, freedom and education to their people, or they will be replaced by these Salafists who will offer them the virtues of Paradise...and we know what that means.
Today, we are witnessing an escalation of religious intolerance across the Middle East, Europe and North Africa and the rise of Salafism as a credible religious force. It is a movement whose proponents believe it is the duty of every Muslim to promote Jihad by using whatever means necessary to compel the world's submission to Islam. Accordingly, all non-Muslims are "infidels" whose destiny is to convert, die, or live under Islamic rule as second-class citizens or d'himmis. While it is true that there are many pluralistic verses in the Koran, unfortunately, there is only one interpretation acceptable to the Salafists...and that is why we are at war. The fact that the vast majority of Muslims in this world does not believe or act what they believe and act is irrelevant. The Salafists believe it and use terrorism to further their aims, and that is why they are the enemy of Western civilization. They are prepared to sacrifice their lives and the lives of their children to achieve the subjugation of the non-Islamic world and the glories of the Afterlife.
Those who beheaded Daniel Pearl, Nick Berg, Paul Johnson and the others, and who turned our planes into cruise missiles on 9/11 were taught in the Salafi mosques and madrasses of Riyadh, Hamburg, Lahore, Peshawar and Islamabad to believe that mass murder of infidels is not evil because it is justified in the name of Allah. By doing so, they have reintroduced the pagan ritual of human sacrifice into the modern era. They brainwash their children into believing that the most important goal to be achieved in their life is to become a human grenade - a shahid - a martyr for Allah. They have created a culture of death that justifies conducting war without mercy; that targets civilian populations and uses them as human shields for propaganda purposes, that barters body parts of fallen soldiers to gain the release of captive terrorists, and would have no problem in sending anthrax through our mails, pouring botulism into our water supplies, or detonating radiological 'dirty bombs' in our cities because it can all be justified in the name of Allah - Geneva Accords be damned.
To combat them, we must not only defeat those who would commit such acts, but discredit their interpretation of the Koran that justifies them, and punish those countries who sustain, support and train them. They are as much the enemies of Western civilization as they are of the Muslim world, and they must be vanquished as were the Nazis before them. Only after Salafism has been defeated and discredited (in that order) will the door be opened for an Islamic Renaissance, and a more pluralistic interpretation of the Koran.
Because of these factors, we now find ourselves engaged in a religious war, the goal of which is to drive Western civilization back to the Dark Ages - a world devoid of democracy, freedom, individuality, human rights and the modest pleasures of life. Salafists like bin Laden, Zawahiri, Ahmedinejad, Nazrallah and Haniyeh intend to change the world irrevocably. With only slight variations, each believes that the West is weak, beset by contradictions, and lacks the inner drive to achieve victory at all costs (as Churchill and Roosevelt did in World War II). They believe that all Western cultural influences must be expunged from the Muslim world and that only absolute, unquestioned obedience to 7th century Islam will restore their ancient Empire and force the infidels (be they Christians in Spain or Southern Europe or the Jews in Israel) back into the d'himmitude status that they once held, when Islam ruled over them centuries ago - when non-believers were considered legal second-class citizens and were protected by Islamic law provided they paid a tribute tax to the Caliph as d'himmis, wore special clothing designating their inferior status, agreed to pass Muslims only on the left (or the impure) side, not on the right side, and to build their churches or synagogues lower than the minarets of Islam.
In January 2004, Bin Laden told Al Jazeera TV: "Let the whole world know that we will never accept the loss of Andalusia (Spain)." Less than three months later, on March 11, 2004, al Qaeda suicide bombers self-detonated in Madrid's train station killing 191 commuters and have no doubt, there is more to come and it will not only be in London and Madrid. In December 2005, the Wall Street Journal carried an interview with the leader of Hamas in Bethlehem, who described the tribute tax that would be imposed on all infidels in the Islamic state of Palestine that was to be built on the ashes of democratic Israel. And on February 4, 2008, Hamas spokesman Mahmoud Zahar said that Hamas (which is the Palestinian Branch of the Moslem Brotherhood and the ideological cousin of al Qaeda) would never accept the reality of Israel or the European Union, since both occupy lands once ruled by Islam. D'himmis it seems, even after the passage of 1,400 years, whether they are Christians or Jews, will never be allowed to rule over lands that once formed part of the Muslim ummah - so long as Salafism continues to rule Islam.
In short, despite everything you may have heard and read, Israel does not have a border problem with these Salafists, but these Salafists have a border problem with Israel as well as Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria, Roumania, Serbia and most of Southern Europe over which they once ruled. The Islamic passion is directed not at nation-building (as we had hoped) but at Jihad-building. That's why billions of dollars in aid given to the Palestinians by Europe and the U.S. has been, for the most part, wasted, while the Jihad directed at Israel and the West continues. For these Salafists, the restoration of their ancient Empire is not a dream; it is a plan of action and in our response (or our lack of response), we are facilitating their victory. Theirs is an ideology of conquest. Ours is an unswerving devotion to negotiation and compromise. Many in our State and Defense Departments, the Council on Foreign Relations and even our intelligence services argue that we can reduce the level of violence and lessen the threat to our foreign interests by establishing a dialogue with regimes that support and shelter these Salafists. What is needed, we're told, is a better mix of carrots and sticks when dealing with countries like Iran and Syria - but in this belief we are committing the same strategic error we made in pre-World War II Germany - when our leaders believed that even Adolf Hitler could be bought.
The unfortunate truth is that this approach against this particular enemy is a recipe for disaster, because it represents the same thinking that led to 9/11. Western diplomats are like children playing with dynamite, because they do not understand that these Jihadists seek only two things - submission to Islam through the use of ruthless terror, and the restoration of their ancient Islamic empire - first regionally, then globally. In these goals, there is no room for compromise, discussion or even mercy unless each represents progress toward these goals. Yet, even after 9/11, 16 U.S. intelligence agencies and even the Democrat nominee for the Presidency of this country, Senator Barack Obama still don't get it. If they did, they would know how to deal with these Salafists, and they would understand what Frederick the Great of Prussia meant when he said that diplomacy without arms is like music without instruments. To this enemy, words mean nothing without the realistic expectation that military force will be used to back them up. That's why Hamas in Gaza is seeking a ceasefire with Israel. That's why, in the aftermath of the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq in 2003, Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi announced that he would dismantle his WMD programs. That's why Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 believing that they were next on the U.S. hit list, but when the Iranians realized the strength of the anti-war movement in this country, and that they could sap our will by sending in their suicide bombers without fear of American retribution that would topple their regime, they re-started their conversion and uranium enrichment programs.
Perceived American weakness in the Middle East has consistently led our enemies to attack American interests and American citizens - from Beirut to Mogadishu, to the first attack on the World Trade Center, to the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, to the U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, to the USS Cole in Aden Harbor, all the way to the NIE, including hundreds of bombings, murders, kidnappings, hijackings and hostage-takings that have cost thousands of American lives. We have reinforced the belief in our enemies' minds that terrorism works, and that Americans, despite our great power and technology, are just, as bin Laden says - "paper tigers." For the past three decades, we have been so worried about what our enemies can do to us; we have neglected to consider what we should be doing to our enemies.
U.S. and Western leaders must confront the reality that Salafism is, first and foremost, not a problem to be resolved by discussions and negotiations. It is a religious phenomenon that has grown powerful enough in the Islamic world to threaten the continued progress of the American experiment in the Middle East and even the European Enlightenment. We have created the perception of weakness in the minds of these Salafists by allowing them to intimidate us, by seeking an accommodation with them, by using everything short of military power to convince them to change their ways, and by forcing our ally Israel into making dangerous concessions to appease them. There is a fundamental sickness in turning on your friends in the hope of appeasing your enemies. If this is the true measure of our nation, then we are sorely in need of leadership. It is a sickness born of cowardice and fear. That is how our enemies see it. Bullies bully because they can get away with it. Terrorism exists because we refuse to stop it. For all these reasons, they are convinced that terrorism works, and they believe that all we are prepared do is to impose ineffectual sanctions that Switzerland, Russia, China, Germany, Singapore, Malaysia, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates are circumventing anyway for purely economic reasons (at least according to the January 16, 2008 GAO Report).
And that's why the Iranian mullahs continue to train their "martyrs" and to pursue their Jihad in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the Americas. That's why the Iranians sent their children scurrying through Iraqi mine fields (during the Iraq-Iran War in the 1980s) with little yellow plastic keys to Paradise wrapped around their necks. That's why Hamas today uses children to protect their weapons and their leaders, knowing that the Israelis will never intentionally target children even when they are being used as human shields to protect terrorists. That's why Iran trains, equips and sends its Jihadists into Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and the Sudan - because they believe we are weak. And yet, our State Department believes there is a basis for dialogue here, and that we can convince them to change their minds or moderate their Jihad by imposing more Carter-like sanctions, and issuing NIEs that make us look like fools, or worse, cowards. Our leaders continue to maintain that, by correcting misunderstandings, kind words can turn terrorists into friends....and that's why the Iranians and the Syrians are convinced we are destined to lose.
This brings us to Iran. What is there to discuss with Iran other than more lies, more nuclear cover-ups, and eventually our defeat and expulsion from the Middle East? What is there to discuss with the leader of an apocalyptic Shiite sect who believes that his divine mission on earth is to bring about a nuclear Armageddon that will usher in the Coming of the Islamic messiah? What is there to negotiate with a leader who threatens to wipe Israel off the map with nuclear weapons and who argues for a second Holocaust, even as he denies that the first ever occurred? What credibility does such a leader have when his country passes death penalty legislation for converts who leave the Islamic faith? Of what value is another meaningless agreement with another tyrant? Or perhaps, we can discuss the terms of our coming d'himmitude by following the example of the Europeans who are mortgaging the Western enlightenment, and accommodating the Islamists hoping against hope, that there won't be another catastrophic terror attack in London or Madrid and that, perhaps, just perhaps, if they can appease these Salafists enough, they can avoid another catastrophe in Paris, Lisbon, Rome or Berlin. Even after the Dutch murders, the Muhammad cartoon riots, the pope's remarks, and the Iranian kidnapping of British sailors, we now have to listen to the Archbishop of Canterbury telling his country that the implementation of Islamic law in Britain is useful, even inevitable. Never has so much, been surrendered by so many, to so few. In short, we have nothing to offer these Salafists except our defeat and subjugation.
Our continued existence as Western civilization should not be dependent upon the good will and pleasure of those who seek to destroy our way of life in the name of religious colonialism. Our failure to understand their vision and to respond to it is our single greatest strategic failure in this war. What we see, we believe. That is our culture. What they believe - they see. That is theirs. There is no middle ground here. And they see us as weak, unless they are convinced otherwise - in the short term, by ending, once and for all the Islamic regime in Iran which will not only eliminate Iranian support for global Jihad, but will put other Salafists on notice that the West will act to preserve its way of life, and that regimes that shelter them will pay dearly unless they crush the Jihadists in their own countries. When they can no longer run, hide or find sanctuary, when they are shunned by both Sunnis and Shiites because of their ruthless disregard for human life (as is now happening, by the way, in Anbar Province in Iraq and the tribal regions of Northwest Pakistan and even in Helmond province in Afghanistan where the Taliban are destroying Sunni mosques, homes and hospitals) - then, and only then, will their defeat begin.
States that continue to harbor Islamic terrorists must be told that henceforth they will do so at their peril - and Iran will become the poster child to convince them that we mean it. And over the long term, Muslims themselves must bring about an Islamic Renaissance capable of adapting their religion to life in the 21st century. We make a fatal mistake when we take the military option off the table as we have done in the NIE. In that region of the world, strength and fear is what determines policy, and that's why the Sunni leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Gulf Emirates are heading to Tehran and not to Washington.
We are told that a major part of our problem in the Middle East is that we are not liked. In my view, the problem is that we are not respected. And we are making other mistakes....
First, the West must end its dependency on foreign oil. Our war against Salafism will be fought for many years, but its defeat will never be achieved so long as we continue to transfer petro-wealth to our enemies.
Second, we must develop better intelligence capabilities in the Islamic world. That is, we must ferret out those who recruit the suicide bombers, the explosives experts, those who decide on the targets, who send agents to case them; who transport them across borders, and those who drive them to their missions.
Third, Western media must recognize that we have the legal and moral obligation to destroy the terrorist infrastructures of our enemies even if those infrastructures are being protected by human shields. International law provides for it for a reason. If we do not; we make our enemies invincible.
Fourth, the Muslim community must be told to focus their indignation on Muslims committing violent acts in the name of Islam, rather than on those who draw these acts to the world's attention.
Fifth, we must update the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and provide retroactive liability protection to private companies that share information on suspected terrorists with our intelligence agencies for patriotic reasons, but fear being sued for having done so.
Sixth, we must use the internet to plant bogus e-mail messages and Web site postings to sow confusion, dissent and distrust among Salafist organizations that use the Internet to recruit and train their Jihadists.
Seventh, we must shut down Salafi financial networks in Europe, the Americas and Asia, especially in the US by facilitating a two-way flow of information between the banking community and our government agencies and scrutinizing the activities of foreign banks that operate on American soil.
Eighth, we must monitor American mosques and Islamic academies for the dissemination of Jihadist literature given that an estimated 80% of American mosques are flooded with Wahhabi literature from Saudi Arabia, and we must begin comprehensive international programs in mosques all over the world to teach against the ideas of Salafism.
Ninth, we must monitor the US Muslim chaplaincy program in our penitentiaries and in our military to stop Salafist development in both. That includes investigating all military and penitentiary chaplains endorsed by Abdurahman Alamoudi who is now serving 23 years in an American prison for funding Salafist terrorism.
Tenth, we must stop federal funding to institutions that accept grants from countries like Saudi Arabia that support Salafism.
Eleventh, we must freeze the assets of Salafi supporters including Islamic foundations that act as Salafi fronts.
Twelfth, we must investigate the selection process of Arabic translators working for the Pentagon and the FBI.
Thirteenth, we must examine the non-profit status of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (or CAIR), which has had several of its officials convicted on Jihad terror-related charges, and was named an un-indicted co-conspirator in a Hamas funding case.
Fourteenth, we must make it an act of sedition or solicitation of treason in this country to preach or publish materials that call for the death of Americans.
Fifteenth, we must cancel the scholarship student visa program with Saudi Arabia until they reform their textbooks which preach hatred and violence against non-Muslims.
Sixteenth, as is happening in Europe, we must restrict religious visas for imams who come from countries that don't allow reciprocal visits by non-Muslim clergy and who are recognized as proponents of Salafism.
Seventeenth, we must cancel contracts to train Saudi police and security services in U.S. counter-terrorism tactics.
Eighteenth, we must block the sale of sensitive military munitions (like JDAMs) to Saudi Arabia.
And lastly, we must recognize moderate Islamic organizations and scholars in this country and around the world - Islamic scholars who believe that democracy and Islam are indeed compatible; who reject violence in pursuit of Islam's goals; who condemn terrorism; who advocate equal rights for minorities and women; and who accept pluralism within Islam, and if the Saudis want American protection (and believe me, they do), they had best stop promoting Salafism in their mosques and universities and exporting their Salafist imams and suicide bombers to Western countries including 15 of the 19 9/11 terrorists.
The tragedy of our time is that Salafism continues to rule Islam by fear. By ignoring this threat, the West will merely postpone, not escape, the inevitable conflict. For the sake of our children, and for the sake of the billions of Muslims who seek a benevolent Islam, but fear being condemned as apostates, and who fear for their lives, we must assist them in bringing about an Islamic Renaissance.
Mark Silverberg is an attorney with a Masters Degree in Political Science and International Relations from the University of Manitoba, Canada. He has lectured extensively on subjects of counterterrorism, Jihadism, homeland security issues and intelligence matters.
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