“Terrorism blowback” is just a convenient excuse – the causes and the solution come from within Islam only

I ran across Professor Brahma Chellaney’s article on the Strategist website entitled “How to stop terrorism in Europe” from September 2016. When I read his article published here today (Taipei Times, June 10, 2017, P. 9), I thought of the two articles together, and thought I would address Professor Chellaney’s propositions, which while detailed are simplistic.

 First, one proposition in the former article caught my attention. Professor Chellaney says: “The problem is not Islam, as many populists claim…. Today, that threat results from radical Islamism—a fundamentalist vision of society reordered according to Sharia law.” I can agree with this, for the most part.

 Going further, Professor Chellaney would seem to agree with one of the principal tenets of the Trump administration: “Beyond enduring untold suffering and violence, many of today’s refugees, from war-torn countries … have imbibed radical Islamist ideology and, specifically, calls to jihad. Some might be Islamic State fighters who have disguised themselves as asylum-seekers, in order to carry out terrorist attacks in Europe. US intelligence officials have repeatedly warned of this possibility.”

 The solution? Well, Professor Chellaney says “To many in Europe, these factors suggest that the key to keeping Europe safe is controlling the flow of refugees, including through improved vetting procedures.” But he rightfully observes that “…not even constructing a Fortress Europe would eliminate the terrorist threat. After all, some attacks, including in Brussels and Paris, have been carried out by Muslim European citizens who became radicalized in their own bedrooms.”

 And thus the simplistic answer: “The only way to address the threat of terrorism effectively is to tackle the radical Islamist ideology that underpins it.” Easier said than done, but there is something in there that Professor Chellaney overlooks that is absolutely correct. Professor Chellaney focuses on Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and then suggests launching an information campaign to discredit the ideology, and then compares this to the success the West achieved against communism.

While there is something that seems correct about this (ignoring the vast distinction between Communism and deeply rooted religion), there is still one determinative thing that is missing.

Professor Chellaney rather simplistically concludes “To take down the terrorists requires delegitimizing the belief system that justifies their actions.” This is completely accurate. As if the West can do anything to discredit this extreme form of Islam (especially when the far left cannot even bring themselves to say the words “Islam” and “terrorism” in the same sentence).

 No, the point missing is this. Discrediting radical Islamist ideology is the only solution, and that must come from inside Islam itself, not from the West. Until Muslim leaders around the world stand up against radical Islam, there can be no solution. Until there are speeches and fatwahs by these leaders against terrorism, there can be no solutions that do not involve war and fighting and many innocent deaths. Until the ideology underpinning the ISIS rise is demonized from within Islam itself there will continue to be a long line of those willing to kill brutally in its name.

There are valuable insights in Professor Chellaney’s earlier article, but only half a solution, somewhat timidly presented, avoiding the real issue, can Islam learn to police itself and rid itself of this extremism? We have no business bringing down this hateful violent ideology from the outside. Islam must cleanse itself of this cancer.

 The article today “The age of blowback terror from Western interventionism” is just another Project Syndicate anti-America anti-West piece (from deep within George Soros’ viewpoint, I suppose). I bridle at the notion that liberal thinkers love to blame liberal Western democracies for the ills in the Middle-east, ignoring the fact that those conflicts actually predate the United States by at least 500 years. The Iraq war did not cause terrorism, it resulted from terrorism. Saddam, Ghadaffy, these men were brutal dictators who murdered hundreds of thousands of their own people.  To weep on one hand when we do not give aid to the Castros’ Cuba, which also has murdered many of its people, but decry helping the people of Iraq and Libya throw off the shackles of madmen is hypocritical, at best.

 It is true however that Iraq spawned ISIS, when President Obama ran away. Had he not, it is doubtful ISIS would have sprung from Al-Qaeda in Iraq, or at least there would have been a greater chance to contain it.

 “Blame America” is Project Syndicate’s favorite mantra. However, I am perplexed by Professor Chellaney’s final thought: “As the US and its allies continue to face terrorist blowback, it is hoped that Trump comes to his senses, and helps to turn the seemingly interminable War on Terror that Bush launched in 2001 into a battle that can actually be won.”

 Is he referring to the ideological battle to kill the underpinnings of radical Islam, or something on the battlefield, or both? As I said before, the ideological battle must take place within the confines of Islam itself. The Muslim world must decide for itself whether it wants war or peace. Trump went directly to Saudi Arabia and began the dialogue to face this threat to peace. What follows remains to be seen.

 Golda Meir said it best so very long ago (60 years ago?), that “we won’t have peace until the Arabs love their children more than they hate us.”  It still seems true today.

Don’t believe everything you read in Project Syndicate articles, particularly those regarding China.  I do thank Professor Chellaney for his two articles which provided the very thoughtful and detailed discussion which invited my comments here today. I can always appreciate an erudite argument from which to form an opinion.

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