A Self Dialectic: Muslim Terrorists Are / Are Not Motivated Primarily by Islam

jihadiIn the wake of the latest terrorist attacks in California, it occurred to me that although I study and write about religions as they relate to a broad spectrum of public policy, I hadn’t quite made up my mind about the above proposition. As an atheist, my instinct is to side against religion. But instinct by definition is not reason. And there are plenty of secular humanists and fellow atheists who disagree with me on this specific issue.

So I decided to do more digging and engage in an oddly schizophrenic, but in my view eminently useful, conversation with myself, taking up the secular apologist cause in explaining why and how violent jihad can be stripped from its Islamic underpinnings. I then in turn refute, or attempt to refute, these arguments, also from a secular perspective.

Introduction

On September 17, 2001 President George W. Bush started a political neologism by proclaiming that “Islam is peace.” Since that time, every American administration, and almost all elected politicians worldwide have made similar pronouncements in an effort to separate the Islamic faith itself from acts of the most ghoulish barbarity committed by some of its adherents. It is, of course, easy to understand why: telling the truth might have meant alienating 1.6 billion people, almost a quarter of the world’s population professing a religious faith. (Indeed, it might have added fuel to the fire for those Muslims who advocate for a global holy war.)

Soon after Bush’s inane pronouncement, many academics and liberal progressives picked up on the meme, joining the administration in this claim (the oddest of bedfellows). The Muslims who commit these acts, the martyrs who detonate themselves in markets, on buses, in hotels, restaurants and shopping malls, are cast either as “not true Muslims” (a derivation of the No True Scotsman logical fallacy), or nihilists (the most recent and oddest accounting). Or simply politically and economically oppressed Muslims, too weak to fight a conventional war against Western imperialists and usurpers, who are therefore using terrorism for political reasons only tangentially connected to religion.

The arguments are not implausible, but I was still puzzled because, on the other hand, it seemed to me that Muslim terrorists are primarily motivated by their faith. If this is true, wouldn’t it be better, then, to call a duck a duck, say that Islam has a problem, and support Islamic reformers? The results of burying our collective heads in the sand has been that terror and tears continue to plague us, and many (if not most) Muslim reformers have been shouted down, threatened, exiled, murdered, or in other ways silenced. If it is not true, conversely, then the best response might be – I know not what. The military approach, by almost all accounts, has been an abject failure, and in my view has done far more harm than good.

But let us see – my tentative conclusions could be wrong.

The reader should note that the confines of this essay, in order to be as comprehensive as possible within a reasonable word limit, is limited to terrorism, and does not address other aspects of whether Islam is a religion of peace such as Islamic support for the poor, hospitality and sharing, a wide body of world literature, Sharia law, honor murders, genital mutilation, the killing of apostates and infidels, the subjugation of women, the suppression of free expression and dissent, etc.

Arguments and Refutations

The arguments that Muslim terrorism is unconnected or only tangentially connected to Islam takes many forms and can be stated in different ways. The arguments below are presented in italics, followed by the refutations in normal typeface, and have been distilled down to the following: (1) an entire religion should not be condemned for the acts committed by fringe extremists; (2) terrorists are driven by other reasons such as political ideology rather than religious theology; and (3) there is a double standard in so much that terrorism is employed by radical elements of other religions but it is seldom if ever recognized as such, while Islamic terrorism is singled out.

As a last note before the curtain of reason is opened and the show begins with the First Act, I have made a good faith effort to argue as persuasively as by own cognitive limitations will allow in favor of the above three broad propositions. I put forth no straw men, and I would be willing to bet that some readers who agree with the three propositions will remain unconvinced after having read my refutations.

Argument 1:     Painting with too broad a brush

Why do some want to condemn an entire faith with over 1.6 billion adherents for the admittedly heinous acts of a tiny majority of extremists?

First, “extremists” according to Gallup (defined as those who (a) think the 9/11 attacks were justified and (b) have an unfavorable opinion of the United States) only account for about 7 percent of Muslims. If that sounds like a lot, consider a couple of things. The poll was only conducted in 10 countries, and in some Muslim countries, like Morocco, only 1 percent of Muslims qualified as extremists. Also, notice how Gallup defined extreme to include Muslims who have an unfavorable opinion of the United States. Many people have an unfavorable opinion of the United States, even many Americans. If one were to define “extremists” only to include the first group, undoubtedly the numbers would be even lower. More pointedly, of the small percentage of Muslims who might be considered “extremists,” how many of those would be willing to act on those views? The numbers must surely be infinitesimally small.

Second, of course extremists – of all casts – tend to have the loudest voices, giving the impression that they are more prevalent and more influential than they actually are. Despite the poll’s flaws, Gallup admits that it debunks the notion that terrorism enjoys wide support in the Muslim world, noting that, “Not only are those who sympathize with terrorist acts a relatively small minority, but the most frequently cited aspect of the Muslim world that Muslims say that they admire least is ‘narrow-minded fanaticism and violent extremism.’” After a terror attack, why do you think that there are so many condemnations of violence from the Islamic community?

Third, all religions have extremist fringe components. Catholics like Timothy McVey and Christian members of the Klu Klux Klan in America have committed acts of terrorism, as have radicalized Hindus and Sikhs in India, as have Catholics in Rwanda and Orthodox Christians in Bosnia. (More on that below.) One would be surprised if Islam did not have radicalized adherents.

Finally, although this may be slightly beyond the strictures of the argument, we should put things into perspective. The tiny number of Islamic terrorists who actually carry out acts of violence should be compared to the very few people who have been killed by terrorists since 9/11 along with those killed by other means. For example 19 Americans were killed in terror attacks in 2013, compared to 10,000 by drunk drivers, 53 by bees, and 23 by lightning strikes. From September 11, 2001 through 2013, a total of 3,380 Americans have been killed in terror attacks, compared to 406,496 firearm deaths (homicide, suicide and accidents). In fact, according to the FBI, between 1980 and 2005, only 6% of terror attacks within the U.S. were carried out by Islamic extremists.

Will America’s response be yet another invasion of an Islamic country, more drone strikes, serving only to further radicalize more Muslims? As Malala Yousafzai has said, “With guns you can kill terrorists, with education you can kill terrorism.”

Islam is a grand religion with a rich history of scientific achievement, architectural beauty, charity, literature, and provides comfort, hope and fraternity to billions of people. It shouldn’t be condemned by ignorant people who think that a tiny minority of misguided sociopaths who claim to be Muslim speak for true peace-loving Muslims.

Well, let me start with what I think is largely irrelevant for the purposes of this discussion. Is Islam a “grand religion”? I don’t think so, but then again I don’t think any religions are grand, or even good; indeed I think religion is a cancer on societies, which perhaps I’ll address later.

There is one broad area where we agree, and that is another military adventure in the Middle East would be the worst of all possible responses to terror attacks, and indeed counter-productive if history is any guide. (Hegel may have been right when he said that we learn from history that we do not learn from history.)

With that minor throat clearing out of the way, let me point to why your argument must fall, and by its own weight.

While it is true that terrorism “only” claimed 19 American lives in 2013, globally it took the lives of almost 18,000 innocents. That is no small number. And let us not forget that history did not begin on September 11, 2001. Your clever use of the FBI database from 1980 to 2005 hints a bit at obfuscation. So 6 percent of attacks were carried out by Muslim extremists, but this would have had to include the 9/11 attacks. The more relevant question would be: how many people were actually killed or wounded by jihadists? Incidentally, since 9/11 some 74 Islamist terror plots have been foiledcold comfort I submit. But playing the numbers game is largely point-missing for the obvious reason that is evades the topic under debate: Why do some want to condemn an entire faith with over 1.6 billion adherents for the admittedly heinous acts of a tiny majority of extremists? So let us move on from this digression (we can debate the entirely unrelated topics of traffic safety and gun control another time).

This question to be completely coherent must be broken down into parts. First, what do the numbers actually represent? And second, are these extremists really “extreme” within the Islamic faith?

The first sub-question is easier to deal with; you haven’t quibbled excessively with the Gallup poll, so neither will I. Let’s low-ball “Muslim extremists” at 1 percent of the population. That’s 16,000,000 extremists. Again, no small number. And let’s say 1 percent of those would be willing to act on their extremism. That’s 160,000, and scary, when you consider how many innocent people one extremist can kill with a single car bomb or a few magazines of automatic rifle cartridges.

The second part (whether jihadists are in fact “extreme” under Islam) is both more interesting and more difficult. The best answer is – it depends on who you ask.

So I looked at three Muslim scholars’ views which seem representative. According to Reza Aslan, Islam in neither a religion of peace nor violence – it’s just a religion. His essential argument is that people take their values and culture to their religion, and interpret their religion through that lens, not unlike the KKK in America, an organization which maintains both its Christianity and its overt racism and violence. Tariq Ramadan, by contrast, insists that Islam is a religion of peace, and jihadists have misinterpreted the call for jihad literally instead of as an inner struggle. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (a terrorist with a PhD in Islamic studies) has a different view:

Islam was never a religion of peace. Islam is the religion of fighting. No one should believe that the war that we are waging is the war of the Islamic State. It is the war of all Muslims, but the Islamic State is spearheading it. It is the war of Muslims against infidels. O Muslims, go to war everywhere. It is the duty of every Muslim.

This presents us with a bit of a problem: When Muslim scholars, Muslim leaders, and average Muslims themselves can’t seem to agree on the correct interpretation of the Qur’an, how are non-Muslims to decide? Or as Christopher Hitchens has said, “Who am I to adjudicate?” One could argue that Islamist terrorists and ISIS – the most literal interpreters of Islam – are the true Muslims and other nominal Muslims are simply misguided un-Islamic pseudo-fakirs. (Again, who is the true Scotsman?)

As any religious historian can tell you, all of the holy books of the Abrahamic faiths are oral stories of semi-literate Bronze Age desert dwellers cobbled together hundreds of years after the events they purport to describe; they are all chalk-full of vagaries, internal contradictions, inconsistencies and outright immoral ideas, as one might expect. This largely explains why there are no less than 5 Jewish sects or “movements,” more than 35 different Christian denominations in the United States alone,  and 5 major sects within Islam (and many more minor ones, each with their separate schools of jurisprudence and divinity). Each, of course, believes that their interpretation is the correct one, and each can point to specific scriptures which support their interpretation. In the case of Islam, these schisms often lead to violence comparable to the horrors found within the Pentateuch. As Hitchens said in God is Not Great (pps. 123-24), “The Koran is borrowed from both Jewish and Christian myths,” and “If one comprehends the fallacies of one ‘revealed’ religion, one comprehends them all.”

So no, all Muslims should not be condemned for the acts of a few extremists. But that most salient fact carries with it a troubling but necessary question of its own: Are these Islamist jihadists committing acts of terror really “extreme” or are they simply following the commands of their holy book? As I said, it depends on who you ask.

Argument 2:     The West caused terrorism through imperialism and the oppression of Muslim peoples, which is why terrorism is driven more by political ideology and less by Islam

Let us imagine for a moment a different world. A world in which the richest, most powerful country on our little blue dot of a planet was a conservative Muslim one. Let’s call it Islamalandia. It has the largest standing armies and navies in the world. It is rich beyond imagination, except for one thing: petroleum. The United States and Britain are comparatively poor, have no navies, and their armies are small, poorly trained and ill-equipped. But in the alternate universe, they have lots of oil. Islamalandia – to ensure political stability and the flow of oil – for centuries continually meddles in the internal politics of the U.S. and Britain: participating in coups, installing friendly dictators and puppet governments, invading and dividing the U.S. into different political areas without regard to religious and ethnic concerns, dropping bombs as felt necessary, and wantonly exercising Machiavellian Realpolitik at will. Much of the U.S. and Britain are occupied by Islamalandia’s forces, and are forced to concede parts of their territories for Islamalandia military bases. Unconcealed racism is rampant, and people with white skin are routinely discriminated against, ridiculed, caricatured, and mocked in the media. Islamalandia imposes its religious and political ideals of sharia law within its empire. The U.S. and Britain have no hope of fighting this giant.

Would not American fundamentalist Christians, Catholics, Jews and English Anglican Christians resort to terrorism? In doing so, wouldn’t they claim that they have license to do so in the name of their gods to keep the Islamic menace at bay?

The point is obvious: we caused Muslim extremism.

Where were Islamist acts of terror before the U.S. and Britain ham-fistedly exercised there imperialist ambitions in the Middle East after WWI?

Is it a coincidence that terrorist attacks escalated dramatically after the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan? The primary cause of terrorism is feckless and immoral foreign policy by Western powers. It’s not difficult to see the causal connection.

To answer your first question, I don’t know if Christians would resort to acts of terror, though I tend to doubt it, and hope never to have to find out. Your second question is easier to answer: Islamic extremism and terrorism goes back to the 7th Century Kharijites. Muslims have been killing each other in sanguinary feuds, killing apostates, killing infidels, since the founding of the religion.

I wouldn’t want to, and haven’t, claimed that Islam is the only cause of terrorism, but rather it is the prime cause. True, academicians, think tanks, writers and intellectuals have come up with a plethora of alternative, some competing, some complimentary, explanations: western foreign policy, group pressure, socioeconomic frustrations, political ideology, a rebellion against modernity, the abuses of kleptocracy, and according to Thomas Piketty’s recent musings, income inequality, to name a few. I was surprised to find that the competing theories are not only encyclopedic in their breadth, depth and scope, but also grasping and largely point-missing. It could conceivably be one, all, or any combination of these things. Omitting religion as a prime causal factor, though, I think could only be described as an intentional fatuity.

It’s not as if Islamic terrorists are exactly shy about stating their motivations. Why not go to the source?

Jihadists say they commit acts of terror for religious reasons. They’re unambiguous and explicit in crediting both their motivation and success to Islam. Ihsanullah Ihsan’s statement is typical: “[o]ur animosity is based on religion. We hate Americans for their secular ideology.” Find a jihadi waxing on about group pressure, poverty or foreign policy. You won’t find many. But you’ll find thousands of examples of terrorists giving purely religious reasons their acts of terror.

Is there some reason we should not believe them? Are they so self-deluded that they don’t even know why they’re doing what they’re doing? Apparently many people think so, but this seems to defy credulity.

Which brings me to your second question: In the same or similar circumstances, would Christians do the same? We need not speculate. History has already given us a pretty convincing answer, as Sam Harris pointed out recently in an interview for Salon. When asked about colonialism and the portioning of the Middle East after the First World War, I can do no better than quote his response at length:

But the religious lunacy and tribalism was already in place—and that is why the West’s careless partitioning of the region was so problematic. I agree that the history of colonialism isn’t pretty. But the example you raise just proves my point. In fact, this practically became a science experiment that dissected out the crucial variable of religion. There are (or were) Christians living in all these beleaguered countries. How many Christian suicide bombers have there been? Where are the Pakistani, Iraqi, Syrian, Egyptian, and Palestinian Christians who are blowing themselves up in crowds of noncombatants? Have there been any? I’m guessing there must have been a few, but the Muslim supply of such people is apparently inexhaustible. In every case, we’re talking about the same people, speaking same language, living in the same places, enduring the same material deprivation. In fact, the Christians of the Middle East have it worse. They’ve not only suffered the legacy of colonialism, they’ve been hounded out of their countries and often killed outright by their Muslim neighbors—and they still haven’t organized themselves into a death cult. What’s the difference that makes the difference? Religion.

We can also look outside the Muslim world to see that mere injustice and inequality rarely produce such destructive behavior. Many countries in Latin America have legitimate grievances against the U.S. Where are the Guatemalan suicide bombers? Where are the Cherokee suicide bombers, for that matter? If oppression were enough, the Tibetans should have been practicing suicidal terrorism against the Chinese for decades. Instead, they practice self-immolation, for reasons that are totally understandable within the context of their own religious beliefs. Again, specific beliefs matter, and we deny this at our peril. If the behavior of Muslim suicide bombers should tell us anything, it’s that certain people really do believe in martyrdom. Let me be very clear about this: I’m not talking about all (or even most) Muslims—I’m talking about jihadists. But all jihadists are Muslim. If even 1 percent of the world’s Muslims are potential jihadists, we have a terrible problem on our hands. I’m not sure how we deal with 16 million aspiring martyrs—but lying to ourselves about the nature of the problem doesn’t seem like the best strategy.

Argument 3:     Critics of Islam who blame the religion for terrorism are hypocrites: there are plenty of examples of Christian acts of terror but it’s seldom called that in the media

Ancient, contemporary, and modern history are rife with acts of terror by Christians in the name of Christianity, but you curiously never see it couched in those terms. I can mention two recent ones: the war in the Balkans, and the near-genocide in Rwanda.

I see that you’re a fan of Harris and Hitchens. With regards to the Balkans war, did not Mr. Hitchens mention in god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (p. 22) that “the extremist Catholic and Orthodox forces were colluding in a bloody partition and cleansing of Bosnia-Herzegovina. They were, and still are, spared the public shame of this, because the world’s media preferred the simplication [sic] of ‘Croat’ and ‘Serb,’ and only mentioned religion when discussing ‘the Muslims.’” He goes on to say that “confessional terminology was reserved only for ‘Muslims,’ even though their murderers went to all the trouble of distinguishing themselves by wearing large Orthodox crosses over their bandoliers, or by taping portraits of the Virgin Mary to their rifle butts.”

The atrocities committed against a civilian Muslim population by Christians for religious reasons would be a perfect opportunity to “call a duck a duck” to use your phrase.

In the same book (pps. 190-93) Hitchens in some detail tells the story of the Catholic Church’s collusion in the massacre of the minority Tutsi population by the majority Catholic Hutus in Rwanda. As Hitchens tells this macabre tale, it begins in 1987 when a Catholic visionary called Little Pebbles begins seeing visions of the apocalypse, bloody massacres, and the eminent return of Christ (these visions oddly coming from the Virgin Mary). The Church investigated the appearances of the apparition of Mary on a hilltop and concluded they were reliable. At the given moment in 1994, the massacre of the Tutsis began. Frightened Tutsi and dissident Hutu sought refuge in churches, and the interahamwe relied on priests and nuns to point out where the targets of the massacre were hiding. Father Weceslas Munyeshyaka was smuggled out of Rwanda with the assistance of French priests, later to go on trial for war crimes for providing lists of civilians to the interahamwe, among other acts of collusion. Sadly, equally culpable in the atrocities, Bishop Misago, escaped justice, with one official in the Rwandan Ministry of Justice saying, “The Vatican is too strong, and too unapologetic, for us to go taking on bishops. Haven’t you heard of infallibility?”

As of this writing, despite intense pressure, the Church has never apologized for the role of its clergy in the Rwanda massacres. Ironically, after every Muslim terrorist attack, we see peaceful Muslims in the streets and on social media saying, “This is not us! We abhor radical jihadists! This is not Islam!”

Of course there are ubiquitous examples of radicalized Jews committing acts of terror on peaceful Muslims, not to mention the bombing or attacking of abortion clinics by American fundamentalist Christians, equally illustrative of the double standard. I’ve never seen a headline that said, “Christian Terrorist Attacks Clinic.” Are these people not also motivated primarily by their religion?

Forgetting the method of killing a terrorist might employ for a moment, this seems to poke some holes in Sam Harris’ question, “How many Christian suicide bombers have there been?” I submit: quite a few, actually.

Finally, if you go back a bit in time, Christianity in its various permutations has been responsible for horrific crimes against humanity – do you not remember the crusades, the inquisitions, the burning alive of apostates, the beheadings and torture of non-believers?

Let me begin by saying that this line of argument is something of a non sequitur. If I were to concede everything, I would have conceded nothing. It does not follow that if adherents of other faiths commit acts of terrorism because of their faiths, Muslims do not.

Now let me concede something more substantive: the religious (Christian) aspects to the violence and atrocities in Bosnia and Rwanda were seldom discussed by the media – they should have been, as they played important roles. But once that has been said, we’re still left essentially where we started.

Indeed, I think you over argue your case. Hitchens used these two examples to buttress his thesis that religion poisons everything. He did not argue that religion was the root cause of these atrocities, or that Christians are compelled by their scriptures to commit them. His central point throughout the chapter from which you draw these examples, is that religion does not only not make people behave better, but often makes them behave worse. He did not indicate, nor even intimate, that religion in these two case studies were the prime factors in the atrocities committed, but rather, important factors in a mix of ethnic tension, politics, and historical animosities, adding fuel to the fire, if you will.

Second, it has never been claimed that the majority Roman Catholic Hutus were somehow an oppressed class and resorted to mass murder as defense mechanism, as some claim is the appropriate rationale in explaining Islamic jihadism. Indeed, the Rwanda situation has been explained quite adequately in terms of political and ethnic grounds. (Which of course is not to say the Church’s role wasn’t shockingly complicitous and revolting.) Bosnia is a better case for Christian terrorism, but there, too, religion was one part of a complex mix of history, geography, ethnic tension, and political ambition. Both of these stains on humanity could have been committed, and would have been committed, in the absence of any religious motivations. The same can’t be said of Islamic terrorism, and thus, I think Sam’s question stands untouched.

Your last point regarding the past atrocities of Christianity is an important one. Christianity underwent several reformations. Islam has not. Christianity – with the notable exception of some fundamentalist sects mostly in the United States – has (begrudgingly and all-too-slowly) accepted science, and in doing so has had to concede great swaths of its theological underpinnings. Islam is anti-science. Christianity has accepted the principle of the separation of church and state. Here, too, Islam has not. Harris has a salient point to make on this as well: there is no concept in Islam of “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s.” Perhaps as importantly, the Church has apologized for many (by no means all) past wrongs and injustices – either through overt action, silence or sanction – perpetrated by it or by others. Islam has not, and being that it claims to be the final and unimprovable word of Allah, and no further knowledge is either needed or desired, it is hard to account for how it could.

Conclusions

The reader of course will make her own conclusions. Mine is this.

All Abrahamic religions – as well as many other religions – are bad inasmuch they are quite demonstrably man made but purport to be the word of an omniscient god. But they’re not all bad in the same way, and some are worse than others.

Islam has a problem. A problem that cannot be easily explained away by the mental gymnastics it takes to account for Islamic terrorism in lieu of the elephant in the room – the teachings of Islam itself.

I understand the reasons politicians proclaim that Islam is a religion of peace and has been hijacked by radicals or “nihilists.” It is much more difficult to put one’s finger on why so many of my fellow atheists, progressives, and secular humanists with no dog in the hunt, make the same claim. They can be viciously critical of other religions such as Christianity, or religion in general, but are silent on Islam. Or worse, side with the jihadists, and label people such as Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins or Bill Maher racists, bigots and Islamaphobes. But they save their worst vitriol for moderate Muslim reformers themselves such as Maajid Nawaz, a former member of a radical Islamic group, who has co-written a book with Harris. The most curious case must be that of Glenn Greenwald, a homosexual Jewish atheist who not only routinely defends radical Islam, but attacks those critical of Islam with ad hominin diatribes (one of his assistants even calling Nawaz a “talking monkey”). Leaving the Jewish issue aside, surely Greenwald must know that he and his husband would not be long for this world if they were to move to one of the 10 predominantly Muslim countries (all in the Middle East or North Africa) where homosexual acts are punishable by death.

Could it be that progressives (Nawaz refers to them as the “Regressive Left”) would be too uncomfortable finding themselves on the same side of an issue (for obviously different reasons) with Christian neoconservatives? This seems to be the primary complaint Chris Hedges has about Harris and his fellow intellectual travelers, but that wouldn’t explain how these otherwise very bright public intellectuals could be so intellectually unserious, if not dishonest, on this single issue. Alternatively, Douglas Murray is of the opinion that since the end of the Cold War the Left has been in short supply of fascists, racists and bigots – too few to maintain their own political identity – and so have turned to cannibalizing their own. There may be other theories out there as well. My own guess is that the secular but nonetheless de facto apologists for theocracy have drunk too deeply from the Liberal ideological trough, which is fed from the spring of egalitarianism – that we’re all basically the same, with same potentials for success and failure, and our successes are more often due to luck or the enjoyment of advantages that others don’t have, and likewise our failures are due to disadvantages not within our control. A slight simplification, but only slight. When applied to religions, and more specifically Islamic jihadists, one can see how easily it is to slip into the Pavlovian impulse of defending those who have and which have, been historically oppressed and manhandled by the ham-fisted geopolitical machinations of Western powers. If this, too, does not fully explain this dichotomy, then I am left wondering.

Is there hope one day that Islam can credibly claim that it is indeed a religion of peace? Sure, but if it happens, it will be a long, slow, painful process. It took Catholicism centuries to become the paper tiger that it is today. Hitchens has said that because Islam is the youngest of the Abrahamic faiths, it is also the most insecure, and therefore also the most fundamentalist. For reasons mentioned, Islam doesn’t have within its toolkit the important principle that secular government can be separated from religion. This is an obstacle, but then again there are examples of peaceful forms of Islam to draw inspiration from. The Islamic practitioners of Sufism, for example, are primarily motivated by the spiritual and not literal (and thus often detested by the devout).

Be that as it may, I believe one thing is certain. There is nothing to be had worth having by looking to Islamic or secular apologists to confront the problem of Islamic terrorism. Nor is another feckless military intervention proposed by Chickenhawks on the Right. Malala was right, and her words bear repeating: “Guns can kill terrorists, but education can kill terrorism.” If there is any education to be had, it must come by way of Muslims from within Islam itself. Which means reformers like Maajid Nawaz, and others, must be given a voice and not be shouted down by the Regressive Left playing a political game at the expense of global security and respect for human rights.

© 2016 by Glen Olives Thompson

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Glen Olives Thompson is a Professor of North American Law at La Salle University in Chihuahua, Mexico. He is a graduate of Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles and California State University, Chico. He writes on a broad range of topics for newspapers and magazines as well as publishing academic research in journals within the areas of law and public policy.