Following the terrorist attack in Orlando, Florida, by an ISIS-inspired lone wolf and Republican calls for President Obama to use the phrase “Radical Islam,” it is perhaps best to give an etiology of our actual enemy because both liberals and conservatives fail consistently to accurately describe our threat. Liberals have a desperate need to remove any reference to Islam when describing the threat; they prefer Marxist, anti-imperialist, and other reductionist arguments, claiming that it is economic exploitation, a history of colonization, or patriarchy that leads to such attacks. Conservatives, instead, generally prefer a shallow critique of Islam by anachronistically and non-contextually pulling verses from the Quran. If we ever hope to defeat our enemy then we must, absolutely must, accurately describe them so that we can understand and neutralize the threat, just as we did during World War II and the Cold War.
Starting with the conservative reaction, it is fundamentally incorrect to speak of Islam as the problem for two reasons. First, there is no such thing as a unitary Islam, except for the theological concept of the ummah. Islam has two major divisions, Shia and Sunni, but there are multiple divisions within each. Shias have the Twelvers, Ismailism, and Zaidis (Zaidiyyah); Sunnism includes Hanafi, Malik, Shafi’i, Hanbali, Zahiri; then there are the Sufis, Salafists/Wahabists, Alawite (Islam mixed with Neoplatonic philosophy and gnosticism), Ibadi (Oman), and Ahmadiyya (India). Second, and more importantly, no single individual, especially a non-Muslim, can take a verse of the Quran and interpret for themselves. Much like the Talmud, Islamic law requires scholars (ulema) to interpret the Quran by citing the actions and saying of Muhammad and previous scholars, who frequently disagree with each other.
Now, liberals are equally guilty in failing to appropriately describe our enemy as they are kowtowing to the shallow, anti-thought political correctness that their effete intelligentsia demands. They can never attribute malicious intent or some iniquity unless these persons are white, male, and Christian. There is no other reason for the nonsensical tirades against the Christian Right that certain liberals gave following the Orlando attack. Liberals have become incapable of thinking that racial or religious minorities could do anything wrong. Yet even a cursory look at the State Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organizations list, one of the most liberal departments in government, shows the vast majority are Islamist. Clearly there is a problem.
Our enemy in this global conflict are Islamist, transnational terrorists, and the states that aid, sponsor, and shelter them. Islamism and Islamist terrorism comes from a particular confluence of events in the 20th century.
- First, the downfall of the Ottoman Empire eliminated the caliph and a central Islamic authority. In response, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem declared the jihad could now for the first time be an individual endeavor rather than led by a central Islamic authority.
- Second, Sayyid Qutb developed Islamism as an ideology, and it is a framework for applying Sharia Law to the governing process. It also is wholly antithetical to the Western values of free markets, private property, democracy, Judeo-Christian morality, and constitutionalism.
- Third, during the late 1960’s terrorists, particularly Palestinian organizations, began attacks outside their borders and developed transnational terrorism.
- Finally, Osama bin Laden crafted the strategy of attacking the Far Enemy (the U.S. and Western countries) in order to defeat the Near Enemy (secular autocracies in the Middle East).
These events together produced our actual enemies, like al-Qaeda Core, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Boko Haram, ISIS, etc. Knowing how the enemy thinks and what motivates them is what will help us defeat them.
If we are to declare war on our enemies, and we should, then we must declare war on specific organizations and states rather than on ideology or religion. Then we can craft a plan for neutralizing threats to our civilization and interests.