The threat of Islamist terrorism is absolutely real. The attacks in London weren’t unpredictable or undefined. They were carried out by a cell of terrorists who believed that global shariah law ought to be implemented, that the Dar al-Harb (territory of war) must be turned into the Dar al-Islam by forceful means.
In order to fight the threat of Islamism, three myths must immediately die. And we in the West must do all we can to put them to death.
Myth #1: Only A Negligible Minority Of Muslims Are Islamists. It’s simply not true that the vast, vast majority of Muslims don’t believe in the goals of Islamism, even if they’re unwilling to participate themselves in the jihad. Bernard Lewis explains, “significant number sof Muslims are ready to approve, and a few of them to apply, this interpretation of this religion.”
As Muslim moderate Zuhdi Jasser puts it:
That’s a low-end estimate. Here’s a video I cut long ago looking at the views of Muslims by public polling in populous Muslim countries:
Myth #2: Not Everyone Who Is “Non-Violent” Is Non-Islamist. President Trump has spoken out about the nature of Islamism – but he made the mistake of doing so in Saudi Arabia, ignoring the Saudi support for Wahhabism all over the planet. In doing so, he lumped Islamists in with moderates, a crucial mistake. American groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Islamic Society of North America also reflect an Islamist worldview; Dr. Jalal Zuberi, director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, states, “they support Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.” Yet these organizations are routinely utilized as points of contact for governments on the local, state, and federal level. The seed-bed for terrorism is a far larger community of people who agree with terrorists’ views and tut-tut their means.
Myth #3: The West Has No Part In Pushing Islamic Reform. The notion here seems to be that only the Islamic world can produce reform inside Islam. That’s largely true. But the federal government and Western governments around the world have an obligation to help identify reformers and moderates and provide them support while excising everyone else. This doesn’t mean we can’t engage in realpolitik. But it does mean we can’t blather about the threat of Islamism while standing in the middle of Riyadh, next to one of the greatest sponsors of Islamism on the planet. We took an active role in promoting democracy in Western Europe rather than communism in the aftermath of World War II; we should be playing a similar role in the Muslim world now. This is why it was so egregious for President Obama to simply declare an “Arab Spring” and do nothing to support actual moderate forces.
Finally, we must fight the perception that we can’t kill enough terrorists to make a difference. We certainly can, and we must. We must also take measures designed to protect ourselves at home, including Trump’s “extreme vetting.” But the true battle — the one that will last decades — is about what happens inside Islam itself. We must get active in that battle.