Describing itself as a “prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group,” the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has issued a statement condemning bombings at five Christian churches in Iraq that left at least 11 people dead and 50 wounded. But these are mere words that carry no particular weight or authority in global Islam.
CAIR said that, “Religiously and historically, Islam mandated the protection of churches and synagogues. The Prophet Muhammad and his successors sought to protect houses of worship and the communities they serve.” If this is the case, however, then why do followers of Islam carry out the bombings?
If the answer is that “militant Islam” is responsible, that at least is a modest start toward identifying the real enemy. A former chief assistant U.S. attorney says in the current issue of The American Spectator that the media and policymakers have gotten it all wrong in saying the U.S. is waging a war on “terror.” Andrew C. McCarthy, who led the 1995 terrorism prosecution of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman in connection with the first World Trade Center bombing, says, “You can’t win a war without identifying who the enemy is, and I think we’ve bent over backwards to avoid labeling all of Islam as the enemy. That is fair enough. But I think we’ve gone overboard in saying that our enemy is terrorism. Terrorism is a method, not a person or a faction or an enemy.”
In his article, “The Great War on Militant Islam,” he points out that Islam began in violence and that Muhammad himself was a violent warrior. McCarthy writes that, of all the global religions in the modern world today, “only Islam sports an unbridled faction that systematically inculcates hatred, systematically dehumanizes non-adherents, and systematically kills massively and indiscriminately.” He says Islam also has a rich tradition of education and a rich culture. But the violent faction of Islam has come to the fore and “the moderate elements have failed to condemn it in a persuasive way,” he argues.
The other problem in separating militant from moderate Islam lies in the nature of the religion. Islam, he argues, is a religion that goes far beyond providing a spiritual purpose to life. “It’s actually a self-complete social and political and in some ways economic system” that operates from the bottom up rather than the top down, he notes. That is, Islam has no hierarchy that condemns certain behavior or interpretations of the religion.
In the World Trade Center case he prosecuted, McCarthy said Sheik Rahman taught that the only legitimate Jihad was war using the sword, bomb, and the missile. “There was no authoritative body in Islam that is empowered to step in and say that’s wrong,” he pointed out.
Practically speaking, therefore, how does one define who belongs to “militant” rather than “moderate” Islam? If there is a Mosque down the street, how do we know if the Muslims who go there are a threat unless and until they start killing us and then it’s too late?
That is why, McCarthy says, that it is absolutely urgent to move beyond saying we are waging a war on “terror.” But McCarthy says that Islam has become a “sacred cow” in the national debate and that the religion and its adherents are not coming under the proper scrutiny. One elementary way to separate militants from moderates is by their behavior and by their willingness to take a stand against violence and terrorism. He says one question we should pose to followers of Islam is whether they believe in democratic government or rule by Islamic theocrats. Also, do they believe Jihad is a compulsion to do violence or can it be interpreted as an internal struggle to be a better person? This assumes, of course, that the answers will be truthful. How many Muslims would admit to being committed to violent Jihad against the “infidels?”
Abdurahman Alamoudi, president of the American Muslim Council, was considered a respected moderate. He has pleaded guilty to participating in an assassination plot and money laundering for terrorists. One of his former associates got an intelligence job with the Department of Homeland Security, the government agency now warning that terrorists in America may be preparing to strike.
Is it too late to begin the national debate over Islam that is so urgently required? The media can help provide an answer to that.