By Andrew L. Urban.
I was about to write ‘moderate Muslims’ but then I paused to think why I needed to put the word ‘moderate’ in my sentence? Of course, I mean to refer to Muslims who do not plan terrorist attacks against us ‘infidels’ or against another, ideologically different Muslim group. It’s a reminder of how our conversations about Islam are constrained.
What I wanted to write was this: Moderate Muslims around the world attend mosques, and some of those mosques are led by imams who hold strong, even violent anti-Western views, encourage religious frenzy against the West, apostates, etc – and urge youth to take action, perhaps attain martyrdom. As Muslim leaders are often reminding us, not all Muslims are terrorists; indeed, most are peaceful, and ‘moderate’ followers of the prophet. So what do they say or do when they witness angry denunciations of the West and fuel the fires of frenzied Islam?
Do they walk out in protest in the middle of such weekly rants? Do they challenge the imam and plead for a peaceful sermon? Do they declare their opposition to jihad? No, they can’t; it’s absolutely forbidden, transgression inconceivable. And just like all those other Muslims who don’t attend the radical mosques, they stay silent. All 1.2 billion of them. The exceptions are too few (eg Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, French Muslim philosopher Abdennour Bidar, writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali) and sometimes those who do speak (eg Australia’s Grand Mufti, speaking after the Paris attacks of November 13, 2015), we wish had not.
Yet it is ‘moderate Muslims’, just a few thousand perhaps of the billions, who could change history, leading others who want to reform Islam. But that’s the problem: even if there are a few silent, secret reformers among the vast majority, there is no way for them to take the first step. The danger is too great. Repercussions would be immediate and drastic.
So silent they stay. That road to evolution seems closed. Islam is condemned to forever fry in the fires of indignant victimhood as the rest of the world is forced to defend itself with guns against this self-selected, death-wish-driven enemy.
That is why it is rather foolish to talk about finding a political solution, or of containing Islamic terrorism, or of attempts by Western governments at deradicalisation. (See below for an alternative way)
Islamic radicals are driven by the ideology of their religion as they interpret it. Buried within the Islamic terrorist mindset is a perverse political narrative which relies on “the easy interpretation of all modern geo-political disputes to fit a story of Muslims being persecuted by the West.” (Greg Sheridan, The Weekend Australian, May 22-23, 2011, Inquirer p.1: Declarations of Faith)
There are some things that the West needs to do – urgently:
Western leaders / spokespeople everywhere must stand side by side with Muslim leaders at all media conferences dealing with terrorism – including those announcing military or police action against terrorism; if such invitations are rebuffed, say so publicly (in terms of wishing to include them in the serious matters that concern them)
Post videos on YouTube (and elsewhere) in which the false claims made by terrorists on videos are rebuffed – in at least four languages, including Arabic. Also post videos (and use social media) to champion the benefits of Judeo-Christianity; draw attention to the millions of Muslims seeking to live in Judeo-Christian societies.
Control of the means of mass communication has been crucial in all conflicts – and now even more crucial, if that’s not a tautology. In my own experience alone, the control of the radio network during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 was absolutely pivotal; it enabled information – or misinformation – to be instantly spread to all Hungarians. In those days, the radio was the equivalent of the internet: everyone tuned in.
In the same era, Radio Free Europe was the trusted source of real news from around the world – and even at home. It was jammed by the Communist authorities, exactly for that reason: it provided information, and as we know, information is power.
The internet has provided the opportunity of ideologically driven activism through its most efficient platform: communication. It is in very large measure the tool by which terrorists have been able to grow their influence, recruit globally and spread terror internationally.
Security agencies must co-operate not only in information gathering, but in information ‘jamming’. Unable to communicate, terrorists’ strike capability is vastly reduced.
RECRUIT DISILLUSIONED TERRORISTS
Who do terrorists listen to most readily? Each other. It sounds redundant to say, but they don’t listen to voices opposing them.
“The Indonesian approach to de-radicalise terrorist convicts is focused heavily on the former JI leadership. … The police have spearheaded an initiative using former militants who have revised their views on violence to engage other jihadists in prisons. This is based on the assumption that former hardliners have a more lasting impact on supporters of violent jihad than the appeals from moderate, state-sanctioned religious clerics.” (Carl Ungerer, The Weekend Australian, May 22-23, 2011, Inquirer p.4 : ‘Battle for the minds of terrorist convicts’)
The reader will pardon a brief personal anecdote in this context: The above approach was the policy employed by my father, Dr George R. Urban at Radio Free Europe in the early to mid 1960s when he ran the Radio’s University programmes; he would give plenty of air time to conversations with disillusioned ex-communists, broadcasting into Eastern Europe, where listeners (including Soviet party officials) would hear not what Western propagandists had to say, but these former party members.
WAGE WAR AS WE MEAN IT
In the short and medium term, self defence against terrorists means pro-active war. It’s not only foolish to wound the ISIS beast, it sends the wrong message; we have to aim to kill. We have no choice. They give us no choice. Each of them is prepared to die for their ideology, so they are not afraid of death. This makes them far more dangerous than any national army. And since it is not an army, and it acts with none of the terms of engagement that (most) nation states impose, there is no alternative. We must devote massive resources so that the task can be accomplished – and accomplished quickly. We would do us and Islam a big favour.