This post was prompted by the thread of the post Who's Afraid of Islam? by Joe Katzman (link), AMac's request, (link), and a number of very good statements made lately by outstanding people who are Muslims, speaking more than five years after 11 September 2001, but still (or for the first time) speaking as isolated individuals, when history has moved on.
Now that Iran is embarked on what looks like a final drive to manufacture nuclear weapons and now that North Korea is nuclear armed and may put its products up for sale, some regrets are too late. I think time is running out, and we have to deal with the Islam we have already encountered, not with a post-reform Islam that we might imagine and would prefer to have encountered.
I will say what it is that I think we have encountered as it relates to us as a challenge and a threat (not in itself, as I have no claim to be an expert on the inner spirit of Islam), and some of what is to be done, in what spirit.
I think that considering the splendid personal character of many of the people who are on the opposite side in this fight, or who will wind up on the opposite side as events unfold, we ought to regard this as a bloody tragedy. And I think we have to accept that, and press on anyway. I think we should fight boldly, fiercely and proactively for certain key values such as freedom of religion and freedom of speech, to protect the lives and dignity of those who exercise those freedoms, especially against Islam, and intentionally to diminish Islam, which threatens them. I do not think that we can get out of this fight or prevail otherwise.
What Tashbih Sayyed is saying here (link), and what some other splendid people who are Muslims have said lately, is what I expected Muslims in general to say after 11 September 2001, when I was still very pro-Muslim and I expected Osama Bin Laden to live six months at most, because his fellow Muslims would turn against him for associating the name and image of their religion with shocking crimes.
History has taken another course, and it is now clear that Muslims will turn against crimes in the name of jihad in decisive numbers only when these crimes are against Muslims, or under Western pressure of various kinds, or in atypical cases, such as when Westernized or just individually great people who happen to be Muslims are speaking eloquently and that is all that is required.
When Westerners fight against aggressive Muslims, even when it's against genocidal terrorists like Hamas, or simply terribly tyrants like Saddam Hussein, the global Muslim nation (the "umma") unites more than not against the unbelievers, and with double fury against Jews and their friends. This means that if all you want is to be less unpopular with Muslim populations, such as the population of Iran, this is possible to some extent, but you can't fight the crazy jihadists, you have to let them win, otherwise you unite the moderates with the radicals against you.
While unbelievers fighting against Islam provoke deep, lasting, widespread and deadly reactions, Muslims fighting against unbelievers (or sometimes Muslims fighting against non-Arab or otherwise "lesser" Muslims as in the Darfur conflict) provoke only sad musings by isolated individuals, reactions that are inconsequential and can easily be set aside later, because, hey, we won.
This is why, speaking to gamers, I liken our relations to the global Muslim community to a bunch of reaction rolls where we get a permanent penalty of one pip on a 1d6 roll, making friendly reactions weaker than might have been expected and unfriendly reactions more common and more deadly than would have been the case if we were not dealing with Islam. Individual reactions genuinely differ, and reactions to individual cases are pretty random. (For example, nobody knows in advance which opera or other art-work will spark Muslim rage next.) Each individual case, such as the Muhammed cartoons jihad, could have been different. But the dice are loaded against us, and in the long run bad reactions, grievances and struggles mount up.
And of course friendly reactions are disaggregated because the system of Islam is against them (even to the point of the Koran declaring specifically against Muslims being friends with Christians and Jews), while unfriendly reactions are readily rewarded, collectivized, organised and acted on in sharp, consequential ways by the system of Islam, which is inherently political and which strives (makes jihad) for Muslim domination without limit.
We have seen all this play out, year after year, after 11 September, 2001, which ought to have been enough to make anyone take pause.
So five years ago, had decisive numbers of Muslims said what Tashbih Sayyed, Ph.D. is saying, I would have said "Here is the strongly moral Islam I was talking about. Organizations like Al Qaeda are doomed, because sooner or later they will all trespass over the boundaries that the dominant majority of good Muslims will permit, and then they will each be destroyed." But today I say "Tashbih Sayyed, Ph.D. what a great guy!" And I attach no further significance to all such friendly opinions.
On the question of whether Islam is inherently political, I don't think we have to get into amateur theology and speculate on what the Koran "might" lead to or which verses "should" be abrogated, I think history has answered that question and the answer is yes, too often.
On whether political Islam inherently aims at sharia, I think it tends to, inherently, as that will alway be the preferred solution, all things equal - but in history all things are rarely equal, and jihad (which I think Islam does produce inexorably) can be carried on under its natural color as we see today, or under any "mask", such as pan-Arabism or Socialism or Arab Nazism, that demonstrates advantages such as winning over allies (for example by gaining German backing in World War II or Soviet backing during the Cold War) and gets the job done. If aiming directly at sharia is less effective at achieving key Islamic goals such as the destruction of Israel, it can be rejected, as Soviet-influenced socialism was. (However, it will never be rejected once and for all, as it has a legitimacy in Islam that alien ideological "masks" for jihad can never have.)
Can success be defined and ideological "masks" be evaluated by different, friendlier goals approved by Israel and the rest of the West? Unfortunately, no. Islam must dominate, and it is very big on making those who have been subdued feel painfully every day that their position is humiliated and inferior. This hasn't changed in Islam's long history, and there is no indication that the mentality that strives for domination and fears the domination of the other will alter.
It's not personal. It's a system, and it's in the Koran and in the example of the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) and in history and in the systems of laws and the cultural influences derived from all of the above. This, you can't alter. You can't get a fundamentally friendly Islam.
What you can have is simply less Islam, and more of other alternatives which aren't so hostile. And that is what I advocate that we aim at.
I think we should use the most moral, humane and I hope effective means, such as protecting and enabling people who want to quit this bloody and onerous religion. We should stand up for freedom of religion, not occasionally and reactively in high profile cases such as that of Abdul Rahhman in liberated, democratic Afghanistan, but boldly, globally and pro-actively. We should stand up boldly and pro-actively for other values and customs that militant Muslims have declared incompatible with their religion, such as freedom of speech including freedom to criticise religion, including Islam. What militant Muslims say will destroy their religion we should give them in spades, including broadcasts of the Miss World contest yearly. (As they chanted while they rioted: "Death to beauty! Miss World is sin!" Well then...) And when fatwas calling for assassination are issued, as they are from time to time (typically with those who issue them paying no cost to send others into hiding for fear of their lives) we should make it more dangerous to issue them than to receive them, so that the practice stops and those who want to criticise Islam or even leave it can do so boldly and safely, or at least with complete confidence that they have our full and muscular backing, not just empty words calling for "tolerance" and "tact" (sending the tacit message that those who are threatened by militant Islam are on their own). And we should seek alliance with and support people throughout the world who are threatened by the fearful pressure of militant Islam.
If we do that, Muslims are sure to say that their chronic accusations that the "crusaders" want to change their religion have been validated, and moderate and radical Muslims will rally together on that basis, and we will lose the moderate Muslim goodwill we have invested so heavily in cultivating. (Without, however, impressive results to show for it.)
But if we do not aim to diminish the intractable source of our troubles, the jihad-driven clash of civilizations will continue anyway, and one-sidedly, to our detriment. If someone pounds on you, not as hard as he can, but still hard enough that you can't keep taking that, and he won't see reason (as after five years from 11 September, 2001 it is clear that the Muslim world will not see reason), but he will get really mad if you fight him - you have to fight him.
This is an adversarial view of Islam, and an adversarial set of recommendations about dealing with Islam. I do not advocate avoiding a conflict of civilizations, because I think we are already in one and we can't get out of it, and the sooner that we recognise that we are in a struggle and start fighting to win, the better our chances are to emerge as the winners.
This is also a tragic view of the position of good people who are Muslims and our relations with people in Iran and other places who are willing to be friendly, though of course not if we fight their leaders and their religion and thus them.
The tragedy can be denied if we deny that there are really moderate Muslims and friendly and upright people on the other side of the line that Islam draws between itself and the non-Muslim world, but I don't agree with blinding ourselves to the goodness of other people, even if we may not be able to avoid fighting them.
Rather, we are called by history to face up to a tragedy: that we have to oppose and diminish a system that is intractably and (in the context of proliferating nuclear weapons) fatally hostile to us, even though that will enrage and alienate the large absolute numbers of genuinely good and moderate people within that system, people who would like Islam to be friendly, kind and fair, even though, friendly or unfriendly, kind or unkind, and fair or anciently wedded to prejudices and violent supremacism in practice, it is still their religion, and since it is a political religion, still their side.