Whew! After a couple sleepless nights, we just got the new issue of A True Word
up. It's going well, we've had an average of 12,000 hits a day and plenty of good feedback. I've had less time for this blog, which the new zine is kind of eclipsing. Ah well. Here's an article I just published there. Check out the site for the rest of the articles, including an interesting interview
I did with ex-CIA official and RAND scholar Graham Fuller on the avoidability of a clash of civilizations.
Who are the Radicals?
In a very practical sense, the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were a tremendous success. September 11, 2001 dramatically advanced the agenda of a tiny group of radicals who perceive that the only way to achieve their goals is by driving the worlds of Islam and Christianity into a cataclysmic confrontation.
These radicals are not just Muslims; they are Christians and Jews as well. Under examination, the ultimate goals of the radical pro-Israel fringe, extremist Christian fundamentalists, and Al Qaida are startlingly similar. The line between the camps becomes quite fuzzy, a subject that A True Word hopes to examine in future articles.
The 9/11 conspirators, of course, had a good idea that war would be the consequence of their efforts, though they must be disappointed in the outcome as it stands today. The American attack on Afghanistan and wider "War on Terrorism" drove the Muslim masses, to a limited and superficial extent, into the arms of a group who had heretofore been relatively unknown, marginal, and lacking in influence.
Even among jihad circles, which Western mythology teaches that he dominated, Osama bin Ladin's embroilment in a civil war between Muslims, and the tendency of his group to engage in takfeer (excommunication) and accusations of hypocrisy against respected Islamic scholars and many Muslims in general, left him relatively isolated. Indeed, most activists in the Islamic resistance struggles in the 1990s advised potential volunteers to avoid Afghanistan and its convoluted, bewildering politics, from which most foreign volunteers had fled subsequent to the region's descent into Muslim-on-Muslim violence.
Lashkar Jihad, the largest jihad group in Indonesia, has explicitly distanced itself from Bin Ladin and denounced his methods. And in an April 2000 open letter to ABC News president David Westin, an official of the Kashmiri jihad brigade Lashkar-e-Taiba wrote that his group "has no organizational affiliation or ties with Usamah bin Laden. Our organization is not involved, nor has it ever been involved, in any activities in America or East Africa. We condemn all acts of violence against civilians and those who commit such acts, whether Muslim or non-Muslim. Islam does not allow the killing of peaceful, innocent, unarmed civilians."
Indeed, it is the aspirations of Muslims for peace and freedom in places like Kashmir and Chechnya that have suffered as a consequence of 9/11. Bosnia has witnessed a slide back to the Communist era with a series of political arrests on the basis of flimsy or no evidence, justified by a "war on terrorism." Russia and China ape Bush's rhetoric, recasting domestic Muslim liberation movements as struggles against international terrorism. MIT Professor Noam Chomsky observes: "The atrocities of September 11 were a devastating blow for the Palestinians, as they instantly recognized. Israel is openly exulting in the 'window of opportunity' it now has to crush Palestinians with impunity."
While Muslims have been the subject of a great deal of scrutiny, the West has not paid a fraction of as much attention to its own, homegrown radicals whose agitation has contributed as much, if not more, to a potential Third World War as bin Ladin himself. A coterie of lobbyists, media commentators, and US government bureaucrats, pursuing their own unique but overlapping agendas, work together in an unlikely alliance under the assumption that such a war will benefit their peculiar and obscure causes. Those causes have very little to do with the interests of America and her citizens, Western countries, or humanity in general.
The average American doesn't believe that a war between Muslims and the West to usher in the return of Jesus Christ is a sensible policy goal, but quite influential lobbyists do. The interests of America and peace are sacrificed as opinion-makers and lobbyists drive a wedge between our country and the Muslim world as a means of shoring up an illegitimate regime in the Holy Land. Career spooks and defense contractors scramble for ways to justify their existence in a post-Soviet world with no enemy looming outside America's gates, no convincing threat to its survival.
But the problems of these fringe special interests are not humanity's problems, and what they believe is the solution to their problems-unlimited war-is not the solution to humanity's problems. And thus, we have a responsibility to begin identifying those for whom war is an end in itself, to analyze their arguments, and to expose their incongruence, falsehood, and danger.
This is the case regardless of religion or nationality, but we have the US media to put Muslims under the spotlight-although it quite often gets the story wrong, due to incomplete information or assumptions tainted by the influence of the aforementioned homegrown extremists. Therefore, each week, A True Word will examine the claims and credibility of the West's homegrown ideologues, taking up the slack that has been neglected in a society unable to perceive, like a purloined letter, its own roots in the conflict.
This does not mean that Muslims should dismiss criticism out of hand; on the contrary, we must begin listening to our detractors as a means of improving and refining our communication with the West, and even altering our behavior if we find that it has indeed been inconsistent with the noble and universal aims of our religion.
At the same time, the West must begin to recognize the difference between what are rational arguments and argumentation, between the seekers of truth and those who seek to obscure it with irrelevance, hyperbole, and hysteria. They must begin to emulate the former, and dismiss the latter to the dustbin of political irrelevance.