Saad Eddin Ibrahim, the Egyptian sociologist who rose to international attention when his government jailed him for nearly three years in 2000-03 due to his critique of the Mubarak regime, has an article, "An Open Door," about the Arabs' forgotten liberal legacy in the Spring 2004 issue of the Wilson Quarterly. In it, he makes an interesting argument: One of the consequences of 9/11
may well turn out to be the beginning of the end of politically militant Islam – resulting not so much from the devastating American military reaction as from a painful collective reassessment in the Arab world of the Islamic legacy as it was projected in the last quarter of the 20th century. That legacy will have to be stripped of its cultish millennial aspects if moderation is to be achieved.
This jibes closely with my view that the ultimate implication of 9/11 must be the destruction of militant Islam and the emergence of a moderate alternative. But Ibrahim and I differ in an interesting way. I expect the "devastating American military reaction" to be key, just as it was, mutatis mutandis, in World War II and the cold war, not the weak Muslim moderates. Here is how I expressed it in January 2002:
outsiders, and the United States in particular, can critically help in precipitating the battle and in influencing its outcome. They can do so both by weakening the militant side and by helping the moderate one.
It would be wonderful if Ibrahim is right, that a "painful collective reassessment" among Muslims themselves will precipitate this change. Color me interested but skeptical. In the meantime, the American and other forces should battle hard against militant Islam in all its global manifestations. (May 1, 2004)