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Reply to Pat

Reader comment on item: Shoeless George Bush
in response to reader comment: Chris, you're whitewashing

Submitted by Chris G. (United States), Jul 11, 2007 at 14:04

Yes you are right, actions do speak louder than words, which is why we have to be so careful about the actions that we do in our foreign policy (and domestic policies) and the short-term vs. long term repercussions that they may have.

You are right that many Muslims in America are not always open about their views as they are often afraid of being misinterpreted and branded as an extremist if they, for example, say that they hate Israel. However many are very open in their Islamic identity and beliefs. The FBI has successfully recruited informants who know how to identify radical Muslims who show certain signs of being a possible threat. The problem is that they need to recruit many more and their own agents and analysts need to be better trained in Islamic theology so that they can better interpret intelligence. I

f you know what to listen for, its not hard to identify "red flags" in statements made by Muslims. Furthermore these days it's not hard for the FBI to get monitor such individual's emails and other communications if information on them warrants closer observations. Refusal to study Islam in order to distinguish average Muslims and fanatics is what causes us to not be able to identify the radicals in our midst. Trying to oppress all Muslims in America (because we're too lazy or unwilling to try and study their religion in order to tell them apart) will simply cause them to sympathize more with extremists and would rapidly radicalize those communities.

As for the Heaven's Gate cult, I was not trying to compare them directly to Al-Qaeda. What I was trying to point out is that even educated people can be brainwashed into doing things for religious reasons that the rest of us consider to be insane. Their cult's male members castrated themselves and committed suicide even though its members were for the most part, highly educated. Al-Qaeda members likewise can find individuals who, despite their high education level, are susceptible to being brainwashed into doing insane acts of violence in the name of religion. Its all about how you manipulate religion and people's emotions and passions that are attached to their strong religious beliefs. From a psychological perspective, religion is one of the most powerful ways to rally large groups of people to a cause if you know how to manipulate the religion properly.

At any rate, unless you work in the field of intelligence or law enforcement, you are not expected to be an expert in identifying Islamic extremists. However our intelligence agencies and law enforcement dealing with counter-terrorism, most definitely need to be very familiar with different Islamic sects and beliefs along with being very familiar with their local Islamic communities. It's really not that difficult. It just takes a little personal effort and willingness to be open to different cultures so as to make personal contacts and friends within their Islamic communities.

I definitely agree with you on how it is horrific what the Wahhabis are doing to the cities of Mecca and Medina (and all over Saudi Arabia). They have destroyed archaeological sites of immense importance not just to Islam, but to the world. Even many Muslims are outraged by this. What is so frustrating is that the Saudi government outright lies about what they are doing until after the destruction of these sites has been accomplished or a nice new luxury hotel is sitting on top of it. In contrast for example, even the fanatical Iranian Shi'a would never dream of destroying their Islamic or non-Islamic archaeological sites as that is part of their heritage and culture which they cherish. The extremist Wahhabis care nothing about history except their interpretation of history and their paranoid fear of Muslims praying at grave sites or like at the birthplace of their prophet which they see as idolatry. I've seen marriages even get cancelled because a wahhabi influenced father found out that his future son in law celebrated the birthday of their prophet. Yet these same fanatics practically worship the Wahhabi Shaykhs that they follow. They will also speak of and praise their favorite Sahaba (apostles of Mohammed) as perfect humans and almost God-like figures. So they're quite hypocritical.

As for Muslims blowing up historical sites, they most definitely were able to destroy those sites in years past. Indonesia has been Muslim for many centuries and while some sites were abandoned (for many different reasons), they were never destroyed and Hindu and Buddhist traditions have always been maintained as part of Indonesian culture. Likewise in Afghanistan, they have been Muslim for a very long time. It was not until the influence of Wahhabists during the Cold War that we saw an influx of Wahhabists and Qutbists (extremist followers of Sayeed Qutb of the Islamic Brotherhood) flood Afghanistan.

Another example is how, suicide bombing was extremely rare in Afghanistan. Only in the past years since the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan have seen that practice become more common. It actually has only been in the past 2 years that we've seen a notable increase in such attacks in part due to the Al-Qaeda veterans coming back from Iraq and into Afghanistan. Wahhabists are also hard at work preaching such tactics in Afghan mosques. They have also blended in with the conservative Deobandi sect of Islam that is common in Pakistan and Afghanistan. However with that said, if they start blowing up archaeological sites in other areas of the Islamic world not controlled by Wahhabists, then I will become seriously alarmed. But I do not see that happening.

As for Jihadists, believe it or not, often friends and family do not know what they are up to. They often know that they are highly conservative and a bit radical in their beliefs but often the relatives are just as surprised and horrified as everyone else. However some choose to believe that it must have been done for Allah if their beloved relative was moved to do something so extreme. So it often gets rationalized by some relatives. Other families end up disowning their relative who blew themselves up or committed some other act of terrorism in order to save the honor of their family. Finally you do have families who all know of a terrorist plot and who sometimes are directly involved in it. All of those reactions by surviving family members really just depends on the political climate, the family's religious beliefs, and their economic and social status. Every case is different.

As far as Dhimmitude goes, I agree it's not a good thing. However I've never been to an Islamic country where I felt like a 2nd class citizen or was treated badly. Even in Saudi Arabia my family was never treated badly. They are however very mean to Asians often which is why Saudis are not well liked in Indonesia, Malaysia, or the Philippines (aside from the tiny groups of radicals in those countries).

As for the rioting after the Danish cartoon situation, that was only in a few areas of Pakistan, in Lebanon, and in Damascus, Syria. However the vast majority of the Islamic world behaved themselves and didn't go nuts. Furthermore I saw vast condemnation of the riots in Pakistan, Lebanon, and Syria. In Syria at least, it was a bit more complicated. According to several Syrians I talked to, they all told me that the rioting there was in part, an excuse for Islamists to riot against their Baathist government who often brutally puts down any Islamist movement that might threaten the regime.

As for the Fatwahs against Mr. Rushdie, I agree those were insane especially since "The Satanic Verses" were indeed part of early Islamic writings that were later rejected as not being authentic. I still need to read that book to see what all the fuss is about, but yeah that fatwa was really stupid. But keep in mind that not all Shi'a followed the late Ayatollah Khomeini. Ayatollah Al-Sistani and his predecessor, Grand Ayatollah Khoi were both highly critical of Khomeini and have generally been respected voices for moderation in the Shi'a world. Nevertheless, it is ironic to me that it is now primarily Wahhabist Sunni clerics that have taken up the defunct fatwah and reissued them against Mr. Rushdie. These same idiots hate Shi'a Muslims almost as much. Their hypocrisy is just mind-boggling.

I will also of course not defend the terrorist acts you mention. What I am calling for is understand "WHY" these individuals do what they do. In other words I advocate understanding in the deepest ways possible the belief systems of these terrorists and from that, coming up with creative ways to de-legitimize such belief systems by using Islam to separate them and isolate them from the rest of the Islamic world. Instead right now we are doing the opposite. Today we are more and more lumping them together with every other Muslim. So we are doing the opposite of what needs to be done and by doing so are only strengthening Al-Qaeda and all radical Jihadist movements.

As for fanatics becoming a problem in America, I doubt this will happen. Even in Dearborn, Michigan you don't have anything even remotely close to the radicalism you see in the UK. There is a highly conservative Yemeni community there, but even they have not taken to the streets with "Death to America" signs and things like that. They also are under a lot of pressure to modernize (and some have substantially).

As for those cab drivers, they have always chosen who to refuse service to. Its been shown over and over for example that many cab drivers won't pick up black men and they may refuse to drive to some areas of a city. In the case of the Somali cab drivers, I don't agree with them, but there may be plenty of other cab drivers willing to take their business that they refuse. If it's not a problem, it shouldn't be made into a problem. Even more importantly, they can be encouraged to pick up drunks by telling them that they may be saving lives from what otherwise would be a drunk driver who could kill anyone including their fellow Somali Muslims. I imagine that the main problem they have is sitting in a car and inhaling all of the alcohol vapors coming from the drunk who will make their cab wreak of alcohol, or even worse will vomit alcohol filled vomit all over their cab.

Nevertheless, to me its not that different from Christian pharmacists who refuse to sell certain drugs that can be used for abortions, or Christian school board members who force schools to abandon sex education programs and replace them with "abstinence only" programs. This is despite the fact that multiple studies including one large one from Texas A&M (a highly conservative University) showed that "abstinence only" programs simply don't work. If you have the right to place laws forcing Somali cab drivers from expressing their religious beliefs, then I have the right to call for our government from stopping conservative Christians from forcing their religious beliefs upon my kids and upon my life.

Now…there are limits to the expression of religion when it is clearly shown that one religious group is clearly endangering the lives of others. But we have laws in place already for such people. We just need to better enforce those laws as well as refine them better in order to remove any constitutional ambiguities.

So, in a nutshell, I am saying that we DO need to be vigilant of Islamic extremists within the United States. However please do not lump them together with all Muslims. We need to work with Islamic organizations and leaders that have a proven history of speaking out against extremists so that their voices can be amplified to counter the influence of Wabhhist type extremist propaganda in their own communities as well as internationally.

Chris G.

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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