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Reason trumps Emotion (Unless you're a fanatic...)

Reader comment on item: [Alastair Crooke's Conflict Forum and] Sharing Jokes with Hamas

Submitted by usesomelogic (United States), Jun 8, 2006 at 14:52

Dr. Pipes ...

Thanks for your post. It's always interesting to hear what people like you have to say. Unfortunately, for people like me, the way you all think is one obstacle to reaching an end to a useless conflict.

One of your posters said that when he visited the Conflicts Forum site, all he saw was gibberish along the lines of "transforming conflicts" etc... Please don't comment on the lack of actual specifics in this case - as I'm sure you get the gist.

What I would like to know is since when it has become nonsense to think of turning what is a destructive conflict into something constructive with possibilities of resolution. Fortunately, we all seek the same goals - of ending political violence. Of course, we do not share the same methods of doing so - which is where all the resorts to name-calling etc. come in. Perhaps the first step is to recognize that people who are looking to end this conflict by means not agreeable to yourself/ves are not part of the problem, but the solution. If you can climb that wall, then maybe we can have a constructive dialogue - as much as some of you may hate that word.

I ask you to explain how you wish to end this war without turning it into an endless cycle of violence. Look at some of the more intractable conflicts around the world - Israel/Palestine, Russia/Chechnya etc. Would you like to add US/Al Qaeda to the list? Mr. Crooke uses the term insurgency because the reason that insurgencies are often so difficult for democratic societies to defeat is because they are sustained and protracted - and the reason for that is that they are based on ideas. Any student with even rudimentary knowledge of insurgency warfare will tell you that - ...

I for one would not like to compromise my safety or my family's so that the narrow-minded in our society can cling to their ideals of self-righteousness and moral worth. Of course, no-one is saying that the tactic of terrorism is not abhorrent - however, violence in order to achieve political goals is nothing new, and is routinely employed by democratic societies as well as autocratic regimes or non-state actors. And before you routinely dismiss all this talk as leftist academic propaganda that is apologetic or appeasing, or try and draw an insane parallel to Hitler (can we please just acknowledge different people, time, structure, society and place?) can you acknowledge that they see you in the same way as you see them? That's not relativism, that's just understanding the situation.

So, please explain to me how this war on terrorism ends. Would you have me believe that the US will eradicate every single extremist Muslim? That should be difficult, when most of the Muslim world, even if they reject terrorism, also reject the policies and arrogance of us Americans that refuse to acknowledge any role in the furthering of this conflict. Let me explain to you how violence by extremists can be averted:

Extremist Muslims of the Salafi brand (like Al Qaeda) believe that they should follow the words of the Koran and of Mohammed. This is in much the same way that Protestants believe that the hierarchical clericism of the Catholic Church is invalid. Meanwhile, these Salafis believe that over time, Islam will come to rule the world (in peace I might add). This is no different than Christian, Evangelical or even Jewish scriptures that predict that their religion will ultimately win out. The important thing is that in none of these religions is violence needed for the religion to ultimately reign supreme. In the case of the Salafis, they believe that it is preordained that Allah will lead Islam to supremity - therefore violence to achieve that end is not necessary. This is the same in any other religion.

I draw your attention to the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, concluded by Muhammad in 628 AD amidst the protest of his followers. The reason Muhammad concluded this treaty was indeed strategic. The prophet knew that other people looked at him and Islam as not peaceful - and he wanted to show that indeed Islam was a peaceful religion - as is any other. He understood that if people could see its true nature, they would not be afraid of it and have knee-jerk reactions to it of the same kind that we see today. As a result of the peace treaty, Islam spread rapidly - in fact far more rapidly than the conquest of the Quraishites could have achieved. This proved that persuasion was stronger than force, something which I think many people in this forum should think about.

So why shouldn't these extremists lay down their arms and wait for Allah to guide Islam into the world by peaceful means? Well, as they see it, if they put down their arms, they will continue to be humiliated and savaged by the West. Whatever you think about their violent methods, there is certainly a case to be made that Muslims are discriminated against. Our armies are on their land - their armies are not on ours. Meanwhile, in an earlier post today you said that Muslim holidays should not be granted to a school which had Jewish holidays. Why? Because there was a greater representation of Jews than Muslims in that school district? This line of reasoning is not in your favor - as there are many many more Muslims than Jews in this world - so if you want rules based on majority consensus, then I would hazard the suggestion that our current policies in the MidEast have far less than majority consensus. Meanwhile, what of minority rights? Should we discard them?

So, the extremists will not lay down their arms, because they know that if they were to do so, the US/West would continue in what they see as a campaign of humiliation against them. This is why they have continuously characterized this as a defensive war. If they could be convinced that Americans and the West are not discriminatory/racist against Muslims (of course, it may be difficult to convince them of this - all they need to do is visit a site such as this one) and would not pursue policies that reflect this hatred/racism, maybe then they could lay down their arms and allow what is pre-ordained to them to naturally take its course. Which could, incidentally, take hundreds of years (if ever, depending on your beliefs.)

As the US national security establishment has seen it fit to fund my research, I spend a lot of time scouring extremist websites to see how these people think - something I would recommend you and your readers do, if only because it is much wiser to "Know your Enemy." I draw your attention to a discussion I found on such a site about negotiations with the US:

"If the West wanted a truce with Al-Qaeda it could be done if it was fair, and if the West was ready to accept living beside a strong Islamic state that respects it and exchanges diplomatic relations... Add to this my personal opinion that Al-Qaeda can accept a fair fair truce on the scale of true justice."

"I do not think that the militants cannot negotiate. As a people they follow Mohamed, peace be upon him, the one that negotiated in Hudaybiyah and followed that negotiation"

These are not my words, but those of the senseless fanatics that your readers describe. No doubt, you would not believe that these militants would honor a truce or even seek one - however, from what I have found, they feel the same way about you. Why should they trust the US? Dr. Pipes, I'm sure that you have some command of the reasons why the US has lost much of its credibility in the Muslim world. If you are able to lay aside utopic delusions of the perfection of US foreign policy, then maybe you could make some room to maneuver here. Your concerns are the same as theirs... It's time we all stopped using emotion and revenge as our primary motivations. If, instead, we used reason, maybe we might just get somewhere.


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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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