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Holes in arguments

Reader comment on item: Combating the Ideology of Radical Islam

Submitted by John Vander Voort (United States), Apr 13, 2003 at 06:27

For Mr. Fuller, the error in his agrument is his assumption that after a free and fair election won by Islamists, there would follow another free and fair election which might not be won by Islamists. The problem here is that radical Islamists, once in power, would have no more respect for the concept of free and fair elections than have the Taliban, the Iranian theocracy, Saddam Hussein, the Assads of Syria, Joseph Stalin, the Chinese Communist Party, or Adolf Hitler. Once in power, regardless of whatever system or constitution radical idealogues profess to follow, they will be removable only by violent revolution, by outside intervention, or perhaps following a total economic collapse.

I suspect Mr. Pipes understands this, but it needs to be stated clearly. I agree that there is a great difference between violent Islamists and most other Moslems, but whether followers of Islam seek to spread their faith by conquest or conversion, their goal is the same - an Islamic state governed by Islamic law. It would not be surprising to see such a system imposed nonviolently, due to demographics alone, in parts of Western Europe, notably France and Germany, by those declining nations' last free and fair elections - and sooner rather than later. The problem is that the concept of separation of church and state is completely alien to Islam, as the religion has had no transforming evolution parallel to the Reformation in the west.

The only workable solution to date has been in Turkey, where a secular army is empowered constitutionally to abrogate free and fair elections; here the dangers are civil war or the imposition of a secular military fascism. Only the admirable restraint of this army has made the system workable.

A sudden leap to western style democracy is probably impossible in many Islamic nations, as this requires an educated population and a free press, rather than a madrassa-educated public swayed by a state propaganda machine. Curiously, the states which claim to be democratic are the least ready for democratic evolution; their populations do not know what democracy looks like, believe they already have it, and don't especially like it; in addition, their only contact with our society is through its most decadent representatives in the entertainment industry, offensive to persons of faith and morality whether they are Moslems, Christians, or Jews. The only hope for these countries is through education of their elites in Western universities, especially in the United States, but this will only work if Americans reach out to them in friendship while they are here and demonstrate to them that Hollywood does not present a true picture of Western civilization. Yet we need to encourage these visitors to go back and work to change their societies rather than stay here; otherwise we will merely be draining away the forces for change.

The monarchical states, though many are repressive, have a built-in opportunity to evolve into more modern societies through evolution into constitutional monarchies on something like the European (or Thai) model. This will work only if the reforming monarchs are led to realize the necessities of secular education and a free press for the development of a modern society. Our emphasis in encouraging such evolutions should be on the economic benefits of a free society, including (hinted with sublety) the great value of mobilizing the female half of societies into the economy.

I believe Iraq to be a special case, with Syria very similar. Whether the invasion of Iraq was justifiable is and will remain debatable; the current facts do seem to present an opportunity. Iraq is more pluralistic in ethnicity and in religion than most Middle Eastern nations, and has had at least some experience with a largely secular form of government - although a very bad one. It also has better infrastructure, a more educated population, and a lot more oil than most. Our emphasis in rebuilding should be less on the forms and trappings of the new government, than on economic freedom (law and contract), freedom of the press, equality of women, freedom of religion, and educational reform. It is not overrun with Wahhabi madrassas, and we should keep it that way by pointing out that indoctrination in radical Islamism is, in principle, no different than indoctrination in radical Saddamism. Above all, we should provide very strong incentives for Iraqis (and Afghans) living in the United States to return to their homeland; this is asking a lot, and we should encourage them in any way we can.

Federalism may well work in Iraq, but I would oppose the idea of three political entities dedicated to the Sunni, Shia, and Kurds. Instead, the political subdivisions should be based on the large cities, expanding the influence of their more heterogenous and educated populations. Such a subdivision would avoid administrative zones named for and institutionally dominated by any minority, yet retain areas under de facto domination of each of the three groups based on demographics alone. Since I am not familiar with the current administrative subdivisions of Iraq, I do not know how much realignment this would demand.

There are dangers involved, but we need to abondon our mindless commitment, both in the Middle East and in Africa, to the maintenance of current borders between states which make no ethnic or economic sense today, and which were imposed entirely for the benefit of colonial powers. This includes not only borders between nations, but the internal administrative subdivisions within nations. Reform of the latter may in many cases make reform of the former unnecessary, by providing minorities a hope of day-to-day freedom without creating a plethora of economically non-viable ethnic ministates.

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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Reader comments (86) on this item

Title Commenter Date Thread
why not [41 words]jack steenbargerApr 21, 2010 21:13171548
RADICAL ISLAM FROM A SOCIAL PERSPECTIVE [161 words]R .WOODDec 17, 2009 08:11165962
ignorenace is a harmful wapon [231 words]NoraFeb 18, 2009 20:04150755
Naivete [98 words]KnaveDec 19, 2009 16:12150755
jihad is a holy WAR [238 words]waterguessenDec 19, 2008 22:47145466
199.999999% muslims are islamics [67 words]Mohd suhelAug 19, 2008 05:51137005
Radical Islamists or Cultists? [239 words]MaudiAug 6, 2008 07:31136349
4Take the fight, on to the street. [40 words]Matthew HaysomMay 28, 2008 10:57130319
Wrong is wrong and right is right [295 words]AntiworldlyOct 18, 2009 17:32130319
Check your facts [237 words]ConfusedNov 22, 2010 23:31130319
7How do I fight back against radical Islam [105 words]David H McLeishJan 6, 2008 17:48117605
By searching for truth! [754 words]PDMJan 6, 2008 20:18117605
Dear Sir David H McLeish [180 words]YnnatchkahJan 6, 2008 21:32117605
Semper Fidelis.... [153 words]donvanJan 7, 2008 10:42117605
What can I do [413 words]blackmanApr 2, 2008 18:37117605
Speak out Against Radical Islam--Don't Bow to Terror [147 words]51 year old, 115-lb. woman who'd like to beat down a radical extremist before I dieSep 10, 2014 20:31117605
"Islamist" vs. "Islam" [143 words]Barry WolfeApr 11, 2006 12:4042927
1Combating Islamism [22 words]Clifford IshiiMay 29, 2005 14:1222467
A Nation of optimism [65 words]Tom KunzieJul 25, 2006 22:5922467
The failure of the American-Islamic discourse [268 words]Ibn FilastinApr 30, 2005 22:3521907
What? [335 words]MaudiAug 6, 2008 08:4521907
1Islamic justification of violence [200 words]Henry RebelloDec 4, 2004 05:2518851
2The real face of Islam [186 words]John D'souzaDec 4, 2004 05:1218850
wrong conclusions about islam [96 words]Marwan TawashiFeb 3, 2007 15:2218850
a challenge to muslims - stop deluding yourselves [121 words]basilJun 27, 2009 15:3518850
Very true statements [34 words]Too late to bickerOct 18, 2009 18:0418850
Two dangerous ideas [584 words]David IseckeApr 19, 2003 01:498461
Philosophy of Islam [94 words]DonApr 18, 2003 17:038456
Moderate Islamist [158 words]daneApr 17, 2003 17:348436
Clashes of Interest? [181 words]Matt MurrayApr 16, 2003 17:328408
3The reinventing of Islam [1147 words]Daniel Kayes ThomsonApr 16, 2003 11:428396
2Brave and correct Rabbi Daniel Kayes Thomson [17 words]ELIJAH HA NAVIJul 19, 2006 16:438396
Bismillah. Take a Look [222 words]Faheem MunirDec 17, 2006 00:588396
1Moderate Islamists? [65 words]Neil LewisApr 15, 2003 22:528382
Islamism [66 words]Muhammad SiddiquiApr 15, 2003 17:228378
Vilification of Islamism [123 words]Don Van SICKLEApr 15, 2003 12:298374
Fighting Islamist Ideology (read Sayyid Qutb) [189 words]JonApr 15, 2003 10:558371
Rough road ahead fellows [178 words]Peter YorkoskiFeb 21, 2007 01:468371
What about Muhammad and the Quran? [142 words]Rick FlandersApr 15, 2003 02:268365
Rethink "Moderates" [235 words]BoycatApr 15, 2003 00:528364
Stop thinking like westerners [285 words]Peter YorkoskiFeb 21, 2007 02:268364
CAIR and the ACLU. Enough said. [127 words]KeithApr 14, 2003 22:328363
CAIR [146 words]Marwan TawashiFeb 4, 2007 04:318363
"Moderate?" [35 words]p eApr 14, 2003 21:138362
The real enemy is change [209 words]Dennis CashenApr 14, 2003 18:008358
1Democracy not always best solution [109 words]Syd VeritaskApr 14, 2003 15:068357
3Democracy: Government with limited power [92 words]Stephen BermanApr 14, 2003 14:008353
Islamists may "fail" but they don't willingly unelect themselves. [199 words]Matthew KennelApr 14, 2003 13:598352
Islam is indeed the problem. [38 words]Emmanuel GoldsteinApr 14, 2003 13:358350
You may fight but we will win [34 words]PatzDec 4, 2007 23:388350
MODERATE ISLAM [128 words]WHIPSep 22, 2009 16:508350
The moderates need to speak up a little louder! [170 words]fenixApr 14, 2003 13:298348
Democracy & Islamists [310 words]Glenn KlotzApr 14, 2003 13:068347
It'll never work... [124 words]MarkApr 14, 2003 12:208346
Democracy is the Key [94 words]Susan BradfordApr 14, 2003 09:108344
Internal discontinuity [52 words]
w/response from Daniel Pipes
Zach AllenApr 14, 2003 09:038343
Saudi Arabia self-described Islamist State [50 words]Ron FoxApr 14, 2003 07:428341
Democracy vs Liberty and Islamism [299 words]Gordon MullingsApr 14, 2003 07:188340
Co-authors disagree [186 words]JMHApr 13, 2003 22:418334
ISLAM IS NOT THE ENEMY? [246 words]Mike DavisApr 13, 2003 22:368333
Christian,Muslim? [103 words]AmalJan 12, 2007 12:188333
The gap between our interests [150 words]Lenn ChowApr 13, 2003 18:518330
In agreement with Pipes [56 words]Etta HellerApr 13, 2003 14:298327
Does Moderate Islam Really Exist? [130 words]Richard RheinerApr 13, 2003 13:478325
Moderates have a big problem [88 words]PaladinDec 22, 2009 22:588325
Holes in arguments [937 words]John Vander VoortApr 13, 2003 06:278315
Staggering!!! [93 words]MontyApr 13, 2003 03:508313
Understanding Islamism, Effects on American Policy [725 words]Yirmeyahu Ben-DavidApr 13, 2003 03:068309
Illiberal Civil Society? [134 words]
w/response from Daniel Pipes
Anthony ChaseApr 13, 2003 01:428307
Personal view [164 words]E. J. BlumbergApr 13, 2003 01:048306
The battle is between...? [77 words]Stephan DedalusApr 13, 2003 00:188305
New Islam Movement [2596 words]ZoyaApr 13, 2003 00:098304
re: New Islam Movement [67 words]Mustafa McPhersonSep 4, 2007 18:588304
Need to be explicit [151 words]Boris FrenkelApr 12, 2003 23:078300
Source of the Problem [358 words]Wiilliam James BonnesarApr 12, 2003 21:548299
Another Consideration [22 words]Mack PayneDec 21, 2010 10:548299
Refresh Your Thoughts [17 words]Mack PfayneFeb 5, 2011 15:168299
Two dangerous ideas [584 words]David IseckeApr 12, 2003 21:478297
elections [29 words]Al GreenApr 12, 2003 21:418296
militant theology & militant theocrats [69 words]MPaul HansenApr 12, 2003 20:488295
The Core of the Matter [404 words]C.C. CouringtonApr 12, 2003 20:048294
Moderate Islamists, an Oxymoron [188 words]Jan David RomanoffApr 12, 2003 20:038293
1I'm with "Will of Allah" [171 words]ClarkyMay 16, 2008 10:518293
Radical or moderate Islamic Muslims? [158 words]HelenJun 21, 2008 17:298293
Will of Allah [563 words]Charles OrenApr 12, 2003 17:398291

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