If war is the continuation of politics by other means, then without a doubt the most powerful weapon of our time is ideas.
The Cold War was not won with guns and bombs, it’s was the power of democratic idea that let to the implosion of the Soviet Union. In the war against global Islamic extremist (GIE) guns and bombs has proven to be insufficient, we need to once again call upon the power of idea to fight.
However this time around the fight is not between democracy and Islamism, its liberalism and Islamism. As a political system, there is nothing incompatible between democracy and Islamism. As shown by earlier by the Roman Empire, and later by the United States in the past that democracy is not incompatible with slavery, sexism, racism or intolerance. According to opinion polls conducted by Pew Islam is not incompatible with democracy too. Across 15 Muslim majority countries (Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Indonesia etc) most people thinks Islam should play at least a fairly large role in politics, at the same time they also think western-style democracy can work well in their country. There is no inherent incompatibility between democracy and an extremist Islam majority country.
Liberalism is at war
So the war is between Liberalism and GIE. Liberalism describe here is not democracy but the values that guides democracy in the west. Examples of these values are, freedom of religion, equality for both sex, (still questionable in some western country), openness about sexuality, tolerance, individualism and separation of church and state. These are what GIE don’t like, and find incompatible.
Extreme Islam vs. Moderate Islam
Just like idea of democracy causing implosion inside communist Soviet Union. We need the idea of liberal moderate Islam to win the war against extreme Islam. We need to help strengthen the argument for moderate Islam. The war can only be won from within Muslim communities, guns and bomb can only do so much, if not hinder our effort.
GIE’s huge arsenal
The history of western engagement with Muslims and the state of affairs in many Muslim countries is strengthening the ideas of GIE, namely, Crusader and colonial legacy, American middle eastern policy, Chechnya, Xinjiang, poverty in Muslim countries, and Israel-Palestinian conflict. On top of that many observers are voicing concern about the damage Iraq War is causing to the more important war against GIE by strengthening the argument of GIEs.
Blasting their ideas through Internet Airwave
GIE has not only being effective in building their case against liberal west but are also effectively delivering their message through the use of internet. As I have argued in previous article isolated extreme views flourish on the Internet. Recent London bombing by British grown Muslims suggest perhaps the tides of war in ideas is GIE’s favor. Remember GIE only needs to convince a handful of people to cause terror to a lot of people.
How to help Moderate Islam, you ask. Well we should start by eliminating GIE’s arsenal of support for their idea. The rest is another topic for another article.
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