Categories: militant, islamism, extremism
A bunch of us are lamenting the inequalities of the world that drive people into extremism. What can we do to make it fairer? We ask ourselves. My, aren’t we patronizing? [Note to self: add links]
I agree that we need to focus on the ways that we contribute to unfairness but we should not be so naïve as to think that that will save us from extremism, particularly militant Islamism. Unfairness, after all, is at the heart of militant Islamism. Islamism does not demand a more just society, but a more unjust society.
Is there really something that we can do to please militant Islamists other than bombing Israel into oblivion? C’mon, admit it. They are not about to change their opinions of us because we care about their human rights or economic disparities. They won’t even change their opinions if we negotiate peace. They won’t change their opinions if we step in in Darfur or Kashmir or Chechnya or Bosnia or Palestine or any of hundreds of trouble spots. Their minds are made up.
Oh, and the other thing we do is call for the moderate Islamic world to raise their voices. C’mon. It’s not something we can call for. It’s not something we can demand. We can only engage those voices when they do rise up. But why should they? Moderates are at heart, well, moderate. We moderates do not go out and kill people who violate our moderate code of ethics. We don’t demand loyalty. We don’t believe in blasphemy. How can moderation compete with certainty?
Look, on this side of the conversation (I am living in Iran, remember)the West seems hypocritical, divided, and flailing. It’s time to own up to hypocrisy: time to admit that the world demands hypocrisy. Living in the world demands that we negotiate the grey areas. It isn’t as if there is a simple path to good or a simple path to bad. There is a reason that we say the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
If we really want to defuse the Islamist movement, we would all convert; we would give up wine and pork; we would follow the nebulous Shari’ a law; we would pray 5 times a day; and we would follow the strongest and most brutal among us. Even that, as moderate and observant and secular Muslims all over the world know, would not be enough. For some, the only sense of freedom comes from the oppression of others.
Militant Islamism is imperialistic, appealing, and unappeasable. It is not ours to defuse. It is a discipline that demands obedience. We can only compete with it by offering an equally compelling discipline. In lieu of that, we need to realize that people, particularly young men, need to feel a sense of purpose. How are we going to provide that? Habitat for Humanity in lieu of extremism? What do you think? I think that now I am being naïve.
On the other hand, it is crucial for us to know the difference between militant Islamism and, well, something a bit different. The Islamic Regime of Iran, for instance, must answer to its huge population. When ideologues govern, they face the same issues as governors do everywhere: roads, water, electricity, and hospitals. Governing is a force for moderation.
It is important to draw distinctions between those who govern and those who do not.