The fight against Islamic extremism does not require more security, dropping bombs or raising a fist in hate
In response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks last week, the people of France came together as 3.7 million marched for unity in France yesterday. Being from Quebec, I was able to watch it on French Television with my French fiance.
A rally such as this can be important for a country’s psyche. There is no better way for a people to demonstrate that they will not be intimidated by religious fundamentalists, but at the same time, a march saying “enough is enough” is by no means a solution to the problem.
Religious extremism of any kind should not be tolerated by anyone, let alone those who call themselves liberals or progressives. But while it’s important not to tolerate it, how we respond to it is equally, if not more important.
Every time there is an attack similar to the ones that took place in France, fear sets in and it inhibits the ability of normally rational people to think clearly. It doesn’t take long for this fear to influence some equally radical ideas.
You hear the more fundamental (or ignorant) among us call for the expulsion of Muslims across the country. You hear about the need for further military action abroad. You even hear from the saner among us about the need for heightened security at the expense of our freedom. These ideas are the wrong way to go.
First off, any backlash aimed at the mostly peaceful Muslim community, whether it’s in the form of public intimidation or government decree, is largely counterproductive. Believe it or not, it’s these Muslim communities that more often than not expose the bigger terrorist plots. If you want an example, just look to Canada where the Muslim community has repeatedly foiled fundamentalist conspiracies.
Furthermore, hostility towards local Muslims will have the opposite of the intended effect. Most people, regardless of religious affiliation, who are on the receiving end of physical or mental intimidation will not always cower away in the corner. The oppressed and disenfranchised often defend themselves any way they can, which unfortunately leads to further radical indoctrination into hate groups.
The best thing we can do in our own countries is to embrace those who practice the peaceful side of Islam. We need an inclusive policy that allows them to grow, flourish and become constructive members of society. We also need to stem the tide of anti-Muslim hate that seems to be taking hold in countries like Germany, the United States and yes, France.
The battle against radical Islam is not going to be won at home with added security, anti-Muslim rhetoric, or by changing immigration laws. In fact, radical Islam is not going to be defeated at home at all, because home is not where the heart is. The heart of the problem anyway.
The answer to the problem lies in the more fundamental and autocratic Islamic countries, but that does not mean the solution involves the barrel of a gun. If we’ve learned anything over the last twenty to thirty years, it’s that dropping bombs on Muslims solves nothing and if anything, exacerbates the problem.
Radical Islam is used principally in the Middle East as a political weapon with different purposes. In Saudi Arabia and Iran for example, Radical Islam is used by their conservative regimes to control the people. Any demonstration against the regimes are regarded as an affront to Islam and the perpetrators are severely punished.
On the other hand, in countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria, radical Islam is being used as a tool to topple their governments. Usually in the hopes of creating a country (or caliphate) similar to Saudi Arabia.
If progressives want to eliminate Islamic extremism, it is important for us to understand where most of it originates. Radical Islamic ideology flows mostly from Saudi Arabia, a country so extreme that just starting a liberal website can get you a thousand lashes, ten years in jail and a $266,000 fine.
The Saudi regime is a conservative theocratic monarchy which enforces and finances a sect of radical Islam known as Wahhabism. Wahhabism is the ideology that influenced Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS and countless others.
Thanks in large part to the Western World’s need for oil, the Saudi Kingdom has been able to spend billions upon billions on books, media, schools, universities, mosques, etc. over the decades in order to spread Wahhabism across the Arabic world.
Despite the fact that Saudi Arabia continues to spread the type of Islamic extremism we fear on a daily basis, they are still considered a close ally of western democracies. Why? Because of their oil. We still think we need it. Suggesting that oil is responsible for Islamic extremism is not entirely a falsity.
We continually fail to open our eyes to a country with a terrible human rights record, who spreads Islamic extremism with the money they make from our oil purchases. Worse still, since the American media doesn’t scrutinize America’s allies, these facts, along with the arrest of someone like Raif Badawi goes virtually unnoticed.
Obviously I’m not suggesting we start dropping bombs on Saudi Arabia. In fact I believe it would be pro-active if Western militaries left Muslim countries altogether. The greatest recruiting tool at an extremist’s disposal is the propaganda generated when we grace their land with our presence or kill them with bombs and drones.
What progressives need to do however, is pressure our own governments into pressuring Saudi Arabia. Get them to somehow abandon their desire to spread Wahhabism. Even if it means boycotting their oil or imposing economic sanctions. I think it could work, but if it didn’t, boycotting their oil would at least give us another excuse to go green. Giving primarily Muslim countries incentive to turn away from teaching Wahhabism in their schools is also another option.
Combating extremism of any kind can be complicated. Politics, energy, economic inequality, militarism and oppression all have a hand in it’s exportation. If we’re truly going to say “enough is enough” we need to at least start saying it in the right places at the right people…