Because my philosophy studies have taught me to value reflective thinking, I deliberately make time to think clearly and carefully as I can about issues that I deem important. With this in mind, I’d like to introduce a new segment, entitled Reflective Thinking, to Reflections. At the beginning of each month, I will post an article sharing my ruminations on various topics, ranging from theology and philosophy to current events. My first topic is a hot one.
How to Do Battle against Radical Islam
I teach a comparative religions course in Biola University’s MA program in Christian apologetics. The course examines the world’s major religions, including Islam, in light of the historic Christian worldview. I tell my students that I believe only a small percentage of the world’s Muslims have adopted the radical political-religious philosophy that promotes and carries out acts of Jihadist terror against innocent people. Of course, with a worldwide population of 1.62 billion Muslims (approximately 23 percent of the world’s population), even if only 5 percent have adopted a radical form of Islam, like that of al-Qaeda, the numbers would be staggeringly ominous.1 Ironically, many or most of the victims of radical Islamic terrorist acts are themselves Muslims.
Since the catastrophic events of September 11, 2001, I think the American government, via the military and law enforcement, has taken some effective measures to make America safer from the threat of terrorist acts. No doubt people question some of the difficult judgments and decisions made by both Presidents Bush and Obama in the War on Terror, but overall I believe America has been successful in navigating this new and difficult type of defense.
Force of a Different Type
However, to defeat radical Islam, Western democracies must also utilize a force more formidable than rockets and drones—namely, the force of ideas. An ideological conflict can be won only by presenting a superior philosophy of life.
Three years ago I wrote an article entitled “Ideas, Ideology, and Islam,” in which I highlight the Pakistani-British citizen Maajid Nawaz, a former Muslim extremist who now works to combat Jihadist ideology. Once a chief recruiter for the Islamic extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir (“Party of Liberation”), Nawaz eventually concluded that radical Jihadist Islam is closer to a form of fascistic totalitarianism than to traditional Islam. Nawaz, a courageous and moderate Muslim, dialogues with and debates radical Muslims on college campuses and seeks to demonstrate their convoluted understanding of Islam.2
I think the Western democracies should solidly support such efforts. To effect real change, these radical Muslims must come to view Islam differently. After all, this war on terrorism is, at its core, an ideological conflict—thus, also a spiritual one.
Some Christians with whom I’ve shared my views suggest that supporting and promoting moderate voices within the Islamic world will fail. Why? Because these Christians view Islam as inherently violent. To them, Islam possesses no truly moderate voices.
Yet no religion is a monolith. I think it is possible to disassociate radical political ideologies from the traditional practice of Islam. Granted, it isn’t easy to change minds formed by fascist-like philosophies—but with such high stakes, we must make every effort.
Nearly a quarter of the world’s population is Muslim. We better hope that a majority of these are moderate Muslims, who affirm peace and tolerance, or else the world is in for an even greater tribulation than the one described by the eschatological views held by some Christians. The best scenario from a historic Christian perspective would be for Muslims to come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The great challenge is that most nations with an Islamic majority do not allow Christian proselytization.
I encourage liberty-loving individuals to view the war against radical Islamic terrorism as similar to the Cold War: a long twilight struggle that will require military might and sound ideas, as well as concerted prayer. And I hope liberty-loving Muslims will join in this effort because most of the victims of Islamic terrorist acts have been, themselves, Muslims.
1. Just after the events of 9/11, Middle East specialist Daniel Pipes estimated the number of Muslims who had adopted a form of radical Islam was approximately 10–15 percent.
2. In response to this problem, Nawaz founded the Quilliam Foundation, a think tank that seeks to counter the message of radical Islamic Jihadism.