Is­lam and vi­o­lence: More trou­ble ahead

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - DANIEL AL­LOTT

Fol­low­ing Pope Bene­dict’s [. . .] re­marks on the re­la­tion­ship be­tween faith and vi­o­lence, a quiet con­ver­sa­tion emerged. It high­lighted a cen­tral ques­tion as the West in­creas­ingly at­tempts to en­gage the Mus­lim world: Is Is­lam es­pe­cially prone to vi­o­lence? So far, much of the con­ver­sa­tion has fo­cused on the vi­o­lent re­ac­tions of some Mus­lims to the pope’s pre­vi­ous com­ments. But, there’s dis­turb­ing proof that a far deeper cul­ture of vi­o­lence per­vades much of the Is­lamic world.

In a re­cent sur­vey on global con­flict, Monty Mar­shall and Ted Burr of the Cen­ter for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment and Con­flict Man­age­ment found that of the 24 ma­jor armed con­flicts tak­ing place world­wide in 2005, more than half (13) in­volved Mus­lim gov­ern­ments or paramil­i­tary groups on one or both sides of the fight­ing. What’s more, among six coun­tries with “emerg­ing armed con­flicts,” four are pre­dom­i­nantly Mus­lim and an­other, Thai­land, in­volves a Mus­lim sep­a­ratist move­ment.

Messrs. Mar­shall and Burr also rated 161 coun­tries ac­cord­ing to their ca­pac­ity to avoid out­breaks of armed con­flicts. Whereas 63 per­cent of non-Mus­lim coun­tries were cat­e­go­rized as “en­joy[ing] the strong­est prospects for suc­cess­ful man­age­ment of new chal­lenges,” just 18 per­cent of the 50 Mus­lim na­tions in­cluded were sim­i­larly des­ig­nated. In ad­di­tion, Mus­lim na­tions (those with at least 40 per­cent Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion) were two-and-a-half times more likely than non-Mus­lim na­tions to be con­sid­ered “at the great­est risk of ne­glect­ing or mis­man­ag­ing emerg­ing so­ci­etal crises such that th­ese con­flicts es­ca­late to se­ri­ous vi­o­lence and/or gov­ern­ment in­sta­bil­ity.”

This eval­u­a­tion re­veals the glar­ing re­al­ity that vi­o­lence is a fact of life in many Mus­lim na­tions. But is Is­lam it­self the im­pe­tus? Con­sider that a re­cent Pen­tagon intelligence anal­y­sis found that most Mus­lim ter­ror­ists say they are mo­ti­vated by the Ko­ran’s vi­o­lent com­mands. The Septem­ber 11 hi­jack­ers and Lon­don tran­sit bombers made mar­tyr­dom videos in which they re­cited the Ko­ran while talk­ing of “sac­ri­fic­ing life for Al­lah.” Bri­tish au­thor­i­ties also re­cov­ered mar­tyr­dom video­tapes in the foiled transat­lantic sky ter­ror plot. Shamil Basayev, ar­chi­tect of the 2004 Bes­lan school mas­sacre in Chech­nya, re­ferred to him­self as “Al­lah’s slave.” Mean­while, Geno­ci­dal Su­danese dic­ta­tor Gen. Omar Bashir re­cently swore “three times in the name of Al­lah” that he would never al­low in­ter­na­tional troops to en­ter Dar­fur. And the list goes on.

While West­ern lib­er­als of­ten in­sist that for­eign oc­cu­pa­tion is at the root of Is­lamic vi­o­lence, they con­ve­niently ig­nore the fact that when the U.S.S. Cole was at­tacked, and the World Trade Cen­ter was on two sep­a­rate bloody oc­ca­sions, no such oc­cu­pa­tion was tak­ing place.

We sim­ply can­not over­look ex­trem­ist in­ter­pre­ta­tions of re­li­gion as a sig­nif­i­cant part of the prob­lem when ter­ror­ists yell, “God is great!” as they de­cap­i­tate their vic­tims or blow them­selves up in a crowded mar­ket.

But the Mus­lim world’s sup­port of faith-based vi­o­lence is not lim­ited to gov­ern­ments and their non­state prox­ies. Con­sider a June Pew Global At­ti­tudes poll that showed a ma­jor­ity of Mus­lims in Jor­dan, Egypt and Nige­ria, as well as roughly a third in France, Spain and Great Bri­tain, felt vi­o­lence against civil­ians can be jus­ti­fied in or­der to de­fend Is­lam. Worse, a July 2005 poll found 22 per­cent of Bri­tish Mus­lims said last sum­mer’s rush-hour bomb­ings of Lon­don’s metro sys­tem, which killed 52 peo­ple, were jus­ti­fied be­cause of Bri­tain’s sup­port for the war on ter­ror. This in­cluded 31 per­cent of young Bri­tish Mus­lims.

Some Mus­lims’ ap­petite for de­struc­tion is not sur­pris­ing given the abil­ity of prom­i­nent Mus­lim lead­ers to fo­ment ha­tred of the West. Fol­low­ing Pope Bene­dict’s Septem­ber com­ments, Imams across the Mid­dle East and North Africa is­sued fat­was for his death. [. . .] Sim­i­lar threats were made in ad­vance of the pope’s visit to Turkey. Mean­while in France, the In­te­rior Min­istry has an­nounced that Mus­lims are wag­ing an un­de­clared “in­tifada” against po­lice, with at­tacks in­jur­ing an av­er­age of 14 of­fi­cers a day. There are bright spots, of course. Sev­eral thou­sand Mus­lims in Kis­mayo, So­ma­lia re­cently pub­licly protested the ar­rival of an al Qaeda-backed Is­lamic mili­tia. But while ex­perts as­sure us only a small per­cent­age (per­haps 10 per­cent) of Mus­lims are will­ing to par­tic­i­pate in ter­ror, with 1.2 bil­lion Mus­lims glob­ally, that’s more than 100 mil­lion ji­hadists.

The most re­veal­ing as­pect of the Is­lamic world’s re­ac­tion to Pope Bene­dict’s Septem­ber re­marks was that what en­raged many of those who re­acted vi­o­lently was not the sug­ges­tion that Is­lam is vi­o­lent, but rather the im­plied crit­i­cism of that vi­o­lence. The West must rec­og­nize th­ese vi­o­lent out­bursts for what they are: cal­cu­lated acts of out­rage meant not to re­fute but to in­tim­i­date non-Mus­lims into not speak­ing up at all. Last month, when a priest from the Syr­iac Ortho­dox Church in Mo­sul, Iraq was cap­tured, his church com­plied with kid­nap­pers’ de­mands to post signs de­nounc­ing the pope’s com­ments on Is­lam. The po­lice found the priest’s de­cap­i­tated body days later.

On the ini­tial day of his highly an­tic­i­pated visit to Turkey, Pope Bene­dict urged re­li­gious lead­ers to “ut­terly refuse to sanc­tion” any form of vi­o­lence in the name of faith. Sadly, with so many in the Is­lamic world agree­ing that Western­ers must “con­vert or die,” all signs point to more vi­o­lence ahead.

Daniel Al­lott is a writer and pol­icy an­a­lyst for Amer­i­can Val­ues.

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