Radical Islam — Ideology, Not Religion
Posted 02/23/2007 ET
Updated 02/26/2007 ET
The dramatic events of the last few years have made it plain that the West is in a fight for its life. The terrorist attacks on New York, Washington, Madrid and London have demonstrated with ample clarity the enemy’s commitment to his stated goal of our destruction. The situation could not indeed be more dire, since never before have we faced a foe so dogged and fanatical. Whether we want to admit it or not we are in a war to the death, for the enemy will not relent until he either accomplishes his objective or is himself destroyed in the effort. Given the stakes, it is vitally important that we understand who this enemy is, because only then we’ll be in a position to formulate an effective strategy for the struggle ahead.
Contrary to all appearances, radical Islam — that militant form of Islamic fundamentalism — is not a religious movement. That this is generally not recognized is not surprising given the movement’s exploitation of religious rhetoric and symbols. But a closer look at its modus operandi shows that it is virtually indistinguishable from that of fascism and communism. The striking similarities should alert us to the fact that radical Islam is at bottom a political ideology along the lines of the great totalitarian ideologies of the past.
Like communism and fascism, radical Islam is intrinsically utopian in that it offers itself as the answer to all great problems of man. This feat is to be accomplished by eliminating the root cause from which all human trouble ultimately derives — the lack of true faith. The solution, then, is the conversion of peoples to Islam and the subsequent conforming of their conduct to Shari’a, a God-inspired body of law.
Since Shari’a is the expression of God’s perfect will, societies where it reigns supreme must inevitably experience prosperity, justice and righteousness. Thus in a way, Islamists promise to deliver a kind of paradise on earth. This ambition they share with fascists and communists who also proposed radical measures to stamp out that which they believed was the source of mankind’s all ills. To communists it was social class and private property and to fascists Jews and racial degradation. Doing away with these, they argued, would once and for all set things aright.
Like fascism and communism, Islamic fundamentalism fails to deliver when put into practice. Instead of achieving prosperity and harmony, all Shari’a-dominated societies invariably experience poverty, backwardness, and corruption. Shari’a thus not only fails to live up to its promise, but inflicts hardship and misery on those living under it. Iran, a country currently closest to the Islamist ideal of a fundamentalist state, is a case in point. Poor and troubled, it lags far behind the modern world in nearly all economic and social indicators. So counterproductive is its supposedly divinely-inspired system of government that it cannot ensure a comfortable and dignified existence for its citizens despite the steady inflow of large amounts of petro cash.
The Soviet Union found itself in much the same predicament. A country of vast natural resources, its whole existence was marked by destitution and hardship. Similarly, the last two genuinely communist regimes of today — Cuba and North Korea — are unable to provide even the most basic necessities for its people who are forced to endure untold distress as a result.
Like fascism and communism, radical Islam refuses to acknowledge its glaring failures and instead declares itself — in complete contravention of all facts and reality — an unqualified success. The Soviet Union brazenly boasted of being the most democratic, progressive and prosperous country on earth while in truth the exact opposite was the case. Oppressive, totalitarian and poor, it subjected its population to conditions that could only be described as hellish. So much so that it had to transform its borders into virtual prison walls in order to prevent its people from fleeing in desperation. The same tradition is continued today by Fidel Castro who shamelessly brandishes the rhetoric of triumph and achievement when describing his own failed regime. Hitler likewise insisted on the categorical success of his national socialism despite the cruelties, injustices and contradictions that characterized his enterprise from the beginning.
Like fascists and communists, Islamists brook no disagreement and seek to stamp out all forms of dissent. Tolerating no opposition, they respond to criticism by intimidation, harassment and not infrequently by murder. What’s more, their repression is not confined only to open disagreement, but is also aimed at those suspected of harboring unwholesome thoughts. Like all totalitarians, Islamists seek to control people’s minds. Even seemingly insignificant remarks and gestures can be interpreted as evidence of a subversive frame of mind. The Taliban regime in Afghanistan, for example, tortured and persecuted for most trivial acts which it took as signs of inward rebelliousness. Pleading and affirmations of orthodoxy by the accused are routinely taken only as further evidence of guilt. Islamists’ methods in treating those deemed ideologically suspect are strongly reminiscent of the methods employed by the KGB and Gestapo.
Like their totalitarian kin, Islamists are aggressively expansionistic. Driven by an irresistible urge to impose on others, their goal is nothing less than global domination. Communists strove for a world wide socialist state, Hitler for a world-controlling Third Reich and Islamists for a world wide caliphate.
Like its two sister ideologies, Islamism seeks to spread itself by militant and violent means. Hitler took over most of Europe by conquest. The communist block was the result of a military takeover by the Soviets who mercilessly destroyed all who stood in their way. Islamists even call the whole non-Muslim world the Dar al-harb or the House of War. According to fundamentalists, Islamic law prescribes perpetual holy war – jihad – to be waged in these territories that is to last until they have been brought into the Dar al-Islam or the House of Islam. There the Muslim law and government will reign supreme.
Like fascists and communists, Islamists are capable of staggering cruelty and exhibit a ready willingness to commit unspeakable atrocities in order to achieve their objectives. Hitler murdered some six million people in concentration camps. The Soviets slaughtered nearly twenty million at home and countless others in the countries they subjugated. The Chinese communists killed nearly forty million. If anything, Islamists exhibit murderous tendencies of even greater intensity. Their acts of terror invariably betray a determination to kill as many innocent people as they possibly can. There can be little doubt that if they should ever achieve power on the scale of their ideological predecessors, they would quickly match and exceed their death toll. After all, Islamists openly tell us that under their rule people will either have to convert or die. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, presently the most powerful fundamentalist in the world, has repeatedly hinted that he will deploy nuclear weapons once he obtains them. Given where he is coming from, there should be no question that he means what he says.
Although radical Islam may initially appear to be a religious movement, it in reality bears all the hallmarks of an authoritarian ideology. Utopian, militant, expansionistic, murderous, repressive, corrupt, intolerant, and inhumanly cruel, it employs the same methods and tactics as those two terrible ideologies of the 20th century. While the differences between them are largely rhetorical and superficial in nature, their modus operandi is for the most part identical. Having an utter contempt for human life and its intrinsic dignity, they are ever ready to destroy anyone and everyone who rejects their worldview or refuses to comply with their demands.
What Islamists have done is to in effect transform a religious faith into a virulent political ideology. It is imperative that we recognize this so that we can fully grasp the kind of danger we face. There are many who still believe that we can somehow pacify this foe, yet few would ever think it was possible to achieve a lasting truce with the fascists or communists. Notwithstanding their specious rhetoric, we are presently not contending with a band of pious saints who bear legitimate grudges or remediable grievances. We stand against murderous totalitarians who will not relent until their either achieve their goal or are defeated. There simply can be no détente. The only way to achieve a reprieve is to destroy them in the manner of fascism and communism.
Despite the terrible warnings of September 11 and other terrorist tragedies, with the few exceptions the West is largely oblivious to this grievous threat. This despite the painful lessons of history which warn against letting murderous ideologies go unchecked. World War II claimed some forty million people. Had the West curbed nascent fascism while there was still time, it could have saved most of those lives and averted untold pain and destruction. Similarly, had the western powers intervened against the murder-bent Bolsheviks while they struggled to gain their footing after the Revolution, it could have prevented the Gulags, the Cold War and the threat of a nuclear holocaust that nearly became reality.
History clearly teaches that we ignore totalitarian ideologies at our own peril. Refusing to deal with radical Islam decisively while there is still time will have catastrophic consequences in the years to come. The choice is stark: we will either act now or pay a terrible price later.