Islamism, Not Islam, Is the Real Foe

By Boot, Max | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 3, 2006 | Go to article overview

Islamism, Not Islam, Is the Real Foe


Boot, Max, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Ever since 9/11, a dark view of Islam has been gaining currency on what might be called the Western street. This view holds that, contrary to the protestations of our political leaders -- who claim that acts of terrorism are being carried out by a minority of extremists -- the real problem lies with Islam itself. In this interpretation, Islam is not a religion of peace but of war, and its 1.2 billion adherents will never rest until all of humanity is either converted, subjugated or simply annihilated.

Is the war on terrorism really a "clash of civilizations"? The overreaction to Pope Benedict XVI's relatively innocuous remarks at the University of Regensburg on Sept. 12 would seem to lend weight to this notion.

As part of a plea for combining reason with religion, the pope cited a 14th century Byzantine emperor who condemned Muhammad's teachings as "evil and inhuman" because of "his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

The pope subsequently made clear that these were not his own views. But this did not stop an explosion of animosity across the Muslim world. Amid calls from angry clerics to "hunt down" the holy father (aka, "the dog of Rome" and the "worshiper of the cross"), various hotheads have taken to the streets and attacked Christian churches.

This recalls the over-the-top outcry this year after a Danish newspaper dared to print cartoons depicting Muhammad as an instigator of violence.

Muslim spokesmen claim these are unconscionable slurs. Yet, while demanding respect for their own religion, too many Muslims accord too little respect to competing faiths or even to competing brands of their own faith.

Where are the demonstrations in the Muslim street when the president of Iran denies the Holocaust and calls for the destruction of Israel?

Or when Palestinian kidnappers force two Western journalists to convert to Islam at gunpoint?

Or when Sunni terrorists in Iraq bomb Shiite mosques and slaughter hundreds of worshipers?

All too many Islamic leaders prefer to harp on the supposed sins of the "infidels," however exaggerated or even fictionalized (no, the CIA didn't bomb the World Trade Center to create an excuse for invading Afghanistan), rather than focusing on the problems within their own umma (community).

And yet it would be a mistake to conclude that the woes of Islamic society today, serious as they are, are endemic to the religion itself. …

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