After 9/11 the insidious pessimists like Dr. Grant Jeffrey, a prominent teacher of Biblical prophesies, tried to exaggerate the power of Islamic fanatics and proclaim that the terrorist actions are the necessary indications of triumphant return of Jesus Christ to establish the kingdom of God upon earth. This is a quote from his Website, "The strategic goal of Islamic terrorists is nothing less than the annihilation of Judeo-Christian Western civilization." But, he reminds the Christians around the world that “these remarkable prophetic events are unmistakable signs of the soon coming of our Messiah to set up His eternal kingdom of righteousness on earth forever. While we are naturally filled with concern for the physical safety of our family, ourselves, and our nations, we need to realize that a time of unparalleled troubles was prophesied to occur throughout the globe in the time preceding the glorious and triumphant return of Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Hosts”.
Realizing that the number of extremists is very small, the great majority of Muslims does not support them, share their ideology, or even sympathize with them. The danger they may pose to the United States, however, has been always inflated by many including some politicians to legitimize their unrealistic theory that Islam is a credible threat to the West in general and to the US in particular. Therefore, we have to deal with it forcefully and promptly. Dr. Jeffrey continues to profess that the crisis in Middle East must be utilized by the US to create an atmosphere conducive to the world government which is the groundwork to the second coming of Jesus and the establishment of his kingdom.
Thus far, the so called war on terrorism has not produced the ideal outcome the Bush Administration had hoped for. Administration officials believe that any back down such as the partial withdrawal of US troops out of Iraq may be construed as defeat and will embolden the extremists. Therefore, the US has to continue for as long as necessary at whatever cost. In his speech in 9/07, Bush stated that further terrorist attacks are invited by the perception of weakness; a show of force is needed to minimize such attacks. I believe such argument is fallacious at best. The terrorists do not attack the US because they think the US is weak or strong. On the contrary this mentality may provoke more attacks.
I believed Bush has acted like a musician blowing his trumpet loudly but from the wrong side. To treat the terrorism, first we need to know who they are and what inspire them to engage in or to commit the acts of terrorism. In other words, to cure a problem, you need to explore the causes and treat them not the symptoms of the problem. Terrorism is a symptom of much deeper problems driving some Muslims into despair and anger, and taking revenge out of desperation. We want to make sure the sources of terrorism do not remain undetected or untreated.
I don’t believe in the notion that the perception of weak American bolsters terrorism or make extremists bolder. First we need to define what do we mean by A stronger America; economically, militarily, or morally. When it comes to the strong and ruthless response to so called terrorism, Israel is the Oscar winner. Does that mean that Israel has been immune to such attacks? of course not. There are almost daily deadly attacks against her. Israel’s long term experience shows that bullying and the use of force does not work. It is, on the contrary, counterproductive. Imposition and the use of force make people, resentful, defensive, and more determined. What makes extremists more determined is not the perception of strength or weakness. It is their judgment about how Muslims are treated by the US; it is the US policy of double standard and, it is the US politicians saying something in public and acting differently behind the curtain.
Bush’s failed attempt, to bring stability, democracy, and freedom to Iraq should make us think and to start an impartial inquiry about what went wrong? Did war with Iraq weaken terrorism? Does the US have now more or less friends throughout the world? Has the position of the US in international community weakened or strengthened? Is anti-American feeling around the world stronger or weaker? Are we better off economically, and otherwise, now?
There are some lessons we have learned deplorably in a very costly way:
1. The fact that the US has enormous military and economic power does not mean that it should undermine the sovereignty of other nations and invade a country on the whim of the administration. In the world of increasing interconnectedness, unilateral foreign policy does not work. US cannot establish the criteria for invading other countries. The UN should have that authority.
2. The doctrine of preemptive strike based on inaccurate, or deliberately falsified intelligence has cost the US government its creditability and its truthfulness.
3. War is not an economic enterprise. War is not a hostile take-over of a country for economic gains. It should be just and reasonable
4. The aftermath of war must be carefully studied. War should not create what it intended to promote or to prevent.
I believe the best way to reduce tension, which has been aggravated by the Bush’s war in Iraq, between Islam and the US is to open up dialogue between Muslims and Christians, to educate Christians about the best kind of Islam, the kind that is moderate, pacifist, inclusive and spiritual, the positive sides of Islam; its rich heritage which have been overlooked or misconstrued in the west by sheer ignorance or suspicious. The more we educate other people about this kind of Islam, the less intimidating it becomes. When they find out that Muslims worship the same God, believe in the same principles, they will not be afraid of them any longer. I believe we, the educated, the more moderate Muslims, have a unique opportunity here in the US, where the freedom of speech is guaranteed, to bring some of these issues into the public focus with the purpose of clarification, fair and impartial analysis and not to spend any more time on rehashing the old stories, repeating the already known mostly negative stereotyping, but to focus on the positive themes of our religion.
Although the terrorist attacks are carried out under the name of Islam, The terrorists’ religious zeal, their misguided desire to sacrifice their lives for obscure causes, makes it doubtful that there is no defensible link between the religion of Islam and such attacks. A deeper inquiry into the socioeconomic conditions in the Muslim countries reveals that the real reasons for the terrorism are the frustration over economic hardship, obsession with the past, anger with their own poverty, long years of repression and operation, and believing that the western countries, especially the US, has to do something with it. The fact that they have to depend on the western technology, science, and financial assistance to reform their sagging economies makes the matters worst, furthermore, the humiliation to see that their culture, once triumphant and dominant in the world, is now being undermined by the western culture. Therefore, the terrorist attacks, I believe, are as much about other things than they are about religion.
Muslims must understand that violence, confrontation, and antagonism are not the solutions. T they create more problems. Playing the games of rejection and denial are disadvantageous and further delay the badly needed modernization of Islam and the economies of Muslim countries. Muslim countries can explore means through which they can integrate the western technology and science into their societies without jeopardizing their national heritage and pride. It is neither productive nor sincere to hold on to the position of denial any longer. The Muslims themselves might be the ultimate losers of status qua. They are denied a chance of developing a modern democratic political system which is necessary for their economic growth and constructing progressive societies. The Muslim countries should work together in the spirit of cooperation to improve the living conditions so disappointing which allows terrorism to take root and to spread. The conditions which have been exploited by some, coupled with apocalyptic religious messages, to recruit and to train terrorists. Social and economic conditions such as: poverty, youth unemployment, inequalities, corruption, etc. If people are taken out of the poverty, given jobs, shown care and respect and success stories, something to hope for, something encouraging, something which give meaning to their life, then, they don’t resort to terrorism. Most of those young people who are drawn to terrorism are poor even though many are educated but have no hope for a promising future.
Just as price control is not an effective solution to the problem of inflation, crackdown may not be a long-term solution to the evil of terrorism. Fighting terrorism through economic reform and dialogue is a more effective long-lasting solution even though it might be painful and slow. Terrorism, above all, is the result of stagnant economy, unemployment, poverty, and deprivation. Western countries can help by removing the trade barriers and increasing imports from these countries, helping them to strengthen their banking system and their currency, helping them to improve their health care system, and so on. The terrorists must also understand that the very same people that they are trying to help are paying a high price for their destructive passion. Once oil-rich nations, infested by corruption and the effects of sanctions, are suffering, the talented people in these countries are being suppressed and denied resources that can help them to excel and achieve their potential. The most talented ones like doctors, engineers, college professors, etc flee to the western countries and to the United States especially and serve the same countries that terrorists try to destroy. The vast resources that are being devoted to military spending in these countries could be used otherwise to improve the badly needed infrastructure.
As Muslims in the United States, we are facing some tough challenges. We should clarify what Islam really is and how it should be practiced in the democratic societies, and how its teachings can be adapted to suit the needs of the Muslims and the norms of these societies. We need also to assume a clear position with regard to violence under the name of Islam. In the United States, we are able to read and write and express our opinion without the fear of reprisal, and obtain the tools of research easily and expediently. People may have their own prejudice, but we can overcome that through quality researches and presentations and move forward.
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