Memories are short. Charles Lane of the Washington Post said that the events in Paris were ‘a wake-up call’. Weren’t we already well awake before 9/11, never mind since? Charles Krauthammer said that the events reflected a new ‘third phase’ of internally planned and executed attacks, following the externally planned attack of 9/11 and the recent ‘lone-wolf’ attacks. He must have been snoozing when, as just one example among many, the London Underground was bombed.
No doubt the killings in Paris will also fade from mind as Islamic terrorists continue their murderous rampages. One reason memories are so short is that immediately the dust has settled each terrorist event is dealt with discretely, as though it were a law and order problem. The backgrounds of the murderers are analysed. One or more are bound to be identified as alienated, disadvantaged, or as having a prison record.
Then there is the subsequent soul-searching about why the perpetrators in question weren’t kept under observation as putative murderous terrorists. As if, for example, it is remotely possible to keep tabs on so-called ‘disenfranchised’ young people in a Muslim population of around 6 million-plus in France, many of whom live in no-go ghettos. Talk about fanciful.
This isn’t a law and order problem. It cannot be understood as a series of criminal acts where forensic scientists and detectives concentrate their efforts on the latest crime as though it will provide the missing clues. It cannot be stopped by arresting the Islamic equivalents of Al Capone.
Of course, efforts must be made to prevent terrorist attacks. That goes without saying. But this is a religious problem, dating back to the 7th century. Neither can it be understood in geo-political terms. Medieval religiosity in Turkey, which Ataturk suppressed in the cause of modernity, had nothing to do with the state of world affairs. Islam can only be effectively understood and fought theologically.
The solution lies in changing Islam radically or, alternatively, in encouraging Muslims of temperate mind (who hopefully comprise the majority) to leave their faith. There is no third alternative. Moderation and today’s (and yesterday’s) Islam will forever clash.
At question, of course, is whether Islam can be changed very much at all in view of it being based on God’s immutable very words. Evidently, Egypt’s President Sisi apparently thinks it can, as he showed by calling for a ‘religious revolution’. Hopefully he is right. In any event, revolutions are only ever required when something is rotten at its core. Thus, with the tragic events at Charlie Hebdo still fresh in mind, it is surely incumbent on all leading moderate Muslims to echo Sisi in ending any pretence that Islam is remotely compatible with the modern world.
Deploring the violence is not enough. Moderate Muslims must walk the walk and openly declare their opposition to those tenets of their faith which support intolerance, discrimination and religious despotism; or else lose all credibility. There is no hiding place when people are being massacred to the accompaniment of Allahu Akbar.
Maybe Jamal Rifi in Australia and Zuhdi Jasser (President of the Islamic Forum for Democracy) in America, and fellow moderate leaders, should take a lead from Martin Luther and nail their colours to mosque doors. It might read something like this:
In affirming our right to practice our religion in democratic and pluralist societies; we, moderate Muslims, renounce and reject any interpretation of our faith, whether sourced from the Koran, the Hadiths, or other authoritative religious writings, which:
- Prevents Muslims from freely leaving their faith if they so wish
- Discriminates in any way against people of other faiths
- Denies equality between men and women
- Imposes punishments for homosexual activity between consenting adults
- Imposes punishments for adultery
- Imposes cruel and unusual punishments (like amputations) for those guilty of criminal offences
- Underwrites, encourages or incites physical harm to those who criticise or satirize Islam or the prophet Muhammad; while preserving a right to peacefully protest and object to such criticism and satire
- Seeks to replace parliamentary law with religious law in non-ecclesiastical matters
This list, which no doubt could be added to and/or finessed, is at a summary level. For example, equality between men and women is meant to cover the proscription of honour killing, wife beating, under-aged marriage, forced marriage, genital mutilation, and other forms of subjugation. By the way, that this needs mentioning at all in this day and age says something about the sorry state of Islam.
When, and if, this Islamic version of Wittenberg happens (or something similar); at least throughout the Western world, it might be possible to start believing that Islam is saveable; that it can co-exist with other (sane) faiths like Christianity and Judaism and also with democracy. With sufficient momentum a truly moderate Islam would eventually undo Islamic terrorism much more effectively than ever could law enforcement.
Will it happen? It is highly improbable. Muslims, even moderate ones, are unlikely to challenge their faith at its core. But there is always faint hope to cling to.
If Islam is not reformed – root and branch – moderate Muslims in the West will need to face up to leaving their faith. People can be found who behave badly in every walk of life. But if you belong to a club whose very rules condone bad behaviour you surely change the rules or get out.