At a forum jointly organized by the New American Foundation and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) titled Online Radicalization: Myths and Realities, the panelists talked about some problems and some solutions in the Muslim community, but not the root causes of those problems. The overarching theme, instead, offered “counter narratives.”
Some of the radical narratives are: “Islam is not compatible with America and Western values,” “America is at war with Islam,” and as Rashad Hussein, President Obama’s Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Council said succinctly, “The disbelievers are oppressing brothers and sisters and your duty is to defend them, if they act, they will be rewarded.”
Peter Neumann offered this: “Challenging this kind of (radical) message rather than shutting down extremist sites is what needs to be done.” Thus, rather than taking seriously the possibility that those narratives may be based on real underlying problems, it’s best to just respond with talking points.
Imam Suhaib Webb and New America Foundation (NAF)’s fellow Rabia Chaudry proposed that that, “Counter radicalism narrative needs to be led by Muslims themselves.”
Of course, I agree! But the solution Neumann and Webb offer is simply more of the same conservative and Salafi interpretations of Islam — the very theology that promotes hate and intolerance of everyone else, including Muslims who are just well … not Muslim enough.
According to Webb, he’s counseled male youths successfully who have proclaimed, “I can’t believe I hated people like this!”
Webb recommends that the theological interpretations that gave birth to intolerance are precisely what is needed to counter the radical narratives, because they have “street cred.” If being hateful defines credibility then we are in for a very long haul.
Webb proclaims that, “Not all salafis are jihadists.” True, but they share the same roots. Has it occurred to Webb, Chaudry and all of the conservative Muslims out there that it is precisely this interpretation of Islam that is the bedrock from which hate, intolerance and exclusivity are derived?
Moving even further away from a solution, CAIR-Los Angeles sponsored a series of talks with award-winning journalist Trevor Aaronson titled “Understanding the Terror Factory – a speaking tour on FBI entrapment of Muslims.” This title is enough to make me cringe.
Is there entrapment by the FBI and local police forces? Absolutely! But please, let’s not blame entrapment methods. The fact that our youth are even tempted at committing the crimes that would lead to their entrapment should have been the focus of the discussion. CAIR and many others in the Muslim community are avoiding the root causes and many on the political Left are just too happy to help Muslims play the victim game.
You are not doing our community and America a service by playing this game. We have to get to the root causes of this anger and violence and destruction.
Instead of offering more Salafi theology as a solution and blaming FBI entrapment, institutions like CAIR and MPAC should be asking why it is that some Muslim kids are led to these terrible paths? Why is it so easy for them? What fuels their worldview and makes it okay inside their heads to even begin a trek in such a horrible direction?
The answer most are unwilling to face up to is simple: when you teach kids that Islam is the superior religion, that our Islamic values are incompatible with that of Western and American values, and that everyone else are kufar, (unbelievers therefore unequal), this interpretation of Islam is exactly the seed from which hate and intolerance, and potential radicalism, takes root and spreads.
I urge Muslims who preach, teach, or advocate this theology to tell me: How are you any different than the radical Israeli settlers who believe that they have the God-given right to discriminate, hate and kill Palestinians? The answer is that you are not different. You are the same.
It is your hateful and intolerant theology that has sowed mayhem in this world.
Fess-up!By Ani Zonneveld, Aslan Media Columnist