The recent criticism of Geert Wilders’ views on Islam by the leading lights of the conservative movement has created much indignation and surprise in certain quarters.
If conservative analysts with strong national security credentials couldn’t be convinced of Islam’s threat, getting the point across to the centrist politicians who define and execute policy will indeed be even tougher.
In a particularly striking criticism of Wilders, conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer asserts that “What he [Geert Wilders] says is extreme, radical, and wrong. He basically is arguing that Islam is the same as Islamism. Islamism is an ideology of a small minority which holds that the essence of Islam is jihad, conquest, forcing people into accepting a certain very narrow interpretation [of Islam]. The untruth of that is obvious.”
Without commenting on the merits of Dr. Krauthammer’s critique, it is pertinent to note that it is his opinion. This is true of Geert Wilder’s reasoned views on Islam as well. After all, both have not quoted any scientific study to back their assertions.
If Islam is a threat as some claim, what would it take to persuade that certain fundamental attributes of Islam enshrine it a violent ideology of conquest? The key to settling what Islam stands for is to let science, not opinion, dictate the debate. This is reality crystallized by an analogy:
There was a time when a male lion was seen as an embodiment of a great and dominant hunter of a pride. This perception reflected the majority of opinions at a certain time. However, various studies conducted in ensuing years told a different story: that female lions were the real hunters of a pride. That is, statistics of female lions hunting for their pride dominated the overall hunting pattern of a pride. These statistics put to rest the specific question of who hunted the most in a pride. In fact, these statistics form the definitive scientific basis of these studies.
More than a few Muslims have claimed that they engage in jihad (a religious war waged to advance the cause of Islam at the expense of unbelievers) because Islamic scriptures command them to do so. Even nations representing Muslim communities—Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran—have taken to sponsoring jihad worldwide, on the basis of the scriptures. There are widely varying opinions on the root cause of this—the dominant one is that the relevant Islamic scriptures have been misinterpreted. As with the discussion of the lions, a corresponding scientific query would be to find out the extent or the statistics of dislike of unbelievers and their conquest in the Islamic doctrines.
Recently, Bill Warner of the Center for the Study of Political Islam has carried out a groundbreaking statistical analysis of Islamic doctrines. I summarize his studies by noting that about sixty-one percent of the contents of the Koran are found to speak ill of unbelievers or call for their violent conquest; at best only 2.6 percent of the verses of the Koran are noted to show goodwill toward humanity. Moreover, about seventy five percent of Muhammad’s biography (Sira) consists of jihad waged on unbelievers.
While there might be some subjectivity to the above analysis, the overwhelming thrust of the inferences should be noted. This overall thrust exposes the sheer absurdity of excusing the Koran-inspired terror on the so-called “selective interpretation” of the Muslim holy book or its “verses being taken out of context.”
The burden of scientific or statistical evidence suggests that Islam is an intolerant religion that drives its followers toward a violent conquest of unbelievers. If such is the thrust of the Islamic doctrines, their propagation would lead to increased violence directed at non-Muslims. Indeed, rise in Muslim extremism of the past decades is directly correlated with hundreds of billions of dollars spent by government-linked Saudi charities to “propagate” Islam worldwide.
Not surprisingly, even in the modern context, manifestations of Islamic supremacy and conquest are the norm, rather than the exception. Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden outlined a condition for terror attacks against America to cease: “I invite you to embrace Islam.” During the past sixty years most non-Muslim minorities—tens of millions—in all Muslim-majority regions of South Asia were terrorized into leaving for nearby non-Muslim-majority lands. All of this points to conquering land and people for Islam.
America’s policy approach to the Muslim world has been clouded by misrepresentations of Islam’s character. For instance, in one of the most important foreign policy initiatives of his presidency, in the now-famous Cairo speech, Obama observed that “[America and Islam] overlap, and share common principles—principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”
We are left with the grim reality that at the fundamental level America’s policies toward the Muslim world are based on false premises—and hence, are untenable. This reality must be acknowledged widely before alternate policies can be devised.
We live in the era of science that has brought unprecedented security, development, health and prosperity. Yet, we have allowed opinions to dictate debate and policy on an existential threat. The importance of letting science drive policy couldn’t be clearer on the subject of Islamic radicalism.