When will the United States learn that our current behavior and lack of a coordinated existential strategy since 9-11 is obviously not working? As a devout and concerned American Muslim working tirelessly against radical Islam and its root cause of political Islam, I thought the Fort Hood massacre would teach us that. It did not. Witness the Pentagon report blind to ‘radical Islam’. I thought the Christmas bomber would tip us toward the battle of ideas, but nothing. And now on May 1, naturalized American citizen, Faisal Shahzad, is the next in the growing line of homegrown radical Islamists. And again the immediate fallout in the media, government, and academe is still one mostly of denial, dismissal, and fear of even mentioning the real theo-political battle we face against political Islam.
Whether Shahzad ends up being connected to a militant jihadist Pakistani Islamist network or not, he is obviously not a “lone wolf”. The ideas that drove him to act did not hatch de novo in his own mind. We cannot ignore the common ideology, the common malignant virus of the slippery slope of political Islam that takes over these growing number of Muslims.
The cases of homegrown Islamist terror mount week after week since 9-11 with a frightening uptick in just the past year. Yet, we are still ignoring the writing on the wall as we remain suffocated by political correctness and a willful blindness to political Islam and its common pathway of radicalization.
Our American Muslim organization, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, has been shouting from the rooftops at every opportunity since 9-11 that the enemy is obviously not a tactic of terror or even those who are generically “violent extremists.” As devout Muslims who are anti-Islamist we feel that Muslims have to lead the war of ideas against political Islam (Islamism) from within devotional Islam. Islamists have a well-established transnational global network of entities hatched from Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots. Whether we care to admit it or not, Islamists are at war intellectually and kinetically with western liberal democracies.
While the Hasans and Shahzads of the Islamist movement target Americans, most Islamists globally actually target moderate Muslims who are their greatest existential threat as Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) pointed out this week. Attacks against our citizens are a symptom of a much deeper disease- one that will do anything to prevent true reform that can bring Islam and Muslims into modernity, into an understanding of the central need to separate mosque and state.
Islamists like Shahzad want America out of their way so they can spread their supremacist ideology of political Islam. They indoctrinate some Muslims that their goal of an Islamic state and its shar’iah law is superior to our Constitutional republic. Meanwhile, other Muslims who do not believe in the Islamic state, are either ignored or silent.
We must also be resolute as a nation in how we handle these traitors if we are to deter future acts of aggression in this war. The actions of Faisal Shahzad were a calculated and deliberate act of treason. Shahzad's cowardly attempt to kill innocent Americans in Times Square demonstrates that his loyalty lies with the Islamist radicals and not his chosen countrymen in the United States. His citizenship oath was given falsely in 2009 and was in the direct service of powers at war with the United States. His prosecution should encompass the gravity of those actions. No different from Hassan Abujihad convicted in 2008, Nidal Hasan, and other Islamist traitors, Shahzad if guilty is an enemy of the state and should be immediately legally treated as one.
Whether we declare it or not, the United States is at war with the ideology of militant Islamism. Islamists are not afraid to call for the complete destruction of the principles that built our great country. The United States cannot afford to be timid in our response to their actions. We, Americans, especially American Muslims, must show Islamists that their ideology is beyond being simply ‘dangerous’, or ‘violent’. It is in fact treasonous and punishable as a capital crime against the state as an act of war. Our founding fathers knew how to articulate the values of liberty over theocracy. Where has that American penchant for the defense of religious freedom and liberty gone?
Our elected officials and leaders must show true ideological leadership if we are to ever begin the long process of ridding ourselves of the scourge of Islamist terrorism. We cannot cower to victim-mongering American Islamist organizations that thrive on keeping us on the defensive and from addressing the very real Islamist threats to our security. Platitudes that only condemn violence and ignore ideology are an obstacle to needed reform.
Our leaders must wake up and engage in the global war of ideas and demonstrate that the rule of one law that protects universal religious freedom (Americanism) takes precedence over the Islamic state. America in fact provides the best atmosphere for Muslims to practice our faith and it is long overdue for American Muslims to also wake up and empower honest reformist Muslims to declare the 'Islamic state' dead. We will never slow down the recurrence of Islamist terror against our citizenry until such a movement from Muslims against political Islam is palpable.
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M. Zuhdi Jasser is a former U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander whose parents fled Syrian Ba'athist oppression in 1966. He is president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and the author of A Battle for the Soul of Islam.