In the wake of the Ohio State attacks last week (perpetrated by a Somali student legally residing in the U.S.) America again struggles to explain events.
The Council on American Islamic Relations, was among the first to warn against retaliatory attacks against Muslims and linking the incident to Islam. Such statements are not only unhelpful but deliberately obfuscate the reality.
Islamist attacks are very much related to Muslims – all Islamists are Muslims, even though most Muslims are not Islamists.
Islamism comes from within Muslim communities, and, while a corruption of Islam, nonetheless relates to Islam proper from which Islamism steals and borrows. Without Islam there could be no Islamism. But without knowing Islam, one cannot unveil Islamism.
President-elect Trump provides a serious, fresh opportunity to defeat Islamism. As an observant Muslim devoted to combating Islamism, I welcome this opportunity and am ready to collaborate.
Why have we failed to dismantle Islamism, the ideology that delivered 9/11? Because we have been unable to examine and disable Islamism through frank speech. Dismantling Islamism demands we distinguish Islam the religion, from Islamism the totalitarian ideology.
Trump’s Commission on Radical Islam is the first step towards doing just that.
On Capitol Hill in 2012, I argued for exactly such an examination when I testified in the Fifith Investigative King Hearings.
Five years on, the United States remains stymied in advancing understanding of Islamism restrained by President Obama’s refusal to acknowledge Islamism. Claiming ‘Islamophobia,’ this refusal, championed by much of the American intellectual press through both Obama administrations, confines public discourse. Ironic, since refusing to acknowledge Islamism is the ultimate Islamophobic act.
This denial has had several negative effects:
First, U.S. military and strategic thinkers are hindered in identifying threats and planning efforts to counter both violent and nonviolent Islamism. Unable to discuss Islamism, they cannot engage insights from informed public intellectuals. Federal agencies were prevented from using words vital to such discourse.
Second, but far worse, Muslims like me – observing Islam but avowed combatants of Islamism- experience reverse Islamophobia: while our views are marginalized on the basis of ‘Islamophobia,’ we are simultaneously denounced as Islamophobic by both the uninformed and Islamist-sympathizing Muslims who seek our silence.
The net result? The space examining Islamism narrows stifling debate. Islamism wins. Further, because of the prevailing lack of understanding of Islamism, out of fear, the uninformed turn to loathing Muslims en masse and real anti-Muslim xenophobia ensues, even normalizes as France grapples with today.
It’s time we reversed reverse Islamophobia.
Certainly I decried NSA Advisor-designate Lt. General Mike Flynn's remarks about “Islam being a cancer” and “Islam is a political ideology” (as I discussed here). Yet reporting on these remarks (which I do consider xenophobic to Muslims) the New York Times described him as an 'anti- Islamist' General revealing its extraordinary confusion. If Flynn is a committed anti-Islamist (and not an Anti-Muslim xenophobe) we are in a great position!
Islamism is the single most compelling threat to secular liberal democracy. Islamism is a political totalitarian ideology, a 20th century creation, which masquerades as Islam, a 1,400 year old monotheism.
Islamism is both nonviolent and violent. Radical Islam is the violent component of Islamism. Nonviolent Islamism -- institutional Islamism -- seizes organs of democracy to shore power.
Violent Islamism is merely a means to an end.
Muslim political scientist Bassam Tibi delineates the six foundational tenets of Islamism. First – the relentless seeking of a new world order via imposition of a global transnational dictatorial ‘caliphate.’ ‘Islam as Islamic state’ and only as Islamic State – ‘dawla’ in Arabic, appears nowhere in the Koran, but was manufactured by the twentieth century founding fathers of Islamism.
Islamism seeks its establishment within democracies. Islamists understand the potency of installation through popular vote. So they are very keen to stand in election-think Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood Party in Egypt post 2011 Arab Spring. Once Islamists attain power, they rush to seal the democratic causeway behind them.
All totalitarianisms need an external enemy. Islamism is no different. Hence a third tenet: Islamism holds Jews and global Jewry as chief enemy manifesting an anti-Semitism with religious overtones as central to its ideology, a startling departure from Islam which demands Muslims accept Moses as a Holy Prophet and the Torah as sacred.
Achieving this aggressive re-ordering of world order requires Islamists pervert Islam’s classical jihad into evolutionary terrorist jihadism.
Evolutionary terrorist jihad renders not only as sanctioned but as sacrament the targeting of non- combatant civilians. This violence defiles a number of Islamic principles including the denouncement by Islam of the taking of any innocent life, the foundationally un-Islamic pursuit of any unjust war, and the defiling of God’s creation -- both his Vice Regent in mankind and the earth itself.
The fifth tenet is Islamist ‘sharia law’ -- an invented version perverted to impose totalitarian rule without historical precedent. British scholar Sadakat Kadri identifies the Islamist appetite for ‘pitiless punishment’ – a form of justice lacking in Islam.
Finally, Islamists are consumed with a craving for authenticity and purity - spending all their energies asserting theirs is the true Islam, and the rest of us, Muslim or not, are all imposters – in my case, as a believing Muslim who defies their Islamism – a treasonous heretic committing blasphemy worthy of death.
This is why Muslims like me, immersed in deep study of Islamism welcome the new Trump administration appetite to advance our nation's insights and interests by examining ‘Radical Islam’ – an enquiry that mirrors the interests of the wider Muslim world itself.
As a nation, we may come to the necessary realizations slowly and with difficulty because of the intensely inflammatory climate surrounding such debate -- one already triggering calls of ‘McCarthyism’, but if we remain silent, both Muslim and U.S. interests will suffer greatly.
Anti- Islamist Muslims must lead the way and we are ready, Mr. Trump, to rise to the occasion.
Qanta A. Ahmed, M.D., is an adviser to the Counter Extremism Project and author of "In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor's Journey in the Saudi Kingdom." She is also an Associate Professor of Medicine, State University of New York, and Honorary Professor Glasgow Caledonian University, School of Public Health. Follow her on Twitter @MissDiagnosis.