Who’s Going to try to Keep More Teenage Muslims from Becoming the Next Boston Marathon Terrorists? Nobody
The lesson from the Boston Marathon bombings could not possibly be clearer. Yet few people, due to various complications, will address that real issue.
Part of the problem is this. Most powerful institutions and people say that Islam is a religion of peace. There’s no problem, except for a few mysterious extremists who just seem to pop up either at random or due to American and Western sins.
The next largest segment says that Islam is an inherently violent and extremist religion so since the problem is Islam there’s nothing to do but to combat it directly in some form.
Both of the main Western responses, then, deny the importance of waging a real and serious battle within Islam.
Yet where do the terrorists come from? In the case of these two brothers, they were Muslims all of their lives and yet suddenly they became—without any major direct experience—radical terrorists.
The cause, of course, was revolutionary Islamist propaganda, especially but by no means exclusively, from al-Qaida. There are literally hundreds of Internet sites, videos, preachers, books, and everything else you can think of that promote revolutionary Islamism. They tell Muslims that they should and must be revolutionaries and terrorists; they cite holy works to do so.
What the heck is there on the other side?
Let’s think for a moment about some of the things that don’t exist:
- A Radio Free Islam that systematically preaches (the last word is not chosen at random) an anti-extremist approach to Islam.
- Virtually no programs at mosques to explain why terrorist, Islamist, and extremist Islamic positions are wrong and bad. Wrong because they don’t accord with what those who say so deem to be a “proper” Islam; bad because they are immoral, ruin the lives of those who embrace such ideology, and hold back the societies where enough such people have such a view.
- Remarkably little literature and remarkably few preachers—especially ones who are as well-financed as the radicals—that a young Muslim is going to read on Internet or hear on videos or elsewhere which suggests an alternative path.
- Where are the videos? Where are the web sites? Where is the social disapproval among Muslims?
On the basis one could argue that there is no moderate—or at least no non-violent, non-revolutionary– Islam that can be developed. But that simply isn’t true. The works and the moderate individuals exist but they are not given support, even in Western countries, nor do they have the resources to wage the battle.
It is like the situation in the Cold War when the Soviets and their supporters were well-organized and well-financed but the social democrats, liberals, and conservatives opposing them were not. Not only the U.S. government–through covert and other means–stepped into the breach but so did lots of organizations, foundations, non-governmental organizations, and others.
Now in the era of Islamism there are two specific problems.
First, any Western, non-Muslim financing or help to those groups would be used to discredit them.
Second, in a bizarre manner Western societies favor the radicals, giving them a good press and praise.
Third, moderate Muslims are penalized and ignored.
Fourth, the ability to critique precisely what is radical in Islam and what is wrong with Islamism is handicapped by the successful effort to brand any attempts at making such distinctions as “Islamophobia” instead of a sensible fear of revolutionary Islamism. It is equivalent to branding any such attempt to critique Communism as anti-Sovietism or as a mindless antagonism to liberalism or pure reactionary views. Communists tried such techniques but they only worked to a very limited extent.
Fifth, part of the last three problems is due to the far left’s (often pretending to be liberal) alignment with radical Islamism (the current world’s most powerful right-wing ideology), despite the latter’s repression of women’s rights, desire to murder gays, and opposition to just about everything else the left is supposed to oppose.
Sixth, who cares that Islamist organizations that are mere covers for radical activities issue a statement decrying an Islamist terror attack simply because it was staged by some other group, wrong place, or at an inconvenient time? Let them campaign against radical, violent, and intolerant interpretations of Islam or be exposed for who they really are.
This, then, is the dilemma and why young people like Tsarnaev brothers will be indoctrinated with extremist Islam with almost no alternative offered on the other side. If groups that are Muslim Brotherhood fronts are going to be treated by the American establishment as normative, moderate Islam, what space is there for any real moderate Islam?
If the enemy is not going to be defined as radical Islam or Islamism or some other phrase that identifies the issue, then how can anyone campaign against such doctrines?
The West has paralyzed itself and, ironically the first people who are going to suffer are Muslims who are not Islamists and not radicals. The proper allies and those to whom sympathy is to be extended is not Hamas, Hizballah, the Muslim Brotherhood, the radical Islamists in Syria, the sophisticated Islamists in Turkey, CAIR, and such groups but their enemies within the Muslim community.
That is the lesson of the Boston Marathon. Otherwise, there will be many more Tsarnaev’s just as there have been repeated “conversion” experiences to become radical terrorists in case after case in the United States, United Kingdom, France, and many other countries over the last decade.
With a massive pro-Islamist, pro-terrorist propaganda machine on one side and almost nothing on the other side how could someone expect anything else to happen?
About Barry Rubin
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist for PajamasMedia at http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan)