The war between Islamism and the Western world (most often understood as the U.S. and Israel) has been going on since 1979, even if America only began fighting back in earnest in 2001. In an in-depth analysis, Max Singer evaluates the real threats posed by militant Islam but also the limits of its capabilities. He concludes that the movement in its various forms can cause untold harm to the West—especially if Islamist groups or countries obtain nuclear and biological weapons—but by its own standards can never win:
[T]he Islamist view of Islam implies that the ultimate survival of non-Muslim governments anywhere in the world would be a defeat for their cause—or a demonstration that their view of Allah’s requirements is wrong. Although many of the Islamist leaders have a great commitment to their cause, while much of the West, especially Western Europe, has lost its faith, Muslims have too little power—measured by economic strength, military capabilities, technological advancement, organization, population size, and competence—to take over the rest of the world. . . .
The understanding that militant Islam cannot win its war leads to a second fundamental perspective: in the long run the crucial struggle is within Islam, not between Islam and the rest of the world. The final defeat of Islamism will come only when sufficient elements of the Muslim world decide that they will no longer accept the problems and costs caused by the war and its interference with progress. In other words, the Islamist war has two components: physical actions and ideological conflict. Even when the physical actions are defeated, the internal ideological struggle can continue. . . .
An important feature of the long-term internal conflict within Islam is that Islamists suppress Muslim leaders and thinkers who oppose the war against the West. As a result, internal Muslim public debate, especially outside Asia, has been largely one-sided because most of the other side is afraid to speak. A key turning point will be when Muslim communities decide that it is no longer acceptable to suppress non-Islamist voices. There is reason to think suppression depends on unspoken acceptance by Muslim communities, and when that acceptance is withdrawn the suppression will gradually weaken and become less effective. . . .
To meet the Islamist ideological challenge, Western governments and leaderships need to stop giving legitimacy and help to local Muslim organizations dominated by Islamists like the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC).
As far as Israel is concerned, Singer argues that the Arab-Israeli conflict predates the rise of Islamism and could well outlive it. But he cautions against trying to fight the ideological war with Israeli concessions, for a simple reason:
Israel and Judaism are part of the Western (non-Muslim) world, and Israel is living on land that had been Muslim land for many generations. No Western evenhandedness between Israel and the Palestinians, or even support for the Palestinian cause, can exculpate Western responsibility for Israel’s existence. This anti-Western Muslim grievance can only be assuaged by Israel’s transformation into a Muslim state.
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