To the various peoples of this world and in the interest of our common humanity,
One of the great and ugly constants in history has been the horrendous bloodshed resulting from seemingly incompatible religious, ethnic, and political traditions. The cumulative effects of death and destruction throughout human history could lead anyone to resign themselves to the hopelessly destructive nature of humanity, if not for the equally consistent reality that no force can stop the steady progression of interaction and understanding that eventually leads to the individual cognizance which comes to recognize that basic human similarities are more prevalent than the various differences of tradition. Peace and co-existence are almost always inevitable and the only barriers to their eventualities are the prevalence of groups who preach and embrace the lie of irreconcilable differences.
With these realities in mind, we can recognize the falsehood of embracing the idea that the world’s struggle with terrorist activity is one which results from irreconcilable religious differences and the lie that it can only be overcome if we embrace the conflict as singularly religious with eventual collective winners and losers. Many adopt this false premise thinking they are embracing the realities of the conflict and will lead to a swift victory, but in actuality it only helps the conflict endure and increases the cost in human lives before its eventual conclusion.
The only solution which will lessen the sheer human cost of the conflict is one which promotes the ability to accurately identify ideologies on all sides of the conflict which tend to promote ideas anathema to eventual peace, namely the cultivation of the ideas of collective guilt and prejudicial bigotry.
On our side of the coin, here in the West, we must educate ourselves to the differences in various schools of Islamic thought and recognize the reality of the conflict within Islam and the Middle East. We must come to recognize that not all Muslims are Islamists and not all Islamists are militants.
Islam at its foundation is simply a path towards submission to the will of God, and a Muslim is someone who has embarked on this path and follows the sayings of holy men throughout history who have revealed and taught this path. Muslims believe Muhammad was the final and greatest prophet of God, but also embrace Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus as prophets and holy men who lived and preached Islam.
Outside of this basic definition of Islam, it must be recognized that Islamic culture, Islamic civilization, Islamic government, and Islamic religion are not always necessarily the same thing. The history of political Islam (the Umayyad Dynasty, the Abbasid Dynasty, the Mughal Dynasty, the Safavid Dynasty, the Ottoman Empire, etc) presents different realities and understandings then the history of Islamic religion (Sunni, Shia, Salafi, Sufi, etc.).
The reality of modern Islam is that Muslim intellectuals and moderate Muslims have been attempting to separate perennial Islamic beliefs from archaic cultural traditions and face resistance from Islamist fundamentalists who wish to impose the legal and political structure of strict Sharia upon all governments where Muslims reside, and that each of these schools of thought are further divided into ideas reflecting the different sects of Islam.
Contrary to what some in the West are coming to believe, this conundrum is not so different from questions posited and answered in Christian history. Christianity as practiced during the political dominance of the Roman Catholic Church over Europe embraced monarchy and despotism as means to control the common people and was responsible for bloody campaigns of submission against those who would question the political and religious dominance of the Church and the Royalty and Nobility it endowed. Without the revolution of ideas resulting from the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Age of Enlightenment it is questionable whether Judeo-Christian values could have been separated from the archaic cultural and political traditions of Europe to allow representative government to be embraced as the standard of Western society.
Given the context of history, Islam is in the midst of a civil war between liberalism and illiberalism. On the one hand are intellectuals and moderates who recognize and believe that aspects of Sharia law are cultural and political traditions not necessary to the faithful practice of Islamic faith and seek to kindle Islam’s own Renaissance and Age of Enlightenment to move past these archaic traditions and embrace representative government. On the other hand are Islamists and fundamentalists who believe that absolute political Islam is necessary for the true practice of the faith, that rigid and complete application of Sharia law to all aspects of society is necessary for the purity of the faith, and that Christian and Western culture must be resisted to protect the purity of Islamic culture. (The extreme element of these Islamists and fundamentalists embrace militancy to accomplish their goals and have embraced terrorism as a strategy of fear to incite Western nations towards actions which justify their claims. A reality ignored by many in the West is while Islamist terrorism has the ultimate goal of defeating the West, it’s more pressing and short-term goal is to create ideal conditions where its propaganda can have maximum effect in winning over mainstream Islam to its radical ideology)
The fact of this great struggle within Islam is manifest in the reality that most victims of terror are Muslims, that most terrorist attacks happen in Muslim countries, and that most effective forces against terrorism have been Muslims willing to resist it.
Many believe that intellectual and moderate Islam will eventually overcome the Islamists and fundamentalists because the radicals often abandon basic tenants of Islamic religion in their justifications for the atrocities they enact in the name of violent jihad and their embrace of a wholly political and oppressive form of Islam. This is a reality many in the West miss, because they do not understand enough of the traditions of Islam to recognize that Islamist terrorism and Fundamentalist militancy do not embody the realities of Islamic faith, but in fact betray and twist many of Islam’s tenants of faith.
Ultimately, if costly bloodshed is to be averted, we as humanity, both Christians and Muslims, must come to the necessary conclusion that peace will ultimately remain illusive until we reject the lies of collective guilt and prejudicial bigotry. Faith and religion are quandaries to be worked out between each individual and their understanding of God, and to condemn any collective of people as unworthy of fundamental human rights is the great evil we actually face, an evil that has been manifested in fundamentalist and radical thought in both our religious traditions. The crux of the issue is the reality that most Christians and most Muslims are not all that different from each other and are motivated by basic human emotions and desires, to live happy and provide a better life for their children, to ultimately find and preserve joy and peace. If any of us honestly wish to win this great fight, we must reject and resist both the violent jihadists that seek to radicalize and mobilize a religion in hatred and violence as well as bigoted and resentful Christians who would judge and condemn an entire religion as collectively responsible for the crimes of others and unworthy or incapable of basic human freedoms.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
-The Millennial Federalist