Mr Maajid Nawaz, a Muslim and prominent anti-extremist writes a refreshingly direct and honest piece in the WSJ on the existential threat violent jihadism presents to the world. Sympathy for the ISIS modus operandi is depressingly widespread and prevalent amongst Muslims. Especially those that live in western society! This is a vast and growing danger.

This is how he proposes to beat ISIS, with my thoughts in parentheses:

  • Everyone, Muslim or otherwise, should accurately and fully define the enemy. It is violent, theocratic, islamist jihadism. (The enemy is a subset of Islam, which most go out of their way to avoid saying.)
  • Muslims should not deny that Islamism is a real problem. (Almost all Muslim spokespersons tend to blame the West for provoking their unacceptable behavior. In other words, we have brought this upon ourselves.)
  • ‘We’ must engage in a propaganda war in order to “deny today’s Islamists and jihadists their ability to appeal to Muslim audiences”. The present is a continuation of decades of Islamist propaganda that has prepared the youth to yearn for a caliphate. (Such engagement is likely to  enrage the Muslims even more if it is perceived as coming from Great Satan, and such like.)
  • Reform theologians should be encouraged “to lay the foundations of a theology that rejects Islamism and promotes freedom of speech and gender rights—thereby undermining the insurgents’ message.” (There are so few of these reformers that their influence is negligible. If they question the authority of the ‘Perfect Messenger’ they would labeled as not true muslims anyway.)
  • Non-muslim countries, especially the US, should be actively engaged in the political, economic, social  and even military struggles of ‘Muslim’ countries. (That has not worked out so well thus far.)

In summary, if we are to win against the jihadists, we must “isolate them, undercut their appeal to Muslims and avoid a ‘clash of civilizations’”. (And if it does not work out it will be the fault of the West?)

There are major difficulties with this approach. The most difficult, in my opinion, is the extreme degree of fundamentalism that is entrenched and spread throughout the umma. Most  Muslim states adhere to and promote a very strict form of Islam. Hatred toward infidels is spewed from capitals and mosques throughout the world, reaching hysterical levels, not only in Iran but in many other places. Children are indoctrinated in schools. Oil-rich Saudi Arabia has been promoting its fundamentalist ideology throughout the world by funding conservative Islamic centers everywhere.

Islam has a billion or more adherents. Solving the problems as enumerated by Mr. Nawaz is going to take a very long time. Success is unlikely, unless there is a global coalition to modernize and moderate Islam that is lead by Muslims. President Al-Sisi of Egypt is one of the few leaders that has stated this explicitly. What is needed is nothing less than an evolution of the faith from its present narrow insular state. It took Judaism and Christianity centuries to accomplish some of this, but not all. Recidivism can happen at any time.