In our post-9/11 era, the likes of Jose Padillo and John Walker remain troubling enigmas in our national consciousness. What motivates a Western individual to convert to Islam? Why are so many of these converts susceptible to extremism and involvement in terrorism?
To discuss this issue with Frontpage Symposium today, we introduce:
Thomas Haidon, a commentator on Islamic issues;
Nonie Darwish, a US citizen of Arab origin, a former Muslim born and raised in Cairo, Egypt and the Gaza Strip. She converted to Christianity ten years ago. She has lived in the USA for over 25 years and is now a freelance writer and public speaker;
Walid Shoebat, a former PLO terrorist who has become an ardent Zionist and an evangelical Christian.
FP: Thomas Haidon, Nonie Darwish and Walid Shoebat, welcome to Frontpage Symposium. Mr. Haidon let me begin with you. First, tell us briefly how you came to convert to Islam.
Haidon: My path to Islam began in 1996 with my first trip to Cairo, Egypt for an Arab League conference. During this trip I had some extensive exposure and meetings with moderate Muslims, and this developed my interest in studying Islam further from a comparative perspective.
Upon returning to the States, I began to study classical sources of Islam and medieval Islamic history, while pursuing a degree in politics and law. The more I learned, the more I realised that the foundation and values of Islam were very similar to my own religion. Indeed, this was quite a surprise to me, as I had initially adopted quite an orientalist perspective on Islam.
In May of 2001, I returned to Cairo to study Islamic jurisprudence. After several years of study, I felt I was ready to take "shahada" (the testification of faith). I did so at the Al-Azhar Institute in the presence of friends and colleagues.
It was a new beginning for me. I remained in Cairo for the remainder of the summer, and had a very close group of moderate Muslim friends. Nonetheless, it was not before long, before I began to notice political influence placed on me by other Muslims, to adopt rather Islamist views.
FP: Right, but there is the problem that many Western converts to Islam join precisely because they want to make a statement in rejecting their own society and seek a way to help destroy it. Within Islam, there is a lot of violent teaching in regards to non-Muslims and to non-Islamic societies. It explains Islam’s attraction to the likes of the Walkers and Padillos, does it not?
Haidon: The emergence of extremist converts to Islam should be of a paramount concern to non-Muslims and moderate Muslims alike. I firmly believe that the foundation for the reform and secularization of Islam could and should come from American/Western converts, who theoretically are a bridge of understanding between Islam and the West.
But the trend indicates something quite different as you have aptly pointed out. I think we all realize that the emergence of extremist converts to Islam is directly correlated to the problems of contemporary Islam. Although I am not comprehensively trained in exegis or itjihad, I certainly acknowledge (as every Muslim should) that there are specific ayat in the Qur’an, and teachings in the Sunnah (traditions of the Prophet Mohammed) and sirah (biography of the Prophet) which seemingly advocate violence (sometimes particularly brutal) against non-Muslims. Adherence to these verses and teachings are they very essence of Islam's crisis, and certainly overshadow the very positive and humanistic aspects of Islam that most non-Muslims are not aware of.
However, I think the initial attraction to Islam for individuals such as Walker, Padilla, Reid and Anderson is the sense of fraternity and escape militant Islam can offer to individuals like these who fit the atypical "lone wolf" profile that extremist recruiters target. Specifically in the case of John Walker, the process of indoctrination was gradual and typical.
Converts are often initially given propaganda-like literature to read that can be very persuasive as any propaganda can. Converts usually have been assisted throughout the process by a Muslim or a group of Muslims. Generally, their exposure to Islam prior to this has been minimal. Islam is presented in a very attractive, non-critical way. (My own personal experience was dramatically different. I had studied Orientalist and Muslim sources, my moderate Muslim mentors insisted that I challenge the tenets of Islam and discussed Islam comprehensively (problems and all).
A convert to Islam is generally treated in a special and cordial way, and fully invited to the "brotherhood". For those fitting the societal outcast profiles of the above individuals, they are very impressionable and susceptible to radical ideology. Coupled with community membership in an extremist environment is a recipe for disaster. The evidence regarding most of these individuals, indicates their involvement in Islamic centres notorious for extremist leadership. Each of the above individuals were directly influenced by radical Saudi backed, Wahhabi Imams or Sheikhs like Abu Hamza in the UK, who were invited by the West and allowed to preach their extremist brand of anti-Semitic, and anti-Christian rhetoric, that sadly has pervaded Islam in the West.
FP: Ms. Darwish, your view on the Western convert to Islam?
Darwish: Western converts to Islam are associated with Anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism. Think of the Washington DC sniper John Muhammad, the US Muslim convert soldier in Iraq who killed fellow US soldiers, and Louis Farrakhan reviving anti-Semitism.
Western converts to Islam, like initiates into a cult, are treated very well initially, differently from other Muslims. Mr. Haidon's mentors encouraged him to challenge Islam. However, these same "moderate" mentors would not permit any native-born Muslim the same privilege. For a person born in it to challenge Islam is to invite persecution or even death. The so-called ”moderate” Muslims do not defend such “apostates.”. Bin Laden is thought of as savior of Islam by majority Muslims who did not criticize him or Islamic teachings after 9/11/2001.
Western converts who will attempt to reform Islam to end the violence will be accused of being CIA infiltrators or Zionist conspirators. Islam has to reform from within.
Shoebat: I agree with Ms. Darwish and to add to it, with Black Muslims for example, they have been fed the idea that Islam is the religion for the disenfranchised, poor, and ill treated masses. This without realizing that the Muslims had contributed into the slave trade from time immemorial.
In general, Westerners who adopt Islam find in it a response to Western decadence and the morality problem. They see in Islam a set of moral code, sense of unity, and good customs. Not realizing that while they bought into one set of code of conduct (piety, Alms, self control on indulgence, prayer..) that on the other hand they could easily be a target for use, or be neutralized by looking the other way regarding many human rights abuses.
Just like Nazis, Islamists feed the westerners who have no experience regarding the true face of Islamic history by selling them a one-sided view on Islam which usually are half truths. My mother was such a victim. It took her almost 40 years to escape out of the trap. She had to live in an Islamic society to truly wake up and see the problem of women abuse and discrimination against the West. It's like Communism, it sounded good on paper, but to find out the reality, one would have to have visited Russia under Communism.
FP: You refer to your mom falling into the "trap". If you don't mind, could you tell us a bit about her experience? Why was she drawn to Islam, especially with its ideology/record of misogyny, abuse of women etc? What was she looking for? What shattered her illusions?
Shoebat: She was drawn to what my father told her – the peaceful verses, the wonderful culture, fasting Ramadan contributes to your health....
He had her think that he was discriminated against because he was an Arab and lured her to do his college homework, she believed everything he said because she was in love. She later on moved to Bethlehem, prevented to go back to America, and then moved to Saudi Arabia. In Aramco (Arab American Oil Company) in Saudi were my father taught, he started teaching anti-American things that America was conspiring against Muslims, stealing the oil and paying nothing to the Saudis. He got fired of course, and to my mother that was the evidence that Americans hate Muslims. She then moved back with him to Bethlehem but could never compete with the rest of the women as how to behave as a "good Muslim", she could never be good enough, she still longed for western ways of life, she wanted to go home. The Six Days War erupted and the American Embassy came to take her out, but my father prevented her. She realized that she was literally in prison and could not escape. That's when she learned by experience that women are second class citizens in Islam. It was too late.
I finally rescued her 10 years ago, it's a long story.
Haidon: I would first comment that while I certainly recognise the travails faced by Ms. Darwish and Mr. Shoebat, and wholeheartedly reject the general Islamically-sanctioned treatment of people who leave Islam. It is reprehensible, and again indicative of the general problems facing Islam today. In this symposium we can certainly be critical of contemporary Muslims and Islam, however I do not believe it is constructive to attempt to delegitimize Islam as a faith, and if that is the case, I cannot enter into such dialogue.
I think in the context of this symposium we should agree that there are also converts to Islam who do not adhere to anti-Semitism or anti-Americanism. But generally, as Ms. Darwish points out, converts are generally associated with these beliefs (even perhaps) prior to their conversion, particularly anti-Semitism, because of the high level of extremism in American/Western Islamic communities. I also think the use of "romantic" imagery of the Palestinians and "muhajedeen" by some Muslim communities and organisations in their is part and parcel of the problem (Perhaps we can explore this further).
I do not believe however, Ms. Darwish is in a position to question the intention of every Muslim, and make broad generalisations. In particular her remarks about my "mentors", I find overbroad. However, her overall point is valid. Native Muslims in Muslim countries have no choice but to accept Islam, and leaving Islam could lead to certain death. Even being critical of Islam can result in severe punishment (Abu Zayed in Egypt who simply said the Qur’an should be interpreted differently). Again this is evidence of a bigger problem, the state of Islam. Muslims must undergo a radical self-examination.
In regards to Mr. Shoebat's statement, I would agree. Extremists never present an objective perspective of Islam when presenting to converts (even "moderates" may be guilty of this). This underlies the problem of Islamic education/communities in the West. The majority of Imams and Sheikhs in the states are of course, Saudi/Salafist/Wahabi educated. Generally, I believe Converts are learning Islam from extremist sources.
This underscores the need for governments to monitor to the doctrine being espoused in Islamic communities. Imam's who preach anti-Semitism and violence should be dealt with. But the problem is that there are varying degrees of anti-Semitism and promotion of violence in Muslim communities. Additionally, objective materials on Islam are not easily found. I would certainly encourage anyone considering converting to Islam to read everything, especially materials critical of Islam, in order to make an absolute informed decision.
A further problem is pressure and Arabization of Islam in the West. There is an immense pressure to learn Arabic and Arab culture, even when an individual does not fully understand classical sources in their own language! De-emphasising this in Western/Islamic communities would be a positive step, and would place less pressure on converts and allow them the opportunity to explore Islam and its texts more critically. I reiterate and agree with Ms. Darwish and Mr. Shoebat that these problems will not be solved until Muslims own up to the problems of contemporary Islam.
This dialogue I believe should focus on solutions on the problem, instead of deligitmizing Islam. The promotion of a moderate, peaceful Islam which I believe can exist, contrary to what Ms. Darwish and Mr. Shoebat may believe. (However, I certainly understand their hostility and mistrust) there are individuals and groups such as the Free Muslim Coalition Against Terrorism that are working toward change.
FP: Ms. Darwish, if we were to focus on solutions, what do you think of the “positive” steps that Mr. Haidon touches on?
Darwish: No matter how much I may agree or disagree with Mr. Haidon's choice, I respect it. In Islamic countries, there is no choice or respect for individual rights and I think that Mr. Haidon should be a bit worried when he sees his brethren in Islam killed if they speak out for reformation. I also wonder why anyone would embrace a new religion that they acknowledge as having many challenges and need reformation.
Mr. Haidon accused us of attempting to de-legitimize Islam as a faith. I am not against Islam the book, since any book can be reformed. What we have to deal with is Islam as an existential reality in modern society. We have to deal with the preaching of hate, violence, terrorism, polygamy, inferior status of women, oppression, anti-Semitism, authoritarian governments and human rights abuses.
The behavior of people who practice any religion is how the religion is judged and you cannot separate the two. Islam is becoming frightening to many because of the behavior of many and the silence of the majority. Mr. Haidon agrees with us that the majority of Imams and Sheikhs in the US are Wahabi educated. How can one practice a religion that has major problems in its house of worship? Muslim friends said they have to practice Islam alone since it is the only way they can remain loyal to America and away from preachers of hate. That takes away much of what a religion should accomplish, namely the fellowship among the worshipers.
The USA should take off the gloves and demand equal rights in the cultural and religious relations between countries, similar to its demands for a "trade balance." America should not allow Saudi Arabia to preach Islam and build mosques on US soil with 15 of its citizens committing 9/11 unless Saudis accept religious freedom and the building of Churches and synagogues inside Saudi Arabia. Saudis can't have it both ways and America should protect its culture better.
FP: Mr. Shoebat, Ms. Darwish might have the right advice for the U.S., but we are a free society. How can we as a free society do some of the things she is suggesting? This is ultimately our potential downfall, of course, since our totalitarian enemies exploit our freedom to wage war on us.
Shoebat: I have several comments regarding Mr. Haidon's statements:
"I do not believe it is constructive to attempt to delegitimize Islam as a faith, and if that is the case, I cannot enter into such dialogue."
Why not? Muslims (both moderates and fundamentalists) who call for Da'wah (proseletization), do delegitimize Christianity in many ways. Everyone is entitled to deny anyone else’s faith - totally.
That's why we have dialogue.
Muslims are sensitive towards anyone who critiques their faith while Christians welcome and understand it. Christians see it as an opportunity to clear things out, but Muslims in general take insult to it.
FP: Ok, let’s follow Mr. Haidon’s guidance and look for some possible solutions.
But let’s first face the facts: many converts to Islam in the West are usually extremely unstable and estranged people looking for some kind of anti-Western cause or rigid discipline. Almost every time you hear one of them explaining why they converted, you hear things like, “Christianity didn’t do it for me. You only have to go to Church once a week and you are ok. In Islam, you have to pray five times a day and it gives you a structure for the entire day, I was told exactly when and how to eat, when to wash my hands and how to wash them. . . ” etc.
I must admit, these explanations by converts to Islam always horrify me and cause me a lot of dissonance, as I have lived all my life trying to avoid rules. The less rules the better. That’s another story, of course, but my point is that it appears that many of these people are out of control and need some kind of strong despotic authority that they can submit their individual will to; this new totality, stern father figure, will lead them, order them what to do, etc.
It isn’t a big surprise, therefore, why these individuals often end up being extremists and involved in terror, right? Because the whole disposition that leads them into conversion in the first place is the yearning for totalitarianism and the brutal display of power (along with the desire to wage war on their own society and environment), and if they are attracted to totalitarianism and the brutal display of power, then we must consider why it is that they go to Islam.
So we have to change what attracts these people to Islam. Then that means we need to change Islam. But how do we change Islam yet allow it to remain Islam?
Shoebat: First of all, we don't change Islam, but make new laws to prevent it from becoming a system. Islamic fundamentalism needs to be treated just as we treated communism - it needs to be fought with laws in place.
Now, don't get me wrong, people should have the right to be Muslim, but there should be no rights to anyone who promotes an Islamic system or an Islamist agenda.
Immigration laws also should be in place to minimize immigrants from Muslim countries that have a high level of Islamist agenda - Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia...
Immigrants should be asked if they ever participated in any agenda that is a threat to the United States. If in any case there was proof of such acts, then citizenship must be revoked.
In other words, the response to your question is not how to deal with the psychology, but how to deal with the influx of Islamists.
Now you stated: "it appears that many of these people are out of control and need some kind of strong despotic authority that they can submit their individual will to; this new totality, stern father figure, will lead them".
Well, this seems similar to what Adolf Hitler did. This is why I was stating that laws need to be in place just as we did during Nazi Germany. In other words Islamism = Nazism and must be illegal.
FP: Mr. Haidon, what do you think of Mr. Shoebat’s suggests in terms of tougher laws in terms of immigration and illegalizing Islamism etc.?
Haidon: I agree with the constructive comments of Mr. Shoebat. There are a number of measures that can be taken by governments to address the issue. The American and Western governments should take strong measures to prevent the influx of radical Islamists. In this regard the West has failed. Shiekh Qaradawi, and Sheik Al Sodaissy are regular welcome visitors to the United Kingdom and throughout Europe. They both have legitimised the killing of Jews, and non-Muslims to varying degrees. These men have an enormous influence on Muslims worldwide, and to many converts these men are treated with particular reverence.
It is essential that Western countries prevent this pattern and generally discourage radical sheikhs and Islamic leaders from immigrating or visiting. Western Muslims must create a new Islamic identity that is consistent with the principles and laws of their home/host state. The way to achieve this is by not allowing foreigners to over- Arabize Islam in the West. Islam can and should flourish as a moderate and peaceful force in the West, and act as a catalyst for change, an example of how Islam and Western society can successfully coexist. But until governments work harder, and Muslims accept the necessity of such measures, it is a "pipe dream". Robust immigration procedures, including questioning and investigation along the lines of Mr. Shoebat's suggestions. I would also not be averse to requiring immigrating Muslims from certain countries be required to successfully "pass" Daniel Pipes’ "do you believe in modernity test".
Part of creating a Western/Islamic identity involves creating Islamic educational institutions in the West. Currently, few exist and people are shipped off to Saudi or Pakistan to receive their education. Western governments, generally of course are incapable of monitoring the curriculum or what is propagated. These people then come back to become religious leaders. If new Islamic institutions are created in the West, this allows some form of government regulation perhaps and monitoring. I think Western governments need to take an active role in overseeing Islamic institutions to ensure that what is being propagated is not inherently extremist, violent and anti-Semitic. This however would bring up a whole slew of issues of separation of church and state, and would likely (and understandably draw some criticism).
I suppose I have put the chicken before the egg. We would first of course need to develop a "white paper" for reform (which is certainly an aspiration of mine) for American/Western Islamic institutions. This would require an enormous effort and involve wide consultation with Muslims and non-Muslims. (Both Christians and Jews have over the centuries recognised inherent problems within their religion and initiated reform. It is essential that they also have some input in the process in light of their experience in change) Developing a curriculum if you will, consistent with American/Western and Islamic values. This is certainly possible, but as Ms. Darwish and Mr. Shoebat are too painfully aware, people initially associated with this movement will be viewed as apostates.
Developing a modern, secular Islamic identity (in which I believe is possible in light of the Quran, Sunnah and historical/classical texts) would detract extremist converts, because a modern Islam would share commonalities with the other faiths of Christianity and Judaism that they so despise. If we want to stop extremist converts, we need to address the push and pull factors.
Darwish: Profiling terrorists is a matter of life or death and thinking otherwise is foolish. Characters such as Muhammad Atta and the blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman (both terrorists from Egypt) should never have entered the US. Abdel Rahman was already a known terrorist in the Sudan, but was still given a visa to enter the US.
Moderate Muslims like Mr. Haidon can insist on having moderate preachers in his mosque. The American Muslim community is large enough to find clerics from within instead of having to rely on Wahhabi imports. They should take responsibility for their choice of clerics. No one is forcing on them characters such as Sheikh Abdel Rahaman or the preacher in England with a hook for a hand. The buck stops at the step of Muslim mosque goers. When they hire subversive hateful characters to represent them they will appear subversive and hateful. It is time for American Muslims to demand change from their leadership, cut the umbilical cord with Saudi Arabia, cleans their place of worship from terrorists and love the America that welcomed them to practice their religion in freedom. I will be among the first to attend that kind of mosque and praise the God of all. However, many American Muslims are scared of going to mosques and prefer to attend churches to avoid the "us against them" hate speech. It will take hard work to bring them back.
Mosques should never be permitted to rely mainly on foreign Saudi money with strings attached since that is a corrupting factor. Political correctness can lead us to another 9/11.
Our most vulnerable jail population should only receive moderate Muslim preachers who should be thoroughly screened. This ready made angry population does not need hate speech against America. We cannot breed our own terrorists at home. Our freedom of speech laws should never be used to strangle us.
Haidon: Let me first return to Jamie’s earlier statement and question. I believe the points he raises are meritorious and deserve a more thorough response. It is certainly true there are converts who leave Christianity or Judaism, or an atheistic/agnostic upbringing, because of their own spiritual weakness and the need to find a religion/belief structure which provides them a roadmap to God. These people in particular will be susceptible to extremism, by their own very nature and again fit the "lone wolf" stereotype that often racist extremist groups such as the Aryan Nation and the Nation of Islam look for.
Islam can certainly give people that structure if they so desire. However, at a personal level I believe that the classical sources of Islam provide merely a general guide to life. There are too many inconsistencies between the Medinan and Meccan surah's for every ayat of the Quran to be taken literally. It is a general guide. What is important, essential, are the five pillars: the testification of faith, prayer, charity, fasting during Ramadan, and pilgrimage to Mecca (if possible).
There is absolutely nothing about these central tenets of Islam that is inconsistent with Western society, and in fact the second third and fourth are synonymous with essentially all organised religions. Sadly, due to the politicization of Islam I often feel that these central tenets of Islam have been de-emphasised. Also, there is an utter obsession among many Western converts with the notion of the eventual formation of an Islamic state, within the Western state they are in!
I have spoken to many converts and this is one of the most commonly shared beliefs, that they have an obligation to work towards the propagation of Islam in order to form an Islamic state. This is frightening to me. I often respond by asking them if they can point to an Islamic state in the last two of three centuries (even before that) that can be considered "just" in terms of human rights, and relations with non-Muslims.
Generally they cannot. Amusingly and disturbingly, some point to Iran as the beacon of a democratic Islamic state. I also certainly believe that a strong argument can be made that secularism is permitted under the Qur’an and Sunnah certainly outside the scope of this dialogue.
In response to Jamie’s question: "But how do we change Islam yet allow it to remain Islam?" Of course we have bandied about the term "reform". Reform though, is change. As Christianity and Judaism underwent significant reform, its fundamental tenets did not change as to render it to a different belief structure. It’s still Judaism and Christianity, simply modernized and improved to reflect society. Islam will still be Islam under serious reform.
In response to Ms. Darwish, I am in general agreement with her. There has been a tremendous amount of money being given by Gulf states (primarily Saudi) to American/Western Islamic communities/centres. So called "moderate" Muslim organizations such as CAIR owe their very existence to such contribution. If this sort of funding is not outright banned (which I believe it should be, although it could create a slew of legal issues), then it should be monitored extremely closely. I would imagine the US government and other nations have a fairly robust process now for this. However, some nations such as here in New Zealand I have some concerns. Saudi officials make semi-frequent visits here to "throw" money wherever they can to the Islamic community, I believe this invariably can have an influence on the brand of Islam coming out of communities, and of course to its new converts.
Certainly while no one forces extremist Islamic scholars like Sheikh Rahman or Abu Hamzah to come and lead Islamic communities, because there are few scholars in and from the West, their immigration becomes more likely. This underscores my previous point that the West must assist in creating Western Islamic educational institutions. This is not an easy point to swallow for many, because it again requires direct government involvement. It would be politically difficult to implement in the United States especially, but Western governments should assist in the establishment and monitoring of moderate educational institutions.
I would also like to see a change in which the United States government and courts view the issue of censorship. The "freedom of speech" is not absolute, and is generally subject to such "reasonable limits as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society" (New Zealand Bill of Rights Act). But the United States has always seemed to hold the freedom of expression to a higher degree in some respects. The issue of "incitement " is one of these areas. Individuals can essentially espouse religious and racial hatred in the US with impunity. On the other hand the United Kingdom and New Zealand notably have strong laws prohibiting incitement speech.
More recently the UK applied its incitement law against the infamous hooked Sheikh Abu- Hamzah, and he was sent to jail for his hateful pro-9/11 and anti-Semitic rhetoric. However, the use of such laws could also theoretically be used by Islamists such as CAIR to turn the tables on those they perceive as Islamaphobic. The British National Party in the UK is currently facing this possibility. The legislation would have to be drafted carefully.
A further issue that we have not really delved into, and Ms. Darwish and Mr. Shoebat I speculate might agree, contemporary Islam's exploitation and romanticisation of the Palestinian question contributes to the attraction to Islam, which underscores the proliferation of anti-Semitism. (I have in the past, regrettably fallen into the trap of justifying aspects of the Palestinian resistance. While in this dialogue I have taken the "moral high-ground", I must admit that some of my writings in the past have been anti-Israeli and critical of US policies (which there is nothing inherently wrong with as it is the essence of democracy). I attribute this to however more of my previous leftist leanings rather than Islamic fundamentalist beliefs.)
When converts are introduced to Islamic communities/mosques they are often subjected to overt and subtle indoctrination in every aspect of their Islamic education and Juma (Friday prayers) Khuttbahs (sermons) constantly making reference to the "struggles" of the Palestinians. While some Islamic communities may half-heartedly condemn terrorist attacks against the US, Spain, Bali, etc., no such condemnation exists for terrorist attacks against Israelis. It gives impressionable converts "something to believe in". It gives them a further "moral" cause", and a scapegoat for the worlds problems: Jews. Classical Islamic sources give them plenty of ammunition. However, there are scholars (Professor Khaleel Mohammed and Sheikh Abdul Palazzi) and FPM has highlighted their teachings, that argue from an interpretation of classical sources in Islam, that Israel in fact belongs to the Jews.
However, these views, I believe, are a miniscule minority despite the fact that these interpretations are based on sound principles of Islamic jurisprudence. This brings us back to Islamic education, and governments playing a direct role in how and what is propagated, in order to circumvent extremism. I am not saying that Muslims should be forced to accept every Israeli policy or action, indeed I do not (and I have in the past been very critical, perhaps too critical of Israeli policy), many Israelis do not. However, Muslims must accept the existence of Israel. And following that, if you accept Israel's existence you must accept the fact that Israel has a legitimate right to defend itself. Changing Islamic attitudes against Israel in the West will be difficult when there are a significant number of non-Muslims in the West have an unfair bias against Israel.
FP: Mr. Shoebat, our time is up. Kindly make your final comment in reference to Mr. Haidon’s last response and kindly focus on what we can do to make extremism and terrorism less attractive to the Muslim convert.
Shoebat: While I agree with both of my colleagues on most of this discussion. I must make a crucial comment on the following:
"Islam can and should flourish as a moderate and peaceful force in the West, and act as a catalyst for change, an example of how Islam and Western society can successfully coexist."
The problem with this is that Islam is not simply a religion. We can say with absolute certainty that Islam is a system of government as well. No one can deny this. It would be dishonest of us who knows Islam to deny this. This is the crux of this whole problem - how do you untangle Islam from it's Jihadic and governmental principles? How do you take away Khilafa and Jihad and still call it Islam? This is why I call Jihadist as Nazis with "a religious twist".
Screening people who come in this country will solve part of the problem. But it is not difficult for extremists to explain Islam in it's true context to moderates and win them by the droves. Let's face it, most extremist Muslims once were moderates. It's a red button that is pushed and extremists can successfully make x-moderates act as robots ready to carry out instructions.
Yes, the extremists can be controlled from entering and infecting moderates, but in today's world, with internet and world media, the instructions can easily enter in anyway.
Islam in my view needs to be viewed as a system of both "religion and government", not just "civil Sharia" but "total global Sharia". Besides its different forms of worship and moral code, Islam needs to be viewed as we view Communism. After all, this is what Islam is. Like Communism it spread by planting it's ideals first which looked pretty good on paper, then had no respect for borders, governments, and the end justified the means. be it total invasion or eradication of anyone who disagreed. Communism as well had its Jihad by the pen first, then total take over.
Again, Islam is not a system for moral application only. For us to say it is would be absolutely dishonest and would disregards the facts.
Now, regarding reformation of Islam as we did in the Judeo-Christian movements.
While I agree that reform was successful in the Judeo-Christian culture, yet most of the success came as a result of following the text and not doing away with it. The reformation came as a result of reviewing the institutions that abused its authority and didn't adhere to the manuals. This you can never apply to Islam.
The opposite is true when it comes to Islam. Peace started when we made it illegal to follow the text and ultimately de-fanged Islam from Jihad and government as we did to the Islamic Ottoman Empire.
We can find nothing in the tenants of the Christian or Jewish books that comes even close to Islam's way of government. The Judeo-Christian faith has nothing to do with government aside from a Messianic hope, and only when "He" comes with the heavens folding as a scroll, that this theocratic kingdom can take place.
This hasn't happened yet.
Also, the Bible clearly stated to "obey the laws of the land" making it clear that the biblical God is not about enforcing a theocratic government on earth by the sword of any mortal being, be it vicar or king. The Old Testament either with it's Temple system, judges, kings, had no place in it that called for expanding Israel.
This is why we can never compare the reforms in the Judeo-Christian culture with reforms in Islam.
Besides this discussion, may I add that I always hear this term "Islamic democracy". To me it's absurd, it's like saying "Capitalistic Communism". Is there such a
thing? So why try to create an oxymoron?
Islam is a moral code, Khilafa, civil law, and a global government. Can anyone honestly say that this is not Islam?
FP: Thomas Haidon, Walid Shoebat and Nonie Darwish, thank you, we are out of time.
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