On September 11th, 2001, I was awoken to a threat I had gone most of my life unaware existed. Certainly I had been around long enough to be aware that the Middle East was not a great vacation spot for people that don’t want to risk being blown up, but even after the USS Cole, the World Trade Center bombings, and numerous other terrorist actions that resulted in the death of Americans, I still didn’t understand the magnitude of what America faced until that grim Tuesday morning.
A percentage of Muslims believe themselves to be at war with America. Worldwide, the vast majority of the Muslim population is peaceful and wishes no ill will.
As we entered the Iraq War in the coming years, I was exposed to the atrocious video of Nick Berg having his head sawed off by Abu Musab Al Zarqawi. I was so stunned by what I had seen, I simply refused to believe it at first. I came up with conspiracy theories to convince myself it was staged. Anything but to believe an American citizen was snatched up and murdered in such a torturous way. Looking into this revealed the story of Daniel Pearl, and I had to land on a new awful understanding of what we faced. An evolution of my original summary.
A percentage of Muslims believe themselves to be at war with America. The members of this subset of Islam want to invade my homeland and murder me and my family. Worldwide, the vast majority of the Muslim population is peaceful and wishes no ill will.
It was a frightening realization. But I took solace in the idea that with 1 billion Muslims worldwide, most wanting peace, we could route out this scourge together. However, as time marched on, the atrocities, beheadings of Americans, and attempted terrorist attacks organized by these sects, I was continually disappointed at the apparent lack of motivation on the part of this peaceful majority of Muslims.
I started reading, and one book I read was “The Truth About Muhammad” by Robert Spencer. Reading the history of Muhammad and how he rose to power as a warlord, how he used promises of paradise to convince his acolytes to commit suicide, and how he shaped and bent his own laws to accommodate whatever whims suited him, I began to wonder which portion of this great religion was interpreting the religious texts accurately. I studied the history of the Crusades and the European response to the encroaching Islamic conquerers of the age. I marveled at how close these earlier Islamic leaders mirrored those causing chaos in the Middle East. It certainly seemed plausible that these “radical” elements were simply strict adherents.
But even as I developed these points of view on the religion itself, the chaos worldwide continued to unfold. And I started to see reports of atrocities committed by Muslims against other Muslims. Beheadings, suicide bombings, slavery, torture, all in the name of Islam against those who they believed were blasphemous in their own practices of the same faith.
In light of the reading I’d done and all of the atrocities I’d witnessed through video I watched in the darkest corners of the web, my understanding of the situation evolved a 3rd time.
Islam in its purest and most faithful form to the original teachings, is spread through fear and murder. A concerning percentage of Muslims believe themselves to be at war with America as we represent the antithesis to traditional Islamic doctrine. The members of this subset of Islam want to invade my homeland and murder me and my family. Worldwide, the vast majority of the Muslim population is peaceful and wishes no ill will, however they are afraid to stand up to and hold accountable those scores of violent adherents who number in the 10s of millions, nor will they confront the 100 million or so who directly or indirectly support and encourage that violence.
A harsh interpretation, and I still granted that most who called themselves Muslim would not submit to that version of the faith. But I’d reached the conclusion that those who do not follow Islam as it is practiced by some of the most murderous adherents, are simply lying to themselves about the true nature of what, to me, amounted as the world’s largest cult.
My final realization which has instructed the current view I hold of Islam is the result of the attack on Ft Hood, followed by the Boston Marathon, Chattooga, and now San Bernardino. The realization that anyone, anywhere, can go online, look up the propaganda and snuff films which are readily available, take up the cause of ISIS, Al Qaeda, or any other terrorist group, and do the work of Muhammad all on their own.
Islam in its purest and most faithful form to the original teachings, is spread through fear and murder. A concerning percentage of Muslims believe themselves to be at war with America as we represent the antithesis to traditional Islamic doctrine. The members of this subset of Islam want to invade my homeland and murder me and my family. Worldwide, the vast majority of the Muslim population is peaceful and wishes no ill will, however they are afraid to stand up to and hold accountable those scores of violent adherents who number in the 10s of millions, nor will they confront the 100 million or so who directly or indirectly support and encourage that violence. Furthermore, because of a failure by the majority to successfully police the members of their religion, and given the size and scope of the problem, it is impossible to establish trust for anyone subscribing to Islam that they would not kill you or your family at a moment’s notice.
The addition of that last realization is what would most likely cause a reader to believe I side with Donald Trump and his call to ban all Muslims from entering the United States.
If the religion of Islam is in such a condition that we can’t trust its peaceful members to deal with its violent members and we can’t trust for certain that any Muslim might not secretly be a Jihadist, then what possible business do we have inviting them across our border?
The fact is, Trump’s concerns make sense. It’s sounds completely logical that if one group of people keep killing everyone, stop inviting that group. It sounds logical, but it’s not.
That final realization I had, about how terrorists and strict adherents to the most violent form of Islam can hide amongst the peaceful, is key to understanding why this problem does not get solved by blocking Muslims from entering America. The most obvious reason being that they could lie. But it goes further than that.
As we’ve battled Islam for longer than the president would like to admit, our enemy has adapted. And each time our enemy has adapted, it’s been in response to the way we are fighting them. And unfortunately, the way we’ve been fighting them is reactionary. We’re fighting a war of impulse. It hasn’t been strategic, but more importantly, it hasn’t been honest.
If we decide to keep Muslims out through a religious test or whatever you want to call it, we run the risk of radicalizing peaceful Muslims today. We run the risk of creating deeper cover for those wishing to do us harm. We sacrifice only our own values and provide propaganda to an enemy that thrives on packaging messages and giving them to the most ideologically vulnerable people on Earth.
But worst of all, we will be distracting from the real war. The war which has raged and from which we have continually given American lives while simultaneously staying our own hand and preventing ourselves from using the full might of our sovereign power. The war which, in my estimation, we’ve not fought honestly because we won’t or can’t admit what must be done.
I’m not suggesting we open the borders and have a free for all. Far from it. The vetting and background checks on everyone attempting to enter our country should be overhauled. We should halt all immigration if the danger is grave enough, while we work out whatever problems exist.
But we need to stay realistic. Bad guys are coming through no matter what we do. People at home will become radicalized. More attacks will happen.
We may believe we live in an era of more civilized war, but we’ve been proven wrong countless time over the last decade and a half.
The way to win is to brutally and unapologetically annihilate your enemy. By maintaining our own values and sensibilities while at the same time driving enough fear into the heart of any civilian populations that may be foolish enough to help hide or support these murderers.
We need to make any terrorist shake in his boots at mention of us and make any civilian want to happily point the finger in the direction of our enemies because they are more afraid of betraying us than them.
We don’t accomplish this by hiding at home under our blanket saying “no bad guys allowed.”