What the United States is suffering from is not "Islamophobia." It is a misguided understanding of what the real threat is to our modern world, and how to deal with it.
What I mean by this is that the U.S. does not recognize the real threat to our secular, democratic way of life. The inability to recognize that threat is true on our liberal left as well as on the conservative right.
And, that threat is not Islam; it is political Islam.
Pro-Egyptian military supporters gather in front of the White House August 22, 2013 in Washington, DC. The supporters denounced the Muslim Brotherhood while giving support to General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. Credit: Getty Images
Within the context of our democratic principles, the real threat to our modern world is our tendency to accommodate political Islam, and to promote it. This holds true regardless of whether or not we label it moderate or extreme, within the U.S., or anywhere in the world that it may appear.
It may appear that the conservative right tends to appear more abrasive in their approach. However, the liberal left's accommodation of political Islam is a clear and present threat to our national security. We are repeating the same mistakes, and ignoring the lessons we have learned.
At its heart, Islam is a religion of faith like any other. It is in harmony with the modern world as is Christianity and Judaism. At its core, it is the singular Abrahamic religion that embraces the holiness and sanctity of both Judaism and Christianity. Fundamental and radical interpretation, notwithstanding.
Growing up in Bucks County Pennsylvania as a young Muslim, I did not face prejudice. To the contrary, there was a curiosity and true willingness by the community to embrace my family. I felt a sense of inclusiveness. In fact, it was a Methodist Church that sponsored my Muslim family to immigrate to the United States. And I loved growing up in small town U.S. -- and I feel privileged to have had this great opportunity.
For me, there is no inconsistency between being Muslim and American. Nor do I believe there to be built-in prejudices towards Muslims in the U.S. any more so than a healthy friction between any ethnic and racial lines. As a nation, we have been dealing with these types of issues for some 200 years. We have made progress and suffered setbacks, but we are still a young nation.
During the late 1970s and most of the 1980s, I served with distinction as a United States Air Force officer and as a diplomat. I had access to some of the highest levels of U.S. intelligence and information. Never did I feel any sense of prejudice or limitations. To the contrary, I was part of a team whose mission was to serve our national interest.
So where did it all go wrong?
An Egyptian woman holds a black flag with Islamic inscription in Arabic that reads, "No God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet," in front of the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
It was long before Sept. 11, 2001 that the lines between Islam as a religion and Islam as a political movement became blurred. And although a mistake of epic proportion, it wasn't the United States invasion of Iraq. Nor was it the American people's attitudes or prejudices towards Muslims. Neither was it Israel, for that matter, or any global Zionist agenda that blurred these lines.
It leaves me saddened to say that it was the Islamic world ourselves who blurred these lines. Yes, it was us.
We allowed the infestation of radical political Islam into our Muslim world. Whether it be Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and so on. Amidst the joining of forces between xenophobic fundamental Islam and the political movement of the Muslim Brotherhood, a new dimension and phenomena of radical political Islam has taken shape.
By the mid-1970s and 1980s, rallying cries such as "Islam is the solution," and, "Islam is all-encompassing," crept into Muslim psyches. These war cries were indoctrinated into the minds of a young generation, along with bribes of social welfare otherwise unavailable from central governments. This conditioning provided the illusion that by adopting fundamental Islam as a doctrine of governance, social and economic problems would be solved.
Under pressure by the United States' pursuit of democratization, countries such as Egypt and Jordan opened a doorway for fundamental Islam into the political sphere. We gave this phenomena space to breed. That space did nothing to moderate Islamists, but actually nourished extremist tendencies.
Political Islam had its feet on the ground with a powerful grassroots support nurtured by a combination of ignorance and illiteracy, thuggery, and social bribery by the time the so-called "Arab Spring" rolled around. And, interstingly enough, the Arab Spring is a term coined by the misguided and self-righteous western liberal media. Spring in the Middle East is nothing but one continuous turbulent dust storm as opposed to the rain-washed clean air that ushers in new life.
We can categorize the 2003 Iraq invasion as a mistake of epic proportions, that much is true. However, the Obama administration, along with Hillary Clinton during her tenure in the State Department, made a concerted and egregious error in enabling political Islam in the form of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Simply, it makes the Iraq invasion look like a drop-ball error in a minor league baseball game.
So, after eight years of a reactionary neo-conservative iron fist approach, followed by another eight years of an accommodating liberal approach, I believe we stand at a crossroads.
The choices in front of us are not that complicated. Political Islam in any shape or form is inconsistent with our modern, secular, democratic way of life. Accommodation and inclusion as a means to moderation does not work.
We in the United States should not promote, assist or enable political Islam in any shape or form. We must oppose it, wherever it may appear. Whether it appears as the Muslim Brotherhood, or Hamas in the Gaza strip. Whether it appears as the illegitimate Islamic State, or the sovereign Islamic State of Iran -- and all shades in-between.
It is imperative that we must not (and I repeat, must not) define only some political Islamic movements as moderate while distinguishing between extremes. I was aghast when the former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford criticized the Russians for bombing what he called a "moderate opposition group," referring to Jaish al-Tawhid. This is insanity. Jaish al-Tawhid is an armed Islamist movement allied with the likes of extremists such as the al-Nusra Front, the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front, Jaish al-Islam, and the Army of Mujahideen. How moderate do these groups sound to you?
There is no more simpler way to put this. Political Islam is inconsistent with our modern and progressive way of life. It needs to be opposed. We need to stop splitting hairs under the guise of our democratic values and liberally accommodating ways. Let us be clear and straightforward, so that the disillusioned world understands where we do in-fact stand. We must employ our pillars of secularism and the separation between church and state.
The Muslims are coming. But, we are and have been here in the United States for many generations. But to the newcomers, I say "Welcome." Just as the Harriman Methodist Church in Bristol welcomed my family in the 1970s. But we must be vocal and resist political Islam. Let us be the guiding light for our American government to do the same -- as opposed to feeble attempts at political correctness. We cannot and we should not be intimidated by the thuggery of fundamentalists -- the likes of which we recently witnessed on the streets of New York City, attempting to terrorize and silence a visiting press delegation during the U.N. General Assembly.
We MUST keep Islam in our hearts where it belongs, and out of politics. By all means, for politics, we have the U.S. Constitution.
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