This is the last piece in a four-part series on violent Islamism, its global reach, and what can be done to counter it. Please click here, here and here for the rest of the series at TheBlaze.
The Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris seems to have finally galvanized the French as to the threat of violent Islamism, one that they and other Europeans have been reluctant to face with determination for the past decade. The world has been inspired by the French people exposing themselves to further attacks by marching in the streets. World leaders, with the notorious exception of President Barack Obama, marched in solidarity with the French citizenry. The Paris attacks remind us of the international reach of Islamist terrorism and suggest some of the things that must be done to counter global Islamism.
Let’s be clear about what happened in Paris. Trained gunmen armed with advanced weaponry executed a rapid assault in an urban center and then drove away. Their target was journalists. The location was a building full of civilians. This was not an attack on a military or police site nor an attack on a government building. The murderers did not choose to blow up Charlie Hebdo’s offices in the middle of the night to spare human life. Indeed, their targets were people, not the property of the newspaper. The murderers were acting as self-appointed executioners.
Typically, like almost all violent Islamists, the cowards had their faces covered.
There are several important observations to be drawn from the Paris attacks. One is that we cannot delude ourselves with the notion that there will always be a “lone wolf” or two out there and so Western societies cannot protect themselves. This is a false assertion in many ways.
Jihadists like the brothers are not lone wolves. They were trained Al Qaeda operatives. They are part of a movement that claims adherents in Western Africa, across the Mahgreb, and in Afghanistan, Syria, and Pakistan. Al Qaeda’s off-shoot, Islamic State, now claims the allegiance of Nigeria’s Boko Haram and other groups as far east as the Philippines. These are not “lone wolfs,” they are the storm troopers of a larger armed network.
From left, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, EU president Donald Tusk, Queen Rania of Jordan march in Paris, France, Sunday, Jan. 11, 2015. Thousands of people began filling France’s iconic Republique plaza, and world leaders converged on Paris in a rally of defiance and sorrow on Sunday to honor the 17 victims of three days of bloodshed that left France on alert for more violence. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Another way that the “lone wolf” image is faulty has to do with Western societies protecting their citizens. The French security agencies knew that the Kouachi brothers were violent extremists. The French knew they had traveled for training abroad. The French knew that violent Islamists were living openly and preaching hatred in Islamist enclaves within France. The French have experienced terrorism before and they’ve seen the violence in the Francophone world, from Lebanon to North and West Africa. The French government should have known and done better.
Are security officials tangled in bureaucratic red tape protecting the “rights” of violent Islamists within their own societies? Separately, has political correctness made it impossible to take on the messages and activities of violent Islamists?
When it comes to the “rights” of violent Islamists, there is simply no right to advocate violence. Western security officials should work diligently to deport or imprison non-citizen Islamists who in any way advocate violence. Non-citizens are guests; they have no right to disrupt the society wherein they are guests. By “advocate violence” I mean openly call for violence, prepare an attack, provide financial support to violent Islamists (such as money to Hamas), or support violence against individuals, groups, or governments (e.g. Israel). Non-citizen violent Islamists should be thrown out or prosecuted and imprisoned; in some cases they will have to be terminated if they have turned to active violence. Legislatures should take every step necessary to make this easy for security agencies with a goal of protecting the public.
What about violent Islamists who are citizens? The Charlie Hebdo killers were born in France, just as Maj. Hassan Nidal was a serving U.S. Army officer. Citizenship should not cloak criminals and terrorists: public security comes first. The responsibility of the citizen is to support, rather than erode, public order. In other words, the basic social contract between citizens and the state has to do with a recognition of the political rights of citizens as the state provides a framework for law, order, and security. Citizens who violate this contract by advocating and/or supporting violence are like those who yell “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater when there is no real threat. They are disrupting the public order and they will likely cause harm as people are hurt in the melee. So too, advocating and supporting violence, violates the basic social contract. Prosecute them, imprison them, or deport them: they are traitors. If they have turned to violence, stop them!
Finally, is it true that political correctness has made it impossible to take on the Islamists? Sadly, this does seem to be the case in Western societies. Much of the recent reporting from France, as well as other European countries, suggests that government officials are so wary of offending Muslims that they refuse to stand up for Western values. The root of this problem lies in the multi-cultural, postmodern bias of Western Europe which finds it difficult to stand up for classical Judeo-Christian values. The postmodern viewpoint is that every culture or subculture is equally valid within its own context, and how dare we Westerners lecture ethnic Pashtuns or Arabs on right and wrong? This approach has led to Islamist ghettos in Manchester, Birmingham, London, Paris, and elsewhere that are effectively run by conservative forms of shariah. These are havens for violence against women and minorities, and they are the breeding grounds for terrorism.
One way to counter Islamist violence is to expose it and its ideology while trumpeting and protecting Western values. We value free expression in print and speech, the right of individuals and communities (including Muslims) to worship (without violence), the sanctity of private property and the rule of law, the ability of people to assemble without coercion or threat, legal mechanisms for law and justice, and a society rooted in respect for the rights of others and their security. These values are rooted in the Judeo-Christian ethic of neighbor-love, for which there is no equivalent among violent Islamists.
The other way to counter Islamist violence is to take the fight to them at home using every legal and security tool at our disposal, and to ally with like-minded governments to deter, dismantle, and destroy violent Islamist networks abroad. In 2001 George W. Bush rightly called this a war, and although it has taken more than a decade, even France’s Socialist Prime Minister agrees that ”It is a war against terrorism and radical Islam.” The question is whether Western governments will have the moral courage to do more than give speeches and participate in marches: it is time protect ourselves at home, amplify anti-Islamist voices in the Muslim world, and destroy foreign fighters and training camps that threaten our long term security.
Eric Patterson, Ph.D. is Dean of the Robertson School of Government at Regent University. He is the author or editor of 12 books, including the co-edited volume "Debating the War of Ideas."
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