We recently posted a commentary from Jack David, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, arguing that it was “Time to Take the Fight to the Islamists”. David argued that simply decrying atrocities committed by ISIS and other groups wasn’t enough—he called for “action to eradicate Islamic terrorism.”
David argues that the Jihadists do not disguise the fact that they are Islamist—in fact, they stress that their religion demands they commit these heinous acts. And David finds the silence of the vast majority of Muslims by not speaking out against the radicals troubling. David advocates that the U.S. not assist any country that supports terrorism, and that would include Saudi Arabia, a major backer of “extremist curricula in schools” around the world.
Most importantly, David demanded that the U.S. abandon its constant reluctance from placing “boots on the ground.” In fact, our policy must be to use all means to hunt down and eliminate terrorists—“whatever the cost”. We are in a war of survival, he concludes!
I have asked “Al Kindi Azad” (a pseudonym), who might be considered part of the “vast majority of Muslims who are not speaking out against radicalism”, for his perspective. As you can see from his response below, Al Kindi has substantial agreement with Jack David.
A MODERATE MUSLIM SPEAKS OUT ON RADICAL ISLAM
As an American, but more importantly as part of the Muslim “silent majority”, I have chosen to speak out, as Mr. David asks. And, perhaps surprisingly, I agree that it is time to “take off the gloves” to defeat radical terrorists and extremists, and their ideology.
The United States has been at war for fourteen years and the problem of extremism has risen, rather than dissipated. First and foremost, we must have clear objectives and realistic expectations. We need to be realistic–the founder of the democratic and secular Turkish Republic, Kemal Ataturk, will not fall from the sky, and the separation of “mosque and state” will not happen overnight–it will be a gradual progression which will take at least a generation. Second, in a war for “hearts and minds”, the United States must carefully craft our narrative. Specifically, we cannot condemn, with a broad brush, 1.6 billion Muslims for the fault of expanding extremism that is largely funded with petro dollars of Saudi Wahhabis. The 9-11 Commission stated the current threat that the United States faces, “Islamist terrorism” inspired by “a long tradition of extreme intolerance within one stream of Islam (a minority tradition) from… Ibn Taimiyyah, through the founders of Wahhabism, through the Muslim Brotherhood, to Sayyid Qutb.”
For the United States to see substantial progress in the modernization and development of Muslim societies we must successfully counter the Wahhabi interpretation of Islamic text. A vast majority of Muslims, especially in the United States and Europe, do not believe in the Islamic doctrinal interpretation of the Wahhabis, ISIS or the Ayatollahs in Iran. However, the reality is, extremist groups have a great deal of wealth and influence with population areas where the literacy rate is low, corruption is high and government services are non-existent. As former CIA Director James Woolsey cleverly and accurately explained:
“If I had to draw an analogy – a rough one, but I think an instructive one – I would say it is as if Ferdinand and Isabella’s Spain, with her confessor Torquemada at the head of the Spanish Inquisition of the late 16th century, were moved up into the early 21st century and then 25 percent of the world’s oil was discovered underneath Spain. Torquemada would be a very busy gentleman indeed establishing inquisitions in lots of parts of Europe and the rest of the world, just as the Wahhabis are very busy establishing their sect’s doctrines as much as possible in the suburbs of France, in Islamist movements in Malaysia, in wherever”.
Before Saudi petrodollars, this narrow interpretation of Islam had little appeal to most Muslims. It was truly marginal. Saudi oil wealth and the quest for pan-Islamic hegemony, however, brought it from the margin to the center. Beginning in the 1970s, Wahhabism spread across the globe thanks to funds, institutions and new media sponsored by Saudi Arabia.
Complicating matters was the existence of not one Wahhabism, but several trends within it, all of them with extreme conservative outlooks, especially in regard to gender issues, other Muslim sects and relations with non-Muslims.
A microcosm of the Saudi Wahhabi influence is Pakistan. Before the 1970’s Pakistan was a largely stable society with a productive economy and a historically vibrant Sufi Muslim culture—at least until the “Saudization” of Pakistan( I recall a 2012 NPR article titled “Picturing Pakistan’s Past: The Beatles, Booze and Bikinis.”)
Moreover, in terms of GDP, Pakistan’s economy was on par with South Korea until the 1970’s. However, the Saudis developed a large footprint in Pakistan with a strategy of pre-conditioning economic cooperation with the ability to influence Pakistan’s public education curriculum, promoting Wahhabi madrassas and developing Wahhabi imams within Pakistan. Needless to say Pakistan has suffered from the “Saudization” of the country ever since.
A Call for Muslims to be more proactive in combating terrorism and for Western governments to “take off the gloves”
Edward Murrow once said, “truth is the best propaganda.” As of today both the Saudi Wahhabis and the Iranian Ayatollahs have made claims to both Sunni and Shiite populations that only they have a monopoly on the truth and have the power to interpret Islamic text. Muslims must be proactive in both written and electronic media to counter this narrative and just as importantly denounce extreme literal interpretations that justify violence and the harsh treatment of women and minorities.
However, proclaiming these hideous acts of terrorism as Islamic is a self-defeating tactic that undermines the goals and objectives of the US Government; a more accurate and effective way to define the acts of terrorism is to identify the actors and their supporters as Wahhabi terrorists or the followers of the Iranian Ayatollahs.
Moreover, the United States and Europe must stop allowing foreign educated imams into Western countries and in turn legitimize the same extremists by putting them on mainstream television. For example, Anjam Choudhry, an extremist Imam in the United Kingdom, is a regular guest on American and Western media outlets. Choudhry’s appearances on mainstream television legitimized and credentialed him to millions of viewers and reinforced an odd sense of credibility to his youthful followers. In contrast, we should isolate the extremists and give them no media exposure to spew hate and illogical views.
Second, US Government National Security Policy should be zero tolerance for any country that supports terrorism and/or the treatment of women as second class citizens, this includes Saudi Arabia, the epicenter of this barbaric ideology, anything less is self-defeating for the United State’s end goal of developing modern and secular democratic governments in the Muslim world. For example our military strategy in Iraq relied a great deal on support from anti-democratic countries in the Middle East who have no desire for a secular and democratic Middle East. Relying on these regimes with the opposite goal of secularization and democratization has limited our on the ground human intelligence capability, as was evident during the recent and unfortunate incident regarding US hostage Warren Weinstein in Pakistan. The US Government should dramatically increase our on the ground human intelligence capability. It is absolutely critical to save American lives that we have the ability to gather accurate and timely on the ground intelligence in countries of interest.
Next, “boots on the ground” should be used for training security forces, intelligence gathering and institutional development. As we learned in Afghanistan corruption and terrorism coexist in a mutually reinforcing relationship. As General Stan McChrystal pointed out, “There are no clear lines separating insurgent groups, criminal networks (including narcotics networks) and corrupt [government] officials. Malign actors within the [government] support insurgent groups directly, support criminal groups that are linked to insurgents and support corruption that helps feed the insurgency.”
Effective targeted sanctions with modernized export regulations for new technologies and prosecuting corporate corruption of foreign governments needs to continue to be a top priority of the Justice Department. However, it is paramount our allies in Europe follow our leadership regarding this critical issue. As former Attorney General John Ashcroft explained, after 9/11 U.S. authorities learned that the financing of terrorism was often linked to, and even facilitated by, the corruption of foreign officials. Anti-Corruption efforts should expand to include tax treaties with Muslim countries to clamp down on offshore accounts and rampant tax evasion which deprive ordinary citizens of basic government services, such as education and leave populations exposed to extremist Wahhabi indoctrination. Prosecutions of corporations who bribe government officials in Muslim countries should be highly publicized in foreign media and should be used as a pro US Government propaganda tool. For example, in Pakistan, the US Government prosecuted Smith and Weston for bribing the Pakistani Police to buy Smith and Weston guns and equipment. Publicizing this specific event in Pakistani media would have caused high praise for the US Government and help engender trust with the general population. There is no doubt that in an all-encompassing anti-terrorism policy, limiting corruption, money laundering and predatory governance is critical.
Just as the end goal of a modern, democratic and secular Muslim world will not happen overnight, a sophisticated all-encompassing policy needs to be well thought out. Desperate, knee jerk proposals of arming groups (who have not been properly vetted) who ally with extremist partners should never be implemented or be given serious consideration. This generational war will be won with ideas, building trust with locals, human intelligence and understanding as the 9/11 commission did, that this war is against the Wahhabi-Salafist Terrorists.
One of our greatest Presidents General Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “This world of ours… must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.”
To accomplish this goal, we must truly “take off the gloves” and once and for all eliminate Wahhabi-Salafist terrorism and its barbaric ideology of violating the basic human rights of individuals around the world.
- “Al Kindl Azad” was born in the United States of Muslim heritage. He enlisted and served in the U.S. Army after 9-11 and subsequently obtained both an undergraduate and law degrees. He is currently employed by an international corporation and is a participant in our National Security Forum.