Islamic nations key to fighting terror

By Benjamin Clabault

A silent march in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, Jan. 11, 2015, to honor those who died during three days of attacks in Paris. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)
A silent march in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, Jan. 11, 2015, to honor those who died during three days of attacks in Paris. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

The Western and Islamic worlds have reached a pivotal point in their relationship in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in France. In one potential scenario, violent extremists will gain greater eminence in the Islamic world, radicalizing more young people and fomenting continued bloodshed. Or extremists will become entirely marginalized within the larger Muslim community, stopping the flow of terrorist recruits and allowing remaining militants to be defeated.

It seems obvious that we should prefer the second choice. Unfortunately, however, a significant segment of Western society has decided that “enough is enough” and that the “Muslim problem” must finally be addressed.

Nowhere is this attitude more prevalent than on Fox News. And while it may be easy to dismiss the bastion of conservative “toughness” as a hotbed of right-wing rhetoric, the network’s ratings (over a million average primetime viewers, significantly more than CNN) speak to its relevance. People watch Fox programs for a reason: they value the hosts’ opinions, which makes their recent tone concerning.

Successive hosts and their guests emphasized the need to “call the problem what it is.” They derided President Obama and French President Francois Hollande for insisting that the terrorists are not representative of Islam. They repeatedly cited the increasing Muslim population in France as a cause for morbid concern. These conservatives believe they have found their enemy, and that enemy is Islam.

Such an attitude is nearly unfathomable in its stupidity. The Western world already has a formidable enemy: violent Islamic extremism. Why would we enlarge our task and cast as enemies our most important allies in the fight? It is the average Muslims, lovers of peace and life, who can stamp out the hateful ideology that gives rise to violent attacks. American bombs can kill individual terrorists. Muslims can foster an environment within their communities that brings about peaceful resolutions to their problems and deconstructs baseless hate, thus fighting extremism at its source.

And the global Muslim population is prepared for the fight. In recent speech to leading Imams, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi called for a “religious revolution” to combat extremism, attacking the violent religious philosophy “that is antagonizing the entire world.” Following the recent Paris killings, French Muslims have vehemently condemned the terrorists’ actions. Islamic groups have asked leading imams to speak out against extremist violence, and neighbors of Said Kouachi, one of the recent attackers, have expressed “aching hearts” and a sense of “feeling dishonored because of what they did.”

These words, along with the sacrifice of countless Muslims who have died fighting Islamic extremism in Africa and the Middle East, should demonstrate that Islam is not the enemy, but the key to an eventual victory in the so-called War on Terror.

Benjamin Clabault is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]