New Ways of Responding to Extremist Islam

Jihad is spreading violence — and succeeding. “Of the last sixteen years,” notes Ayaan Hirsi Ali in her new book, The Challenge of Dawa, “the worst year for terrorism was 2014, with ninety-three countries experiencing attacks and 32,765 people killed.”

“The second worst was 2015, with 29,376 deaths. Last year, four radical Islamic groups were responsible for 74 percent of all deaths from terrorism: the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), Boko Haram, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda. Although the Muslim world itself bears the heaviest burden of jihadist violence, the West is increasingly under attack”.

Hirsi Ali’s research, supported by the Hoover Institution, is a summary of the war on terror since the extremist Muslim attacks on the United States in September 2001:

“Since 9/11, at least $1.7 trillion has been spent on combat and reconstruction costs in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The total budgetary cost of the wars and homeland security from 2001 through 2016 is more than $3.6 trillion. Yet in spite of the sacrifices of more than 5,000 armed service personnel who have lost their lives since 9/11, today political Islam is on the rise around the world”.

According to Hirsi Ali, the West is “obsessed” with terror and this makes it blind to the broader threat, dawa, outreach: the ideology behind the terror attacks.

How large is the worldwide jihadist movement? More than we thought.

“In Pakistan alone, where the population is almost entirely Muslim, 13 percent of Muslims surveyed—more than 20 million people—said that bombings and other forms of violence against civilian targets are often or sometimes justified in order to defend Islam from its enemies… According to one estimate, 10−15 percent of the world’s Muslims are Islamists. Out of well over 1.6 billion, or 23 percent of the globe’s population, that implies more than 160 million individuals”.

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The Challenge of Dawa: Political Islam as Ideology and Movement and How to Counter It

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Speaking in Youngstown, Ohio, on August 15, 2016, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gave a speech on what he unequivocally referred to as “radical Islam.” He declared:

Nor can we let the hateful ideology of radical Islam—its oppression of women, gays, children, and nonbelievers—be allowed to reside or spread within our own countries . . . [W]-e must use ideological warfare as well. Just as we won the Cold War, in part, by exposing the evils of communism and the virtues of free markets, so too must we take on the ideology of radical Islam. Our administration will be a friend to all moderate Muslim reformers in the Middle East, and will amplify their voices.1

Since Mr. Trump’s election victory and inauguration as president, much attention has been focused on hurried and probably temporary restrictions on refugees, visitors, and immigrants from a number of majority-Muslim countries. Almost no attention has been paid to the broader goals outlined in the Youngstown speech.

I argue that the speech heralded a paradigm shift away from President Obama’s doctrine of focusing solely on the violence committed by “extremists” to a more comprehensive approach that seeks to undermine, degrade, and ultimately defeat political Islam (or Islamism) as an ideology and a movement seeking to infiltrate and undermine our free society.

A narrow focus on Islamist violence had the effect of restricting our options only to tools such as military intervention, electronic surveillance, and the criminal justice system. This approach has proved both costly and ineffective.

Moving beyond the controversy over his executive order on immigration, President Trump now has the chance to broaden our strategy. Instead of “combating violent extremism,” his administration needs to redefine the threat posed by political Islam by recognizing it as an ideology that is fundamentally incompatible with our freedoms and a movement that is working insidiously but effectively to achieve its stated utopia.2

I argue that the American public urgently needs to be educated about both the ideology of political Islam and the organizational infrastructure called dawa that Islamists use to inspire, indoctrinate, recruit, finance, and mobilize those Muslims whom they win over to their cause.

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