If Western interventions help foster violent Islamic reactions, we should reduce them. To the extent that Muslim immigrants in European countries feel marginalized, they and their hosts should worker harder on absorption. But both efforts will only take you so far.The airy-fairy conference is Our President's not-quite summit (as no visiting heads of state were present) on countering violent extremism, the one that Andrea Mitchell characterized as a dog-and-pony show. Don't you have to have experience on a real circus with trains and pachyderms before you can refer to a dog-and-pony show?
Something else is also at work, and it needs to be discussed. It is the struggle within Arab and Pakistani Sunni Islam over whether and how to embrace modernity, pluralism and women’s rights. That struggle drives, and is driven by, the dysfunctionality of so many Arab states and Pakistan. It has left these societies with too many young men who have never held a job or a girl’s hand, who then seek to overcome their humiliation at being left behind, and to find identity, by “purifying” their worlds of other Muslims who are not sufficiently pious and of Westerners whom they perceive to be putting Muslims down. But you don’t see this in the two giant Muslim communities in Indonesia or India.
Only Sunni Arabs and Pakistanis can get inside their narrative and remediate it. But reformers can only do that if they have a free, secure political space. If we’re not going to help create space for that internal dialogue, let’s just be quiet. Don’t say stupid stuff. And don’t hold airy fairy conferences that dodge the real issues, which many mainstream Muslims know and are actually starved to discuss, especially women.
What intrigues, though, is that Mr Friedman ends his column with recognition that at least part of the world is flat.
And a remarkable piece in The Washington Post Sunday by Asra Q. Nomani, an American Muslim born in India, called out the “honor corps” — a loose, well-funded coalition of governments and private individuals “that tries to silence debate on extremist ideology in order to protect the image of Islam.” It “throws the label of ‘Islamophobe’ on pundits, journalists and others who dare to talk about extremist ideology in the religion. ... The official and unofficial channels work in tandem, harassing, threatening and battling introspective Muslims and non-Muslims everywhere. ... The bullying often works to silence critics of Islamic extremism. ... They cause governments, writers and experts to walk on eggshells.”Yes. That's been the preferred tactic of the Perpetually Aggrieved in the academy, who would rather marginalize an opposing point of view as "...phobic" or "offensive" or do anything rather than engage the arguments. Here's Ms Nomani on the tactic.
This is largely because of the rising power and influence of the “ghairat brigade,” an honor corps that tries to silence debate on extremist ideology in order to protect the image of Islam. It meets even sound critiques with hideous, disproportionate responses."Disproportionate response" as in bringing dismissal-for-cause proceedings against an inconvenient academic weblogger? "Friedman, in other words, is not keen to blame all of Islam for terrorism, but neither is he unwilling to honestly voice the problem."
Nor, apparently, is Our President.
More broadly, groups like al Qaeda and ISIL exploit the anger that festers when people feel that injustice and corruption leave them with no chance of improving their lives. The world has to offer today's youth something better.Perhaps if we had evidence of successful introduction of prosperity into ganglands in Chicago or Detroit or St. Louis, the conference might achieve something.
Governments that deny human rights play into the hands of extremists who claim that violence is the only way to achieve change. Efforts to counter violent extremism will only succeed if citizens can address legitimate grievances through the democratic process and express themselves through strong civil societies. Those efforts must be matched by economic, educational and entrepreneurial development so people have hope for a life of dignity.Fifty years of Democratic governance in those cities, safe districts for members of Congress who pass the seat on to a relative ... perhaps we can hope for a change in the public policies that sustain those rotten boroughs.