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Monday, December 21, 2009

Inconvenient Truths about Terrorism in our Age

Before making Aliyah, and starting my current blog, Adam's Zionist Journey, I created a more explicitly political blog called: The Anti-Imperialism of Fools, with the intent of maintaining both blogs. Since Adam's Zionist Journey has become my main forum to write about both my Aliyah from a personal perspective, as well as my more political thoughts and arguments regarding Aliyah, Zionism, and Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, more broadly, I decided to copy (and at times update) some of the early posts from Anti-Imperialism of Fools which I felt were interesting and worth exploring. Here's the first of these: A post which elaborates on a letter of mine which was published in the Philadelphia Inquirer in response to an essay by Naif Al-Mutawa entitled The Many Faces of Extremism.

Naif Al-Mutawa's central point, in his essay (which, unfortunately, I couldn't find a link to), The Many Shapes of Extremism, published earlier in the year in the Philadelphia Inquirer, was this:

"My intent was to advance the notion that extremism is nothing more than a bunch of neurotransmitters working overtime - or perhaps under time. It is not Islam or Judaism or Hinduism that creates extremism; rather, some people are predisposed to extremism and will pursue it in any faith."

And my published reply:

Naif al-Mutawa's op-ed ("The many shapes of extremism," April 8) advances the erroneous notion that extremism is equally distributed among the three major faiths.While it is important to stress that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are not terrorists, the overwhelming majority of terrorist acts - according to data published online by the National Counter-Terrorism Center - committed by those inspired by religion are indeed (Sunni) Muslim.While I understand that many well-meaning Americans would cringe at the suggestion that terrorists are far more likely to be Muslim than Jew, or Christian, the problem with extremism in our time is the radical, violent manifestations of specific faith traditions. Empirical data should never take a back seat to feel-good assumptions and platitudes. At stake isn't merely the intrinsic value of truth and accuracy but, more specifically, the broader truism that we can't rally the civilized world to win a war - militarily or morally - against an enemy that we're not allowed to name.

Adam Levick
Al-Mutawa may be correct to some extent. I'm sure certain individuals are indeed naturally (even, perhaps, biologically) more predisposed to extremism than others, just like some people are more predisposed to abusing drugs or alcohol. But, as with alcohol abuse, we wouldn't deny an element of choice involved in the behavior would we? Further, if certain cultures have a higher degree of alcoholism than other cultures it would be reasonable to ask why...what are the cultural and ethical norms that may contribute to this disparity. Naif Al-Mutawa refuses to acknowledge or address the fact that (while, again, the overwhelming majority of Muslims are not extremists), violent extremist acts are, when movtivated by religion, dramatically more likely to be carried out by Muslims than by non-Muslims (Christians, Jews, Budhists, Hindus, etc.)

The point isn't to demonize Muslims but, rather, to make the point, as other writers have observed, that, as extremism in our day is to a large degree a radical Islamic phenomena, it is incumbant for the Muslim community to acknowledge this problem, examine it closely, figure out the religious/cultural factors influencing such aborant behavior, and stop insisting (contrary to all the evidence) that other religions are also plagued with the same degree of extremism, and for the moderate forces in their community to do ideological battle with the extremists in their midsts - to win hearts and minds for a future Islam not compromised such radicalism.

Here's the report by the National Counter Terrorism Center which I made reference to in my letter. Open link and go to page 22 to see relevant graph:

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