The Root Cause of Islamist Violence?
My friend Kevin Kim has linked to a very interesting article, "An Atheist Muslim's Perspective on the 'Root Causes' of Islamist Jihadism and the Politics of Islamophobia" (Huffington Post, May 3, 2013), by Ali A. Rizvi, who argues that Islamist jihad against the USA began somewhat earlier than 9/11:
The ambassador [from Tripoli, in current-day Libya,] answered us that [their right] was founded on the Laws of the Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have answered their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Mussulman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.As Rizvi points out these were "the words of Thomas Jefferson, then the U.S. ambassador to France, reporting to Secretary of State John Jay a conversation he'd had with Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja, Tripoli's envoy to London, in 1786," eventually leading up to the Treaty of Tripoli on June 10, 1797. Rizvi further observes:
That is before al Qaeda and the Taliban, before the creation of Israel or the Arab-Israeli conflict, before Khomeini, before Saudi Arabia, before drones, before most Americans even knew what jihad or Islam was, and, most importantly, well before the United States had engaged in a single military incursion overseas or even had an established foreign policy.What, then, was the conflict? This:
At the time, thousands of American and European trade ships entering the Mediterranean had been targeted by pirates from the Muslim Barbary states (modern-day North Africa). More than a million Westerners had been kidnapped, imprisoned and enslaved. Tripoli was the nexus for these operations. Jefferson's attempts to negotiate resulted in deadlock, and he was told simply that the kidnapping and enslavement of the infidels would continue, tersely articulated by Adja in the exchange paraphrased above.And the cause? Taking a roundabout route, Rizvi notes:
In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings and the foiled al Qaeda-backed plot in Toronto, the "anything but jihad" brigade is out in full force again. If the perpetrators of such attacks say they were influenced by politics, nationalism, money, video games or hip-hop, we take their answers at face value. But when they repeatedly and consistently cite their religious beliefs as their central motivation, we back off, stroke our chins and suspect that there has to be something deeper at play, a "root cause."Rizvi then goes on to argue that the root cause is of course Islamic ideology, for Islamism "isn't a distortion of that ideology. It is an informed, steadfast adherence to its fundamentals." He reminds us tha those Islamists who are the "jihadi terrorists link themselves with Islam," so more peaceful Muslims "the world over . . . [need] to start dealing honestly with the parts of their religion that undeniably promote armed jihad." Read his entire article for the full statement of his argument.
Is he right? Is the problem Islam itself?