Tuesday, November 17, 2015

How We Beat ISIS

As well-intentioned as we may be, it's not our place as non-Muslims to declare what is Islamic or un-Islamic. If you aren't a practicing or devout Muslim, or at least well-versed and well-studied on the Koran and associated written works, you cannot condemn Daesh or any militant jihadists as un-Islamic. In the same way that we couldn't take the doctrinal critique of Pope Francis's Encylical from someone who was not raised or educated in the Catholic faith. Now, we can present our viewpoints as outsiders and form opinions of our own, but critiquing finer points of the nature of Daesh's Islamic doctrine is not our place.

I think as members of the Western world, our place is to demonstrate and live up to the ideals we espouse: that secular democracy is a system that works, that cooperation across race, religion, social and economic status is the better alternative to radical violence and militancy. Unlike France, Germany, or other countries within the Western sphere, we lack the centuries-long history and common culture as a foundation for our country's identity. What we have instead is a set of ideals, established by folks who believed we could build something great here. Those ideals have proved their resilience, they have stood the test of time, and I firmly believe that if we continue to strive to live up and prove that, yes, THIS democratic, pluralistic, secular, cooperative culture exists, it will continue to exist.

Islam does not need us to step in and tell them what is or is not Islamic. Already, there is an educated and intelligent discourse among the learned community of Islamic scholars to show that Daesh's claim to its so-called "caliphate" is illegitimate. Al-Baghdadi and his clerics are not dumb people, indeed they are very smart and very educated. They use literal interpretations of Koranic scripture to justify the heinous acts and crimes against our shared humanity, but everything they do is as it is prescribed by the Prophet. ISIS is not made up of hypocrites. And that "integrity," if we can go so far as call it that, is what gives them the authority and what draws the disenfranchised into taking up arms and committing these crimes. We cannot deny the powerful attraction that strong faith has for those who feel that they have nothing to lose.

But we can't beat them by retaliating against the Muslim communities within our own borders, by striking against our own neighbors, and by denying those who would seek the safety and sanctuary of our respective countries. If we do these things, we only play directly into Daesh's hands. We show them that their acts of terror work, that we live in fear, and that, most of all, they can control us.

Our response must be two-pronged.

We have to show them that, no, they do not control us. That despite their horrific actions and utmost desire to destroy us and the ideals we stand for, we will not bow, we will not bend, we will not break. Western culture is resilient; we have the past years of relative prosperity and peace as living proof of that! Yes, it has its flaws and problems do exist, but we have never stopped trying to make it work by working together.

Secondly, we must learn to work alongside and, when necessary, learn to step aside when it comes to the discourse on Islamic faith. Unless you are Muslim or a scholar of the Prophet's faith, you lack the authority to present an argument or critique, as well-formed or well-intentioned as it may be. This is the work that our friends and neighbors and fellow citizens are already doing. Every day that a Muslim lives peacefully with his non-Muslim neighbor is a victory. Every day it proves that Daesh's doctrine is false. That, yes, Muslims and non-Muslims can live together in peace and harmony. I have complete and utter faith that the Islamic community will solve their problems, and our place as non-Muslims is to prove to them that their faith in us is not misplaced.

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