The Western countries need special discourse to confront Islamic world. In general, any kind of geopolitical, ideological or strategic confrontation needs to be based on a discourse. Following the Cold War, equating Islam with terrorism has marred reputation of Muslims in the United States and Europe. Realities on the ground prove that confrontation is the main purpose of that approach. This has been just a first step in political and strategic behaviour of the West.
Theorists have emphasized that to oppose political units war of credits should precede war of armies. This is the same as psychological warfare which represents organized efforts to mar credibility of the main players of the Islamic world. Existing evidence shows that terrorism is a symbol of political and security discourse.
American neocons have, in parallel with European counterparts, turned terrorism into a new discourse which can be considered equal to Islamist groups. This approach has taken shape following the fall of the Soviet Union and has been then taken to European countries. Rightist groups in the West take a relatively uniform approach to Islamist groups and their main goal is to discredit Islam at international level. Theosophical debates aim to translate political and media concepts into social actions and hostile strategic conduct. Therefore, equating Muslims to terrorism can be an organized effort to minimize social protests against Western politicians.
1. Depicting the Muslim world as the main enemy of the West
The first step in confrontation with the Muslim world is to make it appear the main enemy. Various aspects of this process are evidence in Western media and the press. If Western citizens and elites are aware of a new enemy, they are sure to consider it as a security threat and blame all negative events on it. A poll conducted after explosions in Oklahoma City showed that negative attitude toward Muslims was rapidly soaring in the United States. This was a result of the strategy adopted by the Western media, press and strategists to making new enemies. At a time of widespread political, social and economic crises, this will be a good step to simplify problems.
Western media name Islamic groups and countries as the main source of animosity. Muslims are thus unacceptable persons and sources of security threats. Repetition of this model and inactivity of the Muslim world in the face of an organized warfare launched by the Western media has further exacerbated the situation. Obama’s executive order in January 2010 was an example of making the Muslim world look like an enemy.
2. Conflicting approaches to terrorism
Several efforts have been made to get countries agreement on a clear definition of terrorism and its symbols. Different approaches to terrorism, however, have prevented this. A report in 1989 indicated that problems with defining terrorism were in place after relative détente between east and West. Similar efforts were made following 9/11 with no avail. Conflicting approaches to terrorism include the following:
A. Legendary approach to terrorism
This kind of approach has been taken by countries which were historically influential, but which have lost that influence. Depending on legends may cause panic among officials who fight terrorism, but cannot draw support from people in whose name legendary acts of terrorism are committed. Legendary terrorism which revolves around a golden time in the past or a future utopia can overthrow the existing order with violence. However, unlike Communion or rules of diplomacy it cannot introduce replacement rituals after violent takeover.
Western countries are trying to make the world believe that Islamism is a nostalgic reaction to the Western world which has been continuously strengthening its foothold since the 16th century. The most important forces of legendary terrorism include eschatology and millenarianism. In other words, they think about emancipation, social change and violence as means of starting a new age.
Some Western strategic analysts put much emphasis on communication aspects of globalization in explaining terrorism and linking it to the Muslim world. They have reached the conclusion that contemporary terrorism is not only the result, but part of the globalization movement. Unlike some theories of international relations, such violent reactions are an answer to interventionist role of mainly Western cultural currents.
B. Crisis of meaning and terrorism
Postmodern approaches maintain that social and cultural components are the sole sources of meaning in the Third World and cause radicalization of spiritual groups. The former US Secretary of State William Rogers, however, announced in his address to the United Nations in 1972 that terrorist acts were totally unacceptable attacks on the international system which should be condemned throughout the world.
The crisis of meaning is a result of most-modernism and post-structuralism which has its roots in cultural and identity models. To draw a clear line between terrorism and anti-terrorism is a special task for modern states. Schultz, a former American secretary of state, announced in 1985 that when “they” reached an agreement on “their” definition of terrorism, the distinction between terrorism and anti-terrorism would be evident. He said the United States understood the difference between terrorism and freedom fighting and have no difficulty in differentiating them.
3. The Muslim world and terrorism in the US approach
The United States has put restricting the political Islam on top of the political agenda of its intelligence agencies. Neoconservatives have played a prominent role in political developments of the United States. Although such plans as the Greater Middle East, promotion of democracy and military action against Afghanistan and Iraq were temporarily supported by other countries, unilateral approach taken by the American statesmen and disregard for international regulations both in political and military terms, increased the need for redefinition of the US national strategy.
The approach taken by radical groups under the Republican presidents (2001-09) proves that confrontation with Islam as source of terrorism has increased and that trend has also continued under President Obama. Although the United States and big powers form a single front against Islam, this does not mean that cooperation with other powers is default option of US efforts. The current situation proves that the United States is no longer able to achieve its political and economic goals without assistance from other big powers.
The United States’ inefficiency in fighting terrorist groups has encouraged them to cooperate with such terrorist tendencies as Al-Qaeda and Taliban. They are now trying to sow discord in the Muslim world. To understand the viewpoints of rightist Christians toward the Islamist ideology, one should divide their reactions to before and after 9/11. In fact, September 11, 2001, marked a watershed in their approach to Islam.
Rightwing Christians have been among the most important opponents of social rights for the African Americans in 1960s. They even assassinated Martin Luther King in the name of religion and Christianity. Following 9/11, the tone of their books and articles changed and emphasis was put on two points. Firstly, Islam is violent in nature and this has been proven on September 11. Secondly, and more importantly, the God introduced by Islam is different from the God of Christians and Jews. They try to pitch Islam against other religions, including Christianity and Judaism. They have leveled charges against Muslim figures, especially Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). They published a book entitled “Unveiling Islam” in 2002, which sold more than one hundred thousand copies. Its authors claim that Islam has no relation to other religions and Muslim leaders consider followers of Moses and Jesus Christ as sons of Satan, not followers of a different faith. This is symbol of Islamism and attribution of all kind of violence to Muslims. They maintain that violent jihad and armed conflict is “indispensable part” of Islam claiming that terrorists causing 9/11 were not just a radical group to have used Quran for their political ends. They had deep understanding of Quran and following its teachings on jihad.
Such an approach shows that the West considers Islamism and political Islam as embodiment of terrorism while, on the other hand, providing grounds for confrontation with Islamic institutions.
4. The model of interaction with Muslim world against terrorism
At a time that Islamic world is plagued with terrorism, the question is whether multilateral cooperation against terrorism is necessary or even possible? What role each political and international group will have to play to create regional and international balance? To answer these questions, we need to analyze the West’s understanding of Islamism. Evidence shows that Islamism has been portrayed upside-down in the Western world and many rightist American groups are trying to provide a single definition of Islamism. This will amount to an effort for polarization of international politics along the lines of “terrorism” and “democracy.” Under such conditions, Western countries only highlight military and political measures taken by combatant groups and present them as Islam.
Graham Fuller, a political scientist in Rand Institute and former deputy director of the National Intelligence Council has written an article entitled “A World without Islam,” in which he asks “How would a world without Islam look like?” Then he answers that the world would have reached the same spot that it has reached now. His reaction to measures of conservative groups indicates that the West is up to an unfair image of Islam and is trying to introduce terrorism as the symbol of Islamism while introducing Islam as a main support for terrorism.
Fuller is, in fact, addressing a group which considers Islam as the root cause of all problems. He then depicts a situation in which Islam is absent. Under those presumptive conditions, the same events would have happened and even 9/11 attacks would be inevitable. Fuller maintains that even if Islamist groups did not exist, other political and ideological groups would have committed similar acts of terrorism.
Fuller condemns the views of some neoconservative experts that introduce Islam as the root cause of all conflicts. They try to introduce a new phenomenon they call “Islamic fascism” as sworn enemy of the West which is providing grounds for a third world war. Therefore, all kinds of confrontation between the United States and Islamist groups will take place within framework of political and cultural concepts and literature. This will amount to an ideological conflict. In other words, although Islam can be easily blamed as the culprit, past and present conflicts do not make way for blaming any religious faith. Some analysts have slammed Fuller’s article and have likened it to a fiction story.
Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, also maintains that the main problem facing the modern world is not revival of Islamic, but an upsurge in terrorist activities. Haass means that Islamism in our time can reproduce various aspects of the culture of peace, cooperation and partnership. Meanwhile, terrorism has quite different roots from Islamism and the West should review its behavioral model. Thus, though political circles in the United States avoid any differentiation between Islam and terrorism by using such designations as “Islamic terrorism,” others are trying to encourage correct understanding of Islam and minimize current tensions which arise from pure misunderstandings.
Islamism is resurgence of new normative approaches by certain groups that are trying to rebuild their forgotten identities and conceptual frameworks. It aims to promote cooperation in various areas of the Islamic society to help it regain its true identity and give birth to the Islamic ummah. The approach taken to Islamists by conservative political groups in the West is quite to the opposite of the former approach. As a result, there is conflict between conceptual and normative frameworks of the West and Islam. On the other hand, there are various signifiers in the Muslim world which can prevent the birth of an outright Islamic discourse. Under such circumstances, organized groups in Western countries have tried to oppose ideological approaches of the Muslim world by producing new concepts and norms.
To achieve this goal, they have produced discourses which are based on false conceptual frameworks. According to this approach, Islam is equal to terrorism, on the one hand, while on the other hand, they try to marginalize all Islamic processes. This will radicalize normative concepts of terrorism as a symbol of a new discourse with modern approaches in international relations.
Western countries have tried to create concepts and link them to some social and international symbols in order to reproduce conflicts. Under such circumstances, the Western politics stands for concepts which are social in nature, while on the other hand, helping to differentiate the Western countries from the rest of the world on the basis of their ideological policies.
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