15 November 2015

No Solutions Yet

If there is one thing that we should take away from Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris, it is that we have no solutions. Attacks will continue until we find one. Don't despair - the problem will be solved in time if we ask the right questions.

The first question we should ask is, Who is the enemy? And perhaps, Who is not the enemy? The second is easier - Muslims are not the enemy. Our friends and neighbors, in your classroom or in the next cubicle, down the block or at the convenience store - they are not the enemy.

Conservatives have universally called for President Obama to name the enemy as "radical Islam". He has insisted on using the term "violent extremism". President Obama is correct, but not for the reasons he thinks.

What most of the world today refers to as "radical Islam" is not radical at all. By definition, because they adhere most strictly to the tenets prescribed in the Koran and other ancient holy texts, they should properly be described as orthodox, not radical. The real Islamic radicals are the reformers who we call moderates.

It is important to make this distinction because it will ultimately lead us to the solution.

Many have suggested that the answer lies within the Islamic community. I think that is correct. But when we ask, Why aren't the moderate Muslims doing more to stop the violence and terror? Why isn't Saudi Arabia doing all it can? we are showing a basic misunderstanding of the relationship between orthodox (radical) and reform (moderate) Muslims.

The essence of the relationship is that it is difficult to win a theological debate when confronted with an orthodox adherent. And would you enter into one when you risk beheading at the conclusion? Orthodox and reform Jews can have these kinds of debates, as can the various Christian sects, and everyone walks away intact. But can a moderate, reformed Muslim confront an orthodox Muslim knowing they will have to disavow parts of the Koran?

Seems unlikely, for individuals, and nations.

Let's keep thinking.

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