The West has been in a war with an enemy that seeks to change its form of government, utterly change its culture and destroy its way of life since at least September 11, 2001. However, the West has been paralyzed in this war almost from the beginning for failure to know how to label the enemy because the ideology of the enemy has its roots in religion.
The West labeled its enemy as “Radical Islam.” While accurate, this terminology conjures images of a war on a religion and causes great angst in Western society due to the modern West’s tradition of separation of church and state, the free exercise of religion, and the West’s understanding of religion as simply the spiritual relationship between a person and his or her god.
However, Islam sees itself differently. It seeks to “regulate not only the individual’s relationship with god (through his conscious), but human relationships in a social setting as well. There is not only Islamic religious institutions, but also, an Islamic law, state, and other institutions governing society.”* After hundreds of years of politics and religion being separate in the West, it is almost inconceivable to the modern Western mind that an ideology can be both a religion and a political ideology at the same time.
What to do when an enemy seeks to destroy you based on religion when your society embraces separation of church and state and the free exercise of religion? This has become the great and paralyzing dilemma of the West.
Emphasis Placed On The Wrong Thing
When Western leaders labeled the enemy “Radical Islam,” they put the emphasis on the wrong thing. While this terminology is accurate, it put the emphasis on religion, which has led to a great deal of angst in Western society and hindered its ability to fight this mortal enemy. Examples of this are charges of religious discrimination in the “refugee” crisis in Europe and in the United States over President Trump’s travel ban on people from seven countries that are currently hot-beds of terrorism.
The Emphasis Must Be On The Political Aspect Of This
While the ideology of the enemy has its roots in religion, the focus of what it seeks to accomplish is political. The terrorist seek to change the form of government in the nations of the West from secular democracies to totalitarian theocratic police states that oppress women and kill gays, adulterers, and everyone else who does not accept the state approved religion (a very strict interpretation of Islam). Therefore, the West must change the terminology it uses to put the focus where it belongs, on the political aspect of this, not the religious aspect.
The way to do this is to stop using the term “Radical Islam” and use the terms “Bin Laden-ism” for Sunni Terrorism and “Khomeini-ism” for Shia Terrorism. Bin Laden-ists and Khomeini-ists are Radical Islamists who use deception, violent terrorist tactics, and other methods in their attempts to change culture and how society is governed. That is political. Using the terms “Bin Laden-ism” and “Khomeini-ism redirects the focus of this from religion to politics where it belongs.
This change in terminology will allow the West to unite to defeat this political enemy in much the same way it defeated other totalitarian ideologies in the past without creating the impression that the government is concerned with how people relate to their god or that it is at war with a religion. The West is fighting Bin Laden-ism / Khomeini-ism, the political ideology that is the real threat to freedom of religion and freedom in general.
The West has been paralyzed by semantics in this war and this paralysis has caused great harm. This must stop. A great civilization must not be put in danger due to semantics.
*Encyclopedia Britannica, 1976 Edition, Vol. 9, page 912.