LANE TOOMEY: Islamist Radicals Threaten Our Way of Life
On the bulletin board in my office is a photograph of graffiti in a Marine barracks in Iraq: "America is not at war. The Marine Corps is at War; America is at the Mall."
The young Marine who scribbled that sentiment is correct. The members of our armed forces and their families are the only Americans sacrificing in this war. The average American is more concerned with the price of gasoline, Britney's latest hairstyle, or getting the best deal at Wal-Mart.
Daily thought is rarely, if ever, given by the average American to the dangers and hardships that our Marines and soldiers are facing in Iraq and Afghanistan.
For most Americans, the combat zones of Southwest Asia could just as well be on the far side of the moon. Yet it seems to be the polled opinion of the majority of my fellow citizens that our nation is involved in an unpopular war.
In February, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to oppose the commander in chief's reinforcement plan. A few weeks ago, there was a much-publicized although poorly attended anti-war rally in Washington. If Jane Fonda, Sean Penn, and a handful of other celebrities had not been there, I doubt that it would have received more than mention in the internal pages of any newspaper.
Listening to the news bites that were played from that rally only served to strengthen my belief that the broad American population does not understand the nature of the struggle that we have undertaken, beginning in Afghanistan in late 2001, then expanding to Iraq in 2003, and recently in Somalia with our strikes at Islamic fighters.
I lived in Saudi Arabia for two years in the 1980s while serving in the Army. There I had a chance to see and experience the oppressive conditions that exist in a religion-based totalitarian society.
Although the Saudi military officers I worked with on a daily basis were educated and honorable men who were generally tolerant of Western ways (most of them had been educated in the United States or Great Britain), the general population believed that Islam was the true way to redemption and that Islam would ultimately spread throughout the world.
While most Muslims believe that this transition will take place peacefully and naturally as people convert to a better religious doctrine, it is a small minority of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims that intend to spread their brand of fundamentalist Islam by force, mainly through intimidation, fear, and violence.
The Western world has experienced this sort of Islamic fanaticism before. During the first 25 years of the 20th Century, there arose in the deserts of Saudi Arabia a revival of fanatical Islamic fundamentalism first espoused by a sheik Mohammed ibn Abdul Wahhab in the 1700s.
These modern Wahhabist fundamentalists adopted the name of Ikhwan, the Brotherhood, and considered themselves the chosen soldiers of Allah, following a dogmatic faith that required them to cleanse the world of those who did not accept the teachings of the Prophet.
Their pursuit of piety and oneness with Allah had no room for the normal social activities of humankind, banning singing, dancing, and children's games as well as strictly enforcing the separation of men and women in all aspects of life. While the Ikhwan treated with contempt all the contrivances of modern civilization not known to Mohammed, from automobiles to telephones, they blessed the modern rifle and its use, as Arabist author Robert Lacey wrote, "for logic and reason were not priorities in a movement whose dynamic was blind faith."
At first encouraged and supported by the king of Saudi Arabia, by 1926 the Ikhwan's exercising of their fanatical adherence to Islam became uncontrollable. From 1926 until 1930, the Ikhwan terrorized Iraqi citizens and the wandering tribes of Bedouin in the deserts of Saudi Arabia and southern Iraq, killing without mercy all who did not convert on the spot to their fundamentalist ways.
It was left to the British, responsible for the security of postwar Iraq under mandate of the League of Nations, to defeat the Ikhwan. This the British Army did in a very patient, low-profile, multi-year campaign.
A Warped Ideology
We -- America and the Western world -- are again at war with Islamic fundamentalists. But this time the stage of conflict is not limited to the deserts of the Middle East but, thanks to modern transportation and communications, has expanded across the entire planet.
These fundamentalists, whose warped ideology is based on the heretofore respected religion of Islam, are intent on Islamic domination of the world. If successful in Europe and North America, they would steal the liberties and freedoms of women while oppressing the natural rights all citizens -- all in the name of Allah.
Most Americans cannot comprehend what this would mean. A good glimpse of life under Islamic totalitarian rule in the modern world is best illustrated by Norwegian journalist Asne Seierstad in her book, "The Bookseller of Kabul." Seierstad went to Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1996 after the rise of the Taliban government in that country. She described 16 decrees by the Taliban regularly broadcast over state radio. A few of the more illustrative ones:
-- "It is prohibited for drivers to pick up women not wearing the burka, on pain of arrest. If such women are observed out on the streets, their homes will be visited and their husbands punished."
-- "Cassettes and music are forbidden in shops, hotels, vehicles, and rickshaws."
-- "In vehicles, shops, houses, hotels and other places, pictures and portraits must be removed."
"Men with long hair will be arrested and taken to the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Extermination of Sin to have their hair cut. The criminal will pay the barber."
-- And my favorite, a prohibition against kites: "Kite flying has wicked consequences, such as gambling, death amongst children, and truancy."
-- Additionally, women were warned not to leave their homes without full covering: "If you do, you must not be like those women who wore fashionable clothes and makeup and exposed themselves to every man before Islam came to the country. If women dress fashionably, wear ornamented, tight, seductive clothes to show off, they will be damned by the Sharia [Islamic law] and can never expect to go to heaven."
Hastening Our Downfall
Are these Islamic fundamentalists nuts or what? These guys want to return the world to the 12th century. Women are little more to them than property, useful only for producing more Muslims. If Islamic fundamentalists were to rule in America, women would cease to be found in the workforce; women would not be allowed to drive; girls would not be allowed to attend school. Every freedom and right that women in America fought for over the past two centuries would be lost.
So what are the chances of such a religious totalitarian government ever coming into existence in the West? One would think in America "never in a million years." But in Europe, where Islam is the second largest religion in France and gaining strength in the formerly all-Christian nations of Spain and Italy, the probability of Islamic-controlled European governments within the next three generations is increasing annually.
The immediate threat to Americans is not a direct loss of personal freedoms but an indirect negative influence on our way of life.
Islamic fundamentalists know that their struggle to dominate the West will last decades. They also believe that hastening the downfall of Western civilization through financial disruption is a viable strategy.
Fearful Backlash Possible
Americans have firsthand experience with these tactics in the wake of the 9-11 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., which affected America's financial markets and air transportation system for months.
Imagine the extended disruption of just a small nuclear weapon detonated in New York or Chicago, with the resulting effect of near-paralysis of domestic and international business and finance. A similar devastating attack against Singapore or Shanghai would destroy American trade with Asia. An attack against a European city would shut down that continent.
Any major attack on a nation that does business with America would eventually affect Americans with shortages of petroleum and other products, financial instability and increased prices, and restrictions on our freedom to move about the world for business and pleasure.
Islamic fundamentalists showed their hand on 9-11. They want to destroy us and our way of life. They intend to win using all means at hand, as evidenced by their recent use of chlorine gas bombs in Iraq or their ease at killing innocent mothers and children with suicide attacks. They deserve the contempt of every American who values liberty.
If we do not engage and kill them in their lairs, and they begin to threaten our way of life from within, then it could force the United States to begin the dismantling of our Constitution with a prohibition against Islam in America. And that would be tragedy for all mankind.
Lane Toomey is a retired military officer who lives in Southern Pines.
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