What Causes Terrorism?

Islam is not the direct cause of terrorism in our world. Yes, the vast majority of terrorists are Islamic. However, there are also hundreds of millions of Muslims living in peace on this planet.

The Muslim world, however, is a disaster. It is politically, economically, and socially backwards. It is hundreds of years behind Western civilization by almost any objective standard.

Hundreds of years ago, this situation would have been acceptable and would not have led inevitably to conflict between civilizations. The communications revolution changed all that. The glaring lights of modern Western civilization are now shining into every corner of traditional Islamic civilization. Islamist fighters are not fighting to destroy Israel, they are fighting to destroy Hollywood. Hollywood is, unwittingly, assaulting traditional Islamic values in every corner of the globe.

Peaceful Revolution and Islam

Over the last few hundred years, Western civilization has evolved from a system dominated by a central church and characterized by extremely limited personal freedoms and stagnant economic growth into a dynamic cultural environment where people of all faiths enjoy a wide range personal and economic freedom.

Why then has not the Islamic world enjoyed a similar evolution?

  • Muhammed taught very clearly against changes in the religion and the culture. By comparison, the Christian New Testament is much more open to interpretation and moderation.
  • Jesus was a preacher; Muhammed was a warlord. Muhammed taught that the best way to enforce the rules of Islam was by force. Jesus never had an army, so he taught his followers to use peaceful methods. Peaceful methods are simply not as effective at resisting change as violence and intimidation.
  • Totalitarian governments resist change. The vast majority of Muslim countries are led by totalitarian regimes. The leaders of these regimes enjoy the wealth and power provided by their positions and naturally resist any form of change which could threaten their status. Remember that most deposed dictators are executed and you will understand why resistance to change is so critical to these people.

President John F. Kennedy said “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” The combination of repressive religious, political, and cultural factors has made peaceful revolution in the Islamic world impossible.

And yet, the new closeness of these two very different civilizations creates inevitable conflict not just between the civilizations — but within Islamic civilization itself. Many groups in the Islamic world look at the fruits of Western civilization and desire to bring them to their world. This causes extreme discomfort for Islamic conservatives and the powerful elite of Islamic society, who feel that all change must be permanently stopped. Personal freedom may be considered a nuisance by some in Western civilization, but these people see it as dangerous and highly contagious.

What is the easiest method for these people to freeze change in their own societies? It is to focus the will of the people on an external enemy. For Hitler and Goebbels, this external enemy was the Jews. For the leaders of the Islamic world, this external enemy is Western civilization.

These Islamic leaders fund religious schools which teach youth that the greatest goal they can have in life is to die while killing non-Muslims. They utilize the power of their positions to funnel money and arms to terrorist organizations. They protect these organizations from legal prosecution as long as the terrorists do not challenge the rule of the state.

The End Result

Terrorism is a result of conflict internal to the Muslim world. The Western world has limited options in dealing with the threat of terrorism. The Western world, however, is not completely powerless to combat terrorism. These Islamic leaders are not stupid. They must be shown that it is more dangerous for them to support attacks on Western targets than it is for them to deal directly with internal change. This can be accomplished by punitive actions in response to any terrorist incident.

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