Last year, I documented some of my encounters with a Sudanese friend of mine who was a Sunni Muslim imam. We went back and forth on a wide variety of subjects in our conversation. One day, we reserved a graduate study room in the university library and covered the waterfront on a wide variety of topics of interest: the Sunni/Shi’a divide, how a group of Muslims simply got together at a university and picked him to be their imam, the basic weakness of the whole Muslim fundamentalists approach, and many other things. I was and still am enriched by the experience.
What I didn’t realise at the was that, based on that experience and others, I knew more about the real nature of Islam and the Middle East than many in our government whose duty was to understand these things. Put another way, my Sudanese friend was indirectly laying out the whole “war on terror” in front of me, along with the help of other Muslims I encountered over the years, including those in the Fulham Road theatre in London.
As Americans, we live in a country with two distinct ideas on how to deal with problems such as radical Islamicism.
The first is that we must understand our enemy if we are to engage him, and engaging him means that, if we “understand” him, we will be nice to each other and everything will be better. This is the approach of the left. With most enemies, this leads to defeat, because they interpret your actions (rightfully) as a sign of weakness and will move against you accordingly.
The second is that, if we understand our enemy, we will become sympathetic to him and it will weaken us, so we must always do it “our way” and defeat him. This is the approach of the right. This can lead to victory but it will be costly.
What no one who has a voice in the public arena seems to grasp is that, to defeat an enemy, one must first understand him, so as to exploit his weaknesses while working from our strengths. Doing this will help facilitate the greatest victory at the least cost. It will also avoid making unnecessary enemies in the process.
As we commemorate the fifth anniversary of 11 September 2001, we need to realise that we are dealing with a “war of civilisations.” But we are also dealing with two sides with deep divisions within themselves. On the Islamic side, we have the Sunni/Shi’a business, the complexities induced by vicious power holder/power challenger politics, and many other factors. On the American side, we have a country that went into 9/11 deeply divided over whether it would be a Judeo-Christian or secularist country. Both sets of divisions have survived that event. The only people who seem to know where they’re at are the Europeans, and that’s in a downward spiral, induced by secuarlism and a collapsing birthrate which has turned their civilisation into an open grave.
So we both go into this remembrance like the Bourbon kings of France: having learned little, but forgotten nothing. Barring the return of the Messiah, we have three possible results: the “West” can win, the Islamicists can win, or both can destroy each other and those from the rest of the world can come in and pick up the pieces. As a Christian, the best news is that people have actually followed Christ’s command to take the gospel to the ends of the earth and that people will live and love as God intended them to long after the bastions of the faith of times past have taken their leave. Will this happen? It is up to us.