An Act against Jihad

President Obama's perverse inability to acknowledge that Muslims perpetrated the San Bernardino attack (and many others) helped provoked the much criticized call by Donald Trump to temporarily ban Muslim entry into the country.  Neither Obama nor Trump is right about Muslims, though Obama's mistake is orders of magnitude worse than Trump's, for creating the conditions that triggered it, and because he is a long-sitting president, not a presidential candidate running early in an election cycle.

We should neither attack Muslims as people nor deny that Islam as a creed is a problem.  The main issue with Islam – at least for Western democracies – is the political element, and most particularly the concept of jihad (holy war).  That is what needs to be addressed for Western societies to accommodate Muslims.

President Obama has done incalculable harm over seven years in office by stubbornly refusing to acknowledge and identify Islamist terrorists for who they are.  Obama's apologetic approach, which refuses to accept that any true aspect of Islam is at fault for terror attacks propagated by Muslims, is pure poppycock, something understood by everybody (including Muslims).  Only Obama and a relatively small coterie of like-minded leftists see things otherwise.  Excusing Islam in general for these outrages relieves pressure on more moderate Muslims to assist Western governments, creates space for Islamic extremism, and is morally obtuse. 

Donald Trump's approach, effectively banning Muslims from these shores (while understandable in an emotional sense), is faulty in that it is probably unconstitutional, violates American values, and finally is counter-productive, as it will interfere with our ability to enlist moderate Muslims to fight Islamist terrorism. 

Still, Trump is closer to being right than Obama.  Presently, Islam (the religion in all its aspects as opposed to all Muslims) is incompatible with Western and particularly American society.  The reason for this is not its metaphysics or eschatology, but rather the political and legal elements woven throughout the Quran and the Hadiths.  The concept of Islamic supremacy, as well as many aspects of sharia (Islamic law), cuts directly against American law and values.  But hoping that Islam will reform itself and, like Christianity, Judaism, and Hinduism, reject archaic ideas acceptable centuries ago that are no longer viable today (thus making it acceptable to the West) is a pipe dream.  While some Muslim leaders (most notably President Sisi of Egypt) have called for such reforms, and things may be creeping along here and there, the dynamism is on the radical's side.  Islam has not effectively reformed itself in 1,400 years, and it is unlikely to do so in any fundamental way. 

Besides, even if an effective reform movement took shape, the process of reforming Islam would likely be a long and bloody one.  If Christianity is any guide, it took upwards of 200 years (including the bloodiest warfare in European history up to that time) for reformist ideas to become acceptable enough for Roman Catholic states to accept Protestant ones.  Even then, active persecution and armed hostility persisted between Catholics and Protestants until very recent times, and while the Protestant Reformation provoked some changes in Roman Catholicism, that more traditional creed remains intact with upwards of 1.2 billion adherents today.

So even in the unlikely event that a robust Islamic reform movement emerged, it is impossible to believe that it would significantly and positively impact relations between Muslims and the West in any realistically acceptable time period.  And it is just as likely that the turmoil within Islam that such a movement produced would spill over into Western nations, provoking even more terrorism. 

The approach that at least American leaders should take is not to deny that Islam is a problem, or passively hope for Islamic reform, or attack Muslims directly.  Rather, we should identify aspects of Islam incompatible with our laws and, to the extent that these exist, aggressively act against them. 

Some might say that is already policy, but that is only partly true.  We (and Western nations in general, though to an ever diminishing extent) already outlaw many aspects of sharia (e.g., polygamy, wife-beating, child marriage, etc.) and actively monitor and pursue potential Muslim jihadi terrorists, though under extremely restrictive laws that protect individual rights and religious freedoms.  This is not sufficient, nor is it a realistic approach to solving the problem of Islamic terrorism in the U.S. (or the West.) 

Since Muslims will not excise the concept of jihad from their theology (and probably cannot since it is part of the Quran and the Quran is considered the undiluted expression of Allah's will), we must simply outlaw it.  This means outlawing not only the active pursuit of violent jihad (making plans, acquiring weapons, etc.), but also any and all public expression of jihad, whether from the pulpit in a mosque, in the media, or in public assemblies.  Nor can more "moderate" Muslim interpretations of jihad be excluded from such a ban – e.g., that jihad means a personal or societal struggle for improvement as opposed to holy war.

This is would not be necessarily illegal or unconstitutional.  Political Islam (and in particular jihad) is by its very nature seditious.  In its most common and historically accurate meaning, it calls for the overthrow of infidel governments such as our own by violent means.  The recent acts of jihadi terrorists, here and abroad, demonstrate that this meaning in not abstract and constitutes a clear and present danger to the country.  The United States has several laws against sedition already on the books, and there is precedent for action against seditious religious ideas in the "Mormon war" of the 1850s. 

Political Islam should not be protected as a religious freedom because it is not really theological, and it directly calls for the overthrow of the Constitution.  This is also true of other 1st Amendment protections regarding expressions of jihad, since jihad by its very meaning calls for the violent overthrow of infidel governments such as our own and thus is inherently seditious.  And while many Muslims may deny that jihad means that to them personally, as a public expression, it is tantamount to yelling fire in a crowded theater, as countless terror attacks across the globe demonstrate. 

A carefully tailored "Anti-Jihad Act" would not introduce a new version of McCarthyism with Islam substituting for Communism, because unlike that episode of American history, it would not target Muslims as people, but rather only the public expression of a discrete and seditious element of the religion, as well as the private pursuit of violent jihad (which is already illegal).  Since many aspects of sharia are already illegal, this would not be a fundamental limit on religious expression in any rationally meaningful way.  The Quran would not be outlawed or excised.  Private devotions would not be molested.  But it would give federal and state authorities greater leeway to investigate and infiltrate potential jihadi cells, tamp down jihadi recruitment and incitement, and strengthen immigration protocols. 

Truly peaceful moderate Muslim citizens should not have a problem with this, even if the natural result of such legislation would be to provoke some resentment.  But in the absence of Islamic reform, which nobody can reasonably say is foreseeable or realistic, Western nations will be in a constant state of conflict with substantial elements of their Muslim populations.  It is illogical and even morally counterproductive to pretend that this is not true and to refuse to define and take action against the problem, within constitutionally acceptable parameters. 

Obviously, no American Democrat will ever do this, nor will European socialists.  It is up to American Republicans, particularly those running to be the next president, to propose such legislation, whether they're named Trump or not.