Peaceful Coexistence with Radical Islamists is Impossible

The landscape in the Middle East and North Africa has been in a state of radical flux since the beginning of the Arab Spring in December 2010.  The term "Arab Spring" is a misnomer, though.  In reality, it is a progressive revolution throughout the Arab world that so far has brought down governments in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen and resulted in the rise to prominence of Islamists in every country where it has taken hold.   

The Arab Spring is far from over.  Syria's civil war and the growing protest movement in Jordan are offshoots of the Arab Spring that in due course will almost certainly bring down Syrian President Bashar al Assad and could lead to the toppling of Jordan's King Abdullah.  Other countries in the region including Algeria, Bahrain, Kuwait, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), for example, are experiencing their versions of the Arab Spring as well.  Time will tell where they end up, but if they follow suit, they may morph into Islamist states.

Two countries bordering the Middle East, Iran and Turkey, experienced Islamist awakenings long ago: Iran in 1979 and Turkey in 2002.  Iran's leaders continue to promote Islamic revolution (i.e., terrorism) throughout the world by funneling money and military hardware to disaffected groups that are willing to lend them a sympathetic ear, and Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has targeted the Middle East in his quest to reinstate the Ottoman Empire under Islamist authority.  Erdoğan's success can't be denied as evidenced by a report over the weekend that he is the second most influential Muslim in the world today following Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah bin Abdelaziz.

In this light, the Arab Spring in its varied forms can be seen as just another milestone on the long road to Islamist world domination.  Evidence of this is abundant in Europe, the United States, Russia, and China, for example, where calls for the institution of Sharia law are growing louder by the day.  And viewed from this perspective, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi can be seen as just the latest world leader to press ahead with the Islamist movement's agenda by declaring himself dictator and moving to institutionalize Sharia law in yet another country.

Of course, there is resistance to this movement even in Egypt, an Islamic country that is becoming increasingly Islamist.  Egyptian notables including Mohamed ElBaradei denounced Morsi's decree and Cairo's stock exchange dropped precipitously in response to the news.  That prompted Morsi to announce a meeting with Egypt's Supreme Judicial Council, the country's highest judicial authority.  It will be held today to discuss Morsi's decree since it effectively shields his decisions from judicial review.  Even so, the trajectory of the trend in Egypt and elsewhere is pro-Islamist and robust.

None of this bodes well for the West and the rest of the world -- particularly Israel.  In fact, it looks as though the global Islamist movement has adopted Yasser Arafat's strategy for destroying Israel.  He said, "Since we cannot defeat Israel in war we do this in stages.  We take any and every territory that we can of Palestine, and establish sovereignty there, and we use it as a springboard to take more.  When the time comes, we can get the Arab nations to join us for the final blow against Israel." (Yasser Arafat speaking on Jordanian television, September 13, 1993-the same day the Oslo Peace Accord ceremony was held in Washington D.C.) 

That's exactly what Islamists are doing.  Substitute "the world" for Israel, "the global caliphate" for Palestine, and "Islamist powers" for Arab nations and you will see what I mean. 

Arafat also said, "Peace for us means the destruction of Israel.  We are preparing for an all-out war, a war which will last for generations.  Since January 1965, when Fatah was born, we have become the most dangerous enemy that Israel has....We shall not rest until the day when we return to our home, and until we destroy Israel." (El Mundo, Caracas, Venezuela, February 11, 1980)

Applying the same substitutions to this quote lends additional credence to the hypothesis that Arafat is the originator of the global Islamist movement's strategy.  Whatever the case may be, though, this much is certain: peaceful coexistence with radical Islamists is impossible.  Based on all of the available evidence, any other conclusion is a manic delusion.


Neil Snyder is the Ralph A. Beeton Professor Emeritus at the University of Virginia.  His blog,, is posted daily.