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The Invasion of Iraq, Islamic Extremism, & Terrorism

Will the War Produce Terrorists?


It has been argued by many that the invasion of Iraq will only produce more terrorism; therefore, invading Iraq was the wrong thing to do because it undermines our efforts against terrorism. A common counter-argument to this is to point out that the leading ideological voices of Islamic extremism, like Sayyid Qutb, have relied more heavily upon Islamic tradition than Western imperialism to make their case. Thus, the driving force of Islamic extremism is Islam itself, not the acts of the West. Is this a valid argument?

In fact, it is partially correct and partially mistaken. Yes, the ideas of Qutb (and others) are more dependent upon Islamic tradition than American actions and these ideas are a significant basis for the ideologies and theologies of Muslim terrorists. All of that is true - we really can't understand modern Islamic extremists without being familiar with people like Qutb.

But that's not the end of it. The fact of the matter is, Qutb's conception of Islam is not the only one, nor is it the most logical or most reasonable or best organization of traditional Muslim doctrines. It is an Islamic path and it is not an unjustified Islamic path, but it is not the only Islamic path. Thus, the question that needs to be answered is: why has this path become popular?

As a loose analogy, consider the case of Pat Robertson. He offers a Christian path and it's not an unjustified Christian path (in that it can be reasonably derived from Christian traditions), but it is certainly not the only Christian path. Thus, we cannot explain the existence of Pat Robertson fundamentalism simply by stating that it "finds its essence in the nature of Christianity." We might be right, but we aren't answering the right question.

While it may be comforting to some to imagine that there are simple ways to connect the dots between the traditions of Islam and the modern phenomenon of Muslim terrorists, reality is much more complicated than there. There is certainly a close relationship, but it is not an automatic or necessary relationship - there is a key ingredient missing.

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