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Mike Ghouse

Monday, September 29, 2014

Muslim American Orgs. Must Condemn Islamism Not Just ISIS

Muslim American Orgs. Must Condemn Islamism Not Just ISIS
Courtesy : Jewish Voice New York


The Muslim-American community has stood up to condemn ISIS. It now needs to confront the Islamist ideology that bred it and other groups like it.

The Muslim-American community, including organizations with radical histories, swiftly and unequivocally condemned the Islamic State terrorist group (formerly and commonly known as ISIS). These statements are welcome, but they need to go further and challenge the Islamist basis of the group and those like it.

The vast majority of condemnations of the Islamic State focus on its violent tactics and not its belief that Muslims are commanded to wage jihad to build an Islamic state, i.e. a government based on Islamic law (sharia). Nor is its belief that Muslims must rebuild a caliphate being confronted.

President Obama is being criticized for stating that the Islamic State is “not Islamic.” The understandable objective was to avoid depicting the campaign against the Islamic State as a war on Islam, but the obvious truth is that the Islamic State is following an interpretation of Islam. Many Muslims feel it is an incorrect interpretation, but it is still an interpretation.

The Islamic State claims that its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was an Islamic preacher and has a doctorate in Islamic Studies from the Islamic University of Baghdad. It also says he is a direct descendent of the Prophet Mohammed, the founder of Islam.

The Islamic State implements governance strictly based on sharia, or Islamic law. The very name of the Islamic State implies a fusion of mosque and state. The concept of the caliphate declared by the Islamic State is rooted in Islamic history and doctrine, even if most Muslims reject the Islamic State’s caliphate.

These fundamentally anti-Western goals emanate from the Islamist ideology that believes in sharia as a code of governance (which is also known as Political Islam). Not all Islamists support the Islamic State, but all members of the Islamic State are Islamists.

By declaring that the Islamic State is “not Islamic,” the Muslim world is relieved of its responsibility to challenge the group’s Islamic basis. Its origins can thus be blamed on the West or a murderous lust for power. The fundamental ideology of the Islamic State and similar groups is left untouched.

The Islamic State must be fought by challenging the basis of its name: an Islamic state with sharia governance. Limiting condemnations to tactics leads to endless arguments about which tactics are appropriate under what conditions. The debate needs to focus on the ultimate purpose of those tactics.

In truth, the Islamic State is acting on a popular agenda in the Muslim world. A 2007 World Public Opinion poll found that 74% of Pakistanis, 71% of Moroccans, 67% of Egyptians and 49% of Indonesians desire a caliphate that absorbs every Muslim country. The objective of strictly implementing sharia in every Muslim country was supported by 79% of Pakistanis, 76% of Moroccans, 74% of Egyptians and 53% of Indonesians.

A 2013 poll found that most Muslim countries want sharia as the official law of the land. Massive numbers specifically favor the brutal corporal punishments of sharia instituted by the Islamic State. Terrorist groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban still get double-digit support.

These pillars of the Islamic State’s ideology are left untouched in most Muslim condemnations of the group. For example, the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations, a coalition of Islamist groups, issued a condemnation of the Islamic State and its ideology without specifying what that ideology is.

It cites a Quranic verse about how the taking of one life is like killing all of mankind, yet leaders in the coalition have supported violent jihad and Hamas. Obviously, that means that the coalition and its fellow Islamists believe this verse does not forbid killing altogether.

This public condemnation and referencing of this verse makes the coalition look “moderate” but does nothing to address the beliefs of the Islamic State and other jihadists that killing is sometimes permissible.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) issued a condemnation of the “actions” of the Islamic State, calling them “un-Islamic and morally repugnant.” But their statement focused solely on tactics, specifically the murdering of civilians and religious scholars and attacks on houses of worship.

Another CAIR statement blamed the rise of the Islamic State on “the fuel of injustice” and “the lack of freedom and justice in the region.” In other words: The West.

For example, CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad reacted to the beheading of American journalist James Foley by tweeting that “Israel is the biggest threat to world peace and security.”

Former CAIR-Tampa leader Ahmed Bedier tweeted, “ISIS is not a product of Islam, it is a product of George Bush’s and Obama’s failed wars and policies in Iraq and Syria.” It was re-tweeted by Hassan Shibly, current director of CAIR-Tampa.

A September 10 press conference featured several Muslim-American leaders making strong condemnations of the Islamic State and calling on their community to stop radicalization.

Imam Mohamed Magid of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society Center said, “Young people, please don’t listen to this ideology.” Because he did not specify what that ideology is, all the audience knows is that the Islamic State is wrong for killing non-combatants. The issue of sharia is not addressed.

Azhar Azeez, President of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), said ISIS has “no basis in the teaching of Islam.” This statement gives the impression that it is not a product of an Islamic interpretation.

Azeez says Islam does not condone terrorism or killing civilians or destroying civilian infrastructure. ISIS would probably agree with this statement because it does not consider its actions to be “terrorism” or its targets to be “civilian.” The statement will do nothing to dissuade a Muslim dabbling in Islamism.

Azeez’s rejection of attacks on civilian infrastructure is ironic considering that Imam Johari Abdul-Malik of the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center spoke at the press conference. In 2001, he said that attacks on bridges, power plants, the water supply and other infrastructure in Israel are justifiable as long as you don’t take innocent life.

Abdul-Malik does deserve credit for using the word jihadist and mocking how the Islamic State is appealing to youth by looking "cool." He said, “Nothing is cool about being a jihadist, you’re a loser.”

However, Abdul-Malik failed to challenge the specific interpretations of the Islamic State. He rejected linking the Islamic State to Islam in any way, arguing that the KKK was never linked to Christianity. Instead, he indirectly blamed the West by saying the Islamic State was exploiting anger over how Muslims are treated around the world.

Imam Talib Shareef of Masjid Muhammad asked the media to refer to the Islamic State as the “anti-Islamic State.”

He stated that the Islamic State is contradicting religious coexistence that occurred under the Prophet Mohammad’s Islamic state. However, by saying that the Islamic State does not represent a true Islamic state, it is implied that the pursuit of an Islamic state is noble.

Of the major Muslim-American groups, the one that has gone the furthest in confronting the ideological basis of the Islamic State is the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). It was founded by Muslim Brotherhood ideologues and has had a pro-Islamist past, but it has also taken some stances against Islamists like former Egyptian President Morsi.

Its D.C. office director, Haris Tarin, spoke at the September 10 press conference. Its President, Salam al-Marayati, has written several articles about the Islamic State and its beliefs.

In one of the articles, al-Marayati wrote, “This ‘caliphate’ [declared by the Islamic State] is a disturbed and failed attempt to recreate the glory days of the Islamic civilization of over 1,000 years ago, yet it is a forgery of anything close to Islam.”

Unfortunately, al-Marayati is ridiculing the caliphate of the Islamic State, not the desire to rebuild a caliphate. This is similar to the ruling of Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yousef al-Qaradawi who only opposes the Islamic State’s caliphate because of how it was accomplished.

Al-Marayati blames both the West and Islamic interpretations. He writes that “ISIS is the toxic and dogmatic response to centuries-old colonial propaganda that aimed to demonize and dehumanize the Muslim world.” However, “The failed response by Muslims is political Islam.”

In another article, al-Marayati says that the ideology of the Islamic State and those like contains takfirism, essentially an Islamic version of the Puritans who brand Muslims as apostates and persecute them. He uses Islamic history against the Islamic State by comparing them to the Kharijites, a sect of radical Muslims in the seventh century that waged war on those they saw as apostates.

He says the Islamic State is a product of modern takfirism that causes an “unholy alliance of clergy and state” spread by “co-opting religious authority, fabricating religious texts, and spreading selective interpretations and applications of Islam by establishing schools and funding those that would teach their literal and absolutist Islamic narrative.”

Confronting takfirism is an improvement because it specifies an adversarial ideology rooted in Islamic interpretation, but it is still too narrow. It is still a practice of Islamism, albeit a particularly aggressive one. The term thus enables Islamists to offer a group like the Muslim Brotherhood as a “moderate” alternative to the takfiri Islamic State and Al-Qaeda.

Muslim-American groups need to launch a systematic refutation of the overall Islamist ideology. This means challenging the works of popular Islamist preachers like Ibn Taymiyyah, Hassan al-Banna, Maulana Maududi, Yousef al-Qaradawi, Sayyid Qutb, Ayatollah Khomeini and Muhammad al-Wahhab.

The youth must not be taught to idolize foreign Islamists like Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and Tunisian preacher Rachid Ghannouchi or American ones like Zaid Shakir and Siraj Wahhaj.

This means promoting progressive reformation and ijtihad, the independent interpretation of doctrine. Muslims must not be afraid to criticize the determinations of Islamist jurists, and texts with anti-Islamist points of view should be encouraged. Former Islamist and current Muslim reformist Tawfik Hamid writes about this need in a new Clarion Project article, and he’s published a "Modern Interpretation of the Quran."

Muslim activist Mike Ghouse writes that there are two Islams “mangled up” and Muslims need to welcome criticisms of authoritative scholars from the past like Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn Kathir. He says:

“The mistake we have made is to give their word a near equivalence of Quran and the Prophet; we can judge them against historical relativism but should not regard their work as integral component of Islamic teachings. All said, we must admit that whatever their intentions might have been, the medieval scholars messed up the interpretation of Quran. Instead of building cohesive societies, they were inclined to forge exclusive authoritarian societies.”

Ghouse is not disputing the fact that the Islamic State is practicing a version of Islam. He’s disputing that it is the right version of Islam. And he recognizes that the core problem is resistance to critical examination of sharia teachings.

The Muslim-American community has stood up to condemn the Islamic State. It now needs to step up to the greater challenge of confronting the Islamist ideology that bred it and other groups like it.

Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst, a fellow with Clarion Project and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on Fox News.
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Islam in the Rear-View Mirror

It is a long article, and is worth reading to understanding the birth of Islamism within Islam.  The only way to go back to the pristine Islam is for more of us to repeat and denounce what the guys like Banna, Maududi, Qutub and their likes have mangled up Islam. Until recently no one dare question these men who messed up Islam, but now, it is becoming a common place and I have written a number of articles.

Here is one.

The mistake we have made is to give their word a near equivalence of Quran and the Prophet; we can judge them against historical relativism but should not regard their work as integral component of Islamic teachings. All said, we must admit that whatever their intentions might have been, the medieval scholars messed up the interpretation of Quran. Instead of building cohesive societies, they were inclined to forge exclusive authoritarian societies. - Two Islams; mangled up and the pristine one at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-ghouse/two-islams-the-mangledup-_b_5748280.html 

Mike Ghouse

# # #

Islam in the Rear-View Mirror

Broadly speaking, the struggle within Islam is between Muslims who embrace the values of the modern world in terms of freedom, individual rights, gender equality and democracy on the one side, and Muslims opposing these values and insisting on a Sharia-based legal system on the other. Any Muslim who even questions this version of Islam they refer to as a heretic or, worse, an apostate to be killed.
For Muslims who embrace modernity, Islam is a matter of personal belief, not a political system.
A reformed Islam -- greatly desired and sought after by swelling numbers of Muslims -- cannot succeed without the support of non-Muslims.
A decade after operatives of al Qaeda attacked the United States, the Arab and Muslim world was seized by popular uprisings. The so-called "Arab Spring" erupted in Tunisia, swept into Libya and Egypt where dictators of long standing were toppled and, as of this writing, the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria appears doomed in a bloody stand-off against insurgents who are steadily gaining ground.

It is perhaps too early to state definitively that the "Arab Spring" is the direct consequence -- which no one imagined -- of hijacked jetliners flown into tall buildings in New York. Eventually, however, the political success of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, and its parties in the Middle East, might be viewed as the fall-out strategically anticipated by Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network if they hoped to precipitate a war. They may even have hoped that the war's twists and turns would destabilize established regimes in the Middle East and North Africa to the advantage of the region's Islamists.

The terrorist attacks on 9/11 did not erupt out of the blue. The nineteen hijackers of the four American jetliners were all Arab Muslims selected by the leadership of al Qaeda, and financed and trained for such an operation. Their mission was an act of war as carefully planned as the attack sixty years earlier on December 7, 1941 by the Japanese imperial navy on Pearl Harbor. The differences between the two acts of aggression were many, but the one striking fact was that the United States in both instances came to be viewed as the enemy to be drawn into war. The varying responses of the government and the people of the United States to these two acts of aggression also indicate how greatly American society changed in the intervening years.
What is of greater interest is that most Americans on that September morning were just as unaware of the intense turmoil raging within the Muslim world in general and the Middle East in particular, as they were in December 1941 of Japanese politics and of the extent to which Japan was already militarily engaged on the Asian mainland.

The renowned Middle East scholar, Bernard Lewis, in "The Roots of Muslim Rage"[1] was possibly the first to point to an increasingly hostile attitude among Muslims in general, and Arabs and Iranians in particular, toward the West and, especially toward the United States.

"Muslim rage" was evident in the 1979 Iranian revolution, which brought about the overthrow of the Shah and the monarchy. The Shah had been a loyal ally of the United States in a region endowed with oil resources that gave it immense strategic importance. The revolution, however, under the leadership of aging cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini -- about whom most Americans, including those in government, knew very little -- became Islamic and anti-West.

Also in 1979, there was a siege of Ka'aba, the holy mosque in Mecca. The siege was begun by armed militants from inside Saudi Arabia who were enraged by the perceived corruption of the Saudi ruling family and Western influence inside the kingdom. The siege of Ka'aba -- the holiest site in Islam and the location of the annual Muslim pilgrimage -- and the violence that followed, shocked Muslims around the world.
Two years later, in October 1981, Egypt's President Anwar Sadat was assassinated while attending a military parade. His murderer was an Egyptian military officer with ties to an extremist wing of the radical Islamic movement in Egypt headed by the Muslim Brotherhood. Part of the reason for Sadat's murder was the peace treaty he had signed with Israel two years earlier.

There was also popular unrest, violence, terrorism and war found in the Middle East and across the Muslim world. The list is long. Independence from European colonial rule had consequences contrary to the expectations of prosperity in an independent future. Unrest among Muslims was also symptomatic of their anger, disillusionment, and frustration with the state of affairs in their native lands. Independence did not bring any substantial improvement to the prevailing social and economic conditions for most people. Instead, the situation deteriorated as the population grew, and, with it, poverty. The promise of freedom and democracy with the end of Europe's colonial rule over Muslims was often belied by what came to be dictatorships in the newly independent Muslim majority states. There were wars -- Arab states against Israel, Pakistan against India -- with non-Muslim armies repeatedly humiliating the military forces of Muslim countries.

Lewis described with much sympathy the sense of Muslim frustration, or rage, arising from the failure to meet the requirements of the modernity the West had pioneered in politics, arts and sciences. He spoke of Islam as "one of the world's great religions," and emphasized that it "has brought comfort and peace of mind to countless millions of men and women." He went on to note that Islam
"has given dignity and meaning to drab and impoverished lives. It has taught people of different races to live in brotherhood and people of different creeds to live side by side in reasonable tolerance. It inspired a great civilization in which others besides Muslims lived creative and useful lives and which, by its achievement, enriched the whole world." And yet, Lewis observed, there were periods in Islam's history "when it inspired in some of its followers a mood of hatred and violence. It is our misfortune that part, though by no means all or even most, of the Muslim world is now going through such a period, and that much, though again not all, of that hatred is directed against us."
Such was the situation in Muslim lands entering the final decade of the twentieth century. This rage among Muslims, fuelled by grievances and the sense of past humiliations suffered at the hands of Western powers, turned ominous.

Although a Jew and an outsider, Lewis read the pulse of the Muslim world well. He was not alone. Muslim thinkers had also reflected on the condition of their culture and civilization and the extent of Muslim backwardness relative to the non-Muslim West. The disparity between the West on one side, and Islam or the Muslim world on the other, was so vast that it raised questions as to whether the Muslim world had become moribund, decrepit and, more specifically, whether Muslims might have to jettison their culture in order to embrace modernity and follow the West.

In the early years of the twentieth century, before the First World War had turned Europe into a killing field, Muhammad Iqbal (1876-1938) spoke in verses of immense power, beauty and passion about the malaise of the Muslim world. Iqbal, revered as the poet-philosopher of Pakistan, was of Indian birth, and wrote his poetry in Urdu and Persian.

In his controversial, yet frequently cited, two long poems, Shikwa ("Complaint") and Jawab-i- Shikwa ("Answer to the Complaint")[2], Iqbal discussed the failure of Muslims to maintain the dynamism of Islam and its civilizational values. In "Answer," Iqbal made God respond derisively to Muslims who complained of being ignored and forgotten despite their fidelity in good and bad times. God, in Iqbal's stirring verses, reminded Muslims that they succeeded when they were dynamic in thought and action: when they were bold, took risks and were creative.

Iqbal was not alone in advocating reform and re-awakening Islamic civilization from its stupor. Iqbal admired Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the modern Turkish Republic in the aftermath of the First World War. Kemal was an ardent modernizer and an enthusiast in adopting Western values in culture and politics. He abolished religious rule based on Sharia law.

There were others, such as Malek Bennabi (1905-73), an Algerian born in Constantine and educated in Paris. Bennabi reflected upon the possible causes for the decay of Islam as a civilization and concluded, as had Iqbal, that the loss of internal dynamism and critical thought had impoverished Muslims. He conceived of history in cyclical terms according to Ibn Khaldun, the immensely influential 14th century thinker from Tunis: birth of civilization, followed by growth, expansion, contraction, loss of movement, then demise. Bennabi commented that the Islamic civilization, once the Quranic pressure at its beginning "deadened, little by little the Muslim world came to a stop like a motor that had consumed its last litre of petrol."[3]

During the first half of the twentieth century, the views of modernist Muslim thinkers, such as Iqbal and Bennabi, were ascendant within the Muslim world. Again according to Lewis, "At first the Muslim response to Western civilization was one of admiration and emulation – an immense respect for the achievements of the West, and a desire to imitate and adopt them."[4]

But an alternative view emerged among Muslims that rejected the West and all of its cultural and political values. This alternative view hearkened back to an idealized picture of the first century of Islam (7th-8th century C.E.), when the Arab-Islamic Empire was in the making and Arab rulers laid down the template of the Islamic civilization. It viewed the West as an implacable enemy of Islam and Muslims, and it set its goals in driving Western powers out of Muslim lands and bringing to an end Western influence among Muslims. It spoke about the necessity of jihad (holy war) to achieve its goal of returning Muslim lands to the rule of Sharia. And it declared jihad to be one of the central pillars of Islam – contrary to the traditional consensus of religious scholars.

This view was the seed of what would grow into, and might be rightly described as, Islamism against Islam. The most prominent exponents of this view among the majority Sunni Muslims were two Egyptians, Hasan al-Banna (1906-49), the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Sayyed Qutb (1906-66); and from the Indian subcontinent, Maulana Mawdudi (1903-79), the founder of Jamaat-i-Islami.

In Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini (1902-89) became the most prominent exponent of Islamism among the minority Shi'a Muslims.

In the middle years of the last century, at the end of colonialism in Muslim lands[5], there was an effort to bring about rapid modernization through the adoption of Western ideas. There was a keen interest in building heavy industries, constructing dams and hydroelectric projects, encouraging urbanization, expanding communication networks, investing in higher education, encouraging female education and women in professions, and raising modern armies. But these efforts were not accompanied by an equally urgent commitment of the ruling elites for democracy. This division among Muslims turned out to be a recipe for the eventual collision between those who espoused modernization and those who came to oppose it, due to negative effects in dislocating traditional societies.

In explaining the reversal of Muslim reformers and modernizers, Lewis again observed,
"For vast numbers of Middle Easterners, Western-style economic methods brought poverty, Western-style political institutions brought tyranny, even Western-style warfare brought defeat. It is hardly surprising that so many were willing to listen to voices telling them that the old Islamic ways were best and that their only salvation was to throw aside the pagan innovations of the reformers and return to the True Path that God had prescribed for his people."[6]
V.S. Naipaul, the celebrated writer awarded the 2001 Nobel Prize for Literature, published in 1981 an account of his travels in Muslim lands. Naipaul's Among the Believers was an eyewitness report of the Muslim world in turmoil. His journey took him to Tehran in the midst of a crisis, when Iranian students, following the radical Islamist prescriptions of Ayatollah Khomeini's sermonizing, took fifty Americans at the U.S. embassy as hostages and held them for over a year. Naipaul described the situation as if "the Muslim world had been on the boil."[7]
As the 1979 Iranian revolution became a tipping point for the Muslim world, opponents of Western-style modernization seized the political initiative while Muslim reformers began to lose ground and turned defensive.
In 1971, Pakistan, then the most populous Muslim state, broke apart as a result of a bloody civil conflict and a self-destructive war with India. This Muslim-against-Muslim violence in effect turned genocidal, with massacres in Bangladesh by the Pakistani army, after the people of Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) had voted in a national election for a secular, democratic government to be formed, but the generals rejected the election results, sparking unrest and military brutalities.

In the decades that followed, violence inside the Muslim world became commonplace. Modernization came to be viewed disparagingly, and the modernizers were blamed for the wretched situation of Muslims. The "Muslim rage" insisted, instead, on a return to the past.

This newly acquired consensus was reflected in the Cairo Declaration of August 5, 1990, released by the foreign ministers of the member states of the Organization of Islamic Co-operation [OIC]. Evidently intended as a response to the United Nations' Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, the Cairo Declaration stipulated that all rights and freedoms for Muslims were derived from the Sharia. "Sharia," it states, "is the only source of reference for the explanation or clarification to any of the articles of this Declaration." This signified the long and dispiriting retreat of modernizers who, like Muhammad Iqbal, had greeted with enthusiasm the creation of the Turkish Republic by Mustafa Kemal some seventy years earlier.

By the time the second millennium drew to an end, the internal unrest in the Muslim world had reached a breaking point. The decade long war between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Khomeini's Iran in the 1980s displayed the ferocity inherent in sectarian Muslim conflicts. The Arab states were divided over how to confront Israel once Egypt had made peace with the Jewish state. The Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, and the long war that invasion set in motion, aroused Islamic sentiments. Ironically, in this instance, Muslim "rage" was harnessed by the United States to deliver a punishing defeat to the Soviet Union's imperial overreach.

Moscow's admission of defeat and the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan emboldened militant Muslims as they insisted that their jihad had defeated a military superpower. These Muslim warriors took the message of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Jamaat-i-Islami -- that Islam is jihad and jihad is incumbent on Muslims -- to its logical extreme. Like the Bolsheviks in 1917, al Qaeda's jihadists were revolutionaries in a hurry. They wanted to push history on their terms. They argued that confrontation with the West and its most powerful representative, the United States, was inevitable, and that they planned to precipitate it. A return to authentic Islam, to a time and place before the West and its corrupt ways had contaminated the cradle of Islam, required jihad. Accordingly, al-Qaeda developed as a network of militant Muslims in a political climate of spreading Muslim rage. Driven by its utopian view of an Islamic society, al-Qaeda and its supporters prepared for an asymmetrical war waged through indiscriminate terrorism against the West by Islamic warriors of Allah.

The collapse of the Soviet Union caught the West by surprise. Some saw the end of the Cold War as the end of history. After the long, demanding and exhaustive effort that went into the containment of Soviet Communism, Americans turned inwards. Few in the West paid serious attention to the troubles brewing inside the Muslim world, and which were heading for an explosion.

September 11, 2001 was a return to history with a vengeance. It is not a mistake to view 9/11 as an evil act committed by evil men posing as men of faith and acting for a cause driven by faith. Terrorism in the name of Islam exposed a civilization's internal rot as it wrestled with its own demise.

The modern world, which many Muslims dislike and oppose, cannot be "un-invented." Despite their rage, Muslims face a challenge in a new century that is essentially the same as one described by Iqbal at the beginning of the twentieth century. It is also somewhat similar to the one Christians and Christendom confronted over five hundred years ago. This challenge consists in determining how to maintain faith in the context of the revolutionary advances in philosophy and science.
Christianity met the challenge at the dawn of a new age, which came to be defined as the Enlightenment, by separating the realms of faith and politics. Once the Muslim world has overcome its rage, it would do well to draw on the experience of Christianity in accommodating modernity.
The Muslim world cannot remain in a boil indefinitely. There is no ready answer to how a civilization can be repaired or one master key available to insert to repair a broken civilization. Yet Muslims need to find a way of adapting their customs, values and beliefs to the requirements of the modern world, and this will be their burden for much of the present century.
The West, however, cannot stand apart at a distance while the Muslim world confronts its problems. As the West did in its relationship with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, it now needs to work out a prudent, safe and firm set of policies for its relationship with the Muslim world in the years ahead.
As Muslims in rage fail to stop their descent into an inferno of their own making, the West is inevitably being drawn into the troubles of the Muslim world.
* * *
Two authors -- Britain's Marxist historian, Eric Hobsbawm, and an American historian, John Lukacs -- placed the twentieth century in brackets between the outbreak of World War I and the collapse of the Soviet Union.[8]

In contrast, the nineteenth century was the age of European powers. Britain, as the pre-eminent power, ruled the seas across continents. The two world wars of the last century might be seen now as one massive terminal conflagration of the European powers. The age of Europe came to an end in 1945 with the continent divided, the United States and the Soviet Union locked in a contest for supremacy, and the colonial possessions of European powers in Asia and Africa acquiring independence.

In this view of history, the Bolshevik, or Communist, Revolution of October 1917 in Russia was as much a pivotal event as was the outbreak of World War I. The war exposed Czarist Russia as the weakest link in the European capitalist system and allowed for communist agitations against the Czar's rule eventually to succeed. The emergence of the Soviet Union as a communist power was a threat to the liberal democratic political order based on capitalist economics. But the Soviet Union was overshadowed during the first half of the twentieth century, despite the threat it posed to Europe, by the rise and success of National Socialism, or Nazism, in Germany under Hitler. The deranged German dictator brought Europe to ruin, and set the stage for the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. That conflict ended only when the Soviet Union collapsed nearly five decades later.

The grand strategic objective of the United States during the Cold War years was to contain any further expansion of the Soviet Union beyond the gains made by Moscow during World War II. Called the "containment policy," it drew a line running parallel along the frontier of the Soviet client states in Europe and Asia. The real or perceived threats of Soviet expansion beyond this line required an adequate response of the West. That strategy took America into wars in the Korean peninsula, Vietnam, proxy wars in Africa and Central America, and the Cuban Missile crisis. The last terminal confrontation between the two superpowers occurred in Afghanistan, when the Soviet Union sent troops in support of its Afghan allies in Kabul, and Washington armed the Afghan resistance with the help of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

The Cold War years also affected the domestic and foreign politics of Muslims countries. The states of the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, located on the southern perimeter of the Soviet Union and at great distance from the United States, possesses an abundance of easily accessible fossil fuels -- by some estimates, more than a third of the world's known reserves.
Next to a divided Europe, this was the region most vulnerable to Soviet penetration, and the most strategically important to the interests of the West. The West had a long, troubling history of relations with the people of the region, and with their religion and culture. But the shadow of the Soviet Union falling over the region required the United States to paper over differences and all likely difficulties between itself and the Muslim-majority states located between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf -- as well as those between Turkey and Pakistan -- and draw them close to Washington through defense arrangements. It meant looking at the politics of this region through the prism of security concerns: of "giving a pass" to the rulers of these countries for violations of human rights. In particular, it meant overlooking almost any unacceptable behavior by whoever possessed oil reserves, so long as they pledged to co-operate with the United States to secure Western interests in the region.
The political and military leadership in Washington and other Western capitals seems to have concluded early in the Cold War that the religion and cultural traditions of the people in the region -- Islam and Muslims -- were intrinsically hostile to godless communism and would, therefore, be natural allies of the West against the Soviet Union. This view went mostly uncontested, and it served well the converging interests of the Western powers and the political rulers in Muslim countries who supported the political status quo, both domestically and in terms of regional stability.
If our knowledge of the world and its usefulness is generally conditioned by our needs, our needs might well be unlimited -- but our resources are finite and our knowledge incomplete. During the decades of the Cold War, the knowledge of both superpowers and regional actors about each other, about the situation at hand and what it meant in terms of their respective needs, and about the unintended consequences of their choices and actions, were warped by the logic of the Cold War itself.
The relationship between the modern West and the Muslim world is inherently unequal. The modern West is the progeny of Christendom with its own distinct history of borrowings and influences from ancient Greece, the Romans, the Jews, and the political thinkers of Europe. The Muslim world, although near Europe, has always viewed itself as a civilization distinct and separate from the West. The history of these two civilizations has been one riddled with rivalry, conflicts, suspicions and claims of wrongs done against one another. The Cold War only tentatively masked this history; once the Cold War ended, the troubled past of the two unequal civilizations, historically at odds, was bound to re-surface.

The Cold War, however, as it played out through the twentieth century, distorted the images that the West and the Muslim world held of each other. The West, liberal, democratic and secular, came to see the rest of the world gradually adopting its values, consistent with the idea of progress in history. The collapse of the Soviet Union lent support to the view that the ideals defining the West were indeed universal and, notwithstanding differences among cultures, that the world was headed towards globalization under the tutelage of the West.

This optimism was reflected, for instance, in Francis Fukuyama's The End of History and the Last Man, published after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and with it, the discrediting of communism as an ideology. Fukuyama pointed out that the world's most developed countries were also successful democracies and liberal societies. The future in the new century, without ideological rivalry among great powers, looked promising, as competing ideologies had only generated conflicts in the world. "A world made up of liberal democracies, then, should have much less incentive for war," wrote Fukuyama, "since all nations would reciprocally recognize one another's legitimacy."[9]

In the midst of the optimism prevailing at the end of the Cold War, although such optimism was not shared by all in the West, there was little apprehension about people in non-Western cultures reading differently the meaning or lesson of history. There were troubles in the world during the decade after the Berlin Wall was taken down in 1989 -- local conflicts in the Balkans and the disintegration of Yugoslavia into its constituent parts based on ethnic and religious identities; conflicts generated by failed states, as in Somalia, Rwanda and Sudan; war over Kuwait and its aftermath as Saddam Hussein's Iraq, a disaffected power, threatened its neighbors; tribal conflicts in Afghanistan, as the Taliban consolidated their hold on Kabul and the rest of the country; Palestinian unrest; Arab grievances; Israeli insecurity; India and Pakistan acquiring nuclear weapons; nuclear threats in the Far East from North Korea; and the rise of China and India as emerging powers -- but these were all considered as manageable within the rubric of UN authority and "great power" diplomacy.
The preoccupation with the Cold War made political leaders and policy advisors in Washington and other Western capitals fail to assess properly the long-term threats of the Muslim world "on the boil," in V.S. Naipaul's apt description. The politicization of Islam, and its effects on the social order of the Muslim world, were not given proper scrutiny. The turn of events leading up to 9/11 and its aftermath therefore came as a shock. More than a decade after 9/11, this shock has considerably worn off, yet the West remains unsure of what is to be done to contain -- if not defeat -- radical Muslims, or Islamists, as they gain in influence and power.

The West, however, cannot remain in denial of, or aloof from, the threat that politicized Islam, or Islamism, poses to Western interests in the Muslim world, as well as to those Muslims who want economic development, democracy and peace for their societies.

Regardless of how the United States, either alone or leading the West, will remain involved with the Muslim world, Islamism demands attention and an adequate response ideologically and militarily, well into the twenty-first century, just as communism and the Soviet Union did in the twentieth century.
* * *
The unlimited and proliferating problems in our world are commonly considered technical in nature, and their solutions primarily technical as well: a modernization made of machines and computers.
But if 9/11 bears any significance beyond the idea of rage taking hold of a people and impelling them into monstrous acts of terror, then surely it tells us to beware of reducing our problems to merely technical matters. We do not inhabit a soulless world. Man, by nature, is as driven by a yearning of the soul, however misguided at times this might be, as he is by material needs and utilitarian calculations.

Irving Babbitt, a literary critic and a leading thinker of new humanism at Harvard during the early decades of the twentieth century, began his introduction to Democracy and Leadership:
"According to Mr. Lloyd George, the future will be even more exclusively taken up than is the present with the economic problem, especially with the relations between capital and labor. In that case, one is tempted to reply, the future will be very superficial. When studied with any degree of thoroughness, the economic problem will be found to run into the political problem, the political problem in turn into the philosophical problem, and the philosophical problem itself to be almost indissolubly bound up at last with the religious problem."[10]
Babbitt's words are a reminder that ultimately man does "not live by bread alone," that his rage is likely greatest when he senses the vision he cherishes about his world has gone awry, or is broken or abused. At such times he will not be consoled nor restrained from taking extreme measures to set right what he, even mistakenly, believes has turned wrong.

The Muslim world is broken and, ultimately the problem for Muslims in repairing their world is a religious problem. If their belief is at odds with the world they inhabit, then their belief has to be reformed, for the world cannot forcefully be made to conform to their belief.

The Muslim world is not monolithic; it is hugely diverse. There are competing views among Muslims on how they view Islam as their faith -- as a matter of personal belief, or as a belief packaged in the form of an ideology. Broadly speaking, the struggle within Islam in our time, -- in which 9/11, London's 7/7, the Madrid train bombings, ISIS's beheadings and other atrocities loom large -- is between Muslims who embrace the values of the modern world in terms of freedom, individual rights, gender equality and democracy on the one side and Muslims opposing these values and insisting on the Sharia-based legal system on the other. This struggle, therefore, goes to the very heart of how Muslims understand Islam: either as a faith and tradition, or as a total system of belief and practice that is antithetical to the norms of the modern world. For Muslims who embrace modernity, Islam is a matter of personal belief, not a political system; Muslims opposed to modernity view Islam ideologically, as Islamism, and accordingly they embrace the views of Mawdudi and Hasan al-Banna, Sayyed Qutb and Khomeini, in which Islam is a totalitarian value-system.

The seeds of this struggle -- or, more appropriately, the basis of conceiving of Islam ideologically, and in terms of politics and power --- can be traced back to the earliest years of Islam and Muslim history. In recent years, however, beginning in the middle of the twentieth century, Muslims have been compelled to face the challenges of modernity, when, after European colonial rule, Muslim societies became independent. Beyond the few states of the Middle East possessing petro-wealth, Muslim states are almost without exception poor and underdeveloped, and relatively backward culturally, politically and technologically. Muslims, in general, have been denied freedom by those holding power, and have very little experience of liberty as individual freedom.

Hence we have an Islam conceived of by Islamists as a totalitarian value system, a political instrument of power and authority, "unchanging," "authentic," and "authoritative" -- and any Muslim who even questions this version of "Islam" is referred to as a heretic or, worse, an apostate to be killed.

Muslims opposed to Islamism reject the Islamist view that Islam is unchanging, that the Qur'an is a closed book and not open to interpretation other than the Islamist version, crafted during the early centuries of Islam and turned authoritative by those in power.

Muslims opposing Islamism are in many, if not all, instances, anti-Sharia, and opposed to the political parties or movements associated with Mawdudi (the Jamaat-i-Islami in South Asia), with Hasan al-Banna and Sayyed Qutb (the Muslim Brotherhood in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa), with Khomeinism (the Shi'i version of Islamism in Iran and among Shi'i Muslims in the Middle East and elsewhere), and with the Wahhabi-Salafi version of Islamism espoused and propagated by the Saudi and Gulf Arabs with their petrodollars.

This struggle between Islamism and Islam -- between Islamist Muslims and anti-Islamist Muslims -- is the core struggle among Muslims in the post-9/11 world. Given the vast diversity inside the Muslim world, it takes many different forms. It also embodies the much-postponed movement for the reform of Islam and the Muslim world, analogous in many ways to the long and complex conflicts waged within Christendom and spread over several centuries through the Reformation, the Counter-Reformation and the accompanying conflicts that culminated in the modern world.

From a longer historical perspective, this struggle within Islam is unavoidable and necessary as Muslims – individually and collectively – strive to reconcile their faith with modernity. It might even be said that 9/11 exposed the simmering, at times violent, tensions within the Muslim world, and propelled the internal conflicts to burst open and spill over, reminding us once again that the struggle for reform is often inseparable from violence.

The intensity of the struggle between Islam and Islamism can be assessed by the degree of Muslim-against-Muslim violence. The eventual outcome of this struggle, I believe, will have salutary effects for Muslims and non-Muslims in our interdependent world. But a reformed Islam, which embraces the modern values of science, freedom and democracy, cannot succeed without the support of non-Muslims in a world where no culture or civilization stands in isolation from any other. Hence there is a need for an increased scrutiny within the West of Islam and Muslims. It was missing during the Cold War years, and is a necessary, positive, spur for the reform of Islam, and for it to be reconciled with modernity and democracy in Muslim countries.
Islam is the last of the great world religions that has remained resistant to modernist reform. How the Muslim world will eventually become reconciled with modernity might not yet be fully understood, yet an eventual reconciliation is more than likely.

Modernization might be resisted and delayed, as Islamists seem determined to impede it, but it is ultimately irresistible. Its benefits are greatly desired and sought after by swelling numbers of Muslims. In time, historians will note that the brutal conflicts which followed 9/11 were the last desperate failed attempts on the part of those Muslims bent upon restoring a civilization --mistakenly identified as the embodiment of their faith, Islam -- that was comatose if not dead.

[1] B. Lewis, "The Roots of Muslim Rage," in The Atlantic Monthly (September 1990), pp. 47-60.
[2] For an English translation see Muhammad Iqbal, Shikwa & Jawab-i-Shikwa: Complaint and Answer: Iqbal's Dialogue with Allah translated from Urdu by Khushwant Singh (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1981; reprint 1983).
[3] M. Bennabi, Islam: In History and Society (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Berita Publishing, 1991), p. 10.
[4] Lewis, op. cit.
[5] In Indonesia and Malaysia in southeast Asia; in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt in the greater Middle East; in Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco in North Africa; in Central Asian republics that were then under Soviet rule.
[6] Ibid.
[7] V.S. Naipaul, Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey (London: Andre Deutsch, 1981), p. 364.
[8] Hobsbawm labeled the twentieth century the "Short Twentieth Century 1914-1991" for the sub-title of his book Age of Extremes. Similarly, J. Lukacs began his book The End of the Twentieth Century (New York:Ticknor & Fields, 1993) by stating, "It was a short century. It lasted seventy-five years – from 1914 to 1989."
[9] F. Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (New York: The Free Press, 1992), p.xx.
[10] I. Babbitt, Democracy and Leadership (Indianapolis: Liberty Classics reprint, 1979), p. 23.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

How Can You Say It’s Not Islamic?’ Megyn Takes on Muslim Speaker Over Violence By Radical Islamists

Mike Ghouse and Brigitte Gabriel with Megyn Kelly of Fox News
9:45 PM EST | September 26, 2014

Video 7:01 Minutes

Megyn Kelly tonight took on Muslim speaker Mike Ghouse over radical Islam in the wake of the Oklahoma beheading.

“Islam stands for peace,” CAIR said in a statement, stressing that the Oklahoma beheading “is not a representation of what our faith teaches.”

“Islam does not stand for peace. The word Islam in Arabic means submission,” Brigitte Gabriel, president of Act! for America, said on “The Kelly File,” charging CAIR with trying to deceive the public.

Ghouse, founder of World Muslim Congress, said that Islam does not teach violence, but that some Muslims do.

Gabriel refuted that, saying that beheadings are strictly Islamic and are happening across the world by radicalized Muslims who are trying to emulate the prophet Muhammad.
Kelly pressed Ghouse, asking, “How can you say it’s not Islamic […] Is it just pure coincidence?”
# # #

My points in random order:

First of all my heart goes out the to the victims family and I pray for them.

You cannot call New Yorkers rapists because over 1000 rapes took place last year.
3 Million Americans are incarcerated while 315 Americans are law abiding citizens.  You cannot call the flaw is in American Laws or our constitution, the problem is with the individuals. 

The radicals are part of us, part of Islam and we have to deal with them for misinterpreting the religion to suit their roughness. 

Brigitte went on with her rant about Prophet Muhammad ordering murdering 700 of Banu Quraiza Jews, I had a choice to counter, or not let her derail the topic. I asked Megyn if I should address that as it is pure malignant misinformation,  instead Megan asked me to focus on her questions. As long as the public hears it and do their research to find the truth, I am fine with it.

Brigitte passes on full of misinformation, and I believe the hard core followers believe her, not matter what the facts are, but there is intelligence out there that questions that rhetoric, and finds the truth on their own. My goal is to refute it in the given 5 to 7 seconds and keep up with the theme. 

I have made policy not to go off tangent or get drawn into other arguments, and I usually stick to answer the questions. In the long run that is the right thing to do.

Thanks to Nadia Q for searching the following information
Great article with good points

Three murders in Birmingham by a terminated employee, one at Hoover Hotel, two at a UPS customer service center
  Thanks to Brigitte Gabrielle’s tweets, it’s multiplying on the net

Reading Material
Go ahead and Destroy ISIS

Two Islams - Mangled up and Pristine -

Muslims to pray for Christians

Muslim Agenda -
Full 7 minutes video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jt6693aWOZU
Mike Ghouse is a public speaker, thinker, writer and a commentator on Pluralism at work place, politics, religion, society, gender, race, culture, ethnicity, food and foreign policy. All about him is listed in several links at www.MikeGhouse.net and his writings are at www.TheGhousediary.com and 10 other blogs. He is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

President Obama’s 2014 address to the United Nations General Assembly

I am proud of our President; he is one of the most inclusive presidents we ever had. The following speech was delivered at the United Nations, and indeed, it is the state of the world speech.  Obama is a genuine conflict mitigater and a goodwill nurturer.

After reading his speech “Faith and Politics” at the Illinois State Senate in 2007, I became a big fan, as I had just created a blog on Pluralism and he was the man for it.

Later on in my profile, I have literally put him in the list of my mentors like Gandhi, MLK and Pope Francis.

I disagree with a few of his policies but overall he is a visionary, a statesman and a genuine human being. He is by far the best foreign policy president we ever had, and he is a catalyst for most of the social changes in our society, no one has done what he has been able to do, and has brought recovery to a devastated economy six years ago. This is one of the most inclusive Speeches the United Nations has witnessed since its inception.

By the way my politics (I'm a Republican) has not prevented me from giving him the credit he deserves. This speech should go down in the history as the best example of respecting the otherness of others.

In this speech, he has criticized Russia, Iran and the radicals among Muslims and others, but yet, he has not pushed them away, he has taken the approach 'blame not the sinner, but the sin' giving them the room to join in with the civil society. He also follows the advice of Mother Teresa, 'if you want to make peace, go talk with the enemies.'

My biggest disappointment in him was when he surrendered to Netanyahu and backed off from accomplishing security for Israelis and justice for the Palestinians, I lost him then.  I wish he has the backbone to stand up and end the six decade old conflict that is tearing the world apart.  He should have been a bully with Netanyahu for the sake of Israel and Palestine.

I connect with him; we have the same pluralistic inclusive attitudes in building cohesive societies.  He is not a Muslim, but he is what a Muslim ought to be; just, fair, merciful and respectful of all of God’s creation.  Of course Muslims leadership is not following the wisdom of Qur'an, but this guy is, and this is the kind of Muslim the world needs. I am willing to say, he is what a Muslim ought to be, and Pope Francis is a model of what a Muslim should be. 

Indeed, Obama is what a Hindu ought to be, a Jew, Buddhist or other ought to be. He is a universal being - I used the phrase Mukhlookhul Aalameen (universal being), just as God is God of the Universe and Prophet (any prophetic personality) is prophet for all. Of course, a good Muslim is a good Christian is a good Jew, is a good Hindu and a good human.

This is the kind of speech I would have written - to bring about a sense to the world.
With his approach he will build the largest coalition the world has ever witnessed. On September 4, I wrote, "President Obama, go ahead 'degrade and destroy' ISIS at Huffington Post. Go ahead and Destroy ISIS - there are two more articles at the post about this issue.  He is for empowerment of the United Nations, a body of nations for the common good, unfortunately, our previous President had destroyed it.

Obama's full speech at: http://foundationforpluralism.blogspot.com/2014/09/president-obamas-2014-address-to-united.html

God bless you Mr. President, may God continue to Guide you to be the light and guidance to humanity. Amen!

Mike Ghouse

# # #  September 24 at 10:13 AM

President Obama spoke at the United Nations in New York on Sept. 24.

Remarks As Prepared for Delivery by President Barack Obama

Address to the United Nations General Assembly

September 24, 2014

New York City, NY

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen: we come together at a crossroads between war and peace; between disorder and integration; between fear and hope.

Around the globe, there are signposts of progress. The shadow of World War that existed at the founding of this institution has been lifted; the prospect of war between major powers reduced. The ranks of member states has more than tripled, and more people live under governments they elected. Hundreds of millions of human beings have been freed from the prison of poverty, with the proportion of those living in extreme poverty cut in half. And the world economy continues to strengthen after the worst financial crisis of our lives.

Today, whether you live in downtown New York or in my grandmother’s village more than two hundred miles from Nairobi, you can hold in your hand more information than the world’s greatest libraries. Together, we have learned how to cure disease, and harness the power of the wind and sun. The very existence of this institution is a unique achievement – the people of the world committing to resolve their differences peacefully, and solve their problems together. I often tell young people in the United States that this is the best time in human history to be born, for you are more likely than ever before to be literate, to be healthy, and to be free to pursue your dreams.

And yet there is a pervasive unease in our world – a sense that the very forces that have brought us together have created new dangers, and made it difficult for any single nation to insulate itself from global forces. As we gather here, an outbreak of Ebola overwhelms public health systems in West Africa, and threatens to move rapidly across borders. Russian aggression in Europe recalls the days when large nations trampled small ones in pursuit of territorial ambition. The brutality of terrorists in Syria and Iraq forces us to look into the heart of darkness.

Each of these problems demands urgent attention. But they are also symptoms of a broader problem – the failure of our international system to keep pace with an interconnected world. We have not invested adequately in the public health capacity of developing countries. Too often, we have failed to enforce international norms when it’s inconvenient to do so. And we have not confronted forcefully enough the intolerance, sectarianism, and hopelessness that feeds violent extremism in too many parts of the globe.

Fellow delegates, we come together as United Nations with a choice to make. We can renew the international system that has enabled so much progress, or allow ourselves to be pulled back by an undertow of instability. We can reaffirm our collective responsibility to confront global problems, or be swamped by more and more outbreaks of instability. For America, the choice is clear. We choose hope over fear. We see the future not as something out of our control, but as something we can shape for the better through concerted and collective effort. We reject fatalism or cynicism when it comes to human affairs; we choose to work for the world as it should be, as our children deserve it to be.

There is much that must be done to meet the tests of this moment. But today I’d like to focus on two defining questions at the root of many of our challenges– whether the nations here today will be able to renew the purpose of the UN’s founding; and whether we will come together to reject the cancer of violent extremism.

First, all of us – big nations and small – must meet our responsibility to observe and enforce international norms.

We are here because others realized that we gain more from cooperation than conquest. One hundred years ago, a World War claimed the lives of many millions, proving that with the terrible power of modern weaponry, the cause of empire leads to the graveyard. It would take another World War to roll back the forces of fascism and racial supremacy, and form this United Nations to ensure that no nation can subjugate its neighbors and claim their territory.

Russia’s actions in Ukraine challenge this post-war order. Here are the facts. After the people of Ukraine mobilized popular protests and calls for reform, their corrupt President fled. Against the will of the government in Kiev, Crimea was annexed. Russia poured arms into Eastern Ukraine, fueling violent separatists and a conflict that has killed thousands. When a civilian airliner was shot down from areas that these proxies controlled, they refused to allow access to the crash for days. When Ukraine started to reassert control over its territory, Russia gave up the pretense of merely supporting the separatists, and moved troops across the border.

This is a vision of the world in which might makes right – a world in which one nation’s borders can be redrawn by another, and civilized people are not allowed to recover the remains of their loved ones because of the truth that might be revealed. America stands for something different. We believe that right makes might – that bigger nations should not be able to bully smaller ones; that people should be able to choose their own future.

These are simple truths, but they must be defended. America and our allies will support the people of Ukraine as they develop their democracy and economy. We will reinforce our NATO allies, and uphold our commitment to collective defense. We will impose a cost on Russia for aggression, and counter falsehoods with the truth. We call upon others to join us on the right side of history – for while small gains can be won at the barrel of a gun, they will ultimately be turned back if enough voices support the freedom of nations and peoples to make their own decisions.

Moreover, a different path is available – the path of diplomacy and peace and the ideals this institution is designed to uphold. The recent cease-fire agreement in Ukraine offers an opening to achieve that objective. If Russia takes that path – a path that for stretches of the post-Cold War period resulted in prosperity for the Russian people – then we will lift our sanctions and welcome Russia’s role in addressing common challenges. That’s what the United States and Russia have been able to do in past years – from reducing our nuclear stockpiles to meet our obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to cooperating to remove and destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapons. And that’s the kind of cooperation we are prepared to pursue again—if Russia changes course.

This speaks to a central question of our global age: whether we will solve our problems together, in a spirit of mutual interests and mutual respect, or whether we descend into destructive rivalries of the past. When nations find common ground, not simply based on power, but on principle, then we can make enormous progress. And I stand before you today committed to investing American strength in working with nations to address the problems we face in the 21st century.

As we speak, America is deploying our doctors and scientists – supported by our military – to help contain the outbreak of Ebola and pursue new treatments. But we need a broader effort to stop a disease that could kill hundreds of thousands, inflict horrific suffering, destabilize economies, and move rapidly across borders. It’s easy to see this as a distant problem – until it isn’t. That is why we will continue mobilizing other countries to join us in making concrete commitments to fight this outbreak, and enhance global health security for the long-term.

America is pursuing a diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue, as part of our commitment to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and pursue the peace and security of a world without them. This can only happen if Iran takes this historic opportunity. My message to Iran’s leaders and people is simple: do not let this opportunity pass. We can reach a solution that meets your energy needs while assuring the world that your program is peaceful.

America is and will continue to be a Pacific power, promoting peace, stability, and the free flow of commerce among nations. But we will insist that all nations abide by the rules of the road, and resolve their territorial disputes peacefully, consistent with international law. That’s how the Asia-Pacific has grown. And that’s the only way to protect this progress going forward.

America is committed to a development agenda that eradicates extreme poverty by 2030. We will do our part – to help people feed themselves; power their economies; and care for their sick. If the world acts together, we can make sure that all of our children can enjoy lives of opportunity and dignity

America is pursuing ambitious reductions in our carbon emissions, and we have increased our investments in clean energy. We will do our part, and help developing nations to do theirs. But we can only succeed in combating climate change if we are joined in this effort by every major power. That’s how we can protect this planet for our children and grandchildren.

On issue after issue, we cannot rely on a rule-book written for a different century. If we lift our eyes beyond our borders – if we think globally and act cooperatively – we can shape the course of this century as our predecessors shaped the post-World War II age. But as we look to the future, one issue risks a cycle of conflict that could derail such progress: and that is the cancer of violent extremism that has ravaged so many parts of the Muslim world.

Of course, terrorism is not new. Speaking before this Assembly, President Kennedy put it well: “Terror is not a new weapon,” he said. “Throughout history it has been used by those who could not prevail, either by persuasion or example.” In the 20th century, terror was used by all manner of groups who failed to come to power through public support. But in this century, we have faced a more lethal and ideological brand of terrorists who have perverted one of the world’s great religions. With access to technology that allows small groups to do great harm, they have embraced a nightmarish vision that would divide the world into adherents and infidels – killing as many innocent civilians as possible; and employing the most brutal methods to intimidate people within their communities.

I have made it clear that America will not base our entire foreign policy on reacting to terrorism. Rather, we have waged a focused campaign against al Qaeda and its associated forces – taking out their leaders, and denying them the safe-havens they rely upon. At the same time, we have reaffirmed that the United States is not and never will be at war with Islam. Islam teaches peace. Muslims the world over aspire to live with dignity and a sense of justice. And when it comes to America and Islam, there is no us and them – there is only us, because millions of Muslim Americans are part of the fabric of our country.

So we reject any suggestion of a clash of civilizations. Belief in permanent religious war is the misguided refuge of extremists who cannot build or create anything, and therefore peddle only fanaticism and hate. And it is no exaggeration to say that humanity’s future depends on us uniting against those who would divide us along fault lines of tribe or sect; race or religion.

This is not simply a matter of words. Collectively, we must take concrete steps to address the danger posed by religiously motivated fanatics, and the trends that fuel their recruitment. Moreover, this campaign against extremism goes beyond a narrow security challenge. For while we have methodically degraded core al Qaeda and supported a transition to a sovereign Afghan government, extremist ideology has shifted to other places – particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, where a quarter of young people have no job; food and water could grow scarce; corruption is rampant; and sectarian conflicts have become increasingly hard to contain.

As an international community, we must meet this challenge with a focus on four areas. First, the terrorist group known as ISIL must be degraded, and ultimately destroyed.

This group has terrorized all who they come across in Iraq and Syria. Mothers, sisters and daughters have been subjected to rape as a weapon of war. Innocent children have been gunned down. Bodies have been dumped in mass graves. Religious minorities have been starved to death. In the most horrific crimes imaginable, innocent human beings have been beheaded, with videos of the atrocity distributed to shock the conscience of the world.

No God condones this terror. No grievance justifies these actions. There can be no reasoning – no negotiation – with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.

In this effort, we do not act alone. Nor do we intend to send U.S. troops to occupy foreign lands. Instead, we will support Iraqis and Syrians fighting to reclaim their communities. We will use our military might in a campaign of air strikes to roll back ISIL. We will train and equip forces fighting against these terrorists on the ground. We will work to cut off their financing, and to stop the flow of fighters into and out of the region. Already, over 40 nations have offered to join this coalition. Today, I ask the world to join in this effort. Those who have joined ISIL should leave the battlefield while they can. Those who continue to fight for a hateful cause will find they are increasingly alone. For we will not succumb to threats; and we will demonstrate that the future belongs to those who build – not those who destroy.

Second, it is time for the world – especially Muslim communities – to explicitly, forcefully, and consistently reject the ideology of al Qaeda and ISIL.

It is the task of all great religions to accommodate devout faith with a modern, multicultural world. No children – anywhere – should be educated to hate other people. There should be no more tolerance of so-called clerics who call upon people to harm innocents because they are Jewish, Christian or Muslim. It is time for a new compact among the civilized peoples of this world to eradicate war at its most fundamental source: the corruption of young minds by violent ideology.

That means cutting off the funding that fuels this hate. It’s time to end the hypocrisy of those who accumulate wealth through the global economy, and then siphon funds to those who teach children to tear it down.

That means contesting the space that terrorists occupy – including the Internet and social media. Their propaganda has coerced young people to travel abroad to fight their wars, and turned students into suicide bombers. We must offer an alternative vision.

That means bringing people of different faiths together. All religions have been attacked by extremists from within at some point, and all people of faith have a responsibility to lift up the value at the heart of all religion: do unto thy neighbor as you would have done unto you.

The ideology of ISIL or al Qaeda or Boko Haram will wilt and die if it is consistently exposed, confronted, and refuted in the light of day. Look at the new Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies – Sheikh bin Bayyah described its purpose: “We must declare war on war, so the outcome will be peace upon peace.” Look at the young British Muslims, who responded to terrorist propaganda by starting the “notinmyname” campaign, declaring – “ISIS is hiding behind a false Islam.” Look at the Christian and Muslim leaders who came together in the Central African Republic to reject violence – listen to the Imam who said, “Politics try to divide the religious in our country, but religion shouldn’t be a cause of hate, war, or strife.”

Later today, the Security Council will adopt a resolution that underscores the responsibility of states to counter violent extremism. But resolutions must be followed by tangible commitments, so we’re accountable when we fall short. Next year, we should all be prepared to announce the concrete steps that we have taken to counter extremist ideologies – by getting intolerance out of schools, stopping radicalization before it spreads, and promoting institutions and programs that build new bridges of understanding.

Third, we must address the cycle of conflict – especially sectarian conflict – that creates the conditions that terrorists prey upon.

There is nothing new about wars within religions. Christianity endured centuries of vicious sectarian conflict. Today, it is violence within Muslim communities that has become the source of so much human misery. It is time to acknowledge the destruction wrought by proxy wars and terror campaigns between Sunni and Shia across the Middle East. And it is time that political, civic and religious leaders reject sectarian strife. Let’s be clear: this is a fight that no one is winning. A brutal civil war in Syria has already killed nearly 200,000 people and displaced millions. Iraq has come perilously close to plunging back into the abyss. The conflict has created a fertile recruiting ground for terrorists who inevitably export this violence.

Yet, we also see signs that this tide could be reversed – a new, inclusive government in Baghdad; a new Iraqi Prime Minister welcomed by his neighbors; Lebanese factions rejecting those who try to provoke war. These steps must be followed by a broader truce. Nowhere is this more necessary than Syria. Together with our partners, America is training and equipping the Syrian opposition to be a counterweight to the terrorists of ISIL and the brutality of the Assad regime. But the only lasting solution to Syria’s civil war is political – an inclusive political transition that responds to the legitimate aspirations of all Syrian citizens, regardless of ethnicity or creed.

Cynics may argue that such an outcome can never come to pass. But there is no other way for this madness to end – whether one year from now or ten. Indeed, it’s time for a broader negotiation in which major powers address their differences directly, honestly, and peacefully across the table from one another, rather than through gun-wielding proxies. I can promise you America will remain engaged in the region, and we are prepared to engage in that effort.

My fourth and final point is a simple one: the countries of the Arab and Muslim world must focus on the extraordinary potential of their people – especially the youth.

Here I’d like to speak directly to young people across the Muslim world. You come from a great tradition that stands for education, not ignorance; innovation, not destruction; the dignity of life, not murder. Those who call you away from this path are betraying this tradition, not defending it.

You have demonstrated that when young people have the tools to succeed –good schools; education in math and science; an economy that nurtures creativity and entrepreneurship – then societies will flourish. So America will partner with those who promote that vision.

Where women are full participants in a country’s politics or economy, societies are more likely to succeed. That’s why we support the participation of women in parliaments and in peace processes; in schools and the economy.

If young people live in places where the only option is between the dictates of a state, or the lure of an extremist underground – no counter-terrorism strategy can succeed. But where a genuine civil society is allowed to flourish – where people can express their views, and organize peacefully for a better life – then you dramatically expand the alternatives to terror.

Such positive change need not come at the expense of tradition and faith. We see this in Iraq, where a young man started a library for his peers. “We link Iraq’s heritage to their hearts,” he said, and “give them a reason to stay.” We see it in Tunisia, where secular and Islamist parties worked together through a political process to produce a new constitution. We see it in Senegal, where civil society thrives alongside a strong, democratic government. We see it in Malaysia, where vibrant entrepreneurship is propelling a former colony into the ranks of advanced economies. And we see it in Indonesia, where what began as a violent transition has evolved into a genuine democracy.

Ultimately, the task of rejecting sectarianism and extremism is a generational task – a task for the people of the Middle East themselves. No external power can bring about a transformation of hearts and minds. But America will be a respectful and constructive partner. We will neither tolerate terrorist safe-havens, nor act as an occupying power. Instead, we will take action against threats to our security – and our allies – while building an architecture of counter-terrorism cooperation. We will increase efforts to lift up those who counter extremist ideology, and seek to resolve sectarian conflict. And we will expand our programs to support entrepreneurship, civil society, education and youth – because, ultimately, these investments are the best antidote to violence.

Leadership will also be necessary to address the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. As bleak as the landscape appears, America will never give up the pursuit of peace. The situation in Iraq, Syria and Libya should cure anyone of the illusion that this conflict is the main source of problems in the region; for far too long, it has been used in part as a way to distract people from problems at home. And the violence engulfing the region today has made too many Israelis ready to abandon the hard work of peace. But let’s be clear: the status quo in the West Bank and Gaza is not sustainable. We cannot afford to turn away from this effort – not when rockets are fired at innocent Israelis, or the lives of so many Palestinian children are taken from us in Gaza. So long as I am President, we will stand up for the principle that Israelis, Palestinians, the region, and the world will be more just with two states living side by side, in peace and security.

This is what America is prepared to do – taking action against immediate threats, while pursuing a world in which the need for such action is diminished. The United States will never shy away from defending our interests, but nor will we shrink from the promise of this institution and its Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the notion that peace is not merely the absence of war, but the presence of a better life.

I realize that America’s critics will be quick to point out that at times we too have failed to live up to our ideals; that America has plenty of problems within our own borders. This is true. In a summer marked by instability in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, I know the world also took notice of the small American city of Ferguson, Missouri – where a young man was killed, and a community was divided. So yes, we have our own racial and ethnic tensions. And like every country, we continually wrestle with how to reconcile the vast changes wrought by globalization and greater diversity with the traditions that we hold dear.

But we welcome the scrutiny of the world – because what you see in America is a country that has steadily worked to address our problems and make our union more perfect. America is not the same as it was 100 years ago, 50 years ago, or even a decade ago. Because we fight for our ideals, and are willing to criticize ourselves when we fall short. Because we hold our leaders accountable, and insist on a free press and independent judiciary. Because we address our differences in the open space of democracy – with respect for the rule of law; with a place for people of every race and religion; and with an unyielding belief in the ability of individual men and women to change their communities and countries for the better.

After nearly six years as President, I believe that this promise can help light the world. Because I’ve seen a longing for positive change – for peace and freedom and opportunity – in the eyes of young people I’ve met around the globe. They remind me that no matter who you are, or where you come from, or what you look like, or what God you pray to, or who you love, there is something fundamental that we all share. Eleanor Roosevelt, a champion of the UN and America’s role in it, once asked, “Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places,” she said, “close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works.”

The people of the world look to us, here, to be as decent, as dignified, and as courageous as they are in their daily lives. And at this crossroads, I can promise you that the United States of America will not be distracted or deterred from what must be done. We are heirs to a proud legacy of freedom, and we are prepared to do what is necessary to secure that legacy for generations to come. Join us in this common mission, for today’s children and tomorrow’s.