If you think the war on terror is about Islam against the West, pay attention to Iraq. Something strange and grave is afoot there. Simultaneous attacks. An al-Qaida signature. Terrorists bringing homicidal carnage on Shiite Muslim shrines and pilgrims, wantonly killing 140-plus and injuring 400 on their holy day of Ashoura.
These bombings, nine in Karbala and four in Baghdad, brought a three-day delay in the signing of the constitution by the Governing Council. Yet, in a most unusual declaration, al-Qaida denied involvement.
U.S. General John Abizaid told reporters he believes "there is no doubt" that Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi along with al-Qaida was behind the suicide bombings.
However, it seems that this heinous frontline violence of Muslim against Muslim is infinitely revealing of the essence of the war on terror in Iraq and beyond.
Set aside the rhetoric and it is obvious to all that eventually coalition forces will leave an Iraqi government with an independent country with a free process.
The character of this process will shape many Iraqi and future Middle Eastern generations. Al-Qaida and Islamist paranoid delusions of the negative impact of remote Western culture and secularism upon their nihilistic dogma will pale in comparison to the obliterating effect upon Islamism of a constitutional secular democracy of a majority of tolerant Muslims.
Jim Hoagland, of The Washington Post got it right. "The latest waves of holy murders should shake from their fantasies the Islamic political leaders and religious authorities who deny that a war for control of Islam is raging around them. The war will claim many more lives if Muslim society does not face up to the cancerous growth feeding on Islam and lead -- not join, but lead -- the fight against that cancer." As the signatories grow ever closer to penning their name in the Iraqi Constitution, al-Qaida, Ansar Al Islam, the Army for the Helpers of Sunnah, and scores of other radicals are the only ones who benefit from derailing the process and creating carnage in its wake.
For moderate Muslims to ignore the radicals, sit idly by, and not aggressively seek them out whether in Iraq or elsewhere is to allow them to metastasize.
An internal religious civil war between moderate and radical Muslims has now become a reality. It is a defining moment in the real reform of the Muslim expression. It is a war of might and of words with fronts and battle lines clear.
The truth is that many a great nation of reformers and those escaping religious persecution have been built on a foundation of civil war leaving behind the intolerant, the reactionary, and the theologically dogmatic for the spiritually liberated.
To say that those who utilize homicide bombing and asynchronous warfare would respond to anything but military might is to misunderstand their motivation, their ignorance, and their self-righteousness.
God bless the brave American liberators and the brave Muslim freedom pioneers who are standing tall and firm against theocracy, intolerance, and oppression in Iraq and beyond. While some Muslim representatives this week around the world peacefully condemned the bombings and called for unity and tolerance, let us hope that the unity is a firm and unyielding unity of moderate Muslims directed against the scourge of the radicals in a struggle for the soul of Islam and individual freedom of expression.