It is as if we are entering a frightening surreal national enactment of Bill Murray’s 1993 film, Groundhog Day. As the President stood in the Islamic Center of Washington and helped its Muslim congregation rededicate their mosque at 50 years this week on June 27, I couldn’t help but feel this painful déjà vu. We are almost six years since 9-11 when President Bush made the same trip to the same mosque saying basically the same thing with some new nuances this time. This week the President stated,
We must encourage more Muslim leaders to add their voices, to speak out against radical extremists who infiltrate mosques, to denounce organizations that use the veneer of Islamic belief to support and fund acts of violence, and to reach out to young Muslims -- even in our country and elsewhere in the free world -- who believe suicide bombing may some day be justified.
If we keep saying the same thing to the same groups while ignoring the root causes of militant Islamism, six more years from now and many more plots later we may sadly be hearing the same speech.
Since 9-11 the world has seen an unending series of militant Islamist plots from Spain’s 10/11 to London’s 7/7 to Bali and on and on. Domestically, each uncovered terror plot sends us careening down the same path toward oblivion. Phil Conner’s reaction in the 1993 movie to his entrapment in his ‘Groundhog day’ time loop, however, does in contrast evolve from victimization to personal courage; from immorality to morality. His personal breakthroughs finally bring him out of the torturous infinite loop of his life once he has actually realized the central meaning of his moral life. Our most frustrating, repetitively painful challenges in life contain within them the stimuli for renewal and victory. One can only pray that we collectively wake up to this in America soon.
It only took Phil Connor a few Groundhog days in the 1993 movie finally to make the breakthroughs which led to the liberation of his soul, when he awoke to a new day on February 3. How many terror plots need to be thwarted before the Muslim community begins to make breakthroughs out of the painful cycle of plots we live in from day to day?
Early this month, our nation breathed another collective sigh of relief after the arrests of radical Islamists - this time from Guyana and Trinidad - conspiring to bomb John F. Kennedy airport and Buckeye pipeline. The four charged in the indictment included Russell Defreitas, a former JFK airport employee, Guyanese citizen Abdul Kadir, Trinidadian Kareem Ibrahim, and still at large, Guyanese Abdel Nur. Their story and associations have been chronicled well in the past month by James Robbins, Stephen Schwartz, and many others.
How many more terror plots will we unravel before one slips through the net and is carried out again domestically? N.Y. City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said after the announcement of the arrests on Face the Nation, “Al Qaida is a philosophy now..it’s a movement.” Well, that is a good first step away from denial. It has only taken six years to get that baby step. But it is not Al Qaeda only. I pray it will not take another 6 years for Americans to comprehend that the philosophical problem is political Islam. The President’s lack of clarity and leadership in naming the ideology of our enemy, the inconsistency of Islamism with American pluralism, and the primary responsibility of Muslims not only to counter terror but to defeat political Islam will continue to give American Islamists the cover they need to grow under his watch with the stamp of approval of the Bush administration. Until we are willing to unravel the ideology which facilitates and apologizes for terror, we are ‘stuck in the mud.’
On June 2, 2007, right after the announcement of the JFK Plot arrests, U.S. Attorney, Roslynn Mauskopf read a statement stating,
“the defendants are charged with conspiring to bomb one of the busiest airports in the United States, located in the one of the most densely populated areas in the northeast…had the plot been carried out, it could have resulted in unfathomable damage, deaths, and destruction.”
This last time the Islamists were driven by a hate for the Kennedy name, but it derives from the same hate for America which is a common manifestation of global Islamism. In the daily practice of medicine, it would be malpractice to have a disease smolder with such a predictable recurrence of acutely possibly fatal exacerbations over a prolonged period of time while a physician only treated the symptoms and ignored the primary cause—political Islam. That is, except in the case of the terminal hospice patient. An unending series of plots across the globe against liberal democracies is our long war against an ideology. That ideology is not terror. It is political Islam.
Mr. President, as a devout Muslim, I can tell you that the only way the United States can make progress in this war is to have your administration give anti-Islamist Muslims acknowledgement for the centrality of their ideas in this war of ideologies. We can defeat political Islam only if we engage it and marginalize Islamists while positively engaging spiritual Islam. It is time for the administration to set the parameters defining the ideology we are fighting and be critical of organizations which facilitate it. The words of encouragement and admonition to Muslim organizations to lead the charge against radicalism are too vague. The reality is that the priorities, ideologies, and minority politics of the current agenda of the Islamic organizations the administration has courted and which attended last Wednesday’s press conference are far from being on the right page in this conflict.
For example, the central role of the informant has become a cornerstone of our security. The primary informant in the arrest related to the JFK Plot demonstrated this. The Circuit City informant demonstrated the same with his tip leading to the arrests of the Fort Dix Six just weeks ago. The informants and so many others have stepped up in connection with other foiled plots despite the pressures against them from Islamists and the MSM. MSM often feed into conspiracy theories about informants, by legitimizing the victimization of Muslims for being “coerced” as informants. The Denver Post made just such a claim as recently as May 18, 2007. Their report claimed that, “Arab-Americans and Muslims are concerned about FBI efforts to recruit them as informants and other tactics designed to prevent terrorism.” This story was, to no one’s surprise, picked up and widely distributed by the Islamist organizations, e.g. CAIR.
Nothing illustrates the insidious dangers of political Islam (Islamism) more than this type of philosophy regarding informants. Rather than being celebrated as heroes, they are ignored, or subliminally treated as ‘traitors to the tribe’. Sadly, the latest message coming from Islamists is still far from endorsing the heroism of the informant but rather issuing frightening warnings that they may become defendants in a national lawsuit. Just this week, the lawyer for the flying imams, Omar Mohammedi, tried to prevent media access to the trial in his case against US Airways and the “John Does”. This again demonstrates the hypocrisy of the Islamists using the media when they need to be victims but denying freedom of press when they want to camouflage their agenda. The reality is that the informants are our 21st century heroes. Are Muslim organizations working feverishly to create a culture in the mosques and in our organizations of weeding out the bad apples? Or is the allegiance to political Islam greater and more intimidating? These are the questions the President should be asking instead of reiterating the same tired platitudes.
With the key role of the few informants in these cases, it is also concerning that with so many sloppy amateurish Muslim terrorists who are loose in their communications, we aren’t also seeing a bevy of Muslim informants. Perhaps the problem at hand can be asked another way. Is the power of the tribe and political Islam and all of its donors greater upon the Muslim consciousness than that of the universal principles of moral courage or the priority of American security and national interests? From Lackawanna to Miami to Chicago to New Jersey and back to New York City - to name just a few - we remain exceedingly lucky beneficiaries of outstanding work by D.O.J. and the F.B.I. and heroic informants often from the Muslim community. My guess is that more often than not, the informants are not Islamists. Thus the ideology of political Islam is important and needs to be countered.
We are doomed to repeat yet another handful if not an unending number of Groundhog terror days, unless we change our focus toward Islamist ideology in the U.S. and especially begin to implore that the Muslim community address and marginalize political Islam and all of its fundamentalist, toxic manifestations from Wahhabism to Iranian theocracy. But the obstacles are deep and extensive.
Denial and obfuscation feed the infinite time loop. Conspiracy theories feed the loop. Tribalism with an arrogance masking a collective inferiority complex feeds the loop. Hatred feeds it even more. Put all this together, and the nutritional source must be political Islam. It has no boundaries and seeks governmental domination. Political Islam has no moral courage for it is not based in universal truths of the one God of Abraham separated from the political affairs of this world. It is an ideology which accepts no responsibility for the plight of Muslims while blaming all others. Nations based upon individual freedom and liberty over collectivism and tribalism pose existential threats to the existence of the Islamists. This conflict can no longer be ignored.
The story here is not only that international Jihadism is becoming more and more prevalent or that our security continues to demonstrate its exemplary proficiency and our good fortune. But rather, the real story is how we as a nation and Muslims as a faith community have done relatively little in the theological realm or in the political realm to pierce the machinery which ultimately ferments these rotten Islamist apples. The immediate problems to be cleansed are the rotten apples. The long-term treatment is to plant a different tree which will bear different fruit than the poisoned tree of Islamism.
The Islamist grievance machinery is the ticking clock of Groundhog terror day. Victim-mongering organizations like the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and its fellow Islamists end up whether they like to admit it or not, providing cover for the radical Islamists who are perched at the same trough of political Islam. Militant Islamists feast and grow exponentially from the grievance mills of minority politics and the conspiracy theory machine of Muslim tribalism.
The indictment in the JFK Plot earlier this month details how Defreitas told the government source in August 2006,
“…when discussing the war in Lebanon that Muslims always get the wrath of the world while Jews get a pass. He then discussed wanting to exert a punishment greater than 9-11.” He then told the informant, “While it appeared to only be Arab Muslims, many others are fighting.”
The connection of political Islam to the minds of these terrorists could not be clearer. Political Islam doesn’t have to preach violence to be lethal. Its lethality and viral spread is simply through the following examples of some of the possible rules of engagement for Islamists:
Create a pervasive conspiracy mentality. Magnify victimization of the Muslim minority. Try litigation against those who work to defeat political Islam, even if it fails since it will ultimately intimidate. Divide America across religious lines; this will exploit American guilt while allowing political Islam to thrive. Sue the John Does who report suspicious activity. Base it on a claim of racism. Ignore the terror plots broken up by heroes who are or were John Does. It’s all about the theocratic tribe and the long term goals of political Islam and an Islamic state. Use the rules of pluralistic democracy to intimidate those who counter Islamism. Never allow the debate to begin between Muslim anti-Islamists and Islamists.
These are some examples of the unsaid dogma permeating the internet, some mosques, and the Islamist organizations around the nation. The MSM and the administration are only too willing to facilitate this. The Islamic state may be compelling for those Muslims stuck living in secular oppressive dictatorships. But, Islamism is a failed system when compared to pluralistic democracies. Once that debate begins and the Islamists are forced to state their position and defend it, they will lose, because history demonstrates the failures of theocracy and the success of liberal democracies. Ultimately, the militant arm of Islamism will also dissolve with a potent Islamic counter-jihad. We Muslims can choose to live as passive observers in this time loop or we can choose to step out of the path of least resistance and finally initiate a counter-jihad against the heart of Al Qaida and the overriding philosophy of political Islam.
Al Qaeda’s jugular is the opium of the political dreams of the ummah (the so-called ‘Muslim nation’). While the recent Pew poll showed a number of areas of concern with regard to political Islam, it also showed that with the right resources and intensity, there may be a significant plurality or even a majority of anti-Islamist Muslims out there who have the right mindset to form alternative Muslim institutions which are anti-Islamist. The math showed over 184,000 potential FOA (friends of Al Qaeda) in America. With only one needing to be able to execute a plot that cripples our nation, we cannot afford any longer to ignore political Islam.
The time for photo-ops and redundant platitudes is long over. It’s time for Muslims to get down to the brass tacks of dissecting the Islamist ideology which contributes to radicalism. It is also time that the administration and others insist that Muslim organizations and leaders declare their ideological priorities vis-à-vis political Islam in helping the free world break this recurrent, and dangerous infinite loop.