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Dealing with Muslim fundamentalism

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By Terry Lacey

President-elect Barack Obama faces a huge task to save what he can of the United States economy and start economic restructuring. Unemployment in the U.S is 8.9 million, currently going up by half a million a month. Two million people could lose their homes. The mortgage crisis for malls and hotels is just starting. For Wall Street, Main Street, the factory floor, exports and trade, there is no going back to business as usual.

Post-Bush America will reflect new demographic, economic and social realities at home and a new balance of global economic power, reverting to a multi-polar world instead of a temporary U.S. hegemony.

9/11 was a turning-point, but it led to a diversion, an historical cul-de-sac, a wasted decade leading the West to an unconvincing outcome in the global war On terror, short of victory, and not far short of defeat.

However, as Jusuf Wanandi pointed out recently in the Jakarta Post, “When the United States is under siege and has lost some soft power and ability to lead,” then the views of China and East Asia “in general have been farsighted and statesmanlike enough not to gloat or be arrogant regarding the mistakes of the United States.”

Muhammad Lutfi, chairman of the Indonesian Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM), underlined the global shift in economic power when he noted recently that the Gulf states and Middle Eastern sovereign and private funds had available $1.6 trillion (by August 2008) to finance trade and investment. Some of this is already reaching Indonesia according to Alwi Shihab, the Indonesian government special envoy to the Middle East.

In 2009, Indonesia will mobilize close to $25 billion for investment in oil, gas, energy and mining from China, the Middle East, ASEAN states, the U.S., Japan and Europe, plus about $16 billion of inward investment for non oil and gas sectors (infrastructure, telecom, tourism). Indonesia and South Asia are on the move, with China and the Gulf, along with the rest of the BRICs (Brazil, India, Russia).

At the end of the Bush era, the U.S. is perceived as economically and militarily weaker. The balance of power in world institutions will adjust to the new economic power of the G30 states. Military solutions, after Iraq, given doubts in Afghanistan, are unconvincing.

Lawrance Freedman, professor of war studies at Kings College, London recently said, “There were two important developments over the past year. One, Iraq got a bit easier and two, Afghanistan a bit harder.”

The United States and the British are now leaving Iraq. Both say they will move more troops to Afghanistan, but to do what? The U.S and the UK are fresh from near defeat in Iraq, militarily overstretched, reeling under financial collapses that are not yet over, facing deepening economic recessions and rising unemployment and with public opinion utterly unconvinced as to viable military strategies in these new foreign wars. These are not the springboards for victory in Afghanistan.

The world leadership, not just the West, are failing to make headway against security collapses in Sudan's Darfur, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in Somalia, in the islands of insecurity across Central Asia and the Russian border, in southern Thailand and in the southern Philippines.

Just when we need strong U.N. intervention forces with multilateral support, but only in the context of strong political strategies, we are instead economically and militarily nearly flat on our backs and incapable of the political leadership that is needed. The unresolved Palestine-Israel dispute is almost sidelined by all these developments and by the quiet shadow of Kurdistan which looms large over Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey.

Most Arabs and most Muslims, like Western public opinion, are tired of all these conflicts, and want to focus on economic development and on building their houses, schooling their children and on buying their motor-bikes, cars, mobile phones and hand-held devices, browsing the Internet, visiting shopping malls and planning holidays.

People are walking away, mentally and physically, from extremism, conflicts and politics and many will walk away from religion too if it becomes too tainted with these things. They won’t argue, they will just drift away.

Most of the rest of the world is getting on with life and increasingly fed up with stories of Muslim fundamentalists, warring tribes and the underlay of rebel movements that seem increasingly intertwined with local gangsters, and warlords, all of which seem to belong more to medieval history books, rather than the 21st century.

Muslim fundamentalism cannot be defeated by military means. The struggle for the hearts and minds of the Muslim world cannot be fought by proxy by Western armies. The militarization and Westernization of the battle for Muslim modernization can only result in defeat for the West, undermining the rising political power of Muslim modernizers in the emerging middle and working classes of North Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

These growing social groups, with their companies and small and medium enterprises are the ones leading the modernization of the Muslim world. They are the only ones who can win the battle for progress, which has to be won by non-military means.

It is the coincidence of underdevelopment with economic and social backwardness and poor education that gives the greatest advantage to fundamentalist extremists, gangsters and warlords, but the West must desist from tactics that make such groups stronger.

It is sadly true that so far this battle has brought Islam itself into disrepute, arousing Islamaphobia in the West and globally, and a wave of prejudice against Muslims. In the end, Osama bin Laden and the fundamentalists cannot hijack Islam. They do not represent the majority. By the same token, the West cannot hijack the saving of Islam. That is a task for Muslims.

Muslim leaders, their global position reinforced economically and politically by the emergence of a more equitable new economic order, now have to use their increased economic leverage to persuade the West to change track.

The end of the Bush presidency and the arrival of President Obama provides the opportunity to do this. But it is an opportunity that could easily be lost if the U.S is overwhelmed by domestic pressures and if the new foreign policy team fail to break the Bush mold. The war in Afghanistan can easily be lost there, but it cannot be won in Afghanistan alone.

The focus is moving from the Middle East to Asia. The terrorist target is moving more squarely against the one thing that can marginalize and defeat them – economic success. The Mumbai attacks emphasized this, as well as trying to drive a wedge between India and Pakistan.

Despite many unresolved contradictions, fundamentalist extremists are being squeezed out of the Middle East where most countries have tightened security and are increasingly battened down against them. Once the main US and British forces leave Iraq, the foreign extremists still there lose their rationale. Their time in Iraq is running out.

Pakistan is now the weakest link in the Muslim chain. It is the base for al-Qaida, and a secure haven for the Afghan Taliban. It is developing an insurgency of its own led by a coalition of the Pakistan Taliban, tribal groups and political elements opposed to the new government. This insurgency and terrorism are spilling over into India. There is the risk it will spread into Central and Southern Asia.

Moreover, Pakistan has an economic crisis and had to bring in the IMF (one of the few Muslim countries in this position). Pakistan has a weak democracy and a new government trying to establish its leadership. A large scale internal guerrilla war will not solve these problems. It would make them worse.

The wind of change is blowing throughout the Muslim world, especially in the North Africa, the Middle East and Asia. A wave of petrol dollar liquidity has bolstered the Gulf States, strengthening new economic and investment links with the Middle East countries, Asia and Europe.

But those who politically manipulate Islam and this multiplicity of separatist, criminal and tribal interests seem to understand what the wind of change means for them. It means loss of power and money. It means the end. They must try to stop or delay the new economic development.

However, those who use Islamic fundamentalism as a mercantile trade label, and who make coalitions with fundamentalists when it suits them, will have no interest to do so if they can no longer hold onto local power or make money that way.

So the development strategy deployed must focus on breaking these links and creating alternative opportunities for their followers, so that the sons and daughters of gangsters and warlords will have other options and help to supplant their parents. The fundamentalist attempt at theocratic revolution must be defeated by their children. Better prospects. More carrots, Less sticks.

The coming battle for the hearts and minds of Muslims and the economic and political future of Muslim countries will be lost or won in Pakistan. Neither the Muslim world nor the West can afford that this battle is lost in a state with a pivotal geo-political position and possessing nuclear weapons.

Muslim countries and the West should focus hard on how to support and help Pakistan before it is too late. The majority of Pakistanis have already voted for change. Now they need the material means and support to achieve it, and help to strengthen their leadership, capacity and civil society.

That’s how you win a modern war. By fighting the war on want. Security and policing issues must become subordinated to political and economic strategy, instead of the reverse.

Dr Terry Lacey is a development economist who writes from Jakarta, Indonesia, on modernization in the Muslim world, investment and trade relations with the EU and Islamic banking.(terrylacey2003@yahoo.co.uk)

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20 Comments
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One way to deal with Muslim fundamentalism is direct and head on as Israel is doing now with Hamas in the Gaza strip,but you can only bomb so many places, you can only kill so many terrorists, this will only bring a temporary solution to the rocket attacks on Israel now from Hamas hiding amongs the Palestinian civilians in the Gaza strip. We all must think of a better way, or the world will be mired in violence as it is now that sad part of the world.

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That’s how you win a modern war. By fighting the war on want. the article address the 'war on terror', not war in general... seems the war on terror is fighting the "want"...

The enemy:

wants to kill people who don't believe their interpretation of islam, including other muslims.

wants to impose it's governmental and legal beliefs on the whole world by threat of death.

wants death to America etc....

based on the authors "bio" he certainly is not going to be critical of his "keepers."

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The US/Israeli war mongering doesn´t make the situation better. They are fundamentalists who are guilty of wars, oppression, drug trade and other criminal activities. Anyone who follow finance know the United States is bankrupt. That means that if the US wants to recover its previous standard of living, it must listen to what its creditor nations have to say. USA will need to stop financing terrorism including criminal Israel and the criminal Pakistani dictators. They either try to threaten or bribe dictators instead of engaging in a constructive dialogue. And then they label anyone who isn´t bribed a terrorist. Taleban, Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas. Taliban was financed by CIA and ISI. And now ISI and CIA is fighting Taliban for strange reasons. And all the other terrorists are democratic. Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas. This conflict is carefully designed by the people behind the curtains. They are trying to trigger a WW3 but their plan is already exposed.

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One thing is sure. There will never be any military resolution.

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@USARonin,

that's the sentiment that caused the problem in the first place!

The best way to deal with terrorists is to make them irrelevant - not martyrs.

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Militant Islam's apologists just don't get it - Islam is the only religion in the world that makes the slaughter of those outside it basically a sacrament.

That is not the same as saying all of its followers are potential murderers. But a precedent - with civilisations clashing in magnitude of its consequence - was set by its founder which makes possible (and legitimate for many believers) different sects and factions within Islam going 'fundamental' or 'radical' (in the original sense of the word) when disputes or power struggles arise.

Calls for reform or waiting for an 'Islamic Reformation' are little more than exercises in wishful thinking, product of a naive paternalism which would make those on the largely anti-Xtian, anti-religious Left blathering of such nonsense cringe if they could grasp the irony of trying to insist the history of the Christian West is to be the history of the Mohammedan world - it's just a matter of time and dialogue.

As with calls to end slavery in Islamic lands or to combat Islam's well-known but little-discussed institutional misogyny, those outside Islam making these demands are unaware that Islam's founder practised and or endorsed these practices.And to devout Muslims, Mohammed is al-insan al-kamil - "the perfect man."

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I have nothing against Muslim fundamentalists and their ilk providing they remain in their own countries.

And it's nothing to do with anyone else what they do in their own nations.

Should they wish to integrate with the culture of the nation they decide to move to then this is possibly acceptable.

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True Muslims, Christians, Jews don't kill, they are being distorted, overwhelmed, and minimized. The Righteous are pushed aside, in the name of progress, development, god, any non-truth by people seemingly unaware of their own doing. However the Truth is always available to those who seek it.

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Adamantine,

You have shown your lack of knowledge like many here because if you knew about Christian terrorism history you will know it is just as extreme and dangerous.

IRA Christian Identity(a network of Christian terrorist groups) like Al Qaida Army of God Aryan Nation National Liberation Front of Tripura Guardians of the Cedars Klu Klux Klan

Do I need to name more? Like some has stated before, that is the reason we are in this situation now. Pure ignorance! That is why so many good people started sympathizing with the cause. What is even worse about this terrorist threat is in some respects they are winning. They have already out lasted the current US President. He is leaving office a disgrace and failure. I'm loyal American and not Muslim. Gung ho ignorance is getting us nowhere. It didn't work for Republicans in the election and it's not the answer for this war.

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There sure is a lot of ignorance and hate on this thread in particular, and it's no surprise. And yet, there are some on here who have proven that they have learned nothing from history and are, in fact, very very eager to repeat the same mistakes. What they DON'T realize, worst of all, is that they are the very same if not worst than the people they claim are at fault. These same people who argue that 'Muslims want to kill us and are therefore inhumane' follow in the same breath with, "...so let's kill them all".

Sad, really.

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Lefties are so excitable:

They're the same kind of people who some nearly 70 years ago sat down and came up with a final solution to rid the world of a certain people once and for all.

Nearly all of us can agree that that was one of the worst mistakes in human history, and one of our greatest tragedies.

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Smithinjapan: You always strike me as being a bit brighter than many that post here, even though I frequently disagree with many of your statements. But disagreement should not harbor disrespect and useless arguments which is more the norm for JT.

But following your thread of thought that we should learn from history and the horrors that culminated in the Wannsee Conference to begin the serious enactment of the 'final solution', history has also shown that hideous cause propelled by religious dogma does not just go away. I think most of us understand that the majority of muslims aren't running about with bombs strapped to their torsos trying to kill 'the infedels' - but some are.

I hear a lot of talk about 'minimalizing' these terrorists - but not much on how exactly to do this. Open diatribe and talking with them? As an intelligent person you know that much too often where religious extremism and fervor is prevalent, reasoning isn't an option. Any more than FDR or Churchill could have convinced Hitler that liquidating jews was not a nice thing to do.

Certainly I'm not advocating the blaming of all Muslims for the actions of a proportionate few. But I think it's foolish not to realize that religious extremism is dangerous - whether muslim, christian or snake handler. The group that carried out the 9/11 attacks were small in number. History is full of small groups of determined individuals acheiving spectacular results. It's foolhardy to ignore history and ignore extremism. And I seem to recall a lot of these 'good muslims' in other nations dancing with glee when the 9/11 attacks occured. While condemning the lot or using the 'kill 'em all' mentality is rediculously stupid, cowardly and just wrong, so is trying to convince yourself that a majority of muslims agree with and embrace non-mulim society. That doesn't mean they should be killed by any means, but it requires a better solution that to have our new President meet with terrorist leaders and come back in Chamberlainesqe fashion waving a scrap of paper and foolishly declaring 'peace in our time'.

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"...(fill in the blank, oh, let's say 'Hamas') are the extremists and the biggest terrorists and their policies create new terrorists."

Itcher74, it seems you don't grasp how this works.

Offer something different.

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Men seek power and glory, and religion provides a convenient justification and, in some cases, a purpose for those who may start out reluctant to fight and die for the benefit of the political elites.

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'Religion is the opiate of the people'

Nothing truer has ever been said. Nations controlled by Islamic fundamentalists will forever be backward. To treat them as equals is stupid. Perhaps some day moderates will prevail, I won't hold my breath.

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Firstly, ALL wars are religious wars. You just need to look a little closer for the protagonists' idea of god and victory. Secondly, Islamic fundamentalism is not the problem. Exclusionism is. The "We are better than You" problem, so eloquently funded by Amerika and so bloodily executed, (and I use that word specifically), by the illegal state of "israel." The sooner we understand that the little girl shot by an israeli occupation force sniper for target practice is my daughter, sister, mother or other family member, then we get the big picture. She is me. I am her, and we are one, regardless of which priest, rabbi, mullah, imam, guru etc. etc. says otherwise. I guarantee you, dismantle "israel" and the world can actually see the light of world peace at the end of the tunnel. Thirdly, and most emphatically: my world includes a free Palestine, not a parasitic genocidal "israel." Peace, is possible without "israel." What have we got to lose? US$3B a year saved!

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LIBERTAS at 05:05 AM JST - 1st January

"I guarantee you, dismantle "israel" and the world can actually see the light of world peace at the end of the tunnel. "

Religion is the problem the world has always had to deal with. Indoctrinated idiots will do what they believe is “right” no matter how many die in the process. All major religions (except Islam) condemn killing, but all use it when THEY feel it will get them what they want.

Religion is power, for the few that control it, only the idiots follow it, but there are so many of them. We would all condemn political mind control yet we are socially blackmailed into protecting religious mind control.

There is no reason for any sane person to believe in gods, as for the insane religions that build up in support of a particular god they are so bizarre when looked at from outside.

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Militant Islam has one aim - the utter destruction of israel and the Jewish people from the face of the earth. The only way to deal with them is to do as the brave Israleis are doing at the minute in Gaza. Israel will never be destroyed again - God has promised that, but the forces of Armageddon are already at her doors, trying to destroy the indestructable.

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Patrick Smash at 02:35 PM JST - 1st January Utah? In the US? Who would want to live in such a place? "Muslim fundamentalists would no longer be able to harp on about Israel" True, but then they would still have the US to harp on about wouldn't they? And when they turn the oil off?

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Patrick Smash. You don't seem to understand reality. Jerusalem is holy to 3 different religions. Islam, Christianity, and Judiaism. The Jews can rightfully claim, they were there first. If anyone should leave, it should be the Muslims, followed by the Christians. And that said, the muslim nutcases hate the west. They would do so regardless of Israel. Freedom is anti Islam, and anything that promotes freedom for Women especially, is intolerable to them.

The biggest problem Islam has though, is Islam. It preaches that non believers are infidels, and basically says that infidels are outside the bounds of civilized behavior. Meaning, if you kill, rape, or murder an infidel, you aren't doing anything bad. Additionally, the greatest crime you can commit, is to leave Islam. Meaning, if someone decides they don't believe in the Prophet, they can, and should be killed. Culturally you also have the problem of honor killings, that drag down the image of Islam.

No matter how you look at it, Islams problem, is Islam. And the way they choose to treat, or rather mistreat, infidels.

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