I'm no scholar. On those rare occasions when I have a serious opinion about something, my intent in sharing it is to stimulate conversation and the opinions of others, particularly those that have a more scholarly, informed point-of-view, and especially those who may have a better solution than whatever I might be suggest. The intent is to generate ideas toward solving the problem. That is all.
Would you allow a person or a group of people who consumed human flesh as a sacred rite to move into your neighborhood? How about an individual or a group of people that believed that sex with children was ordained by God? Or a gang that dined on dogs? Or a group that believed that God intended women to be slaves, to be raped and abused, and stoned to death for going out in public without an escort?
Of course you wouldn't.
Then why would anyone allow a group of people who believe that "Killing yourself in the process of killing the enemy is an act of martyrdom and brings a special place in heaven" to move into their country, or city, or neighborhood?
In other words, how can a group of people that believe in military jihad, or holy war, fit into any mixed, heterogenous society? How can a group of people that preaches intolerance of the tolerant possibly be expected to become a participant in the global society of the 21st century? Of course I'm referring to a very small percentage of the Muslim population. Islam, though still largely misunderstood by the Western world, represents many of the values that Pope Francis would like to imbue in Catholicism.
Then, like some fundamentalist Christians who would literally "beat" the devil out of a sinner, there are the extremists. Consider: Jihad, or "struggle," is defined, by some, as the sixth pillar of Islam. There is military jihad, and spiritual jihad. Personal, or spiritual jihad is similar to the beliefs of most religions, which is that the faithful must struggle to uphold the principles of their faith in a heterogeneous society, where ideas and practices of others may be temptations or unwanted influences. Islamic jihad, in the spiritual sense, isn't any different than Judeo-Christian proclamations of faith, and as such aren't a threat.
But how do you tell the spiritual jihadist from the military one? What military jihadist is going admit, whether signing a lease for an apartment in Brooklyn, Paris, Saint Petersburg, Vancouver, London or Cape Town, that they ascribe to the tenets of Islam that suggest that military jihad is a responsibility, indeed a holy command and a reservation for a "special place in heaven?"
Some estimate that 25% of the global Muslim population are active military jihadists: 375 million people. Others estimate that, in Europe as of January 2015, less than 1% of the Muslim population were interested in destroying Western civilization - around 175,000. Since then, approximately a million refugees, the vast majority of them Muslims, have moved or are attempting to move to Europe. If you subscribe to the idea that it is the poor, disenfranchised Muslim youth that are most likely to be recruited for jihad, and that Europe has no idea how to accommodate the refugees, you might assume that thousands of jihadist seeds are being planted as we speak. And, as President Obama remarked, "It's hard to reason with someone who willingly die to kill others" (or something like that.)
It took a dozen jihadists on the ground and in the air to execute over 4000 innocents on September 11, 2001. It took less than that to kill 130 people in Paris on November 13, 2015. So, the percentages aren't even relevant.
What to do?
Let’s assume that we, as world citizens, believe that anyone that murders civilians and innocents, for whatever reason, forfeits some if not all of their human rights. In the U.S., felons are stripped of their rights as citizens, incarcerated and in some states put to death. But what about someone who believes that is their divine responsibility to kill those that don’t prescribe to their theology, but hasn’t killed anybody yet? What of the Muslim who says “yes, military jihad is the sixth pillar of Islam, and as such I must abide by it. However (that’s a big “however,”) I am too old to fight,” or “my first responsibility is to my family, which precludes murdering infidels,” or “I don’t have a gun. I don’t even have a scimitar.” Is such a Muslim thus excused and allowed to mingle freely in the global society? Would it not be prudent to have such an individual renounce military jihad, as the fundamentalists define it, altogether? What might effect might it have if the leaders of the many sects of Islam got together and said "any Muslim that murders innocents and civilians in the name of jihad is not a martyr, and the special place for them in the afterlife is hell?"
Many worldwide religions have made accommodations or updated their laws over the course of history to be able to function peacefully in a heterogeneous, globally connected society. Without such tolerance the human race surely would have destroyed itself by how. Admittedly, outlawing military jihad against civilians would be a parliamentary move at best, but no country can expect to accept refugees that may be following jihadist leaders, so there must be leaders to whom the refugees can declare allegiance, and in so doing at least protect the interests of their refugee followers as they attempt to integrate with Western society.
Unfortunately the Islamic leaders that influence the jihadists aren't likely to bend to such pressure. While the majority of the world's Muslims may be peaceful and rational, we know it only takes a few to wreck havoc on the free world. But the West, unable to form a coherent response to the jihadist attacks, have in turn been unable to articulate the consequences to those leaders that support the status quo. So now it all depends on the ability of the Western world to coordinate a response, with clear consequences, to ISIS, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Shabab, and every other stateless jihadist group out there.
Is it possible that the West and ISIS can call a cease-fire/cease-murder and sit down around the negotiating table. What's to negotiate? If you renounce jihad and stay within your own borders we won't annihilate you? That may ultimately be the agreement, but first doesn't the West need to show that they're ready, willing and able to annihilate ISIS and all other jihadist groups? Is there a way to do that without a show of physical force and imminent invasion, aka boots on the ground? Don't the jihadists have to be able to see that they are surrounded by the big guns, the tanks, the aircraft carriers, the soldiers, sailors, marines etc and that there is no escape?
You can't fight barbarians with international law and threats of legal persecution. Any organization that justifies killing civilians needs to be prepared for killing in kind. The jihadists trust that the West will not stoop to their level. This is the checkmate that prevents the West from successful eradication of the Islamic State. Without the threat of total annihilation, there will continue to be a dozen new fighters for every one killed by the West.
The extreme scenario, with the military forces of the West poised to strike in the Middle East, and Western governments prepared to aggressively root out radical residents, is the highest of high stakes gambles. If the extremists are allowed to keep their little caliphate in exchange for renouncing military jihad and centralizing their believers in a designated area, like the North Koreans and other repressive governments, and making do with complete isolation and military containment, maybe they'll opt for survival. Many Westerners won't want to give the jihadists that option.
Then there are some Westerners who believe we have created this predicament by marginalizing and disenfranchising Muslims, particularly young, jobless males in the major metro areas of Europe and North America. Islamic fundamentalism provides purpose, direction, and, with martyrdom achieved in military jihad, the highest level of eternal paradise. What seventeen year old candied apple peddler on the streets of Montmarte, hungry, horny, and entirely directionless, isn’t going to find the promises of fundamentalist Islam appealing? President Obama has said that the front line of the battle is winning the hearts and minds of disenfranchised Muslim youth. If the leaders of Islam took military jihad out of the equation, and eradicated the notion of the martyr’s paradise, wouldn't Western society be more willing to include Muslims in the greater social sphere?
Soon, the shock of the latest atrocity will pass. The downed Russian jetliner, which ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula claims as their victory, is nearly forgotten in the West. The Lebanese barely got a nod from the international community after the attack that killed 40 in Beirut. The Parisiens will continue to feel the sting, as they did after Charlie Hebdo, but give it six months. Meanwhile security in the West will double down on Islamic extremists, until intelligence has arrested all the suspects and has no other leads. Then, somewhere in Europe, or the U.S. or Canada, or Russia, the Islamic jihadists will strike again. They may not strike as frequently as mentally ill Americans with easy access to lethal weapons, but, until the entire notion of military jihad is outlawed in Islam, there will be no end.