December 22, 2015

The Silent Majority

The Silent Majority
Aryeh Lande ‘18


Within just a few days, terrorists swearing loyalty to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria brutally ended the lives of hundreds of innocent civilians in Paris, Kenya and Beirut. Established in 2013, ISIS is gaining strength as a major threat to the West. This terrorist organization grew from a small band of militants to a self-proclaimed caliphate, with large territories and an advanced army. After capturing land in Iraq, ISIS expanded westward into Syria, exploiting the power vacuum created by the Syrian civil war.
Other than its sheer size and power, what makes ISIS different from other terrorist groups is that its sole purpose is to restore the medieval Islamic Caliphate through violence. The group’s  brutal methodology suggests that it wants to bring Western nations to their knees and launch an aggressive jihadist campaign against those who oppose the Caliphate-to-be.
ISIS’ deranged leader, Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi – who derives his name from the second ruler of the Islamic Caliphate – managed to recruit tens of thousands of fighters through propagandized media. He continues to radicalize challenged or conflicted youth who find purpose in radical jihad. What makes ISIS much stronger and more of a threat than any other terrorist group in history is not its crude barbarity, but rather this ability to breed and convert terrorists at home.
On November 13, ISIS launched large-scale attacks conducted by only eight men in Paris, a city with a history of free expression and a symbol of the West. It was one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in modern European history. The terrorists, in three separate locations, massacred over 130 people and seriously injured many more. This attack is more shocking than any other by the group, as this assault begins a new strategy within ISIS. Instead of calling on recruits to flock to their new “caliphate,” ISIS leaders are encouraging their “soldiers” to stay at home and launch terror attacks in their own country. In the case of Paris, ISIS claimed the attack was retaliatory, in response to French airstrikes in Syria, but that is nonsense. A retaliatory attack would be one aimed at soldiers; this was an inhumane war crime, targeting civilians who were just enjoying a Friday evening.
In response to the attacks, many governments have declared their commitment to ending terror and standing by France. Many feel that it is the West’s duty to destroy the Islamic State in revenge for the deaths in Paris. This is, unfortunately, not a viable solution.
A full invasion will only cause more violence, more senseless killing, which is what ISIS wants. They realize that if the United States invades, it will lead to more deaths and will perpetuate the view that the US is the enemy of Islam, causing ISIS’ support to bolster once again. ISIS is also far too vast and established to destroy quickly. Their elaborate infrastructure and networks of militants makes them too deadly to quickly destroy. Additionally, such a war would displace more people, inflicting great harm on civilians and worsening the refugee crisis. Therefore, this plan will not work.
I believe that we must put the pressure on mainstream Islam to stop this violence. I do not want our government to change policies in order to restrict social media or monitor and survey citizens in order to prevent a small few from becoming radicalized, rather it is an issue for the Muslim community. An internal debate within Islam may be the only solution. The world has seen the power of radical Islam, therefore, to stop it, we must learn the power and values of moderate Islam. It is time for the members of the silent majority of Muslims to step up and stand against radical Islam once and for all.
Some presidential candidates seem to believe that all Muslims are terrorists, going as far as to propose measures to document all Muslims and monitor information being preached in mosques. Violating freedom and constitutional rights are not the answer and are merely blatant acts of prejudice hidden behind a thin façade of fear. These actions are the wrong kind of pressure.
A far better approach would be to put pressure on the Islamic countries that support radical Islam to stop funding their extremist clerics. One of the leading producers of extremists is Saudi Arabia. We can, for instance, refuse to complete arms deals if they do not minimize support for violence-preaching clerics.

In Islam, there exists the principle of ijtihad, or personal struggle in an effort to modernize Islam. I believe that this struggle is currently underway in the Muslim world but it must be spread and aided. We may not be able to alter the physical battle, but we can help shape the dialogue of the spiritual battles, allowing Muslims to reclaim peaceful Islam. This can end the senseless racism Muslims face today in the West, degrade ISIS and ultimately prevent another attack.

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