Is radical Islam our generation's most dangerous ideology? Is it comparable to what Nazism and Communism were in the 20th century? Or are Islamists no more dangerous than extremist Christians, Jews, and Buddhists? Raymond Ibrahim, author of "The Al Qaeda Reader," explains what radical Islam is, and shows how Muslims and non-Muslims alike can help defeat it.
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What is the world's most dangerous ideology?
In the first part of the 20th century, the answer was Fascism; first manifest in Italy in the 1920's, and then in Nazi Germany and in Imperial Japan. It took a world war and 50 million dead to stamp it out.
In the second half of the 20th century, the answer was Communism. Between the Soviet Union, Mao's China and their client states, at least 100 million people were killed in its wake.
Today, the answer is Islamism, a radical, and often violent, form of Islam.
Like Fascism and Communism, Islamism is totalitarian in nature: the state controls everything. Also like Fascism and Communism, Islamism is inherently expansionist. It always seeks to get bigger, cross borders, and bring as many peoples as possible under its control. And, like Fascism and communism, many of Islamism's adherents are prepared to kill to achieve its aims.
Those aims are antithetical to everything Western and other free societies stand for: free speech, free enterprise, freedom to practice, or not to practice, any religion, freedom of assembly, a free press and, of course, fundamental human and civil rights for all their citizens.
Islamism completely rejects the Western principle of separating religion from government. In its view, governments are legitimate only if they rule according to religious law -- in Islamism's case, Sharia, Islam's extensive body of sacred laws.
Sharia is based on the teachings of the Quran and the Sunnah. The Quran is believed to be the literal words of Allah, as revealed to his prophet Muhammad in the 7th century. And the Sunna consists of the words and deeds attributed to Muhammad.
Islamists interpret Sharia to hold that anyone born Muslim must remain Muslim and face execution if they convert to any another religion; that adulterers must be stoned to death; that anyone who insults Islam or Mohammed must either be severely whipped or executed, and that thieves should have a limb cut off. In addition, Islamists condone polygamy and child-marriage.
These beliefs are being put into practice right now in, among other places, Iran, the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, the Muslim parts of Nigeria, parts of Pakistan Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan -- and wherever else Sharia has established a foothold.
If Islamists were content to live under strict Sharia law in their own communities and leave everyone who doesn't want to live that way alone, they wouldn't be a threat to the rest of the world. But that would not be Islamism.
Islamism wants the entire world governed by Sharia. And anyone who opposes Islamist expansionism is the enemy and must be destroyed. That, of course, includes the United States, all of Europe and Israel. But it also includes fellow Muslims. Indeed, Islamists have killed far more Muslims than members of any other group.
So, how many Islamists are there? Nobody knows for sure. But we can make some conservative calculations. There are approximately one and a half billion Muslims in the world. How many of these are Islamists?
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