General Question

mattbrowne's avatar

What are the best strategies against violent islamist extremism?

Asked by mattbrowne (31595points) April 14th, 2009

Reducing poverty? Saudi-Arabia is a very rich country. Better education? Mohamed Atta studied at the Technical University of Hamburg. Ending diplomatic relations? Hardline mullahs still dominate over Iran reformers. Ending energy dependence on imported fossil fuels thereby cutting the flow of petrodollars? Many people think there are not enough alternatives to satisfy energy-hungry nations.

So what is left? Abandoning hard-earned freedoms of modern civilization and accepting enormous security budgets as a necessary precaution for the next 50 years?

There’s so much innovation out their in the economy, in medicine, in science and technology. People are capable of inventing the telephone, the Internet and the world wide web and online communities like Fluther. Why is it so hard to come up with something totally new and different to reduce islamist terrorism? What happened to human imagination? It might be giving in to resignation.

Do you have a unique idea? Or is there a hardly known strategy people should be talking about?

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8 Answers

TitsMcGhee's avatar

Worldwide orgy.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

I’ve heard from several people that Islam needs to go through a Reformation like Christianity did. Christians used to be just as virulent and vicious as the radical Muslims, then, over time, they became more accepting of people of other faiths. Christians don’t burn atheists at the stake anymore.

Religions, like cats, are always trouble.

Qingu's avatar

The first thing is to realize that there are probably always going to be Islamic extremists, just like there are always going to be people like Timothy McVeigh.

Violent fundamentalism is a reaction to the modern, secular culture. This culture seeks to impose control on as many people as possible through economic, cultural, and (sadly, often) military means. The culture of this world is forward-thinking—it needs to be, because that fuels technological progression, which in turn fuels economic development in a self-sustaining cycle. You need to step back a little to realize how radically different this is from the ideology of fundamentalist Islam, which basically sees the apex of human culture and history as frozen during the time of Muhammad and the rightly-guided caliphs.

McVeigh, like Islamic fundamentalists, see modern, secular culture as a holistic, unified system. And they are absolutely right to do this. You can’t separate the technology, the economic structure, or the social ethics of the modern world from each other. They all reinforce each other. “Moderate” religious people may claim to pick and choose from modern secular culture, but in reality they are just buying into the entire system wholesale, perhaps while keeping a bit of their traditional religiosity as “flavor.” (Look at how little American Christians base their worldview on what the Bible says. Also look at “moderate” Muslims who drink booze and advocate religious tolerance.)

This doubtless horrifies people like Osama bin Laden, who—rightly—sees modern culture as an eroding influence on traditional, fundamentalist Islam. An Enlightenment is the last thing such people want. An Enlightenment is buying into the system.

I don’t really know there’s much else to do but to continue what we are doing—that is, continuing to improve and progress our own culture. There will always be barbarians at the gates. But we can make our culture so advanced that more and more of these barbarians will want to buy into it. Dubai is a failed experiment in this regard—we exported the worst elements of capitalism to the city and now it’s probably going to end up a wasteland husk—but it was instructive, because at its height, Dubai really was a counterbalance to Islamic extremism. People wanted to live there instead of in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. What we shouldn’t do is seek to impose our culture militarily, as that seems to have the opposite effect that we want.

Lefty_the_space_monkey's avatar

What the hell is an Islamist?

Qingu's avatar

Anyone with brown skin who scares conservatives.

Though, to be fair, “militant Islamic fundamentalist” is kind of a mouthful.

mattbrowne's avatar

@evelyns_pet_zebra – I would agree with that, but where is Muslim version of Martin Luther? Are there any moderate charismatic leaders people would want to listen to and put on their t-shirts? Instead of putting Bin Laden on t-shirts…

@Qingu – So what is your vision of a different (better) future? Erase religion and secular culture and enlightenment and capitalism and replace by what? How would your enhanced culture (able to deal with the very few barbarians who are left) look like? And what is your strategy to get us there?

Qingu's avatar

@mattbrowne, I don’t have any illusions about “erasing” religion, though I would certainly like to reduce its influence.

I don’t think we need to replace enlightened, secular culture or capitalism. Though I do think that capitalism is probably going to go through some transformative changes as more value moves online and becomes trivial to share. (tangent) As you know, I’m also hoping for the singularity.

As far as dealing with Islamic terrorism, I’m not really sure that we need to change our course at all. I’m not sure there is anything proactive we can do except make our own culture better and more accessible so that people will want to belong to it instead of fundamentalist Islam. “Dealing” with barbarians would entail marginalizing them inside and outside our society, and preventing them from gaining influence in places like Pakistan—which is going to require a very light hand.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Qingu – I agree with most parts of your analysis. Thanks for sharing this. And if there’s a singularity eventually, let’s make sure it’s a friendly being. Here’s an interesting page about timing predictions:

Until then, let’s to do all we can to limit the bloodshed.

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