If a western politician tells you he is concerned about Islamic radicalization, don’t believe him. We hear this rhetoric almost daily as to how they are afraid that Islamic fighters will return radicalized and wage attacks in Europe and the US. Europe and the US has a long history of accommodating radicals and unsavory ideas. So what is different now? The issue now is that being radicalized is fine, but being empowered is not fine. If there is a group who is being oppressed by a government, it really doesn’t matter how angry they are, how much they seethe, or even how many demonstrations they hold or candles they burn. After all, they hold no real power and therefore have no way to enforce their opinions. So in a nutshell: “Who cares what they think?!” The French government just like the US, UK, etc refuse to believe that their foreign policy is empowering the very element they say they are fighting against.
Some years ago during the Mubarak era, I was studying with a well known Shaykh in Egypt. The condition of his village was terrible. There was a canal that had long since dried up and was full of plastic bags of garbage. The flies and mosquitoes made quite a home in that musty canal. People’s homes were just 20 meters away on both sides of it. I asked, “Why doesn’t the government come and clean it up?” The villagers responded, “I don’t know. I think they don’t want it cleaned up.” So being my normal American self, fresh off the plane and knowing nothing of middle east politics I said, “Why not assemble a group of people from the village and clean it up yourselves?” They said, “We tried that before and as soon as we got started the security services found out and asked who was the one responsible for organizing the villagers.” Of course they found out who was responsible and he was arrested. Why? Because organization means that someone is starting to empower people. Oppressors don’t want their clients to be empowered. That is the true threat. Fighters returning home is the ultimate empowerment and the ultimate threat. Why else would so many anti terror laws have been passed in the UK regarding fighters returning home from Syria when there hasn’t been a singe attack connected to them? The fear is that they would return fearless and mentally empowered to demand the rights they should have always had in the first place not only for themselves but also for those oppressed elsewhere.
What do I mean “empowered”? Does empowered mean blowing up a train or a school bus? That’s not empowerment that’s terrorism. Empowerment is to say: “We are willing to sit and discuss for as long as it takes so that we can come to a mutual win-win solution for all parties. However attempts to strong arm us or simply jail us in an attempt to cheat us out of our natural rights will not be successful and could possibly lead to other things. Now please let us sit down and talk like men.” That is what is feared. As long the Palestinians have no recourse to defend themselves except to beg for help from the very countries who are enabling their occupation then they are NOT empowered. Therefore their opinions are quite un-important in the global scale of things and no one cares if they like the status quo or not.
What would it be like for empowered Muslims to sit with the British or American government and negotiate a total cessation of hostilities worldwide on equal terms? Not only is there benefit in such a scenario for Muslims but also for other than them as well. It might save many innocent lives on both sides of the divide. Win-win solutions leaves everyone a winner. Win-lose solutions will always keep the citizens of the warring parties under threat. Why hasn’t there been a war between America and North Korea? Or between the west and Iran? It is because these countries are empowered. An attack on either of them will lead to severe consequences on both sides. In an effort to avoid those consequences they all opt to negotiate. If Iran’s military was like Saddam Hussein’s military does anyone believe there would be negotiations? Without a powerful military, Iran would look like Somalia right now. The strength of their military and institutions created an environment where both American and Iranian or North Korean citizens can go about their daily lives without fear of the ravages of war. Weak militaries would have seen western rhetoric of “smoking them out of their caves” and “do it for democracy” being aimed directly at North Korea and Iran alike.
In the wake of yesterday’s shooting in France, it is likely that the French government will endeavor to clamp down on their Muslim citizens at home and be more hawkish with their foreign policies where Muslims are concerned abroad. Will that bring French citizens the peace they covet? Unlikely. In summary, an empowered and god fearing Islamic leadership is good for everyone. Without it, radical groups that know nothing of how to build a safe and responsible society will simply use their military might unchecked committing the same atrocities their enemies commit leading only to more chaos and endless fighting.