Progressives have gravitated toward identity politics coupled with multiculturalism and diversity as primary ideological tenets for their worldview. Consider for just a moment an accomplished woman of color, African and Muslim by birth, born poor, an immigrant to the West, an accomplished writer, an elected politician, a fellow at a prestigious think-tank, an icon for many. Gosh, she would be elevated to the heights of the progressive pantheon, except ... she's Ayaan Hirsi-Ali.
Ms. Hirsi-Ali, a person whom I greatly admire, has a fatal flaw that causes her to be damned by progressives—she freely, eloquently, and convincingly condemns "political Islam," suggesting that the only way to defeat Islamist thought and Islamist groups who espouse that thought is for Islam itself to have a full-blown reformation.
I argue that the American public urgently needs to be educated about both the ideology of political Islam and the organizational infrastructure called dawa that Islamists use to inspire, indoctrinate, recruit, finance, and mobilize those Muslims whom they win over to their cause.Dawa is aided and abetted by a growing number of Democrats and their left-wing base. They label anyone who suggests that Islam is in any way culpable for "violent extremism" to be a racist and/or an Islamophobe. That's nonsense, of course, but it serves to stifle many who might otherwise argue that Islam must reform.
There is no point in denying that this ideology has its foundation in Islamic doctrine. However, “Islam,” “Islamism,” and “Muslims” are distinct concepts. Not all Muslims are Islamists, let alone violent, though all Islamists—including those who use violence—are Muslims. I believe the religion of Islam itself is indeed capable of reformation, if only to distinguish it more clearly from the political ideology of Islamism. But that task of reform can only be carried out by Muslims. Happily, there is a growing number of reformist Muslims. Part of the Trump administration’s strategy must be to support and empower them.
The other part of the strategy requires confronting dawa, a term unfamiliar to Americans. Dawa as practiced by radical Islamists employs a wide range of mechanisms to advance their goal of imposing Islamic law (sharia) on society. This includes proselytizing but extends beyond that. In Western countries, dawa aims both to convert non-Muslims to political Islam and to instill Islamist views in existing Muslims. The ultimate goal of dawa is to destroy the political institutions of a free society and replace them with the rule of sharia law.
Dawa is to the Islamists of today what the “long march through the institutions” was to twentieth-century Marxists. It is subversion from within—the abuse of religious freedom in order to undermine that very freedom. Another analogy is also possible. After Islamists gain power, dawa is to them what Gleichschaltung (synchronization) of all aspects of German state, civil, and social institutions was to the National Socialists.
There are of course differences. The biggest difference is that dawa is rooted in the Islamic practice of attempting to convert non-Muslims to accept the message of Islam. As it is an ostensibly religious missionary activity, proponents of dawa enjoy a much greater protection by the law in free societies than Marxists or fascists did in the past.
Worse, Islamist groups have enjoyed not just protection but at times official sponsorship from government agencies duped into regarding them as representatives of “moderate Muslims” simply because they do not engage in violence.
All this means that the new [Trump] administration urgently needs to devise an anti-dawa counterstrategy that employs the full range of tools at our disposal.
Niall Ferguson (who happens to be Hersi-Ali's husband) writes about the recent Islamic terror attack in London:
The network of dawa takes many different forms. In the UK a key role was played by the organization Al Muhajiroun (The Emigrants), to which Anjem Choudary [the 'lone wolf' terrorist] belonged before his arrest. But there are many less visible organizations busily spreading the mind-poison.Repeating what I've contended for many years—no Western entity can prevent the success of dawa, only Islam can do it. If Islam refuses or remains ambivalent, that sends its own message and should also inform the actions of Western governments going forward.
To see how this poison works, read the recent Policy Exchange study of Britain’s Muslim communities, “Unsettled Belonging.” At first sight, the news is good. Altogether, 90 percent of those surveyed condemned terrorism. Only 7 percent said they did not feel a strong sense of belonging to the UK.
But read on. Asked whether they would support the introduction of sharia law, 43 percent said “yes.” One in 10 British Muslims opposes the prohibition of tutoring that “promotes extreme views or is deemed incompatible with fundamental British values.”
Worst of all, nearly a third (31 percent) of those surveyed believe that the American government was responsible for 9/11. Get this: “More people claimed that the Jews were behind these attacks (7 percent), than said it was the work of al-Qaeda (4 percent).”
After 7/7, the 2005 bombings in London, the UK government’s anti-terrorism strategy was designed to “prevent” people from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism. This policy has been denounced by the usual suspects, notably the Muslim Council of Britain. But the reality is that “prevent’’ has not prevented enough.