The War Against Fundamentalism

We are not fighting a war against terror. Terror is a method of warfare. Fighting against terror is kind of like fighting against rifles. It misses the point. The question is who is behind the terrorism and why? How can we possibly win a war when we don’t even know who the enemy is?

This is part of the reason we wound up in Iraq. Iraq did not attack us, and in fact, according to the 9/11 Commission, Osama bin Laden worked with anti-Saddam forces inside Iraq at one time because Hussein’s government was the type of secular government they wanted to overthrow. But we are so confused as to who we are fighting and why we are fighting them that we attacked the wrong country under the umbrella of the meaningless “war on terror.”

Perhaps this is what you get when you have a president who doesn’t “do nuance.” But putting aside who is at fault for this misguided war and whether they purposely chose to mislead us with ambiguous titles like the “war on terror,” let’s get to the heart of the issue – what are we really fighting against?

I have a simple answer – fundamentalism. Muslim fundamentalists believe it is their moral duty to fight a jihad against the West. They are guided by their strict, literal reading of the Koran (helped along by hateful imams who select the worst parts of the Koran).

But we are not just aligned against Muslim fundamentalists. The problem is broader than that. It is Jewish fundamentalists like the Gaza settlers and Christian fundamentalists like Tom DeLay who want to drive us further into this conflict. They also rely on their absurd interpretations of their religious texts.

The Jewish settlers who are being removed from the Gaza Strip this week believe God promised them that piece of land over two thousand years ago. Because of this belief they are not concerned by the 1.3 million Palestinians who happen to live there. People who are willing to walk all over the rights and property of other people because of their own religious beliefs are dangerous, not just to the people they oppress – but to all of us.

They drive us deeper and deeper into wars with no end. How can the Palestinians stop fighting if they are occupied by people who think they have no rights because God is not on their side? Of course, this will lead to conflicts that spiral out of control.

The problem is we are too polite and we are not willing to call people what they are – crazy. If you think Santa Claus, Barney the Purple Dinosaur or Yahweh promised you some land over two thousand years ago because you were specially selected by him as his chosen people – you are nuts!

On the other end of the coin, we have the Pakistani government teaching kids in seventh grade that the world was a lovely place until Jews started charging interest rates. Their social studies textbooks teach them absolute nonsense about how Christians are inferior to Muslims and Jews are tight-fisted money lenders who have no sympathy for humanity. Not all cultures are equal. A culture that teaches this garbage is wrong!

A culture that advocates, or even tolerates, female circumcision is wrong. A culture that has religious leaders imposing their decisions on people based on a specific reading of their religious texts is wrong. A culture that teaches their people that they are favored over everyone else by God is wrong.

I’ll go further. A culture that does not promote democracy where citizens are empowered to make their own decisions is wrong. A culture that is opposed to science and evolution is wrong.

Now, that sounds like I’m saying American culture is better than most of the other cultures in the world. That is mostly right. The neocons think the United States can dominate the world if we impose our democracy on other countries through invasion. I think we can prosper together in a world where we fight to impose our culture on others. Not through bloody invasions but through the power of our ideas.

There isn’t a country in the world that can withstand invasion by Levi’s, Nike, McDonald’s, American movies and Paris Hilton porn. The neocons think we can bomb Iran into a democracy (I honestly have never heard of a dumber and more counterproductive idea). I think we flood young Iranians with cell phones, laptops and television dishes, then sit back, relax and enjoy the show.

Our culture is better than theirs. Time is on our side. It’s only a matter of time before they crumble and open up their markets, their political processes and their minds.

By the way, I say this as an ethnic Muslim-American. The idea that Muslims might not enjoy freedom, open society and sexy girls wearing skimpy clothing is preposterous. We are all human. We all have the same drives. Sometimes though, our antiquated cultures hold us back from our nature and reason. This is part of what we have to fight against.

But there is one problem with American culture. Our own fundamentalists. There are Christian fundamentalists in this country who believe that Israel should have all of the occupied territories because it says it in their Book. They believe that Israel should rebuild the Temple on the Mount, thereby destroying holy Muslim sites and assuredly starting a gigantic war. Finally, they think that when this happens, Armageddon will ensue, most of the people on this Earth will die and Santa Claus, I mean Jesus Christ, will come back to save them (and only them). There’s another word for these people – crazy.

You’d have to be nuts to believe that. But they are quite serious, and they are quite powerful. Christian fundamentalists have the ear of the President. They heavily influence his decisions. And on a number of occasions, they have steered him purposely and proudly toward policies that are detrimental to the peace process. Who's against a peace process? Crazy people.

Christian fundamentalists are in incredibly powerful positions within the US government. Our former Attorney General, John Ashcroft, is a fundamentalist. He anointed himself in holy oils before he took the oath of office. You know who does that? Crazy people.

The Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Tom DeLay is a fundamentalist. He believes God has granted the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the Jews, his Chosen People. He is indifferent to the plight of millions of Palestinians living in those territories because his interpretation of his Book tells him to be.

As long as we don’t address the fifth column in this country we will not be able to effectively fight the war against fundamentalists. There are people in America rooting for the idea of the Apocalypse – and they vote based on this idea. We have to stop them. We have to engage in the culture war.

Right now, it’s completely one-sided. The fundamentalists in this country attack with impunity and the secular Americans sit back for fear of offending the crazies. It’s time to hit them back (proverbially, violence is usually the refuge of weak-minded fundamentalists, not thinking, rational people).

It is not acceptable to be against teaching valid science to our children because you think your Book tells you to. It is not acceptable to hate gay people because you think your Book tells you to. It is not acceptable to deny other citizens their privacy because you think your Book tells you to. It is not acceptable to be one-sided in dealing with the Middle East and drive us all into war because you think your Book tells you to. It is not acceptable to root for Armageddon and try to take steps towards getting there because you think your Book tells you to.

Our President thinks God talks to him. You know who thinks that? Crazy people. The Jewish fundamentalists Yigal Amir said he shot Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin because God told him to. Why does God only tell people to shoot other people or start wars? Why can’t He just tell them to go to the dentist or get their mom flowers? Why does it always have to involve death?

Thinking you talk to God doesn’t qualify you to lead the nation – it qualifies you for a mental institution. The time for accommodation has come to an end.

The inmates have taken over the asylum. We have to take it back.

Otherwise, how can we convince Muslims around the world to take on their own fundamentalists? How can we ask Israel to stop accommodating their fundamentalists if we are not willing to challenge our own? How can we win the war against fundamentalism if some of our leaders are on the other side?