Which form of intolerance is a greater threat to Western civilisation — extremist Muslims or neo-Nazis?
I posed that question to a buddy who had sent me an article by Giulio Meotti, cultural editor for Il Foglio, the gist of which argued that Western civilization is endangered by jihadists, much as Eastern Christianity (in Arab lands) has been “extinguished” by them.
My friend, a former elementary and high school classmate who is a retired U.S. Foreign Service officer, replied: “Intolerance is not the issue; the issue is how many innocent civilians have died worldwide traced to Salafist* ideology.
[*The Salafist movement or Salafism is an ultra-conservative reform branch or movement within Sunni Islam that developed in Arabia in the first half of the 18th century.]
“I served for 8 years at the U.S. Special Operations Command on Macdill Air Force Base, under Presidents George W. Bush and Obama. The Command categorized U.S. homegrown political extremes, from both the right and left, as the responsibility of Homeland Security and the FBI. We never viewed the protest movement Occupy Wall Street or the [alt-Right pro-Trump movement] as an existential threat to the homeland.
“The 24/7 focus of our ops cell was draining the ideological swamp of global Jihadism. Open Source reference tools outline the global reach of both AQ ( al-Queda) and ISIS and their death toll.
“Yes. I am more concerned with Salafism; the Anti—Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee have the toolbox to handle these American losers on the Right.
“Europe replaced the Jews with Muslims. . . that is their problem.”
Never one to shy away from a debate, my response followed quickly. I told him:
“I respectfully but strongly disagree. I more fear a destruction of Western democratic values than a takeover of Western governments by a segment of a religion whose vast majority have shown a desire to be part of Western society with its openness and inclusiveness.
“Sure, you can point to the wanton killings of non-Muslims – and even Muslims from the wrong sect – as proof that Islamic extremists are evil. But their killings in Europe and the United States and Canada are insignificant (except, of course, to the victims and their families) compared to the “sanctioned” deaths we tolerate from permissive gun laws and violations of environmental and food/drug safety laws.
In one year alone, the domestic USA [sees] more deaths by guns than the total number of Americans killed by al-Qaeda, ISIS and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And that includes 9/11.
“We are witnessing a resurgence of fascism and totalitarianism in Western countries. While it might be said to have been ignited by the presence of Muslim immigrants, both legal and illegal, it is not the sole reason. Income inequality and the replacement of meaningful jobs by technology or outsourcing have destabilised economies.
“Western values are being challenged by a return to tribalism. Parts of Italy and Spain seek independence. Britain has Brexit. Poland is becoming anti-Semitic again, not just to Jews but first to Muslims. Then to Jews.
“Under the guise of trying to control the spread of Islamic terrorism the West is relaxing its commitment to shared values of democracy. We are letting fear dominate our thinking.
“I am not advocating abandonment of the battle against Islamic extremism. Hunt them down. Do not let them acquire weapons of mass destruction. But do not let the battle destroy our principles. No torture; to the extent possible, no civilian collateral casualties; and no support for despots who deny their countrymen civil liberties.
“Radical Islam was born from the oppression Arab rulers practiced on their people with the willing consent of America and other Western powers. That fact cannot be denied. Sadly, even if the extremists were to secure their own country, as ISIS has shown, they would be equally (if not more) repressive and evil than the rulers they would overthrow. What is clear is that the vast majority of ordinary Muslims reject extremism.
“To prevent radical thought from spreading in the West we need to provide a stable economic platform plus education and civil rights to all.
“Regrettably, some will still not accept Western civilization. They will terrorise us. But they will be no more effective than the Las Vegas shooter. Yes, they will kill an untold number of Americans but unless we capitulate they will not be able to kill off our ideals.”
I await his reply.