There is a war breaking out within Islam, writes Boaz Ganor, founder and executive director of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) in Herzliya. That war pits "the culture of Islamic radicalism against the rest of the world, which includes the majority of Muslims worldwide," Ganor writes in a report published Friday by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
"Terrorists and fundamentalists are misusing the democratic apparatus of the state in order to promote their goals. When fundamentalists win in democratic elections, it is one man, one vote, one time, and there is no way to get rid of them except through violence," Ganor writes.
But American policymakers fail to grasp the danger. For example, White House Counter-Terror advisor John Brennan has said that "Islamists and Jihadists are not our enemy." By doing so, the United States "is sending a confusing message to its allies worldwide," Ganor writes.
While al-Qaida has yet to achieve its goal of establishing an Islamic caliphate to rule the world, Ganor believes "it is succeeding in achieving its intermediate goals to gain hearts and minds that buy into its version of Islam."
Over the past decade, there has been competition in the Muslim world between a "pragmatic axis" led by Saudi Arabia and an Iranian axis which Ganor believes is winning, with Hamas taking power in Gaza and Hizballah toppling the Lebanese government headed by Prime Minister Sa'ad Hariri.
Free elections are not the most important aspect of democracy, he contends. Properly understood, the term must also include respect for human rights and women's rights.
But priorities change when people are exposed to years of incitement and indoctrination. For example, many "come to believe that becoming a shahid (suicide bomber) is the most important goal of every patriotic Palestinian youth," Ganor writes. In this atmosphere, it isn't a big surprise when they support Hamas in free elections, as Palestinians did in 2006.
To counter this, he suggests establishing a new Marshall Plan, modeled after the U.S. initiative to aid Europe after World War II. The plan would be used to support "pragmatic regimes that have not yet faced internal revolutions," with the money coming from Muslim sources, like Saudi Arabia and the Arab Gulf states.
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