What scares U.S. the most?

Despite the immense powers at its disposal, who or what scares America? The answer to this question has far-reaching implications for strategy, public diplomacy, and foreign and domestic policy of all nations. The answer is so obvious; but our denial makes it go up in smoke before our eyes.

The answer lies in the basic message of an official statement from Paul Bremer in Baghdad who declared that US will “veto Islamic law in Iraq.”[1]

The answer lies in the New York Times editorials. Earlier it called “not invoking Shari’ah” in Afghan constitution as “”promising aspirations,” and its reference to the Qur’an as “the troubling aspect.” [2]

What hurts the US? Two main culprits have emerged from global discourse since Sept. 11: terrorism and Islam. Some say the US is at war with terrorism. Others believe it is Islam. The truth, more subtle, lies between the two –” it is application of the essence of Islam.

Daniel Pipes is one hundred per cent right when he says war on terrorism makes no sense. He is right when he says the establishment in the US pretends that the enemy is terrorism “because it finesses some delicate questions about Islam, thereby making it easier to build an international coalition or minimize domestic repercussions.”

It is however getting hard by the day to hide the real objectives of this war. The American dilemma is that Islam as a way of life cannot be defeated with missiles and bombs. Professing Islam is no problem at all. It is practicing Islam that threatens and is gradually made illegal.

So, the war is waged on those who want to live by Islam –” Muslims, who live, in Daniel Pipes words, “with a specific set of beliefs.” Thomas Friedman considers them Muslim with specific ideas which should be defeated with a “war on ideas.”

In Daniel Pipes’s view, “the Western "street" prefers to see the problem lying with the Islamic religion.” Accordingly, “Muslims have been the leading enemy of Christians for more than a millennium, remain so now and will long continue to fill this role.”[3] Such pronouncements led to a strategic shift in the US approach. War on Islam was for nearly two millennia a European phenomenon; now it is basically an American one.

The establishment in Washington, however, is not naïve to publicly espouse Daniel Pipes’s description of the American “street.” The reasons:

a) A public declaration of a war on Islam will make them lose the military heads and their militantly secular culture in places like Turkey, Pakistan and Algeria;

b) It is impossible to convert 1.3 billion Muslim from Islam;

c) The US cannot quarantine all the Muslims living in the West, and

d) It can never win the clash with Islamic civilization, which many Americans now firmly believe is underway.

Fingering Islam directly, in short, neither explains the problem with Washington nor offers a solution. So, finger what undermines the status quo of the elite that rules the world. Target the alternative to the twisted democracy and laws of the global elite, which in fact threaten the entire humanity.

Thus, allies in the war on Islam embraced a third way of approaching the “problem,” which satisfies all these requirements.

That approach calls for publicly declaring that Islam itself is not the issue. At the same time, it requires the Western warriors to: a) thwart implementation of Islam and demonize development of an alternative model by delegitimizing it as “political Islam,” and b) to isolate Muslims who resist surrendering to the laws of global elite and refuse compromising the basic principles of the Qur’an and Sunnah.

The war on Islam can easily be won through labeling the essence of Islam the “political, extremist variant” and call the watered down, impracticable version as “moderate” and “liberal” Islam. “Followers of such a watered down version of Islam are hardly distinguishable from followers of other ideologies. Liberal Islam” is presented and advocated as the true Islam. In fact, it does not believe Shari’ah is any more implementable in modern world. It is anti-Jihad, anti-Hadith and anti-many basic principles of the Qur’an.

The reason for promoting such versions of Islam is obvious. For example, it takes out the concept of Jihad and all resistance to occupation in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Palestine becomes terrorism. Take out Shari’ah and some basic principles of the Qur’an and Sunnah and the way of life and values advocated by Thomas Friedman suddenly become all too permissible. What else for him could be winning the war of ideas?

Allah orders Muslims to live by his laws otherwise they will be disbelievers, oppressors and wicked in His sight (Qur’an, 5:44 – 47). Paul Bremer tells them, “It can’t be law until I sign it."

Elevating themselves to this godly status is the result of an effective strategy: weaken the Muslim faith by keeping them away from the Qur’an. Rewrite their constitutions in which living by Shari’ah should be declared Haram (forbidden) by the respective chief occupiers of the land. Daniel Pipes suggests: “Fight it militarily, diplomatically, legally, intellectually and religiously. Fight it in Afghanistan, in Saudi Arabia, in the United States–” in fact, everywhere.”

Pipes believes “moderate” Muslims as “key allies in this fight.” Yes, they are. According to the New York Times’ victorious tone, (editorial, Nov. 14, 2003) there is no reference to Shari’ah in Afghanistan constitution and Bremer has threatened that there would be no place for it in Iraq. “Moderates” have paved the way for it. “Moderates” accept it this way. Muslims did not.

Muslims clinging to their faith and Qur’an are labeled as “evil.” In Pipes’s view, “such euphemisms in wartime can be beneficial,” because it “shied away [the US government] from specifics lest they tie its hands.”

The beauty of Daniel Pipes write ups is that he does not twist words like Bush or Friedman. In this case he clearly says that by labeling the staunch believers of Islam as "evildoers" without “mentioning any names beyond Osama bin Laden” offers “maximum flexibility.”[4]

As a result, to neutralize what scares America the most –” the application of Islam; the essence of Qur’an and Sunnah–” Shari’ah has been reduced to a curse. It has no place in the modern world. The Qur’an is presented as a hard to interpret moral guide. No one’s interpretation of the Qur’an is valid, except the “moderates.”

On the other hand practicing Muslims are weak and intimidated these days, but they are crucial if the Muslim world has to help the West emerge from the current bout of radicalism and the Muslim world from the depth of humiliation.

Once the Americans understand the real objectives of their rulers behind the on going war, they can emerge as a formidable force. The going will remain tough unless besides Muslims, the Americans also identify proponents of this needless war and find the strength forthrightly to address the problem of American fear from the Islam’s potential to provide a far better alternative to the twisted democracy and descript secular way of life. This is what scares masters of international terror and control the most.


[1]. “U.S. May Veto Islamic Law in Iraq: Top U.S. Administrator in Iraq, Touting Women’s Rights, Threatens Veto of Islamic Law Measure,” The Associated Press, February 16, 2003.

[2]. Editorial, November 14, 2003

[3]. Daniel Pipes, “Aim the War on Terror at Militant Islam,” Los Angeles Times, January 6, 2002

[4]. Daniel Pipes, “Who Is the Enemy?” Commentary, January 2002. http://www.danielpipes.org/article/103