Tuesday, March 13, 2012

One Jerusalem Conference Call With Michael Widlanski, Author Of "Battle For Our Minds"

Today I participated in a conference call organized by One Jerusalem with Dr. Michael Widlanski, author of Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat, which deals with the threat of Arab-Islamic terror and dealing with it.

I asked Dr. Widlanski about how to name the threat: do we call it Radical Islam, Islamism or something else--and what are prospects for Moderate Islam. Widlanski referred to Samuel Huntington about there being an Arab, Islamic component.

He said that in addition to the 5 pillars of Islam: Creed, Daily Prayers, Charity, Fasting on Ramadan and Pilgrimage to Mecca--there is an element in the Muslim world that sees Jihad as a sixth pillar, comparable to the idea of an 11th commandment, namely that there is a need to expand world of Islam for Islam, and he noted that a large number believe this literally.

That number could be as many as 10% or more of the 1 billion Muslims in the world

Dr. Widlanski explained that we are facing "Arab Islamic Terror" that is now in its third generation:

  • The first generation of terrorism was pioneered by the Palestinian Arabs.
  • The second generation saw the the Mujahidin in Afghanistan and the terrorism of Osama bin Laden -- influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood.
  • Now in the third generation of terrorism we see the home grown threat, living in the United States, Indonesia and Great Britain--these are often those who convert to Islam in prisons or in the armed forces, where they pick up skills.

We are dealing with people who have a vision of Islam that goes back to the 6th and 7th centuries, a vision of imposing Islamic law. The most moderate of this particular group would allow Jews to live as Dhimmis, as 2nd class citizens.

The most extreme of this group would be far less generous.

However, Dr. Widlanski notes, many Muslims do not except this view of Islam, and instead have as their goal to lead a good proper life without forcible conversions and without imposing their view on others.

But the fact remains that there is a sizeable portion which wants and is willing to use force and think that this is commanded by Allah.

In response to a question from Boker Tov, Boulder, on the pro-Islamic language used by Obama, Dr. Widlanski noted that when elected, the first interview Obama gave was to Al-Arabiya, the first country he visited was Turkey and his first major speech outside the US was in Cairo.

While there is obviously nothing wrong with reaching out to the Muslim world, by the same token, Obama apparently sees reaching out to the Muslim world as reaching out to the Third World while making a point of constantly apologizing for US colonialism.

Thus, while he objected to being pinned with the name while he was running for president, now Obama makes a point of his middle name being Hussein.

In answer to a question by David Goder of One Jerusalem, Dr. Widlanski criticized the idea of approaching terrorism in the same way crime in general is prosecuted.

Widlanski noted that terrorism can be worst of all crimes, not only because of the casualty rate, but because the whole purpose of terrorism is to rip up and undermine trust in the government.

Unlike in democracies, this goal of terrorism does not work in dictatorships, where the regime can attack and destroy terrorists with the total use of force.

Widlanski explained that you cannot fight terror in the same way as you fight crime. Unlike the murderer who is out to kill an individual or a number of people, the terrorist wants to murder "society." For that reason, you have to also be focused on prevention.

In the case of terrorism, the goal cannot be merely to present a case--which takes time--but to prevent it. Therefore, if you cannot use the evidence, that is acceptable because ultimately the terrorist act must be prevented.

This does not mean to overturn the constitution and the rule of law, but by the same token we cannot just wait to can get a conviction -- we need to grab the terrorist early.

And if the act of terrorism can be prevented at the risk of being unable to put together a case, then that is a good thing.

Dr. Widlanski referred to the case of the murderer of Rabbi Meir Kahane--El Sayyid Nosair. There were 15 boxes of his, filled with material showing he was part of a group in that back then in 1990 was trying to commit terrorism, destroy bridges and blow up The World Trade Center.
If that material was properly investigated, perhaps the 1993 bombing could have been prevented--and maybe the attack in 2001.

Build up how to deal with teor

Author Warren Kozak asked about the role played by journalists in the permissive Western attitude towards Islam

Michael Widlanski mentioned Fareed Zakaria, who once gave Hezbollah as an example of tolerance for Jews He also referred to Tom Friedman, who wrote very favorably Saudi Arabia and their "peace plan" -- ignoring the conditions that would be imposed on Israel and the spread of hate literature the Saudis back.

He pointed out that influential intellectuals follow fashion also.

Dr. Widlanski concluded, as he does in his book Battle for Our Minds, on a positive note, that we cannot give up this battle, that we can win.

We just need to open our minds to what is going on and not be afraid.

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