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 Has Islam Been Hijacked? 


Carl Goldberg 

2005/07/23

How often we have heard that basically peaceful religion of Islam has been hijacked by extremists! However, the hijack analogy is false and dangerously misleading. Only a system with central control can be hijacked. You can hijack a car by taking control of the steering wheel; an airplane by taking control of the cockpit. It is even possible to hijack a state by taking control of the organs of state power. But, as we well know, there is no central control mechanism in Islam. Therefore, a hijacking of Islam is impossible. The danger of the hijack analogy is that it tempts us to think that, if only we can neutralize the hijackers, such as Bin Laden, al-Qaida or some other Moslem terrorist grouping, we could solve the problem of Islamic extremism and terrorism. To base policy on this false hope would be disastrous.

No analogy is perfect except in mathematics and logic; yet, an oncological analogy would be more appropriate for Islam than a hijack analogy. You could say that the cancer of Islamic extremism has metastasized throughout the body of Islam such that the surgical removal of one extremist tumor like al Qaida will not solve the problem. A systemic approach is needed; and our policy must be formulated accordingly. Our attempt to establish a beachhead of democracy in Iraq fits this systemic approach. 

To carry the analogy further, what if Islam is genetically predisposed to the extremist cancer? After all, if the trouble is "with Islam", as Irshad Manji so bravely titled her book, then the cancer of Islamic extremism is not curable. Perhaps, the best we can do is to suppress it so that it does not destroy the rest of the world. (Here, of course, the analogy breaks down because medical cancer in one body presents no danger to other bodies.)

A more accurate variation of the cancer analogy is to picture Islam itself as a cancer in the body of humanity as a whole. This cancer has indeed metastasized and now threatens the life of the civilized world, Europe above all. Again, surgical removal of particular Islamic tumors, though necessary, will not be sufficient. We need several systemic approaches including military, police, financial, diplomatic, security measures, etc. And, especially, we need to strengthen humanity's immune system by fostering democracy in the Islamic world in order to present to Moslems a set of desirable values in competition to the values of the Koran. It is our only hope. 

Non-mathematical analogies should be used with great caution because they are not exact, even the cancer analogy. In any case, we must get away from the dangerous misconception that Islam has been hijacked.

 

 

 

 

 

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