In “If You Don’t Get Islamic Ideology, You Don’t Get the Problem in Afghanistan” at The Corner today, Andy McCarthy discusses several things we have pointed out here many times: the policy errors that result from an inadequate, politically correct understanding of Islam and jihad, and the fact that many Muslim condemnations of terrorism condemn attacks by Muslims against Muslims, but say nothing about attacks on non-Muslims:
Adopting the conventional Western wisdom about Islam (which is probably best exemplified by Larry Wright’s otherwise worthy history of al-Qaeda, The Looming Tower), General McChrystal and Fred miniaturize what we’re up against. By their lights, our enemy is a fringe element of Muslims who hold the controversial view that Muslims resistant to their severe interpretation of Islam are apostates and can properly be killed under Islamic law. The Islamic term for this view, by the way, is takfir. Fred describes it as an Islamic “heresy” although, as Bernard Lewis has explained, heterodoxy is a Western concept that doesn’t have a precise Islamic analogue. Because the takfiris are engaged in “anti-Islamic” violence, the McChrystal/Kagan thinking goes, we can exploit their “heresy” and win the majority of Afghan Muslims to our side.
This confuses a couple of very important things. First, the point of disagreement between the takfiris and other Muslims is primarily over the propriety of killing Muslims. The fact that there is discord between them over that point does not mean the majority of Muslims will side with us over the takfiris. We are non-Muslims, and whatever differences Muslims in general have with takfiri Muslims, their differences with us are more thorough-going and profound.
Second, the fact that most Muslims see takfiri violence against Muslims as violative of Islamic principles does not mean that they see takfiri violence (or, indeed, violence by any Muslims) against us as violative of Islamic principles. To the contrary, as I explain in my column, mainstream Islamic ideology (not just takfiri ideology, not by a longshot) holds that infidel military forces operating in Islamic countries must be fought until they are driven out, especially if they are sowing the seeds of Western culture and governance.