Breakthrough Ideas for August 2014 (1 of 2)

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At the time of the completion of this article, an international manhunt for the beheaders of embedded American journalist James Foley who demanded a $132 million ransom, is intensifying.

I for one, remain sickened by the British ISIS jihadist interviewed on BBC World Service on August 21, 2014 who nonchalantly giggled about the beheading of four others he was involved in. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let's first define (Muslim) fundamentalism. Here, Algerian sociologist and founder of the Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML), Marieme Hélie-Lucas broadly says:

“Fundamentalisms are political movements of the extreme right, which, in a context of globalization...manipulate religion, culture, or ethnicity, in order to achieve their political aims.”

University of California, Davis Professor of Law, Karima Bennoune (see Part 2) takes that up, as well as the slaughter and courageous resistance of Muslims against fundamentalism, in Part 2.

Moreover, to get an idea of what life under ISIS is like, see their enforcement of Sharia Law in Raqqa, Syria where untold thousands have, and continue to be massacred. And towns, “slave women and belongings pillaged, and Yazidi Christians like the girl below are forced to convert to Islam or summarily executed even if all but one agree. All with the professed goal of establishing an Islamic caliphate.

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We know that theoretically and in actuality, there's a difference between good and/or “moderate” Muslims, and radical Islamists. But like Irshad Manji, I doubt that these are times to be deflecting the very brutal truth that is: If “Islam is a religion of peace”, then why is so much barbarism, terrorism, oppression, assault on women's rights, jihadism and extreme Islamic fundamentalism linked to it? And crucially: Don't we instead need 21st-Century progressive reformist Muslims?

Irshad Manji's NYU-based Project Ijtihad (on Twitter, @MoralCourage) first came in contact with mine after they expressed interest in my blog Teaching Done Right and later, a variation on my Leadership Manifesto, via a Twitter chat involving Harvard and Princeton Professor Cornel West.

The pressing questions for those with the moral courage, moral conscience, and moral leadership in a volatile world with Islam at its center, from Libya's current risk of turning into a failed state, to Al-Shabaab which has long terrorized the failed Somali State, to the sectarian Sunni/Shite divide from Iran and its proxies to Qatar, which bankrolls Hamas even as it loses support, to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt, and beyond is:

What would Al-Qaeda and all radical Islamist fringe groups and organizations sympathetic to it (globally) do, IF it could do whatever it WANTED?

What would Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab in Africa do, IF it could do whatever it WANTED?

What would the Taliban and its allies in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India do IF it could do whatever it WANTED?

What would ISIS do—not just to Iraq and Syria, but the entire Middle East, Muslim world, and even, Western world—IF it could do whatever it WANTED?

What would Hezbollah do—not just in Lebanon but to Israel—IF it could do whatever it WANTED?

And while we're at it, with nearly 2,000 lives and homes destroyed 4,000+ rockets later, what would Hamas do—not just to Gazans and Palestinians as a whole but most importantly, its archenemy, Israel—IF it could do whatever it WANTED?

Answering the latter question in The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg convincingly explains why “It is a dereliction of responsibility not to try to understand the goals and beliefs of Islamist totalitarian movements.” These are criminals, supremacists and even psychopaths who, left to their own devices indiscriminately kill and maim so-called, infidels, heretics and apostates. Like the 14-year old boy whose punishment for not fasting during the holy month of Ramadan was to leave him hanging on a makeshift cross-like structure in scorching summer heat for many hours. The same ideology and wrong-headed (lack of) vision and dereliction of duty that instead of investing in infrastructure and human development, brainwashes its children and citizenry (they happily use as human shields) in the name of Islam. As seen on TV rejoicing on September 11, 2001 and chanting: “Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!” Sure, God is Great. But not the “god” fundamentalists anywhere, arrogantly and “ignorantly worship.” Hence, the call for Ijtihad.

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