By Bill Maher
Without a military solution to combating terrorism, what do we need? David Cameron began to lay out his “Counter-Extremism Strategy” for the UK in a speech back in July, and we need to take it global. A few highlights:
First, don’t shy away from acknowledging the root of the problem. People can blame 9/11 or poverty for terrorism, he says:
But let’s not delude ourselves. We could deal with all these issues – and some people in our country and elsewhere would still be drawn to Islamist extremism. No – we must be clear. The root cause of the threat we face is the extremist ideology itself.
[T]he adherents of this ideology are overpowering other voices within Muslim debate, especially those trying to challenge it. There are so many strong, positive Muslim voices that are being drowned out.
First, any strategy to defeat extremism must confront, head on, the extreme ideology that underpins it. We must take its component parts to pieces - the cultish worldview, the conspiracy theories, and yes, the so-called glamorous parts of it as well.
In doing so, let’s not forget our strongest weapon: our own liberal values. We should expose their extremism for what it is – a belief system that glorifies violence and subjugates its people – not least Muslim people.
We should contrast their bigotry, aggression and theocracy with our values.
We believe in respecting different faiths but also expecting those faiths to support the British way of life. These are British values. And are underpinned by distinct British institutions. Our freedom comes from our Parliamentary democracy. The rule of law exists because of our independent judiciary. This is the home that we are building together.
And as we do all of this work to counter the Islamist extremist ideology, let’s also recognize that we will have to enter some pretty uncomfortable debates – especially cultural ones. Too often we have lacked the confidence to enforce our values, for fear of causing offense. The failure in the past to confront the horrors of forced marriage I view as a case in point. So is the utter brutality of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
It sickens me to think that there were nearly 4,000 cases of FGM reported in our country last year alone. Four thousand cases; think about that. And 11,000 cases of so called honor-based violence over the last 5 years – and that’s just the reported cases.
We need more coordinated efforts to drive this out of our society. More prosecutions. No more turning a blind eye on the false basis of cultural sensitivities. Why does this matter so much?
Well, think what passive tolerance says to young British Muslim girls.
We can’t expect them to see the power and liberating force of our values if we don’t stand up for them when they come under attack.
[S]imply denying any connection between the religion of Islam and the extremists doesn’t work, because these extremists are self-identifying as Muslims. The fact is from Woolwich to Tunisia, from Ottawa to Bali, these murderers all spout the same twisted narrative, one that claims to be based on a particular faith.
Now it is an exercise in futility to deny that. And more than that, it can be dangerous. To deny it has anything to do with Islam means you disempower the critical reforming voices; the voices that are challenging the fusing of religion and politics; the voices that want to challenge the scriptural basis which extremists claim to be acting on; the voices that are crucial in providing an alternative worldview that could stop a teenager’s slide along the spectrum of extremism.
These reforming voices, they have a tough enough time as it is: the extremists are the ones who have the money, the leaders, the iconography and the propaganda machines. We need to turn the tables.
We can’t stand neutral in this battle of ideas. We have to back those who share our values. So here’s my offer.
If you’re interested in reform; if you want to challenge the extremists in our midst; if you want to build an alternative narrative or if you just want to help protect your kids – we are with you and we will back you – with practical help, with funding, with campaigns, with protection and with political representation.
This all sounds good even without the British accent. He seems to be the one world leader who understands what we’re up against: an idea, not just 30,000 assholes. The bombs we need are truth bombs, and it’s going to take a courageous liberal army to drop them.