A Truce with the Muslim World:
A Truce with the Muslim World:
It is time for the
This may sound like a naÃ¯ve, even defeatist statement in the context of The 9/11 Commission Report's reminder that
Indeed, there is no chance for a halt in the war on terror, or any fundamental change in
European leaders face the threat of an increasingly bloody conflict with Muslim extremists thanks to the continent's imperial past in the region and, more important today, their perceived support for
There are many kinds of truces, most not relevant to the situation facing
Other truces, like those that ended the Korean War in 1953, or the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, became by default unsatisfactory political resolutions to otherwise insoluble conflicts. A truce like this almost certainly will end in renewed violence because the roots of the war on terror go to the core values underlying U.S./Western policies in the
Clearly, a different kind of truce is needed; one that signals the first step in a genuine reappraisal of American (and to a lesser extent European) core positions and interests as well as those of Muslims, so that genuine peace and reconciliation become conceivable. There is some historical precedent for this kind of truce in Islam. The Prophet Muhammad agreed to the first Muslim truce in 628. Known as the Treaty of Hudaybiyah, it was between the nascent Muslim community and the Meccan pagans, and lasted for two years before the Meccans broke it by attacking Muslim Bedouin tribes. During the truce, however, the Muslims respected its terms, even though many of them felt it to be unfair.
More important, during the last three decades an increasingly permanent Muslim presence in Europe gradually led most Muslims to consider that region not "dar al-harb" (or the Abode of War, the traditional Muslim categorization of all non-Muslim lands), but "dar al-hudna" -- a land of truce between Muslims and non-Muslims -- or even "dar al-Islam," a land of peace where Muslims can feel at home.
Indeed, however dangerous the presence of a few thousand extremists out of a European Muslim population more than ten million strong, the reality is that Muslims increasingly think of Europe as a "terre de mediation" (a land of mediation) between Muslims and the larger world. A European-initiated hudna might be the first step in allowing Muslims to feel the US has the potential to play a similar role -- but only if major European governments pressed for it, leading the way by reappraising and transforming their own policies toward Muslim lands.
First, just as most every mainstream Muslim personality has condemned Muslim extremism, the next President must be prodded by his European counterparts to take the important psychological step of admitting
Third, all military and diplomatic agreements and aid to Middle Eastern countries that aren't democratic or don't respect the rights of the peoples under their control should be suspended. Yes, this means for
Finally, the hundreds of billions of dollars that would have been devoted to the war on terror should be redirected toward the kind of infrastructural, educational, and social projects The 9/11 Commission Report argues are key to winning the war on terror.
A truce does not equal capitulation to terrorists or letting Muslims off the hook for crimes committed in the name of their religion. Certainly, European leaders were right to reject the "truce offer" purportedly made by Osama bin Laden last April on the condition that European countries remove their troops from Muslim lands and refuse to support the
Beyond the criminal minority, The 9/11 Report was right to demand that Muslims worldwide confront the violent and intolerant version of their religion that is poisoning their societies and threatening the world at large. Religious leaders and ordinary citizens alike must engage in soul-searching about the toxic tendencies within their own cultures similar to the one they demand of Americans and the West more broadly.
States as well as communities and cultures can make truces, even if criminals can't. And the Report should have added specific policy prescriptions to enable such a process to begin: For their part, Muslim political leaders should begin a process of rapid development of participatory civil societies and hold internationally monitored elections within specified (short) time periods or their regimes will face censure and sanctions by the international community. This is the surest way to build a foundation for defeating terrorism.
While it's hard to imagine the
Fortunately, leading European countries like
Mark LeVine is associate professor of modern Middle Eastern history, culture and Islamic Studies at the University of California,
Copyright C2004 Mark LeVine
[This article first appeared on Tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news, and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, long time editor in publishing and author of The End of Victory Culture and The Last Days of Publishing.]