Islam's Way to Freedom
November 1, 2008
In First Things, Thomas F. Farr writes, "The difficult task of containing radical Islam requires altering the theological dynamic that sustains it, a task that can be accomplished only by Muslims themselves. External actors can have an influence on this process, but no agenda is likely to succeed if it ignores the theologies that drive political culture in the lands of Islamtheologies that already provide the poison that sustains radicalism, and must provide its antidote as well. In short, only liberal democratic political Islam can defeat radical Islam. Unfortunately, policymakers in the United States remain tempted by the argument that radical ideas and movements can be suppressed by our authoritarian allies in the region. But when despots like Egypts Mubarak or Saudi Arabias Abdullah crack down on extremists, usually by arbitrary arrest, torture, and execution, they are in fact encouraging extremism, ensuring its survival and its export. Decades of American support for tyrants in the Middle East have helped retard the growth of moderate political Islam. History strongly suggests that political and religious repression, while not the root cause of Islamist extremism, blocks its most effective remedythe development of liberal democratic political theologies.