Counter-Terrorism: Islamic Conservatives Get Polluted


March 7, 2006: One of the most powerful forces operating against Islamic radicalism in Asia is the growing appeal of non-Islamic religions. Asia has always been quick to accept new religions, or new versions of existing ones. Despite having the largest Islamic population in the world, Indonesia has not become a powerhouse of Islamic terrorism. The main reason is because the most popular forms of Islam in Indonesia are "polluted" (according to more hard core Moslem) by pre-Islamic, practices. The current Islamic radicalism in Indonesia is itself a foreign import. Wahhabi missionaries from Arabia have only recently introduced the concept of strict adherence to "true" Islam. But Wahhabism is a Saudi Arabian version of Islam, developed in the 18th century, and exported via generous donations by oil-rich Arabs. Most Indonesians are put off by the foreignness of Wahhabism, not to mention the Islamic terrorism that flows from it.

The other nations in East and Southeast Asia have had the same experience with Wahhabism. But it's not just Islam that has been diluted by local practices in Asia. In China, the 60 million members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have also been seduced by local religious practices. The CCP leadership is trying to deal with the fact that a third of their members are religious, and half of those attend religious services regularly. Communists are supposed to be atheists, but the religious communists of China believe that their personal and professional lives should be separate, and that religious beliefs make one a better person, and a better communist. The Party does not agree, but has refrained from mass expulsions. Instead, they have been running a PR campaign pointing out the superiority of atheism. This has not worked, in part because corruption in the Party (which is a major problem), appears to be cured more effectively by religious beliefs, than by more communist rhetoric.

The war against Islamic terrorism is indeed a religious conflict. But it is one that treats Islamic radicalism as a hostile creed, that can best be eliminated by the natural superiority of more humane forms of Islam. To that end, much effort, and money, is going to help get the mellower mainstream message out.


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