The world is under siege today by Islamist fanatics bent on using murder and terrorism to destroy the underpinnings of true civilization.
Under the banner of Islam, these terrorists want to close the door on free speech and expression. They seek to undermine the voices of dissent by cowering the timid and intimidating the cowards. Do that and you can rule the world.
There are those who excuse this behavior as not being “real Islam.” But that depends on what one considers “real.”
Even moderate Islamic countries are xenophobic about the West. They trample on women’s rights and brutalize those who violate their customs. Islam is peaceful in this country because we demand that everyone here live by our secular laws.
That’s not the case in some other nations where backward and barbaric Islamic religious rules are the law.
Islam isn’t the first religion to adopt brutality as a weapon against apostates. The Catholic Church had its Inquisition. American Puritans had their witch trials. There are radicals of all religious beliefs stretching back through history.
But history doesn’t excuse today’s murders. The Catholic Church eventually matured, as did many other faiths. Internal reforms dulled the swords that had previously been carried by religious armies.
Islam has yet to discover its time of enlightenment. Its rigidity of thought has led directly to a bloody trail across the continents. That speaks for itself.
It was not Jews or Christians or Buddhists who flew airplanes into the Twin Towers. Nor did people proclaiming those faiths murder those at the French magazine a few weeks ago, a publication that poked fun at all religions.
The danger in all of this isn’t just that Islamists are killing in the name of Allah. Some see a bigger threat in that those actions could spark a backlash of extremists on the other side, radical nationalists in Europe who might seek to “cleanse” their nations of “barbarians.” We know where that could lead with its echoes of Hitler, another murderous tyrant.
And in this country there is a danger that in the name of more “security,” we begin to cede our freedoms. If you ask our government, the answer to every terrorist action is greater police surveillance and more probing into the lives of American citizens to dig out the “enemy.”
What’s troubling is that there are a lot of people who are willing to give up freedom to feel more secure, even if the security is just a show (like taking our shoes off at the airport.)
That kind of thinking will eventually lead to a police state existence, a danger far greater than Islamic terrorism.
We cannot guard against every threat we face. Life will never be 100 percent safe. A very small group of terrorists can do a huge amount of damage and kill a lot of people.
But their intent really isn’t in the killing itself. That’s just a tool.
The real intent is in the cultivation of fear. They want the media to be afraid of questioning their warped view of the world. They want governments to overreact. They want citizens to tremble and bow before any institution that has power over them.
Fear is a shortcut to power. You don’t need governments or armies to conquer if you can do it with fear and propaganda.
We are at the beginning of a long and bloody struggle between the West and its legacy of free thinking dissent vs. Islamist cultures that seek to crush our individuality, our free thought and the core of our democracy itself.
We won’t win that struggle by becoming just like those we fight through ultra-nationalism.
We won’t win by ceding our freedoms for a veneer of security through more government surveillance.
We won’t win by giving in to fear and self-censoring of words to be politically correct.
We win by doing the one thing that terrorists hate the most — not being afraid.
We win by pursuing our freedom of speech even more passionately, more openly and more provocatively.
Mike Buffington is co-publisher of Mainstreet Newspapers, Inc. He can be reached at email@example.com.