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Pakistani soldiers and an army helicopter in Sararogha, a former Islamist stronghold in South Waziristan 

Not since the demise of Marxism has the world been faced with a comprehensive political, social and economic ideology determined, by force if necessary, to achieve hegemony over large parts of the world. I mean, of course, the rise of radical Islam, in its various manifestations, with its claim to be the only authentic interpretation of the religion. I am aware that there are many Muslims who reject such an interpretation of their faith and, indeed, there are secular forces in the Muslim world prepared to resist such programmatic extremism. We should not, however, underestimate Islamism's capacity for disruption and destruction and its desire to remake the world in its own image.

In the face of such an ideology, the international community must not lose its nerve. Any withdrawal from a political, military and even intellectual engagement will be seen by the Islamists as capitulation. Instead of leading to containment, it will only encourage even greater attempts at the expansion of power and influence of movements connected with this ideology. This has already caused and will continue to cause immense suffering to those who do not fit in with an Islamist worldview, including minorities of various kinds, emancipated women and Muslims with views different from those of the extremists. The independence of nations, the autonomy of communities, traditional devotional practices (such as those associated with Sufism) and "deviations" from the prescribed orthodoxy will all be threatened, even with regard to their very existence.

It is true that this ideology, and the movements associated with it, thrive on the grievances, sometimes genuine, which Muslims have, whether in Israel/Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya or the Balkans. Let there be no mistake, however, that the ideology exists not because of such grievances, but because of particular interpretations of Islam and what follows from them. There is a desire to purify the Dar al-Islam (the House of Islam) of all infidel influence and corruption. This means that the role of women must be greatly restricted, that non-Muslims must accept the inferior status of dhimmi (rather than that of fellow-citizens), if they are to survive at all and that even Muslim males must behave according to the dictates of the guardians of the ideology. The non-Muslim world (Dar al-Harb, the House of War) must be brought within the ideologues' sphere of influence, whether through persuasion, accommodation by others of the extremists' agenda or the fear of armed conflict.

The jihad, for these ideologies, cannot have the meaning of self-defence which so many moderates claim for it. It must extend not only to the recovery of the "Muslim lands" of Palestine, India, the Iberian peninsula, parts of the Far East and Central Asia and, indeed, many areas in Sub-Saharan Africa, but further than that, so that either through the dawa (the invitation to accept this version of Islam) or political and military means, more and more of the Dar al-Harb will become the Dar al-Islam. The fact that many Muslims do not share these aspirations, and may reject them, should not blind us to the reality that these Islamist ideologies do have them and are prepared to act on them.

The West's (particularly Britain's and America's) involvement in Afghanistan (and to some extent also in Iraq) must be seen in the light of what has been said above. There should be no facile optimism that al-Qaeda has been disabled and no longer poses a credible threat to Western or other countries. It is perfectly possible, given the right conditions, for al-Qaeda to resume being a potent force. It is also the case that the ideology associated with this movement is producing mutant groups such as al-Shabab in Somalia.

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June 2nd, 2010
4:06 AM
Christains should stop trying to convert muslims and mislims should quit trying to convert Christains. All religious people are there by choice. Religions are religions that keep us all seperated even though we are all people of this planet. Leave each other alone and quit trying to make your religion "the only true religion". No matter what you believe one thing you will never change is the truth. The truth is not negotiable. We have massive interpitations of the "word" and the urge to save everbody from themselves. Quit it!!! Let Muslims live their lives in peace and let christians live in peace and quit trying to change each other like a bad marraige! We can easily bring this world to full peace if we quit trying to change each other. Let dictatorships be, let demovracy be, let communism be and let everyone else be. Our mission on this planet is to make it a better place and until we quit thinking we are better than each other and trying to convert each other to our own ways of life we will have conflict. Respect and appreciate the different cultures and religions. This is what makes the world so diverse and intersting.

Sajid Ali Khan
January 12th, 2010
2:01 PM
What Michael Nazir-Ali seems to advocate is a generation or two of occupation & repression of Afghans by the good old Christist Americans along with any satraps willing to gradually see their soldiers decimated. No strategy in sight. Ab initio the blitzkrieg on Afghans on 7th October 2001 was one of the most grotesque acts of modern history so to continue killing Afghans attending weddings or funerals or simply going about their daily life may appeal to Christians such as Nazir-Ali but he must be aware of how provocative these eight years (and counting) of conflict are. Provocation caused the backlash which affected London, Madrid and so on, and recently apparently allegedly caused a UCL graduate to feel strongly enough to want, again allegedly, to blow a U.S. airliner out of the sky. Really Michael Nazir-Ali should follow his own advice "that a religious can only pray"!

January 10th, 2010
6:01 AM
If they REALLY wanted to win the war on terror, all while saving European and American youth from the scourge of heavy drugs, they'd NAPALM all the poppy fields in Afghanistan and Lebanon. Thus doing, they'd close the money tap to all terror organizations, from Hizbollah to Al Qaida, which allow them to buy weapons at will...

Raymond Barry
January 3rd, 2010
3:01 PM
I am among the small minority of Canadians who thought that we should have gone into Iraq with the Americans, but I have never been enthusiastic about Afghanistan. In fact, I don't give even one hoot about Afghanistan, and I don't think that sad excuse for a country is worth even one Canadian life. If we can ever get it through our heads that the fight is not against any particular regime or country but against Islam itself we can take care of this problem in jig time. Stop playing defense, go for the knockout. They've asked for it, let's give it to them.

December 27th, 2009
11:12 AM
If Nazir-Ali were to venture among his kin, the Pakistanis resident in Britain, and tell them all that the West has a moral duty to stay in Afghanistan and keep on killing Afghanis, he might well earn a martyr's crown.

Bill Corr
December 25th, 2009
1:12 PM
If the USA and the UK and the whole EU and Japan - and so on - cut off all aid to Pakistan until ISI is disbanded and the safe havens of the Taliban within Pakistan utterly destroyed and the Taliban leaders in Pakistan seized or slain, we might get somewhere. Until the screws are tightened on the duplicitous Pakistanis, the war in Afghanistan will drag on until the civilized work gets bored and sick of the very mention of the place - and all the Allies subsequently leave in despair and disgust and Karzai flees to his cute little palace on the Dubai Palm Island - and the Taliban take over once more. Remind yourselves every day that each US soldier in Afghanistan is costing the US taxpayer a million bucks a year, which is slightly over $2,700 a day.

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