A look at history500 years ago there was a religion that held many of those who followed it in practical slavery, allowed its adherents to engage in the worst kind of debauchery, killed thousands of infidel men, women, and children, and had a dictate to rule the entire world. And through what has become known as "The Reformation," the stranglehold of that religion was broken. Yes, I'm talking about Roman Catholicism. And through the Protestant Reformation many people were convinced to leave it for the light of the true gospel—enough that some reform did even take place within Catholicism itself. This year marks the 500th anniversary of Luther's 95 theses. Of all times, it is now that we should understand that reforming religions is possible. But the question is, how?
Recognizing the problemThe first step in fixing any problem is usually recognizing that it exists, and being willing to admit the cause. For religions, this is usually particularly difficult. There is a desire to shift blame to hypocrisy, a failure to properly interpret sacred texts, and radicalism. And of course, we all know that these things are too often present. But sometimes it is necessary to admit that a problem goes deeper than this, and is actually integral to the religion itself. When a problem is serious and serial, one must be willing to take a hard look at whether the religion itself is at fault.
Is it Radicalism?The common explanation for terrorism perpetrated by Islamists today is radicalism. The Left tells us that it is not Islam itself that is at fault; that Islam is actually a religion of peace. However, the slaughter of infidels is taught by Islam's sacred book, the Quaran. And it was practiced by Muhammad himself. Even one fifth of the Muslims in the U.S. believe in the practice of violent Jihad. Islam's problems do not stem from radicalism. They stem from fundamentalism—careful following of the teachings and actions of the prophet Muhammad himself. So, while not all Muslims are fundamental Islamists, (and in the U.S., most appear not to be,) it is clear that the teaching of Islam will always be accompanied by fundamentalism, and thus by violence and the quest for supremacy over the entire earth.
Reform through moderation?
Yet, even among those who recognize the need for Islamic reform, there is a tendency to recommend reform through moderation.
But if radicalism is not the problem, then moderation cannot be the cure. The problem is actually Islam itself: the teachings of Muhammad. It is impossible to merely moderate, because doing so will contradict the Quaran, leaving no basis for Islam at all—Islamists would be forced to recognize that Muhammad was wrong, and not a prophet of God at all.
Thus, any attempt at moderation will either have to ultimately strike a fatal blow to the foundation of Islam (and thus in the end not be just moderation), or else it will fail to actually address the root of the issue—and thus also fail to succeed in actually permanently banishing violence from Islamism.
A fundamental changeSo we see that a fundamental change is necessary to actually stop violent Islamism. But the approach that the West wants to take, even those that desire reform, is naive in the extreme. If we want a fundamental change, a radical change, then we need a very radical and powerful driver for that change. Simply decrying violence or slowly trying to moderate Islam will not work. The problem is that the West has become so accustomed to liberal thought that they are tailoring their reform efforts according to their own way of thinking.
Reform of liberal thought over time, through moderation, is indeed possible. When one is accustomed to thinking freely, there is room to change what one thinks. Beliefs can even be changed on a whim, if one is willing to embrace some amount of relativism—whatever you want to believe is OK. There need not even be any real concrete basis for a change of belief. Something can just feel right to a large number of people, and that is enough. Islamists, however, almost universally reject the idea of liberal thought. Not only are they not relativists as the Western radical Liberals have become, but they are extremely traditionalist and fundamentalist. They are not used to thinking for themselves about these things in that way. Their minds are made up based on teachings attributed to a prophet of Allah, or those who are in spiritual authority over them. They are not making up their own minds, they are simply accepting things based on authority, with little or no room for free thought or questioning. It is clear that if we want them to consider such a radical change of thought, we will have to provide a very strong basis for that change.