We have watched terrorism grow with increasing malevolence over the past decade. Today, no country is secure. No individual is beyond its bounds.
A virulent, radical ideology has spread throughout the globe that says terror is acceptable, that targeting innocents is not just allowed but a “duty” of its followers.
Let me quote from Osama bin Laden’s 1998 fatwa against the United States and the West:
“The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies — civilians and military — is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate the al-Aqsa Mosque and the holy mosque from their grip, and in order for their armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim.”
This is what we face and fight against. The threat has not diminished in the nearly four years since September 11, 2001.
I believe it is even more important the United States and our allies redouble our efforts in the war against terrorism. This means continuing to seek out and kill or capture key members of al Qaeda. This means remaining vigilant in our efforts to prevent and interdict terrorist operations. And it means improving our gathering and sharing of intelligence.
I also believe the United States must develop strong relationships with moderate Muslims at the highest levels. President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice should invest the time and energy to develop close ties with those in the Muslim world who are a force for peace and reconciliation, not of fanaticism and violence.
This could take many forms:
Developing a Muslim council with which the president confers monthly.
High-level meetings with leading moderate Muslim figures during administration travel to the Middle East.
Financial investment in Muslim programs and schools that encourage tolerance and diversity.
Revamping Radio Sawa to include more sophisticated news programming on issues that appeal to young people.
Sponsoring forums and trips to the U.S. for elected centrist Muslim individuals to spend time with U.S. legislators.
Relying on intelligence community operatives to undercut the message and political activities of radical clerics who preach hatred of the West.
But the United States and our allies cannot win this battle alone. A key part of the solution lies within the Islamic community as well. Muslim religious leaders must join the battle against terror. They have to fight this virulent ideology.