Thursday, January 17, 2002

Last Saturday’s speech by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was not just another speech condemning terrorism by another politician. Mr. Musharraf not only condemned terrorism, but he also designed a template for the actions Muslim nations need to take to join the modern world. Call it the Musharraf Doctrine. If we can bring other Muslim nations to recognize its truths and its value, it can be the foundation for a lasting peace and success in the war against terrorism.

Italian President Silvio Berlusconi got an enthusiastic thrashing from the world press last year for his remarks in the wake of September 11. He said, “We should be conscious of the superiority of our civilization, which consists of a value system that has given people widespread prosperity in those countries that embrace it, and guarantees respect for human rights and religion.” He added, “This respect certainly does not exist in the Islamic countries.” Mr. Berlusconi’s remarks, while undiplomatic, got so much attention because they were true. What is most shocking about Mr. Musharraf’s speech is that some of the things he said sound like Mr. Berlusconi wrote them.

Mr. Musharraf began with a sound condemnation of all terrorism and a ban on several terrorist organizations operating out of Pakistan. Following that was the most remarkable part of his speech. He said Pakistan was sick of the “Kalashnikov culture,” and that the “day of reckoning has come.” He asked the questions that all leaders of Muslim nations should ask of their own nations: “Do we want Pakistan to become a theocratic state? Do we believe that religious education alone is enough for governance, or do we want Pakistan to emerge as a progressive and dynamic Islamic welfare state?”

No Islamic leader of our time has had the courage to ask these questions. They should become a cornerstone of America’s policy toward all Muslim nations. Mr. Musharraf’s point is precise and inescapable: A nation needs only so many religious scholars, but every nation needs as many educated doctors, engineers and businessmen as it can foster and grow. In order for the Muslim nations like Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, the Phillipines and many other of our “allies” to join the modern world economy, they need to educate their people to have the skills to make their economies competitive. Now, most of them have a well-educated and rich minority presiding over a poverty-stricken, ill-educated citizenry. These nations look like pre-revolutionary France without the good wine.

Mr. Musharraf went farther, carving a road for his people. He condemned those who use the madrassas the common religious schools to teach hate, and turn the mosques into hotbeds of unrest. Citing the prayer leader of one mosque who has confessed to several murders, Mr. Musharraf asked, “To what purpose are we using our mosques for? These people have made a state within a state and have challenged the writ of the government.” Of course, that is what the terrorists want a second government, loyal to their goals, and either coddled by the real government or at war with it. Mr. Musharraf’s doctrine won’t permit this.

What is so remarkable about Mr. Musharraf’s doctrine is how truly revolutionary it is. He said aloud what no one else cared to admit. Far from condemning his own religion, he says that the greatest Islamic proselytizers did not spread their religion by force, but by personal example. He said that the madrassas have to be restored to their original purpose teaching religion, not hatred. Jihad, said Mr. Musharraf, is not confined to armed struggles. Sounding like an Asian LBJ, he called for a jihad against hunger, illiteracy, poverty and backwardness. He demanded that the madrassas increase secular education, to improve the lot of the people, and to strengthen Pakistan’s economy. It is on this basis that Pakistan, and so many nations like it, can join the world. They can end terrorism, jump-start their economies, and become educated, prosperous members of the modern world community. And that is what it will take for the war against terrorism to end successfully.

Not since the World War II Japanese have we faced an enemy like al Qaeda, the Taliban and the other parts of the Islamicist terror network. They are motivated by religion. In their perverted vision of Islam, they believe that they can best achieve heaven by killing innocent people who are not of their culture or religion. They cannot be pacified by negotiation. They are convinced that God will reward their acts, and only God can tell them to stop.

In World War II, the Japanese soldiers were also dedicated fanatically, by their Shinto religion, to the war against America. Like al Qaeda, they believed that heaven awaited those who died for the emperor in battle. Despite stunning defeats and our air campaign that was gradually destroying their cities, they would not, and could not stop their fight until Emperor Hirohito himself regarded as a godlike figure ordered them to surrender. They didn’t surrender because an emperor told them to, but because the leader of their religion told them to. Had he not done so, millions more would have died.

In our fight against terror, peace can only be attained in the same way. Yes, we can pacify some nations by force, as we did in Afghanistan. That is only temporary, and temporal. It fails to deal with the enemy as he is: committed by his view of his religion to our destruction. As President Bush has said, our war is not against Islam. But our peace, if it can be made at all, has to be made through Islam.

Mr. Musharraf’s speech outlines how the teaching of Islam has been perverted to the use of the terrorists and those who support their goals. For peace to last longer than it takes to train the next suicide bomber, we need to help turn the teaching and preaching of Islam away from the “Kalashnikov culture.” Mr. Musharraf has drawn a line in the sand. We need to help him pull the rest of the Islamic world across it. We will not have peace until we and he make that happen.

Jed Babbin is a former deputy undersecretary of defense in the prior Bush administration.

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