- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 25, 2006

Jack Kelly (“Missing the Muslim mainstream,” Commentary, March 8) asserts as “the central strategic question in the war on terror: Is Islam compatible with a free society?”

Posing the question this way, however, fatally conflates Muslims as individuals, Islam as an abstract religious philosophy, and medieval Islamic fundamentalism (the belief that a supernatural force commands the coercive imposition of Islam).

As Mr. Kelly should recognize, the existence of civilized Muslims such as Zalmay Khalilzad and Mansoor Ijaz conclusively demonstrates Muslims as human beings, and Islam as an abstract religious philosophy are both compatible with free society. Contrary to Mr. Kelly’s odd charge, no serious commentator, including Ann Coulter, advocates we “kill the Muslims in our midst.” Anyone advocating that would be the philosophical and moral equivalent of the terrorists we fight.

The philosophical content of the beliefs being imposed is utterly irrelevant to the question of whether a philosophy or its adherents are compatible with free society. Any movement that conspires to initiate violence to gain power or impose its beliefs is incompatible with free society. What medieval Islamic fundamentalism shares with Nazism is the initiation of violence to gain power and impose beliefs on unwilling individuals.

Medieval Islamic fundamentalism is therefore wholly incompatible with free society since its essential defining characteristic is the violent imposition of Islamic beliefs.

Terrorism and tyranny are the polar opposites of a free, voluntary society. By contrast, the military forces of free societies are best conceptualized as the collective organization of the individual right of self-defense.

Unfortunately, implacable violent opposition to voluntary, free societies is the dominant trend in Islam today. Even in supposedly “moderate” Islamic states such as Saudi Arabia, religious police patrol the streets, coercively enforcing Islamic strictures. The U.S. has the moral right, though not a duty, to use force against any individuals or nations that initiate force, anywhere in the world. The U.S. does have a positive duty to use force to oppose violence against its own peaceful citizens. To claim otherwise amounts to a wholesale assault on the very notion of free society, and elevates barbarism over civilization.


Great Falls, Va.

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