Decapitation has a way of clearing one’s head. My invitation to a beheading came from former Israeli officer and counter-terrorism expert Richard Horowitz, who thought that if I watched a video of one in the security of his library, I would understand what he already knew: just how ferociously we in the West are hated. In the video, a Muslim boy beheads a man. The murderer is 10.
I am a woman who practices medicine and Islam. Islam took me to Mecca and Hajj. Medicine took me to Riyadh and London. Each capital hosts communities espousing Islamist neo-orthodoxy. Both spawn violent jihadist ideologies. Listening to counter-terrorism experts and examining the ugly underbelly of contemporary radical Islamism has taught me what Muslims in Mecca, Riyadh, or London could not: the difference between Islam and Islamism.
Rep. Peter King (R) of New York’s Senate hearings seek answers to these and other questions, while attacks of “Islamophobia” and “McCarthyism” threaten to suffocate this vital discourse. As a Muslim, watching Islamists at work lends me rare perspective. Mr. King’s hearings offer the public this same perspective, just when it is needed most.
Suicide bombers should be called homicide bombers
Islamist terrorism places martyrdom at its center, distorting Islam into a false faith valuing death above life. Islam reviles suicide, yet suicide operations are now synonymous with Islamist terror. This is deliberate.
Suicide distracts. Suicide enthralls. Our terror terminology appears transfixed by these suicide bombers’ singular pursuit of self-destruction, seemingly overlooking the murder these martyrdom operatives commit. Dr. Joan Kirschenbaum Cohn, assistant professor of Medicine and Community Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center, observes these martyrs are better termed homicide bombers. Somehow this phrase never caught on.
These “martyrs” seek only to divide: the living from the dead; those who believe in death from those who believe in life; those who choose nihilism over those who guard pluralism. Islamist elements, not Senate hearings, have created the same divides here in America. These divides are not the work of Americans marginalizing Muslims. These divides are the work of Muslims marginalizing Muslims. We have polarized ourselves.
Shame is uncomfortable. Denial is cozy.
The duplicity of the Islamist operative horrifies most. A fellow passenger on a plane, a major within our ranks, a mediocre MBA at the office, always a fellow “Muslim,” the Islamist moves among us. But for Muslims, our discomfort descends deeper. Islamist operatives claim to be the unequivocal, ultimate Muslim, shaming those who refuse to join their cause as not “real Muslims.” Such shame is uncomfortable, since being a good Muslim means being part of a global brotherhood. If we separate, we reveal the fissures among us. Instead, sheltering ourselves from this distress, we falter and choose denial.
Denial is cozy. In its inviting comfort, we endorse causality – Islamists and their attacks are explained by alienation, psychiatric disease, disempowerment. Neatly rationalizing our distress, we foxtrot straight into the denial of our own culpability.
There, in the heart of darkness, we succeed as accessories to the erosion of our own beliefs. We commit the ultimate transgression: exoneration. In our silence, we are willing executioners, and diabolically, we essentially collaborate with the Islamists. We have a hand in Islam’s mutilation, a dismemberment as grotesque as the decapitation that set me upon this path.
We must speak up, out loud
The antidote is, like many medicines, hard to swallow: We must be bold, bolder than the boy with the knife. We must be bold at a time of fear. We must criticize, bear witness, and confront Islamist Muslims or the Islamist organizations claiming to speak for us. Be warned. They cry “Islamophobia!” while they suffocate only us. Just when “Islamophobia” seeks to smother debate, we must speak up, and out loud.
Decades into the monster of radical Islamism, Mr. Horowitz, and thoughtful others in his rank have been studying Islamists long before Muslims cared. It’s time Muslims join in this grueling, thankless work. We must say what we see. Islamist martyrdom operations, suicide bombings, make-believe martyrdom as child’s play – these, and others, are a Muslim’s malady, maladies that can only be decapitated from within.
Qanta A. Ahmed is the author of “In the Land of Invisible Women,” detailing her experience practicing medicine in Saudi Arabia. She is associate professor of medicine at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook; honorary professor at Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland; and a 2010 Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellow in Science and Religion. Follow Dr. Ahmed on Facebook, Twitter @MissDiagnosis, and her Huffington Post blog.
via The OpEd Project