Winning the war of ideas
Stability, peace, and prosperity in the Muslim world depend on Muslims accepting the separation of politics and religion. This battle isn’t fought with tanks and guns. It is a war of ideas and information that is fought through media of the Muslim world and the media of the West. On both fronts there are half-truths and false information that plague the world media. It’s important to be knowledgeable of both.
The Muslim World
The Muslim world needs to see how the Islamic way of life compares to the way of life in the rest of the world. They need to ask why most of the world has been able to reach some type of peace and stability, especially in Europe and the New World (meaning America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South America) while the Muslim world has not. It’s because the rest of the world has separated religion from politics.
Media in the Muslim world need to bring an honest picture of how the rest of the world functions, what it believes, and their way of life. Instead, the Muslim media is full of lies and propaganda. There is no freedom of information. Instead, those with power try to control the people by controlling their information.
To fight the war of ideas in the Muslim world, you have to look at how their media operate. Let’s look at the different media and the lies they present to the people.
1. Government-sponsored media
You can mainly find two types of media in the Muslim world—government-sponsored or radical. Government-sponsored media include the influential television broadcasts Al-Jazeera from Qatar (one of the six Arab Gulf countries) and Al-Arabiya from Saudi Arabia. Other important national television stations are LBC, the Lebanese National Broadcast, and Nile Broadcast, the Egyptian TV. Every country has its own newspapers and magazines, too.
The Arabic media have no understanding of defending the interests of the public or creating a balance between the public and the government. This type of media was born and raised in the midst of dictator politics and Islamic fascism. The media will do everything asked of them by the dictator regimes.
The motivation of the government-sponsored media is usually nationalism and supporting the regime in each country. For example, in a dictator country, this media works hard to make the dictator appear to be a hero.
The government media create a bad picture about America, especially, and about the West in general. They will never acknowledge the good things America has done for Arabs and Muslims. For example, this media failed to report how NATO and America used their military to rescue Muslims in Yugoslavia from Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian leader.
While Muslims were crying for their people, this media never told them that Saddam Hussein, the dictator of Iraq, had a very close relationship with Milosevic, the one killing the Muslims. Saddam Hussein was always lifted up by most of the media in the Middle East as the one defending Arabs and Muslims because of his connection to the family of the prophet Muhammad.
In addition, America supported the mujahdin in Afghanistan against the Soviet occupation. Because of America’s help, this mujahdin forced the Soviets to leave the country. The Islamic media doesn’t want to report that either.
When Muslims were hit by the tsunami in Asia, the United States and Western countries sent aid. However, the Arab Gulf countries did not release their oil money to help their brothers, the Muslims of Indonesia and other countries in Asia. Muslims need to know this.
The bottom line is that the Muslim world gets an absolutely warped picture of world events. Their opinions and attitudes about the West are based on incomplete information.
2. Radical Muslim media
Radicals have their own media to influence the Muslim world. There are magazines, newspapers, and internet websites. The TV broadcast al-Manar in Lebanon is run by Hezbollah, a violent radical group. The internet is being exploited especially well by ISIS and Al-Qaeda, recruiting radicals around the world.
Even Islamic media that are not controlled by radicals are willing to cooperate with radicals. After 9/11, Al-Jazeera TV became like the channel of Al-Qaeda and other Muslim radicals. It presented their voices and sympathized with them. Al-Jazeera accepted videotapes from Al-Qaeda leaders like Osama bin Laden or Ayman Zawahiri and broadcast them to the world. (Al- al Arabiya TV did the same.)
One of Al-Jazeera’s correspondents, Tayseer Alouni in Afghanistan, was the only journalist able to interview bin Laden after 9/11. He was arrested for collaborating with Al-Qaeda and tried in Spain, where he holds citizenship. He was sentenced to seven years in prison. (Source: Spain: Supreme Court Upholds Conviction of Al-Jazeera Journalist. On the website of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange. http://ifex.org/en/content/view/full/74905/ accessed May 3, 2007]]
Fixing America’s Image
Because of this false media, America and the West must fix their image in the Muslim world. One way to do this is to establish any type of fair media that may encourage other Middle Eastern media to present a fair picture. I don’t say America has to pay for this media so this media will work for America. No, but I say America needs to encourage the government media to be fair in dealing with the issues and these problems.
For example, America is giving Egypt aid every year. America has the right to ask them to use some of the money to improve training for the media. A program like this could be called the American Egyptian Media Association. This would be a way of helping the country to develop. America can’t keep spending 1 to 2 billion dollars every year to feed Egyptians while the media continues to poison them.
The media in the West also needs to expose how the Muslim media is poisoning the Muslim world. For example, the media of the West can start reporting on the false information and the weak information that is presented in the Muslim media.
The Non-Muslim World
The second front in the war of ideas is the non-Muslim world. The people of the non-Muslim world have an imaginary picture in their minds about Islam and Islamic world. As long as the West imagines Islam to be a peaceful religion, and this bad muslim radicals has nothing to do with the religion of islam, they are passive about the danger. I feel obligated to warn America and the West that the threat is real.
Islam is not just another religion like the other religions of the world that will never threaten America. The problem is not just some crazy radical groups. The problem is not a specific, individual political regime. The problem is a fourteen-hundred-years of rules and regulations that create culture of violence and hostility. The problem won’t respond to a short response in a short time; it needs a great response over the long-term.
I want to support moderate and liberal Muslims as human beings. But here’s what bothers me. Many of them will present a picture of Islam to the West that is peaceful and loving. They quote all the nicest passages from the Quran and the hadith. But they don’t explain that the Quran and hadith are not characterized by these nice sayings.
If you had a scale, and you put all the nice sayings on one side, and all the teachings about jihad and Islamic law on the other side, the nice side would hit the ceiling and the jihad side would be on the floor. Moderates and liberals need to explain how the teaching about jihad and Islamic law can be reinterpreted.
The West needs to recognize the real issues in Islamic theology and support the Muslim community in coming up with a new interpretation for this material.
Dr. Gabriel's contributions in winning the war of ideas
In his resent study, Dr. Gabriel has demonstrated that international human rights laws are grossly violated by the Islamic hudud ordinances, with their extremely cruel punishments, including stoning for adultery, beheading for apostasy, and amputation for theft. Pakistan, Sudan, Brunei Darussalam and Saudi Arabia, for example, follow the doctrines of the four main Sunni schools of jurisprudence and enforce hudud ordinances, thereby violating some of the core international human rights law instruments to which they are State Parties. Orthodox Muslims generally defend the hudud ordinances, claiming that they are divine and immutable.
Dr. Gabriel's study refutes the aforementioned claim and demonstrates that it is legitimate and possible to reform hudud punishments to reconcile them with international human rights law. The study differentiates between Shariah and Islamic law. It is argued that Shariah refers to the divine rulings recorded in the Qur'an and correct Sunnah, while Islamic law is not fully divine, for it includes also such prescriptions that have been developed by the human effort of Islamic jurists.
The study demonstrates that reformation is an Islamic concept that requires that Muslims read the teachings of the Qur'an and the Sunnah in the context of their own time and environment. It is postulated, therefore, that the rulings of Islamic law need to be examined in the light of the Qur'an, the correct Sunnah and the Islamic core values promoted in them. These include several internationally protected human rights, such as the right to life, equality, and freedom of religion.
The study points out that the main purpose of Shariah is to serve the benefit of the people and to protect them from harm. To this end, Shariah has provided the Islamic principles of reality and necessity. These require that the reality of life and the needs of the people be considered at all times. If necessary for the sake of the people, the principles allow for exceptions to be made to even definite provisions. It, further, demonstrates how these principles can be applied to reform the hudud ordinances of Islamic criminal law to reconcile them with international human rights law.