The winning combination: enlisting Islam and media

Part 3 of 3

Boots and bombs can win individual pitched battles, but alone they cannot win a long, drawn-out war of ideological beliefs. So, what’s the solution? 

Since the misinformed, misguided U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, under the false guise of weapons of mass destruction, we American taxpayers have spent billions of dollars and lost thousands of lives trying to contain terrorism — with little to show for it.  This is because our leadership hasn’t figured out what the rift within Islam really is, the Achilles’ heel of religious jihadism, or how to exploit it. Our focus on boots and bombs fails to recognize the main battlefield:  the war of human minds, beliefs, and values, and the need for  truthful information and its effective communication.

Specifically, we should be spending millions of dollars on communications, especially social media, tweet for tweet,  to counter the propaganda of the jihadist misbelievers. ( I call them “misbelievers,” not “unbelievers,” because they do believe in something, namely, the worst of Shariah law.) The misbelievers, leaders and followers alike, are totally ignorant and misinformed about the Quran, the teaching of the Prophet, and the fundamental, common moral values of the three Middle Eastern, desert-born, monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Thus, the jihadists are truly misbelievers, and we should label them as such. 

Every individual who is arrested and convicted of an act of terrorism should be branded as a criminal and publicly identified as a shameful misbeliever. This is the best way to undermine terrorist morale and discourage new recruits to religious terrorism.

How can we achieve all of this? We need to enlist true Islam in the war against terrorism. First and foremost, the leadership of true Islam needs to come together to review the teaching of the Prophet Muhammad and the Quran, determine what’s right and what’s wrong in Shariah law, and agree on  the fundamental moral and legal framework of Islam. Needless to say,  it is not for us Westerners to do this for them, but what we can do is help them get the word out from the minaret to all Muslims of faith and by every available means of communication onward to reach the entire world  with the peaceful, compassionate message of true Islam.

We should follow this up by bringing together secular leaders and experts in humanitarian law and human rights, as well as religious authorities of all faiths (Islamic, Judaic, Christian, Buddhist and others), to work together to define universal standards of moral belief and lawful behavior, beyond the bounds of any particular religion — principles representing, protecting and serving all humanity. We need to make use of, and be willing to pay for, modern information technology and  the media to publicize,  promote and defend these principles worldwide.

Finally, the results of all these efforts can be codified in one comprehensive, universal, enforceable International Convention, much as we have succeeded in doing in the past by adopting the Geneva Conventions governing treatment of prisoners of war, the various International Conventions on Human Rights, including the Rights of the Child, and the Convention Against Torture.  The new Convention will have the status of International Treaty law, enforceable everywhere, applicable to and protecting all the world’s people, irrespective of their ethnicity, nationality or faith. 

That is the way to win the long-term global war against misbelieving terrorists. Yes, this strategy does wage war against the inhumane aspects of Shariah law, of which there are many, but in the long run it defeats global terrorism by defending our most sacred humanitarian principles, and by reaffirming the true Quranic meanings of Islam, which are: “Peace, justice, compassion and submission to the will of God.”


Sharon, Conn., resident Anthony Piel is a former director and general legal counsel of the World Health Organization.