"Radical Islamist ideology dominates Sunni Islam in the U.S."
[Stephen Suleyman Schwartz is the Executive Director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism in Washington. We Interviewed him for El Diario Exterior to obtain his opinion on the origin, nature, and possible consequences of the attacks in Boston.]
Passivity by the world powers toward the dictatorship of Bashar Al-Assad will produce a new and wider wave of terrorism.
The U.S. government has shown that it does not want to address the issue of radical Islam as an ideology.
Western media and governments treat Islam as monolithic and homogeneously radical.
Immigration is not the issue; ideology is the issue.
What do you make of the bombing suspects?
The late Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his surviving brother are Chechens in ethnicity who were radicalized by the Wahhabi intrusion into the Chechen struggle against Russian domination. They hated the traditional, spiritual Sufi basis of the Chechen resistance. This led them to the typical, nihilistic terrorism we see among the Wahhabis who have penetrated the Caucasian Muslim societies.
What is happening in Chechnya that is making this possible?
Vladimir Putin's unfortunately-successful effort to remove moderate, Sufi, and secular elements from the Caucasian Muslim leadership strata in Chechnya and Dagestan has undermined the Caucasian Muslim effort for respect and equal rights and left a void filled by the Wahhabi radicals.
We have seen plenty of news about Saudi funding in the region. Could this be petro-funded?
If by "this" one refers to the Boston atrocities, it is no longer a question of direct, Saudi state financing of terrorism. Since 2005 Saudi King Abdullah has restricted and suppressed Saudi involvement in global radical Islam by "deporting" Al Qaida to Yemen and the Muslim Brotherhood to Qatar. In the longer scheme of history, however, the rise of both movements has been dependent on energy income.
Are you surprised something this kind of thing doesn't happen more often?
Yes, especially given the worldwide anxiety among Sunni Muslims over the massacres by the Syrian regime. I am afraid that passivity by the world powers toward the dictatorship of Bashar Al-Assad will produce a new and wider wave of terrorism.
Is the government doing what it should to prevent domestic terrorism?
The U.S. government has shown that it does not want to address the issue of radical Islam as an ideology. Only when the U.S. authorities recognize that the conflict is essentially ideological, and that radical Islamist ideology dominates Sunni Islam in the U.S., will an adequate response be possible.
What worries you the most about the potential terrorism at home?
I am concerned about the weakness of the U.S. administration in recognizing the threat of radical ideology and about the new impetus given to its international aggression by the failure of the so-called "Arab Spring."
In the last five hours, Spanish police captured two Islamists in Murcia and Zaragoza. Can all this be prevented?
It can be ameliorated by support for proven traditional, moderate, spiritual, and conventional Muslim leaders, and by understanding the conflict between such leaders and the radicals. Such action would include diplomatic pressure on Saudi Arabia and Qatar to act with greater commitment to the repudiation of Wahhabism and the Muslim Brotherhood, and firm measures to compel Pakistan to curb jihadism. But as long as crises like that in Syria continue I do not think it can be completely prevented.
How could media better handle stories of potential terrorism?
Media and government must do more to study and understand the conflict within Islam between radicals and their opponents. That is a simple, basic requirement. But it has been largely ignored. Western media and governments treat Islam as monolithic and homogeneously radical. Both media and governments need to comprehend that the radicals have much less support than appears and to locate and recognize the numerous traditional, moderate, spiritual, and conventional Muslim leaders that oppose them.
Where do we, as Western countries, stand in this regard?
Twelve years after the events of 2001, the West seems to have learned very little about the nature of radical Islam. Little effective has been accomplished. The West appears paralyzed by the threat rather than active in responding to it.
Are we winning the War on Terror?
Not so long as the Al-Assad regime, with Iranian support, murders tens of thousands of its subjects, while the failure of the West to act against Al-Assad has encouraged Sunni jihadism.
Should this influence our immigration policies?
Immigration policies differ from country to country. Most Muslim immigrants to the West will not participate in terror schemes. Terrorism has been very limited in France and Germany, which have larger Muslim populations, proportionately, than Britain. Immigration is not the issue; ideology is the issue.