Monday, December 14, 2015

We Cannot Trust Our Cowardly Elite to Defend Our Nation. By David French.

We Cannot Trust Our Foolish and Cowardly Elite to Defend Our Nation. David French. National Review Online, December 14, 2015.


It’s enough to make your head spin. Tashfeen Malik — the Pakistani immigrant jihadist who helped carry out the deadliest terror attack on American soil since 9/11 — passed three background checks without a single American official discovering that she openly supported “violent jihad” on social media. Moreover, this was no oversight. Instead, the Department of Homeland Security has an actual “secret policy” that prohibits immigration officials “from reviewing the social-media messages of all foreign citizens applying for U.S. visas.”

This is sheer insanity. In an era when jihadists are extraordinarily active on social media and often count on supporters’ sharing and retweeting jihadist messages to help spread Islamist propaganda, our government decided it would create a “civil liberties backlash” if it were known that America actually reviewed the public social-media posts of immigrants and visitors.

Immigrants don’t have a civil-liberties interest in their public postings. No one does. Any decent employer looks at potential employees’ public social-media pages before making a hiring decision. Any competent law-enforcement officer knows to comb through social media when investigating crimes. And any semi-sentient immigration official should know that social media can be key to evaluating visa applicants, including by helping determine whether they’ve lied on their application or whether there is evidence that they intend harm when they come to the United States.

While it’s important to condemn the idiocy of our governing elite, it’s vital to understand why they are so foolish. After all, the senior leadership of this country includes many of our best-credentialed and most-experienced civil servants, yet not only do they keep failing, they’re failing at an ever-increasing rate. Why is this? I can think of three related reasons.

First, mankind has always been plagued by yes-men and craven power-seekers, and the American political system is no exception. No human system is immune from the tendency for subordinates to seek advancement by affirming their superiors, regardless of the facts. In our political culture, it’s common for a leader’s inner circle to be dominated by people who think you’re brilliant, that your contributions are indispensable. Even intense public criticism can be disregarded if it comes from the wrong kind of people. If you’re a liberal politician or bureaucrat, an attack from the Right is a badge of honor, not cause for self-reflection.

Second, we’ve magnified the natural problem of craven political and bureaucratic conformity by insulating our civil servants from accountability for failure. In the American bureaucracy, each new position functions as a floor for your career — there is nowhere to go but up. Firing a civil servant is such a complex and difficult process that there are entire federal bureaucracies where employees are more likely to die than be fired. Thus, not even reality can function as a check on bureaucratic incompetence. It goes unpunished, while blind loyalty to the system is rewarded. And thus bureaucrats just keep failing up.

Third, to the extent anyone is truly held accountable in the modern bureaucracy, it is only to the monstrous lies of political correctness. Thus you see an actual fear of a “civil liberties backlash” and “bad public relations” for examining whether an immigrant might hate the country he’s seeking to enter. But a backlash from whom? The hashtagging readers of HuffPo? The squeaking editorialists of the New York Times? Is there a significant American constituency outside the readership of Salon or the faculty lounge at Brown (but I’m being redundant) that supports admitting openly anti-American Muslim radicals into the United States?

One of the great lies of political correctness is that no policy is truly “fair” if it has a “disparate impact” on any “marginalized” identity group. Scrutinizing social media for anti-American sentiment would expose the extent to which millions in the Muslim world are captured by the most bizarre anti-American conspiracy theories, the extent to which disturbing numbers idolize the most violent terrorists, and the shocking amount of celebration of American and Israeli deaths. Let them hate us overseas. Only a nation intent on committing intellectual, spiritual, and cultural suicide would allow immigrants in its borders who despise the very nation they seek to inhabit.

No government can change human nature, but we can stop rewarding its worst impulses. Our present system rewards conformity — a dubious enough trait — and magnifies that fundamental flaw by demanding that our civil servants believe a series of lies about the world and — especially — our most vicious enemies. Our leaders are worse than foolish. They’re cowards. And Americans are paying the price for their failures.

There Is No “Radical Islam” and There Is Also No “Moderate Islam.” By Mordechai Kedar.

There Is No “Radical Islam” and There Is Also No “Moderate Islam.” By Mordechai Kedar. Breaking Israel News, November 15, 2015. Also at Arutz Sheva 7.


Beginning more or less with 9/11, the expression “radical Islam” became the accepted way for the media, politicians and public to define the religious and ideological foundations of Islam-based violence when referring to what the world calls “terror.”  This expression was meant to be contrasted with “moderate Islam” which presents Muslims as ordinary people who wish to live in peace with all of mankind – Christians, Jews, Buddhists, unbelievers and the rest of us. The world created the image of two Islams, one radical and impossible to live with, and one moderate and “just like us.”

This differentiation between “radical” and “moderate” Islam is what gave rise to the claim that Islam had been “hijacked” by the radicals, implying that the real and original Islam is the moderate, not the false, radical one.

This is what allows today’s Europe to relate positively to the wave of mostly-Muslim illegal immigrants washing up on its shores – they represent “moderate Islam” and all they want is to live in peace and harmony with their European neighbors.

Permit me to raise some doubts concerning the psychological mindset that claims the existence of two types of Islam. In order to do this, let us clarify an important point: Islam is a text-based framework of ideas and behaviors, covering religion, culture, strictures, politics, law and economics. It is an all-embracing way of life. The most basic text is the Qu’ran, followed by the Hadith (oral law) and the Sura – biography – of Muhammad. The Sharia, Muslim  law, is a system of binding laws and injunctions that Muslims are obliged to obey.

There are no two Islams, no moderate one and no radical one, there is just one Qu’ran that includes everything: verses on Jihad and all out war against unbelievers along with verses that speak of recognizing the “other” and living beside him.

There are no two types of hadith, one radical and the other moderate; there is just one body of hadith that includes everything, both violent and moderate ideas.

Muhammad does not have a moderate biography and a radical one; there is only one life story of the prophet of Islam and it has stories that express a radical, violent approach and others presenting a moderate one.

There is also just one Sharia that includes everything, from the radical cutting off of a thief’s hands to the unquestionably moderate admonition to care for the poor and indigent.

That being the case, there is no “moderate Islam” and no “radical Islam”, just one Islam that incorporates both terms, ranging from extreme radicalism to extreme moderation. In practice, we see people with different cultures, some of them extremists and some moderates, all finding verses,ideas, precedents and laws that support their views on life and society in the same Qu’ran, Hadith, Sura and Sharia. The radical Muslim chooses to quote sources that support his extremist approach, while the moderate Muslim finds sources to buttress his moderate approach.

Those two Muslims, the most extreme and the most moderate, are “kosher”, because they both rely on legitimate Islamic sources, and neither can claim that the other “hijacked” Islam. All the Muslims in the world, all one and a half billion of them, men, women and children, are to be found somewhere on the moderate-extremist continuum.  They may live alone or as part of families, tribes, organizations and societies.

Islamic State is a state established and continuing its operations with the participation and cooperation of a large body of Muslims and converts to Islam who are on the extremist tip of the continuum.  Al Qaeda is right there next to them, as are Hamas, Hezbollah and all the other terrorist organizations. On the other end of the continuum, the moderate one, are the members of the “Muslims for Tomorrow” organization, a totally moderate group of Muslims living in Toronto, Canada.

Along the scale connecting the endpoints of the continuum, one can find all the other Muslims in the world, each one on a point of his choosing, somewhere between radicalism and moderation. His place on the continuum is a dynamic, not a static one, and a once moderate Muslim can undergo a process of radicalization, while another, who was an extreme radical can change his views and become more moderate. Life has a way of moving people along the continuum, making it harder to predict the future of an individual or group.

Moderate Muslim migrants live in harmony with the foreign societies to which they have migrated. They blend in nicely, work for a living, are law abiding and contribute to the economy and society that absorbs them. More radical Muslims who migrate to new societies tend to live in the enclaves that preserve their culture and way of life, only partially blending into society and the work force and constantly attempting to influence and change for their own ends the society that let them in. If they are on the violent side of the continuum, that violence will be turned on the society that accepted them – a fact that is most evident in today’s Europe.

The Islamic Dilemma. By Ross Douthat.

The Islamic Dilemma. By Ross Douthat. New York Times, December 12, 2015.

Ross Douthat should look in the mirror: He’s got medieval beliefs, but has the gall to lecture Muslims on how to modernize. By Amanda Marcotte. Salon, December 14, 2015.


UNLIKE Donald Trump, or at least the demagogue he’s playing, most Americans probably don’t want to seal our borders against Muslims.

But most Americans do look at Islam and see a problem. It isn’t just Trump supporters or Republicans. In a poll the Public Religion Research Institute conducted before the Paris attacks, 56 percent of Americans agreed that “the values of Islam are at odds with American values.” In a more recent YouGov poll, 58 percent of Americans viewed Islam unfavorably, just 17 percent viewed it favorably.

But what should devout Muslims see when they look at America, or at the wider West?

This is the issue lurking behind a lot of Western anxiety about Islam. On the one hand, Westerners want Islam to adapt and assimilate, to “moderate” in some sense, to leave behind the lure of conquest, the pull of violent jihad.

But for several reasons — because we don’t understand Islam from the inside, but also because we’re divided about what our civilization stands for and where religious faith fits in — we have a hard time articulating what a “moderate” Muslim would actually believe, or what we expect a modernized Islam to become.

And to any Muslim who takes the teachings of his faith seriously, it must seem that many Western ideas about how Islam ought to change just promise its eventual extinction.

This is clearly true of the idea, held by certain prominent atheists and some of my fellow conservatives and Christians, that the heart of Islam is necessarily illiberal — that because the faith was born in conquest and theocracy, it simply can’t accommodate itself to pluralism without a massive rupture, an apostasy in fact if not in name.

But it’s also true of the ideas of many secular liberal Westerners, who take a more benign view of Islam mostly because they assume that all religious ideas are arbitrary, that it doesn’t matter what Muhammad said or did because tomorrow’s Muslims can just reinterpret the Prophet’s life story and read the appropriate liberal values in.

The first idea basically offers a counsel of despair: Muslims simply cannot be at home in the liberal democratic West without becoming something else entirely: atheists, Christians, or at least post-Islamic.

The second idea seems kinder, but it arrives at a similar destination. Instead of a life-changing, obedience-demanding revelation of the Absolute, its modernized Islam would be Unitarianism with prayer rugs and Middle Eastern kitsch – one more sigil in the COEXIST bumper sticker, one more office in the multicultural student center, one more client group in the left-wing coalition.

The first idea assumes theology’s immutability; the second assumes its irrelevance. And both play into the hands of ISIS and Al Qaeda: The first by confirming their own clash-of-civilizations narrative, the second by making assimilation seem indistinguishable from the arid secularism that’s helped turn Europe into a prime jihadist recruiting ground.

The good news is that there is space between these two ideas. The bad news is that we in the West can’t seem to agree on what that space should be, or how Christianity and Judaism, let alone Islam, should fit into it.

Devout Muslims watching current Western debates, for instance, might notice that some of the same cosmopolitan liberals who think of themselves as Benevolent Foes of Islamophobia are also convinced that many conservative Christians are dangerous crypto-theocrats whose institutions and liberties must give way whenever they conflict with liberalism’s vision of enlightenment.

They also might notice that many of the same conservative Christians who fear that Islam is incompatible with democracy are wrestling with whether their own faith is compatible with the direction of modern liberalism, or whether Christianity needs to enter a kind of internal exile in the West.

And they might notice, finally, that all of the models for reconciling ancient faith to modern life tend to lurch between separatism and dissolution. The ghettoized “fortress Catholicism” of the 1940s gave way to the hemorrhaging “modernizing Catholicism” of the 1970s. The Americanized Judaism of midcentury is now polarized between a booming Orthodoxy and a waning liberal wing. The liberal Protestant churches have emptied, while Protestant fundamentalism remains a potent force.

In this landscape of options, the clearest model for Islam’s transition to modernity might lie in American evangelicalism — like Islam a missionary faith, like Islam decentralized and intensely scripture-oriented, and like Islam a tradition that often assumes an organic link between the theological and political.

Of course American evangelicals are often particularly hostile to Islam — as they are to Mormonism, which also offers an interesting model for modernizing Muslims.

But this is less an irony than a form of recognition: An Islam that set aside the sword without abandoning its fervor would be working in the same mission territory, Western and global, where evangelicals and Mormons presently compete and clash.

But it has to set aside the sword.


Ross Douthat pulls a Sean Hannity, lecturing Muslims about being “illiberal” while giving Christians a pass.

Last week, Sean Hannity, in his usual brain-dead fashion, rolled out a guffaw-worthy argument: That Muslim immigrants weren’t liberal enough to move to the United States. Laughable, of course, because of the hypocrisy necessary to stump for the virtue of reactionary, right-wing Christianity day in and day out, only to get fussy if someone does the same thing while using an Arabic word to describe God.

Enter Ross Douthat of The New York Times. Douthat’s role in the right-wing nut ecosystem is to take some of the dumber talking points and goals of the right and putting a pseudo-intellectual spin on them. This being the era of Donald Trump, he has to apply himself to the unenviable task of pushing the idea that Hannity was stabbing at, that conservative Islam is fundamentally nasty and irredeemable, while simultaneously maintaining the belief that fundamentalist Christianity is a benign force of good.

Douthat uses a few more five dollar words, but his basic strategy is the same as Hannity’s: Simply pretend that conservative Christianity means no harm to anyone, a task that requires not only ignoring the facts but ignoring his own opinions. The easiest way to do this, of course, is to launch strawman arguments against liberals, preferably in the most sneering way possible.

Liberals “assume that all religious ideas are arbitrary” he argues. “Instead of a life-changing, obedience-demanding revelation of the Absolute, its modernized Islam would be Unitarianism with prayer rugs and Middle Eastern kitsch – one more sigil in the COEXIST bumper sticker, one more office in the multicultural student center, one more client group in the left-wing coalition.”

You can really feel the hands slapping khaki-clad conservative thighs in delight. Those stickers sure are annoying!

But the underlying meaning behind the weak attempt at humor is just more Douthat-esque nonsense about how depth of spiritual meaning must be inversely proportional to willingness to treat your fellow human beings with decency. You get the feeling that it’s not really Islam that’s he’s really try to defend here against those dastardly liberals. Why else so angry at Unitarians, unless their existence offends you by suggesting that one does not need to hate women and fear modernity in order to be religious?

Indeed, he gets more explicit about using his Islam cloak in order to complain about those meanie liberals and their anti-theocratic mission. “Devout Muslims watching current Western debates, for instance, might notice that some of the same cosmopolitan liberals who think of themselves as Benevolent Foes of Islamophobia are also convinced that many conservative Christians are dangerous crypto-theocrats whose institutions and liberties must give way whenever they conflict with liberalism’s vision of enlightenment,” he smugly writes.

It’s a slightly more sophisticated gotcha game with the liberals than Hannity was playing, but the aim is the same: Trying to imply that liberals have some double standard wherein they believe that Christian theocracy is wrong but that Islamic theocracy is awesome. Except that Hannity casts the imaginary pro-sharia liberals are hypocrites, but Douthat instead thinks they are fools, people too stupid to understand that Islamic fundamentalism is no more benevolent than Christian fundamentalism.

At this point, it would be nice if conservatives would actually start bothering to quote liberals, just once, that both oppose Christian theocratic measures like bans on abortion or gay marriage while simultaneously claiming to be cool with, say, mandating that all American women wear the hijab. You’d think, since conservatives from Hannity to Douthat seem to believe said liberals exist, they could produce at least one for evidence.

Of course, Douthat is projecting here. It’s not really liberals who feel some complicated sympathy for Islamic theocrats here. It’s Douthat whose theocratic longings come across loud and clear, especially when he whines that conservative Christians “are wrestling with whether their own faith is compatible with the direction of modern liberalism, or whether Christianity needs to enter a kind of internal exile in the West.”

You’d think someone who is so fond of claiming to have found a middle path might suggest such a thing to his fellow Christians: You don’t have to live in exile, but maybe you could lay off trying to force everyone else to follow your religion’s illiberal dogma. But to Douthat, being unable to, say, force a stranger to have a baby against her will is the equivalent of living in exile. Minding your own business is too painful a prospect for him to bear.

Which is why his condescending lecture to Muslims on how to deal with their supposed dilemma of living in the modern world is especially entertaining in the lacking self-awareness department. “In this landscape of options, the clearest model for Islam’s transition to modernity might lie in American evangelicalism,” he writes, no doubt while stroking his own beard with pleasure at his supposed insight into this. But, he warns, “it has to set aside the sword.” Cue scary music.

Take a moment to think about the American evangelical model actually means: Organize in explicit opposition to a secular government. Choose leaders who openly promise to build their policy around your religious beliefs, with an eye towards forcing the non-believers to follow your religious rules, even as you pretend to be magnanimous by not forcing them to convert all the way. Use government resources like schools to confuse the public about the difference between facts and your religious dogma. Focus your efforts especially on oppressing women and LGBT people, making sure the reach of your religious power goes all the way into the bedroom, interfering with people’s most personal choices about how to live. When you don’t get your way through above-the-board methods, turn to unsavory tactics like stalking, harassment, and in some cases,violence to get your way. Shamelessly lie about your secular opponents.

Oh yeah, and pick up the sword yourself by pushing a “clash of civilizations” narrative wherein you angle for a religion-inflected war between your nation and one dominated by a faith that you disapprove of.

How, exactly, is that modern? Sure, they haven’t gotten as far as the Islamic fundamentalists in Iran or Saudi Arabia, but that’s likely due more to external checks on their power than because of a willing embrace of modernity. A true compromise modernity wouldn’t look anything like this, but would, in fact, look closer to the way that most conservative Muslims in the U.S. live: By following their faith in private but not trying to impose it on others. Perhaps Douthat should lay off the lectures and instead listen to people who are already handling this conflict far better than he ever could.

Why Trump’s Muslim Ban Resonates. By David Horowitz.

Who’s the Crazy One? By David Horowitz. FrontPage Magazine, December 10, 2015.


Why Trump’s Muslim ban resonates.

Presidential candidate Donald Trump has called for a moratorium on Muslim immigration until we can figure out why Islamic terrorists have been able to enter our country and devised ways to protect ourselves. This has caused the left and right establishments to dogpile on Trump. Echoing the sentiments of virtually all Democrats and many Republicans, a Washington Post editorial has declared that Trump’s proposal disqualifies him as a candidate because in the Post’s view what he recommends is unconstitutional and therefore un-American. But President Obama has issued executive orders – as it happens orders that sabotage our borders - that he himself has called unconstitutional (“I don’t have the authority to stop deportations”).  Has the Post editorialized that this is un-American and disqualifies him for the presidency? Has it called for Obama to be impeached? Have Democrats ridiculed Obama for his un-American prescriptions?

Consider the nature of the threat. A 2009 “World Opinion” survey by the University of Maryland showed that between 30 and 50% of Muslims in Jordan, Egypt and other Islamic countries approved of the terrorist attacks on America and that only a minority of Muslims “entirely disapproved” of them. ISIS has acknowledged its plans to use refugee programs to infiltrate its terrorists into the United States and other infidel countries. In Minneapolis we have a Somali refugee community many of whose members have returned to Syria to fight for ISIS. Other Muslim immigrants like Major Hassan and Tashfeen Malik have carried out barbaric acts of terror here at home. Today Muslim terrorists are using assault rifles and pipe bombs, but we know they have Sarin gas and other chemical weapons which they might use tomorrow. The terrorists inexorably arrive along with the other immigrants, no one in authority apparently knowing who’s who. Who, then, in his right mind does not think that Muslim immigration poses a serious security threat to us?

The outrage against Trump should properly have been directed at our president who refuses to identify the enemy as Islamic terrorism, who has opened the door to nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles to the Islamic America-haters in Iran, whose policies have created the vacuums that ISIS has filled, and who even after Paris and San Bernardino is determined to bring 100,000 immigrants from Syrian war zones to our unprotected shores. This outrage is missing and it is precisely because it is missing that Trump’s unconstitutional proposal resonates with so many rightly concerned Americans. When the man in charge of our security is by general consensus out to lunch in regard to fighting the war on Islamic terror, or protecting us at home, a proposal like Trump’s, which at least recognizes the threat, is going to resonate with the public.

In middle of a crisis of national security, the Democratic Party seems to think that climate change and especially gun ownership are greater threats to our survival than the one that comes from hundreds of millions of Muslims who think America should be attacked and who believe the whole world should be put under medieval Islamic law. In the face of this threat, the Democratic Party and its leaders seem to have no problem with the fact that we have more than 350 “Sanctuary Cities” that are dedicated to sabotaging our immigration laws; that we have no southern border and as a result have 179,000 illegal alien criminals and who knows how many terrorists in our country today.

Once again we have Trump to thank for changing the surreal conversation about whether having a border at all is compatible with American values, and forcing people to focus on the dangers we face. Republicans are generally defenders of this country, but not in this controversy over Donald Trump. Would that they would use the same ridicule and outrage over the Democrats’ many betrayals of our country and its citizens through proposals to expose us to our enemies as they do over a proposal to protect us from them. Trump’s idea may be unconstitutional and unworkable, but it springs from a desire that is honorable and patriotic. The appropriate response would be to propose alternatives that recognize the same dangers and serve the same ends but do so within constitutional limits.

Donald Trump’s great contribution is saying the unsayable; putting things on the table that would otherwise be buried; calling a spade a spade in a time when political correctness has made us unable to discuss things that have to do with our basic national survival.  This is the crux of the issue.  Every time he creates a controversy like this he also tells this country that its emperors, Republican and Democrat, have no clothes. That they prefer propriety over defending the country.  That they are dedicated only to keeping the lid on a cauldron of threat and challenge they have allowed to boil over.

The 2016 election will be a referendum on the defense of this country and its survival. Let’s see who answers the call.

How to Beat the Islamic State. By Maajid Nawaz.

How to Beat Islamic State. By Maajid Nawaz. Wall Street Journal, December 11, 2015.


To win against the jihadists, isolate them, undercut their appeal to Muslims and avoid a “clash of civilizations.”

Islam is a religion, and like any other faith, it is internally diverse. Islamism, by contrast, is the desire to impose a single version of Islam on an entire society. Islamism is not Islam, but it is an offshoot of Islam. It is Muslim theocracy.

In much the same way, jihad is a traditional Muslim idea connoting struggle—sometimes a personal spiritual struggle, sometimes a struggle against an external enemy. Jihadism, however, is something else entirely: It is the doctrine of using force to spread Islamism.

President Barack Obama and many liberal-minded commentators have been hesitant to call this Islamist ideology by its proper name. They seem to fear that both Muslim communities and the religiously intolerant will hear the word “Islam” and simply assume that all Muslims are being held responsible for the excesses of the jihadist few.

I call this the Voldemort effect, after the villain in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. Many well-meaning people in Ms. Rowling’s fictional world are so petrified of Voldemort’s evil that they do two things: They refuse to call Voldemort by name, instead referring to “He Who Must Not Be Named,” and they deny that he exists in the first place. Such dread only increases public hysteria, thus magnifying the appeal of Voldemort’s power.

The same hysteria about Islamism is unfolding before our eyes. But no strategy intended to defeat Islamism can succeed if Islamism itself and its violent expression in jihadism are not first named, isolated and understood. It is as disingenuous to argue that Islamic State is entirely divorced from Islam as it is to assert that it is synonymous with Islam. Islamic State does indeed have something to do with Islam—not nothing, not everything, but something. That something is the way in which all Islamists justify their arguments using Islamic scripture and seek to recruit from Muslims.

The urgency of making these distinctions should be apparent to everyone. The attacks seem to be coming in swift succession now: Istanbul, Sinai, Beirut, Paris, San Bernardino, London. What is the strategy behind this Islamic State-inspired violence? Jihadists of all bents seek to create discord, pitting Muslims against non-Muslims in the West and Sunni Muslims against Shiite Muslims in the East. The theocratic ideology of Islamism thrives on division, polarization and claims of Muslim victimhood.

Islamic State’s leaders insist that the U.S. and the rest of the West are waging a global war against all Islam and Muslims. This is obvious nonsense, but by a combination of provocation and self-fulfilling prophecy, Islamic State is doing everything possible to make it a reality—helped along, alas, by Donald Trump’s call this week “for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Islamic State’s goal is to leave Sunni Muslims—in Europe, America and the Middle East—with no refuge except the terrorist group’s own self-declared caliphate in the lawless regions of Syria and Iraq.

As Islamic State has outlined in its own magazine Dabiq, it aims to eliminate what it calls the “gray zone,” the middle ground between Islamist theocrats and anti-Muslim bigots, so that everyone is forced to pick sides. In this way, Islamic State hopes to turn non-Muslims against Muslims and, once this process is complete—that is, once we all begin to see each other primarily through narrow religious lenses—to set off a global religious war.

I bear some personal responsibility for this effort to eliminate the gray zone, to promote the idea that Muslims have no home in the West. As a young Muslim growing up in the U.K., I spent more than a decade as one of the leaders of a global Islamist group that advocated the return of a caliphate, though not through terrorism. My activities eventually led me to Egypt, where at 24 I was jailed as a political prisoner and sentenced to five years in Mazra Tora prison.

Only in jail, after Amnesty International adopted my case, did I dedicate myself to rereading, reviewing and reappraising my every thought. As I deradicalized myself over the next five years, I eventually concluded that Islam, my faith, was being exploited for a totalitarian political project and must be reclaimed from the theocrats. I have spent the past eight years doing just that through a counterextremism organization that I co-founded.

This struggle can be won, but it will not be easy. Over the past few years, in survey after survey, attitudes in the U.K. have reflected a worrisome trend. A quarter of British Muslims sympathized with the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris, according to a February poll by ComRes for the BBC. A 2008 YouGov poll found that a third of Muslim students believe that killing for religion can be justified, and 40% want the introduction of Shariah as law in the U.K. Another poll, conducted in 2007 by Populus, reported that 36% of young British Muslims thought apostates should be “punished by death.”

It should come as no surprise that, from this milieu, up to 1,000 British Muslims have joined Islamic State, which is more than have joined the British Army reserves.

The actual strength of Islamic State’s army probably lies somewhere between the CIA’s estimate of about 32,000 and Kurdish estimates of some 200,000. According to the Soufan Group, a New York-based private intelligence firm, the number of foreigners streaming into Syria and Iraq to join Islamic State and other Islamist groups has doubled over the past 18 months, despite the West’s best efforts, and may now be as high as 31,000.

The latest polling by Pew of 11 countries with large Muslim populations found widespread disdain for Islamic State—but also troubling levels of support. Only 28% in Pakistan disapproved of the group, and 62% offered no opinion. In Nigeria, 14% of respondents had a favorable view of Islamic State; in Malaysia and Senegal, it was 11%; in Turkey, it was 8%; in the Palestinian territories, it was 6%. There is, in short, nothing like majority support for Islamic State among the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, but such numbers are still worrisome.

After the Paris attacks, Pope Francis declared that we are in the midst of a piecemeal World War III. It is more accurate to say that we face a global jihadist insurgency. Islamic State is the latest incarnation of this insurgency, but it has been brewing for decades, spurred on by Islamist social movements that have filled the void left by the shortcomings of all too many Muslim-majority governments. Characterizing Islamic State as part of an insurgency is important because, as Vietnam taught us the hard way, defeating an insurgency is different from winning a conventional war.

Counterinsurgency rests on the assumption that the enemy has significant support in the communities from which it recruits. The aim of counterinsurgency strategy is to deny the enemy any propaganda victories that can further fuel its recruitment. Insurgents must be isolated from their targeted host communities. This requires a combination of psychological, physical and economic warfare, all with the aim of undermining the insurgents’ ideological, operational and financial capabilities.

The most critical part of such a strategy must be messaging. In fighting Islamic State, we must avoid the language that it uses to promote its worldview and, at the same time, offer compelling alternative narratives. Only in this way can we deny today’s Islamists and jihadists their ability to appeal to Muslim audiences.

In this effort, Muslims who deny that Islamist extremism is a real problem are as counterproductive as Mr. Trump and his populist fear-mongering. Both serve to increase the religious polarization and mistrust that the extremists relish. Islamic State is out to provoke a “clash of civilizations.” We should not oblige them.

What is at stake in these failures and evasions? Absent an accurate language that explains the difference between Islamist ideologues and the majority of non-Islamist Muslims, anxious non-Muslims in the West can be more easily alarmed by blaring media coverage and attention-seeking politicians. Some will simply assume that the problem is Islam itself and all Muslims per se, which helps to explain the rise of xenophobic politics in both Europe and the U.S.

As for Muslim communities themselves, if they hold that Islamism has “nothing to do with Islam,” then there is nothing to discuss, which is plainly not the case. This position undermines brave Islamic reform theologians such as Britain’s Usama Hasan, Pakistan’s Javed Ahmad Ghamidi and America’s Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im, who are urgently trying to lay the foundations of a theology that rejects Islamism and promotes freedom of speech and gender rights—thereby undermining the insurgents’ message.

This denialist position also betrays the many besieged ex-Muslim voices—such as the Pakistani-Canadian writer Ali A. Rizvi—who struggle for the right to be fully accepted by their own Muslim communities. These reformers all need a vocabulary that distinguishes Islam from the politicized distortion of it peddled by Islamists and jihadists.

Just as one doesn’t need to be black to care about the struggle against racism and one needn’t be gay to worry about homophobia, one needn’t be Muslim to speak out against Muslim theocrats. Considering their founding history, Americans are especially well placed to speak about why theocracies are never good for humanity. They also can help Europeans deal with the challenges of creating new, post-migration national identities.

Many of my fellow Muslims have resisted the call to refute Islamism head-on. They ask why they should apologize for something with which they have little or nothing to do. But just as we Muslims expect solidarity from others against anti-Muslim bigotry, such as Mr. Trump’s outlandish remarks, we have a duty to reciprocate this solidarity by speaking out against the Islamists.

What should a counterinsurgency strategy mean for the actual conduct of foreign policy? President George W. Bush may have rushed headlong into the jihadist snare by invading and occupying Iraq, but Mr. Obama and the international community are now sleepwalking toward another precipice in Syria. Though it is true that our intervention in Syria will be used by Islamic State to galvanize more recruits, our failure to intervene has been used by them as evidence that the world has forsaken Syrians, leaving them to face Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s barrel bombs alone.

My own journey into radical groups began not when the world intervened in a foreign conflict but when it failed to intervene in the Bosnian genocide. I opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq, but passivity can be just as dangerous as invasion. So long as Islamists control the narrative among angry young Muslims, both our action and our inaction can be used to radicalize them.

The world is facing a global jihadist insurgency, working to advance a well-thought-out operational strategy, fed by Islamist ideological convictions that remain appealing to some Muslims. After Paris and San Bernardino, the Obama administration’s policy toward Islamic State is unraveling. From likening Islamic State to “a jayvee team” last January to saying one day before the Paris attacks that Islamic State had been “contained,” Mr. Obama has remained one step behind the group’s predictable rise.

A key part of our counterinsurgency response should involve getting the Iraqi and Syrian Kurds off the sidelines. Yes, this will be uncomfortable for our allies in Turkey, and it will trouble Iraq’s rulers. But the Kurds have proven themselves over and over again to be the only effective fighting force on the ground against Islamic State.

If that means a Kurdish state, so be it. Outside of the continuing experiment in Tunisia in North Africa, a Kurdish state could become the only democratic, secular Muslim-majority state in the Middle East. It could become a political and religious beacon for the region. Our diplomacy until now has inexcusably neglected the possibilities this presents.

Airstrikes against Islamic State must also be supported by an international ground force, a few thousand in number, and fronted by Sunni Arabs. These should be backed by an international squad of special forces and support staff, all of whom are focused on dislodging Islamic State from its strongholds of Mosul and Raqqa. As for the question of Mr. Assad, as part of a deal with Russia and Iran, the Syrian regime should be kept intact, but Mr. Assad must go.

Such actions may weaken Islamic State’s operational capacity but will not defeat its ideological appeal. The Islamist extremism that first inspired al Qaeda and then Islamic State will continue to inspire others. Islamic State was not alone in radicalizing the estimated 6,000 Europeans who have traveled to join them. That many recruits couldn’t have emerged from a vacuum. Islamic State propaganda is good, but not that good.

In fact, decades of Islamist propaganda had already primed these young Muslims to yearn for a theocracy. The same YouGov survey I cited above found that 33% of young British Muslims expressed a desire to see the resurrection of a world-wide caliphate. Islamic State has simply plucked the low-hanging fruit seeded long ago by other Islamist groups operating across Europe.

Reversing this campaign will require decades of work by Muslims and non-Muslims alike, but the endgame must be to render the ideology of Islamism intellectually and socially obsolete.

Mr. Nawaz is the founding chairman of Quilliam, a London-based counterextremism organization, and the author of “Radical: My Journey Out of Islamist Extremism.”