The largest, most deadly wars are fought to defend ways of life. This contributes as to why cultural wars are often the most brutal. Islam is far more than just a religion. It is a way of life that has been established for more than a millennium. This has evolved into it’s own culture. This culture (way of life) is being threatened by the modernity of the rest of the world. This threat is a major contributing reason as to why violence is being generated in places where Islam is making contact with so many other cultures. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are only a sample of this wider conflict. Let’s take a closer look at some of the issues within Iraq. We will start with democracy itself.
Democracy is an open political system. The ex-French President himself said that democracy is not a process, but a culture. The very nature of openness is foreign to some cultures. They find it repulsive in some ways. Take the right to vote. Many cultures have difficulty with women having the right to vote. A woman having as much say in things as anyone else? It took the U.S. well over 100 years to allow women the right to vote. What about the issue of homosexuality? Many cultures have a great deal of difficulty accepting them.
The openness of democracy will encourage the gay community to be more accepted than would otherwise be possible. In democracies, this acceptance applies to minorities in general. Acceptance of any minority group within a given culture can be a potential problem. Then we have the issue of loyalty.
Loyalty to clan or other organizations as opposed to the central government is a very real problem. Robert E. Lee resigned his commission in the U.S. army because his state of Virginia left the Union. He was more loyal to his state than the U.S. federal government. One issue the U.S. Civil war decided is that our loyalty is to the Federal government, not the state. This issue is not uncommon in parts of the world, and loyalty to clan is particularly strong within the Muslim world.
These issues could be deal breakers with any culture attempting to accept democracy. In order to make it more difficult, we need to toss in issues specific to Islam.
1) Penalty for leaving Islam is death. (An Apostate) Joining Islam is a one-way street. Once you join, you may NEVER leave. This has the additional complication in that if a basic disagreement exists in a fundamental law of Islam, the different sides may see each other as having left the faith. If the difference became violent, fighting in this struggle qualifies as jihad.
2) Moral obligation to kill occupiers of Muslim lands. Just as leaving Islam is not permitted (The penalty is death) no land that is ever controlled by Islam can revert back. It will ALWAYS be considered to be Muslim land. This ‘law’ is a contributing reason for the continuing Arab-Israeli wars.
3) The concept of Jihad. "The presumption is that the duty of Jihad will continue (Interrupted only by truces) until the world adopts Islam or submits to Muslim rule." "Those who fight in the Jihad qualify for rewards in both worlds. Booty in this one, paradise in the next." "The most common interpretation of jihad is armed struggle for the advancement or defense of Muslim power". (Bernard Lewis, The Crisis of Islam, copyright 2003.) Booty was how armies were paid until the rise of the nation-state. Naturally, Muslims are not supposed to seize booty for personal gain. However, human nature is not so chaste. The other qualifier for jihad (Besides fighting Apostates) is fighting infidels. Infidels are anyone who is not Muslim. Jihad is a mechanism designed to expand Islamic control and Muslim power. This concept of jihad is an additional contribution to the constant Arab-Israeli wars.
4) "In Muslim tradition, the world is divided into two houses: The house of Islam and the house of war". (Page 31. Bernard Lewis, The Crisis of Islam, Copyright 2003. ) This is Muslim tradition. This will not go away without violent conflict. How can you remove the right to wage war upon anyone else who is not like you without a war? Another contribution to the constant Arab-Israeli wars. Jihad can justify just about any war, except upon fellow Muslims. And even then, jihad may be waged if the enemy is Apostate.
5) Honor killings. Although this is not law, this behavior has evolved from the culture that Islam nourishes. Similar to ‘losing face’ in Japan, the loss of honor enables you to kill. The ‘loss of face’ in Japan meant that you had to kill yourself. You took responsibility. In Islamic culture, they kill you. This is much more convenient. You get to blame others and then kill them.
6) Islamic electoral policy has been classically summarized as "One man, (men only) one vote, once." Voting for Islam is a one-way street. Once Islam is the law, democracy is out of the picture. It cannot come back. Democracy is not compatible with Islam. This makes Islam and democracy inherently hostile to each other.
Some of these issues are ‘authentic’ Islamic laws that have been upheld by Islamic courts for 1400 years. I have listed only some of the larger issues. Many other ‘authentic’ laws that are hostile to our legal system, our way of life and the way of life for the rest of the world are not listed here.
These are not issues that can be negotiated. It is very unlikely that any of these issues, leave alone all of them, have a political solution. The cultural changes required in accepting change on any or all of these issues are too great and will trigger organized resistance every time. These issues are similar to the issue of slavery in that people will fight with organized warfare to prevent change. On the other side, like slavery, these issues are worth waging war to force change.
In conclusion, it is apparent that warfare within the Islamic world will continue into the indefinite future. At best, this conflict will take the form of irregular war until most, if not all of these issues are resolved. Either the world adopts Islam or Islam changes. Once again, the main problem is one of time and scale. With well over a billion Muslims, this change will take a VERY long time. Time is NOT on our side. Sooner or later a terrorist organization will obtain and deploy an effective weapon of mass destruction. Then the world MUST respond, massively and violently. Otherwise, the use of WMD will become a pattern, just like repeated suicide attack is a pattern today. In either case, the war will become much larger. The only question is how large will it become?