Islamic Terrorism: the essential issue, the solution, and 10 Commandments for the Hero

April 30, 2013 by  

{The following is the text of a commentary given by Paul McKeever on the April 25, 2013 episode of “Just Right” (CHRW 94.9 FM, London, Ontario). Click here to listen to an archived copy of the broadcast.}


On Monday, April 15, 2013, two Muslim men bombed the finish line of the Boston marathon killing some, and maiming many. The attack came just weeks after reports that the firebombing of an Algerian gas plant was planned or carried out by four young Muslim men from London, Ontario.

The media and our politicians have dealt with such events as though terrorism itself is the problem. Islam leads to terrorism say some. Terrorism gives a bad name to Islam say others. But is terrorism the essential issue? Or does the focus on terrorism distract from the essential issue facing North America in particular, and the world in general?

Since the events of 9/11, many non-Muslims in North America commonly have asked why they rarely see Muslims condemning Islamic terrorism. They fear that the silence of most Muslims implies support for Islamic terrorism. Support for terrorism, they often conclude, is inherent in Islam itself, and so they condemn Islam and the Qu’ran.

Muslims do appear to be listening and, in increasing numbers they are speaking out against Islamic terrorism. But among the Muslims who are speaking out, there is a deep divide that helps to identify to the essential issue behind the terrorist attacks, and that helps explain the silence of so many Muslims.

In recent weeks, outspoken Muslims Salim Mansur (listen here) and Tarek Fatah (listen here) have condemned Islamic radicals, religious leaders, university campus groups, and mosques on talk radio in London, Ontario. In response, some of the alleged radical Muslims have spoken out on talk radio against Mansur and Fatah, and have made a point of saying that they are opposed to terrorism (listen here and here). But for those listening carefully, one important distinction appears between Mansur and Fatah on the one hand, and the alleged radicals on the other. Mansur and Fatah speak out not only against Islamic terrorism, but also against Sharia law; they advocate the separation of chuch and state. In contrast, the alleged radicals condemn terrorism, but say nothing to condemn Sharia law, and the theocratic state that is the aim of Islamic terrorism. The animosity between the two groups of Muslims is palpable even though both sides might truly oppose terrorism, and the severity of that animosity shows that something much more important than terrorism is the source of the dispute.

I submit to you that terrorism is not the essential issue. It rarely is. Terrorizing people is a means to an end, no matter what ones end might be. It is doubtful that even terrorists have paralysing fear as their intended end state for humanity.

In the case of Islam, the terrorists clearly believe that only Allah’s law – Sharia – should prevail on earth. Their goal – their end – is Islamic theocracy: a government for the whole world that gets its authority – unlimited authority – from Allah. Their means is to subject people to constant terror in the hope that terrorized people will appease the terrorists so as to bring their painful fear to an end. The Islamic terrorist’s message to the public is simple: “Let me have Islamic theocracy, or I’ll make sure that you continue to live in fear. The price of peace is the end of democracy, and submission to the will of Allah”.

One can oppose terrorism without opposing the ultimate goal of the terrorist. For example, UNAbomber Ted Kaczynski terrorized Americans in an attempt to turn them against industrialization. Most environmentalists today would oppose terrorism, but I suspect that a healthy majority of them would share the UNAbomber’s goal of a disindustrialized society.

The obverse is also true. If you give it some honest thought, terrorism is not always considered to be wrong. Consider a couple examples. In the opening of the war in Iraq, U.S. forces employed what is known as “shock and awe”, which wikipedia describes as: ” the use of overwhelming power, dominant battlefield awareness, dominant maneuvers, and spectacular displays of force to paralyze an adversary’s perception of the battlefield and destroy its will to fight”. Critics of shock and awe have reportedly called it a form of terrorism, and I think they are correct in that identification, but I think those who think that shock and awe has no place in defeating a legitimate enemy are engaging in moral subjectivism, and are essentially showing compassion for the villain, at the expense of his victims.

Or, to cite an example from popular fiction, consider Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds”, a film in which a small band of Allies strike terror into the hearts of the German army with acts of brutality carried out against Nazi soldiers behind enemy lines…all to intimidate and paralyse the German military, and to reduce the effectiveness of resistance to the ends of the Allies. Who, except a sympathizer with evil, could condemn the Basterds for undermining a Nazi’s will to fight?

The point is this: terrorism – the inculcation of fear by acts of destruction – is like a gun. It can be used against evil persons to achieve a good end, or against good persons to achieve an evil end.

However, to the same extent, elections can be a tool of good, or a tool of evil. Elections were developed as a defence against abuse of governmental power. Elections are a tool originally designed to ensure that nobody exercising the power to make and enforce laws uses that power to engage in the very crimes that governments are created to defeat. But, like terrorism or guns, an election can be used for good ends or for evil ones. An election can be used by theocrats to defeat democracy, without resort to terrorism. If a sufficient number of voters want a government that fancies itself the hand of Allah; if they want the government to enforce Sharia law on behalf of Allah; then an election is a tool for the elimination of democracy. When peaceful theocrats and their enablers are the biggest voting block, elections are a weapon in the service of tyranny and evil, not of freedom and good.

The point is this. Many Muslims have come to Canada precisely so as to escape terrorism. Yet many of those who oppose Islamic terrorism would be quite comfortable with, and supportive of, the Islamic theocracy that Islamic terrorists aim to achieve, if it were achieved by some other means, like an election. Witness, as evidence, the elections that have brought theocrats to power in Africa. This leaves some Muslims in an awkward position: if they speak out against a Muslim who has committed a terrorist act to attain what they see as a noble goal – Islamic theocracy – they might falsely appear to oppose the noble goal; they might leave the mistaken impression that they oppose Allah and the prevalence of Sharia on the entire face of the Earth.

Muslims like Mansur and Fatah know this. They harbour no illusion that all Islamic theocrats support terrorism as a means to achieve theocracy. But their enemies – both Islamic and non-Islamic – want us all to believe that critics of Islam are trying to paint all Muslims as pro-terrorist. Mansur and Fatah’s enemies – both Islamic and non-Islamic – want you to believe that the opponents of radical Islam are racists, bigots, and haters. They want to discredit secular Muslims, like Mansur and Fatah, precisely because they are pro-secular and anti-theocratic.

You will have noticed that I referred to both Islamic and non-Islamic opponents of Mansur and Fatah. That is because those who sympathize with the theocratic ends of the Islamic terrorists are not all Muslims. Theocrats can also be found among the members of other religions, including various Christians. Their impact on democracy has been seen for decades, in the form of liquor and cannabis prohibition, laws against opening retail stores on Sundays and other Christian holy days. Whereas the Islamic theocrat would have government punish a woman for being raped, the Christian theocrat would have government punish her for aborting the pregnancy that results from the rape.

In the wake of any given act of Islamic terrorism, when anyone in the debate gets too close to identifying theocracy as the essential problem to be solved, theocrats of every religious stripe will stand shoulder to shoulder with Islamic theocrats, adding their voice to the refrain that Islam is a “religion of peace”, and calling upon our public institutions to accommodate such things as the construction of Islamic prayer rooms in our public schools. Radical Islamists will return the favour, condemning a Jewish judge for removing a Christmas tree from the lobby of a court house, knowing that precedent will allow him to construct a crescent symbol in that lobby; they will return the favour, calling for the continuation of the reading of the Lord’s prayer as part of the official opening ceremony of the Ontario legislature, knowing that it will lead also to prayers to Allah being added to the official ceremony. To the religious radical of every stripe, public rejection or condemnation of any religion, or calls for the separation of church and state, pose a threat to their own dream of one country under God.

But don’t take my word for it. Just read the preamble to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It reads, in part: “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law…”. The Supremacy of God language was reportedly the result of political pressure exerted not by hard core Islamists, but by the Christian Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. Perhaps not surprisingly, the “supremacy of God” clause was propounded by a Conservative M.P.. The Liberal Prime Minister of the time, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, was quoted in the Globe and Mail as saying that he thought it “strange, so long after the Middle Ages that some politicians felt obliged to mention God in a constitution which is, after all, a secular and not a spiritual document”.

So what should we take away from the current situation when deciding how to defend democracy and to protect the freedom of individuals in this country?

  1. The essential problem is not a matter of Muslims versus non-Muslims. Just as many Muslims are theocrats, many non-Muslims are theocrats. In our legislatures and city council chambers, prayers to God are often a part of the official opening ceremony each day, and those prayers are made a part of the official ceremony so as to create acceptance of the notion that government takes its lead from the whims of God. No god in particular, and any god in general. As evidence, consider that, for the last few years, the Ontario legislature has been opening its proceedings each day with prayers to numerous gods, including Allah: numerous religions are laying claim to the power of the state.

  3. In its essentials, theocracy does not differ from any other kind of totalitarianism: unlimited authority is unlimited authority, whether it is alleged to be conferred upon government by God or alleged to be conferred upon government by the governed. To the person unjustly shot by the police, or unjustly imprisoned or expropriated for smoking a joint or opening ones store on a statutory holiday, it does not really matter whether the government’s injustice is carried out in the name of a God or in the name of the the people. The point is that we already suffer from undemocratic laws and governance. We already have a purported government that fancies itself to have authority to do what the governed would be imprisoned for doing. Therefore, if we are successful in ending Islamic terrorism, that alone will not preserve democracy. It will only ensure that totalitarianism serves the purposes of some other religious or non-religious group. At the end of the day, the challenge we all face is not to preserve democracy, but to establish it.


There is no question that force must be used against those who engage in Islamic terrorism. All Canadians, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, must share tips with the police. And our police are right to use force – lethal force if necessary – to ensure that terrorists meet with the full weight of justice for their crimes.

But if we want to prevent acts of Islamic terror in the first place, we cannot do so by way of policing. To prevent acts of Islamic terror in the first place, we must use the tools best suited to addressing not the terrorists’ means, but their motivation. We must wage an intellectual war against the ideas that lead too many people to desire theocracy. We must expose myth to be myth, and lies to be lies. We must show that the false has no value. And we must arm every individual with the power to identify and evaluate the true.

Moreover, we must recognize that children and young adults in Canada are the ones being targeted by theocrats. Just as we have laws against the mutilation of childrens genitals, if we want to have and to continue to have a free and democratic country, we must become willing to defend children and young adults against the anti-democratic, anti-freedom mutilation of their minds.

There are at least two fronts on which such a defence can be mounted.

The first is our schools. The disturbing trend at present is away from facts and values, and toward uncertainty and moral equivocation. The alleged purpose of so-called “accommodation” reforms currently underway in our schools is to ensure that no child is made to feel unwelcome and that no child is bullied. I think those goals are absolutely good, and important. But the accommodation reforms will not achieve those goals and, more to the point, the accommodation reforms are not really intended as a means to those goals. The goal that accommodation reforms actually are intended to serve is cultural collectivism. Just as Toronto’s so-called Africentric school is intended to make students view and value themselves first and foremost as part of a collective defined by race, with every Islamic prayer room set up for Muslim students in a public or Catholic school, we are inculcating a belief that children are, first and foremost, members of a collective defined by their religion. But, more to the point, we are failing to arm students with the thinking skills they need to identify the fact that waging terroristic or electoral war on democracy is not a path to an eternity of effortless bliss.

There are ample opportunities for parents to teach their children that there is a magic man in the sky, with unlimited powers, who wants us all to surrender our judgment and instead obey his will in exchange for an afterlife of eternal bliss. If we are to have any success in preventing Islamic terrorism, our schools must be places where children are armed with the thinking skills necessary to distinguish falsehoods and arbitrary claims from truths. If we are to have any success in preventing Islamic terrorism, our schools must be places that encourage children to embrace this life, and to pursue their own happiness in it. Our goal, especially in respect of the children of new Canadians, must be to build mutual respect not through the highlighting of differences, but through the discovery of rational, demonstrably true, pro-democracy beliefs and values. And, to that end, we could all do worse than to investigate the pros and cons of imposing, as a condition of immigration, the requirement that the children of immigrants must attend schools where they will be assimilated into Western culture, and not schools that preach against reason, against the pursuit of ones own happiness, or against democracy. Those who wish to come to Canada but to here educate their children in a school that teaches them to doubt reason, to reject earthly happiness, and to reject democracy should be told that they are not welcome.

The second front is one that must be formed and championed by the young. It is no mistake that the young are the ones so often engaged in terrorist activity. A young person tends to desire greatness. They want to stand out, to be noticed, and to be remembered. And, for many, they want that greatness to be found in their character and in their integrity.

The young men who exploded bombs at the Boston marathon lacked a lot of things. They lacked a grasp of the facts of reality. They lacked a willingness to think for themselves. They lacked a desire to pursue their own happiness on this earth, in this life. But they did not lack a philosophy and, most importantly, they did not lack integrity.

Their belief in an afterlife was unrivaled. Their faith to what they believed was the will of Allah was clear. Their obedience to that will was perfect. In their embrace of a philosophy of unreality, irrationality, and self-sacrificial obedience, they had perfect fidelity and integrity; an integrity clearly not shared by the people who encouraged them to do these things, but who still roam the Earth today.

We must all reach out to the integrity of the youth. We must give them a path to greatness. We must show them how to be noticed and to be remembered. We must reveal to them a way of thinking and of life which, when followed with the integrity of which they are so very capable, will allow them to be true heroes, rather that villains.

They could do no better than to read the works of Ayn Rand. But, for those who never will, let me provide you at the very least with 10 commandments for the hero:


  1. Cast your eyes not to an imaginary Heaven, but to the Earth.
  2. Trust your senses. They are your only tool of evidence collection, and there is no evidence that cannot be sensed.
  3. Believe nothing for which, ultimately, there exists no physical evidence.
  4. Believe nothing that is illogical.
  5. Trust the efficacy of your rational faculty. There is no evidence of its inefficacy.
  6. Let your life, here on Earth, be the standard by which you judge.
  7. Pursue your own happiness on this Earth, in this life. It’s the only one you get.
  8. Pursue your happiness by rational, practical means.
  9. Take no individual’s life, liberty or property without his consent.
  10. Thou shalt read Ayn Rand.

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Full audio of the April 25, 2013 broadcast of “Just Right”, with Robert Metz and Paul McKeever


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