As a part of the Islamofascist Awareness Week sponsored by the Viking Conservatives, Jonathan Schanzer, director of policy at the Jewish Policy Center, spoke to the Lawrence community Wednesday, Oct. 24 about radical Islam and the war on terror.
Schanzer is a former counterterrorism analyst for the Office of Intelligence and Analysis at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and is the author of “Al-Qaeda’s Armies: Middle East Affiliate Groups and the Next Generation of Terror.”
The Jewish Policy Center, based in Washington, “provides scholarly perspectives on foreign and domestic policies that impact the Jewish community in the United States, and the broader American public,” according to the Jewish Policy Center Web site at https://www.jewishpolicycenter.org.
In his lecture, Schanzer stressed the importance of fighting a war against what he calls “militant Islam,” the 20 percent of the Islamic population that believes that violence is justifiable in the name of religion.
This group of Islamists is known as “militant Islam,” “radical Islam,” “Islamofascism” and “totalitarian Islam.” According to Schanzer, the “war on terror” that the United States is currently fighting is an insufficient name for such a war.
“This is akin to saying that the United States is at war with aerial bombardments, or tank warfare, or trench warfare, or suicide bombings,” Schanzer said. “That is not what our war is against. We can never win a war if we cannot determine exactly who the enemy is, identify them, and let them know that we are at war with them.”
Schanzer said those that follow this interpretation of the Islamic faith treat anyone who is not a male Muslim with disrespect, violence, and hatred. Women are treated as second-class citizens, homosexuals are imprisoned, and all other religions are seen as inferior to Islam.
“[Militant Islamists] believe that Islam is the best and only religion,” Schanzer said. “We do not have an issue with Islam. We have an issue with those who believe that violence is okay in the name of religion. Radical Islam is the problem, moderate Islam is the solution.”
According to Schanzer, international aggression is one of the biggest struggles with the militant Islam group. From the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S., to the 2004 Madrid bombings and 2005 London bombings, Schanzer believes that the growth in Islamic violence needs to be brought to a halt.
The reason for this growth is America’s deterrence that began with the Iranian Revolution of 1979, in which 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days. Other instances in American history where militant Islamists have done violent acts with no response by the American government include the 1983 marine bombings in Lebanon, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and the 2000 USS Cole bombing, among others.
“Nothing has inspired these [militant Islamists] more than America’s deterrence,” Schanzer said. “We did not create this ideology. It’s been growing like a cancer for the last 28 years.”
Schanzer believes the key to stopping the growth of militant Islam is through discussions and dialogues, both in colleges and universities, and through governments across the world.
“We have to define this enemy, once and for all,” Schanzer said. “We have to have discussions. We need to bring Islam into the modern age, and try to spread democracy to a part of the world that needs it. Radical Islam cannot continue to attack the West; we need to show them that we are going to stand our ground.”
The Viking Conservatives held several events for Islamofascism Awareness Week, which ran from October 22-26, including the showing of two documentaries about radical Islam in addition to Schanzer’s lecture.
Despite the fact that Lawrence is considered a liberal university, the Viking Conservatives is a fair-sized group of students on campus.
Sophomore Christopher Hagin is vice president of the group. “I think the hardest part [of being in the Viking Conservatives] is getting an open dialogue with the campus community in general and establishing awareness on issues like what we brought up this week as well as other issues,” Hagin said.
Viking Conservatives President and founder, senior Steven Swedberg, agrees that communication among students is key to solving issues such as that of radical Islam.
“[Radical Islam] is a problem; if you like freedoms, if you like civil liberties, if you like religious tolerance, whether you’re on the left or the right, this is a problem for everybody,” Swedberg said.
“I challenge any of the groups [on campus] to open up a forum and discuss why this is a problem or why it isn’t a problem,” Swedberg added, “and bring that collaboration of ideas so people can think for themselves, which is the concept of freedom.”