Most of us prefer friendship to war. But America hasn't always found peaceful alternatives to stop aggression. Since 9//11 we've taken four steps along the path to end terrorism, but haven't yet taken step 5 -- the one with perhaps the greatest potential to de-claw terrorism, and to do it peacefully.
So far we've tried:
Step #1 VIOLENCE: My first thought upon seeing the twin towers struck was, "Oh please, not a war!" But our leaders of the time reflexed to violent retribution. Stunned as we were to be hated and under attack, most Americans supported the move.
Step #2 DISCUSSION: Immediately we started talking. There were events rehash, biographies, expert opinions and predictions. And there were two kinds of talking aimed at producing peace: official explanations from Islamic leaders and interfaith dialogues on campuses and in public settings such as places of worship.
Step #3 INVESTMENT: Added to the on-going cost of buying peace between nations such as Egypt and Israel, we now need to pour out millions to rebuild economies, buildings and infrastructure in Afghanistan and Iraq .
Step #4 VIGILENCE: Annoying airport screening and increased surveillance have thwarted an impressive number of terrorist plots. Like cancer screening, dangerous cells have been detected, but have not been prevented from starting up.
Despite all the time and money spent on steps one through four, we have made little progress in stopping the forces feeding the terror machine. The problem, as I see it, is that we have been clipping the branches when we ought to rout the root.
There is one step left which could make a real difference, if we were reasonable enough to take it.
Step # 5 ENLIGHTEN: Surprising as it may seem, there is a largely overlooked obsession that drives militant Islam. The cornerstone in promoting radical Islam is the widespread Muslim belief that the Qur'an has never changed and the extreme reactions this false belief engenders. In believing that Allah has protected only the Qur'an from change, extremists find proof that their faith is the only true one, and believe it must be propagated over the entire globe by whatever means necessary, including violence.
As taught by both al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's successor in al Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood founder Hasan al-Banna, the terrorist must be obsessed with making the Qur'an uppermost. Hasan al-Banna, who is considered the father of modern extremism, references sura 9:40 of the Koran in his Letter of Jihad where he states:
"God ordained jihad for the Muslims... a means of implementing the supreme Message... The Muslim would go forth to fight, one concern within his soul - to strive to his utmost until 'God's Word is the most exalted'."