There are more than 1 billion Muslims on the planet Earth.
The vast majority of these men, women, & children are completely peaceful.
In fact, some even say that Islam means peace.
But a tiny minority of people who think of themselves as Muslims
follow forms of 'Islam' that commits violent acts of terror.
These are mostly young males.
And almost all of them have been indoctrinated into violent 'Islam'.

    The death of Osama bin Laden on May 1, 2011
turned out to be just one data-point in the fight against terrorism.
Since then, even more self-proclaimed 'Muslims' have joined Jihad.

    Guns might have been the best way to deal with Osama bin Laden.
But sometimes using military tactics in the 'war on terrorism'
increases the number of terrorists and strengthens their resolve.

    In part, our 'war on terrorism' has been unsuccessful
because we have been using methods appropriate for military conflict.
But perhaps the world is now engaged in a 'religious' struggle.
Or would it be more accurately described as tribal conflict?
Some young Muslim men have been trained to hate all other groups.










by James Leonard Park


    Question: How do you tell the difference between
a peaceful Muslim and a violent Muslim?
Answer:  We watch their behavior after they go to 'church'.
The Muslim holy day is Friday.
After prayers on Fridays, we can watch outside the mosque.
This is how we can identify at least some violent Muslims:
As they march thru the streets, they shout "Death to America!"

    If only it were that simple in most cases.
However, most violent Muslims do not advertise their plans so openly.
Thus we need undercover peaceful Muslims to infiltrate 'Muslim' gatherings
in order to provide the police with enough information to arrest them
for conspiracy to commit murder or similar terrorist crimes.
It is not a crime merely to preach violence against anyone else.
Freedom of speech in most countries allows most forms of verbal behavior.
There must be at least one overt act in preparation for a crime.
This could include collecting weapons or explosives
intended to be used against the 'enemies of God'.
Mosques in which explosives are hidden are not examples of peaceful Islam.

    Whenever another suicide-bomber kills himself and several others,
we wonder what pushed him toward murder and suicide.
Because the terrorists have almost all been Muslims,
we are tempted to think that there must be something about this religion
that causes its young men to want to kill themselves
in the process of ridding the world of a few more 'infidels'.

    However, as is becoming more clear,
the vast majority of followers of Islam
do not approve such acts of terror.
There are probably at least 1,000 peaceful Muslims for every violent 'Muslim'.
Thus, the answer probably does not lie in exploring the Muslim faith
looking for the causes of suicidal and murderous behavior.
Rather, there must be something in the minds of these suicide-bombers
causing them to sacrifice their own lives to kill random strangers.
Many of their victims never gave a second thought to Islam.


    We in the Western world are much more familiar with the Christian faith.
And we know that Christianity basically promotes peace and love.
But we do have one small area of the Western world
where people have killed each other at random
because they belong to the 'wrong' brand of Christianity.
This place is Northern Ireland.

    Was the Christianity of Northern Ireland based on a different Bible
than read by the Christians of the rest of the world?
No, both sides use the same Old and New Testament.
But the children raised in Northern Ireland are sent to different schools.
Their parents must choose either Protestant schools or Catholic schools.
There are no neutral or secular schools.
Thus, even if the parents are not particularly religious themselves,
they must assign their children to one of these branches of Christianity.
This led to strong tribal identification as either a Protestant or a Catholic,
even tho these are sub-divisions of the Christian faith.

    Can we understand the conflict in Northern Ireland
by examining the differences in the theology of Protestants and Catholics?
Even the people who killed followers of the 'opposite' religion
could not explain why members of the other group deserved to die.

    When we speak of Christians in Northern Ireland killing each other,
we see that it was not really the Christian faith that created such hatred.
Their hatred of the other group is tribal rather than theological.

    Also, we must immediately recognize
that only a small minority of each branch of Christianity
actually committed acts of violence against the other group.
Over a period of about 30 years, 3,000 people from both sides were killed.  
The vast majority of Christians in Northern Ireland were not waiting
for opportunities to murder members of the 'opposite' religion.

    Terrorism is usually a method chosen by groups
that perceive themselves to be in the minority.
If they actually had a majority,
they would be able to use the ballot rather than the bullet
in order to change the government to be more sympathetic to their group.
In the Republic of Ireland, the Catholics have a clear majority.
Thus, they do not have to use guns and bombs to try to get their way.
And political differences in Ireland are not drawn along religious lines.

    But in Northern Ireland (which is a part of the United Kingdom),
there are more Protestants than Catholics.
So the Irish Republican Army (IRA) used to believe
that violence was necessary to overthrow the Protestant majority
and re-unite that northeastern part of the island
with the rest of Ireland, where Catholics rule.

    As a part of this campaign, the IRA committed acts of random violence
not only in Northern Ireland itself but also in England,
which the IRA perceived as the seat of oppression.
They said they wanted to 'get the British out of Ireland'.
But the majority of voters in Northern Ireland
have consistently voted to remain a part of the United Kingdom.

    'Protestant' para-military groups also committed
acts of random violence against their 'Catholic' enemies.
Whenever law-and-order broke down in Northern Ireland,
terrorists on both sides took advantage of the opportunity
to harm members of the 'opposite' religion.
Once again, it must be emphasized that the vast majority of Christians
on both sides of the Protestant/Catholic divide
are peaceable and non-violent people.
They live side-by-side with each other
without looking for opportunities to kill each other.

    But there were organized groups on both sides
that were more committed to their own tribe than to Christianity.
'The troubles' in Northern Ireland have finally ended.
In July 2005, the IRA decided to abandon violent methods of struggle.
And this determination has continued for a number of years.
Christianity in Northern Ireland has returned to being a religion of peace.


    After the random bombings in London on July 7, 2005,
over 500 leaders of Islam in Great Britain issued a religious declaration
that random violence against anyone is not an Islamic act.
In short, they were saying that most Muslims are peaceful.
And the violent fringe groups should stop defending their actions
by claiming that they are killing 'infidels' in the name of Allah.

    The vast majority of Muslims in Britain (and everywhere on Earth)
are peaceful persons, who have no interest in killing non-Muslims
(or Muslims who do not agree with them on matters trivial or momentous).

    We who are not Muslims can only stand back and approve
of the majority voice of peaceful Islam
as it attempts to control the violent fringe groups.
Such religious efforts from within the Muslim community itself
are more likely to be successful
than any of the military and police efforts to prevent terrorism.
If there are fewer young men willing to kill themselves
because of some misguided version of Islam,
then terrorism will gradually dry up for lack of people who
believe they will go to Paradise because they kill 'infidels'.
The religious leaders of Islam world-wide
can help people who have some connection with Islam
to understand that the violent extremists have distorted Islam.


    After the London bombings of July 7, 2005 were linked to British citizens
who had Pakistani ethnic roots and who had been trained
in the methods of violent Islam in special 'schools' in Pakistan,
the government of Pakistan rounded up
about one hundred of the leaders of such schools.
The president of Pakistan had been targeted by some violent Muslims.

    Because Pakistan is a Muslim country
The Islamic Republic of Pakistan
it might take the lead in creating programs that will change the minds
of young Muslim men who have been trained
to kill themselves and others in the name of God.
If peaceful Muslim leaders work to convert violent Muslims,
then the militants can no longer say that they were oppressed by 'infidels'
as when the United States uses military and police methods
in its attempts to extract information from violent Muslims.


    It is a truism of history that military strategists re-fight the last war.
They think they know something about conflicts
because of their extensive experience in the past.
But this has proven false quite dramatically in Iraq.

    The United States took over the country of Iraq in 2003
hoping that the good people of Iraq would establish their own government.
But the bare fact that U.S. troops occupied Iraq
was the most obvious fact to all the people of Iraq.
And as long as the U.S. troops were there on the ground,
the minor differences between various groups of Iraqis was insignificant
in comparison with the overwhelming fact
that foreign troops controlled the whole country.
These foreign troops were mostly from the United States of America.
Simply by being there for ten years,
these troops made themselves the main focus of hatred.

    American soldiers knew almost nothing about Islam.
Thus they continued to use military methods
for a conflict that was perceived by the 'enemy' as a religious conflict.
The violent Muslims of Iraq believed that they should sacrifice themselves
in order to kill as many of the foreign invaders as possible
along with their supporters among the Iraqi people.

    Whenever American forces captured 'enemy Iraqis',
they were put into military prisons and interrogated by military personnel.
We all know the abuses that have occurred in these prisons.
And we doubt that much important military information was ever obtained.
Why would militant Islamists give up any secrets of their group
if they went to war with the intention of sacrificing themselves
while killing as many 'infidels' as possible?

    What good is a 2-billion-dollar stealth bomber against a suicide-bomber?
That same $2,000,000,000 could hire 100,000 peaceful Muslims
who could identify thousands of suicide-bombers
before they blow themselves up.


    Because the 'Muslim' terrorists are motivated by quasi-religious beliefs,
the rest of the world must meet this threat
with methods appropriate to this mentality.
Killing, imprisoning, & torturing violent Jihadis
only creates more people who are willing to sacrifice themselves
in the struggle against such evil deeds committed by the oppressors.

    Instead of humiliating and torturing violent 'Muslims',
should we try to convert them to peaceful Islam?
At first, this will require taking violent 'Muslims' into custody.
When they are in jail, they are unable to make more bombs
and unable to commit more acts of terror against their perceived enemies.

    But just where should we keep the violent 'Muslims' we have captured?
So far we have done a miserable job of taking care of such extremists.
Each country has prisons in which militants are kept.
But how much good have such prisons done?

    Perhaps this major new conflict of the 21st century
requires a completely new response.
Instead of killing, imprisoning, & torturing the militants
when we can get our hands on them,
perhaps we should establish peaceful, non-violent places
and means for deprogramming them.

    It might be wise to create a special place
where captured 'Muslim' militants can be taken,
where they will be cared for
not by military authorities of any nation but by other Muslims
drawn from the peaceful Muslims who are the majority of that faith.

    This could be done on a Pacific island that has no population at present.
The whole island could become a penal colony for former violent 'Muslims'.
It would be owned and controlled
by an international body such as the United Nations.
This would defuse at least some of the hostility toward the captors.

    This penal colony for former violent 'Muslims'
would be a place where no further violence could be plotted.
In order to prevent contact with violent 'Muslims',
all means of communication would be strictly controlled.
And the very isolation of the Pacific island
would prevent person-to-person contacts
with any violent 'Muslims' in any country.

    The penal colony would be run by peaceful Muslims.
They would have an ideal setting for helping former violent 'Muslims'
to change their thinking so that they embrace peaceful Islam
rather than the violent form they learned earlier in their lives.

    Former violent 'Muslims' would demonstrate
that they have converted to peaceful Islam
by providing valuable information about their former comrades in Jihad.
And this information would be used to capture more violent 'Muslims'
wherever they exist in the world.

    And those who have been converted from violent 'Islam' to peaceful Islam
would be taken to a better part of the island,
where they would continue to associate with other converts to peaceful Islam.

    After a length of time sufficient to prove their conversion is real,
these new peaceful Muslims could be returned to their native countries,
where they would be welcomed by their families
and re-integrated into the culture of peaceful Muslims.

    There will undoubtedly be some members of violent 'Islamic' groups
who will never be converted to peaceful Muslims.
And because of this fact, they will have to remain separated
from the rest of the world for the remainder of their natural lives.
These include some of the present leaders of violent 'Islam',
for whom there is little hope of conversion to peaceful Islam.
But we should not give up on any individual.
Even the most hardened advocate of 'Islamic' violence
might eventually turn to a more peaceful philosophy of life.

    This is a radical departure from the prisoner-of-war scenario
that followed all of the previous wars on the planet Earth.
In the past, after a war was over,
the captured enemy soldiers were returned to their native countries
without any attempt to change their minds about anything.
The war was over.  One side had won.
And the prisoners-of-war were returned
to take up their places in the new peaceful order.
They had fought honorably in their national interest.
After the war, they were re-integrated into their pacified nations.

    When the world is dealing with suicide-bombers,
such return to their native environment is not wise.
If their culture or sub-culture is still creating violent 'Muslims',
sending them home will only create more problems for the world.

    From this perspective, the British actions following July 7, 2005
were fundamentally flawed.
They decided to create a list of violent 'Muslims' living in Great Britain.
If they were foreign nationals,
they would be expelled from Britain and returned to their native countries.
If any people on the list attempted to enter the United Kingdom,
they would be excluded.
But this only exports the problem of violent 'Muslims' to other lands,
which will not solve the problem
unless those countries have facilities and programs
that are intended to de-program the returning violent 'Muslims'.

    Permanent places will have to be established for violent 'Muslims'
who can never be converted to peaceful Islam.
If the world stops creating more violent 'Muslims',
the maximum number of people in permanent custody
will be measured in the thousands rather than tens of thousands.
As we learn more about the organizations that have trained violent 'Muslims',
we will have a better idea of how many Jihadis there are.

    We should remind ourselves that the prisons of the world now contain
millions of people who are too dangerous to release into the general public.
The number of violent 'Muslims' permanently in penal colonies
will be a small percentage of total prison population.

    And the fact that others have converted to peaceful Islam
and been released will always be known to the 'permanent' prisoners.
They will continue to be encouraged to join peaceful Islam.
If they do turn against violent 'Islam',
they can also be released to their home countries
after, of course, they have proven that they have given up violent 'Islam'
by giving valuable information about the violent groups they knew.
Individuals who have genuinely been changed
will be glad to help in the effort to find and convert other violent 'Muslims'
to the main-stream, peaceful forms of Islam.  


    The idea of an island penal colony controlled by an international body
is probably a fantasy that will never come into being.
Or perhaps such incarceration will only be required
for those few violent 'Muslims' who can never be rehabilitated.

    In the immediate future, it seems more likely that Muslim countries
will have their own correctional systems,
which look like ordinary prisons in many respects.
If they are created to rehabilitate violent 'Muslims',
then they will have special features not found in ordinary prison systems.

    Peaceful Muslims have a strong interest in the recovery of other 'Muslims'
who have been indoctrinated to such a degree
that they have abandoned the peaceful nature of main-stream Islam.
In many cases, the family members of violent 'Muslims'
are themselves peaceful Muslims.
And they do not understand
what possessed some of their sons and brothers to turn to violence.

    The most likely reason is that these young Muslim men
have been convinced by some kind of training
that their religious duty is to kill 'infidels' in the name of God.
If they were open to religious training that made them violent 'Muslims',
at least some of them will be open to religious training
that will make them peaceful Muslims.
Education and even indoctrination can be reversed.
People who have been programmed into one belief system
can have their minds changed so that they embrace another system.
And it is especially easy when the vast majority of Muslims
believe that violence against random strangers is non-Islamic.

    One reason we might expect peaceful Muslims to finance
the rehabilitation of their fellow Muslims indoctrinated into terrorism
is that giving alms is one of the religious duties of all Muslims.
And peaceful Muslims might see the benefits of using their money
to change the minds of their fellow Muslims
who have been misled into violent ways.

    As said before, sometimes the violent 'Muslims' come from families
in which most of the Muslim believers follow the path of peace.
So such peaceful Muslims will be happy to finance any programs
that have some reasonable chance of rescuing the misguided young men
who were caught before they died in Jihad.

    Also, peaceful Muslims would like the opportunity to show the world
that not all Muslims are prone to violence.
If they pour millions of dollars into the rehabilitation of violent 'Muslims',
peaceful Muslims will show everyone that they do not condone violence
and that they hope to save some of these young men
who would otherwise kill themselves and others in the name of Islam.

    When the rehabilitation is financed by the donations of peaceful Muslims,
then such centers for re-education will probably be in the nations
from which the violent 'Muslims' originally came.
The re-education will be conducted in their native language.
This will help the violent 'Muslims' to see that main-stream Islamic cultures
do not support the violence taught in the terrorist training camps.
New kinds of camps can be created to reverse the violent indoctrination.
And these camps will not have to be secret,
since the whole Muslim world will support them.

    The power of the various Muslim countries will have to be used
to put Jihadis into successful programs for rehabilitation.
But as they see the error of their ways,
less and less force will be needed to restrain fanatical 'Muslims'.
They can have more freedom within the re-education camps.
And if and when they change their minds to embrace peaceful Islam again,
they can be released into the cultures from which they came.
And they can become peaceful, productive citizens.  

    Perhaps this is a dream.
But we will not know how many violent 'Muslims' can be rehabilitated
until some good programs have been tried.
We know that Western military power
has not changed the hearts and minds of violent 'Muslims'.
So perhaps it is time to allow peaceful Muslims
to attempt to reach these misguided victims of violent 'Islam'.

    If we could arrange 1,000 peaceful Muslims in several circles
surrounding that one violent 'Muslim',
this would be dramatic proof to all observers
that Islam means peace.
The one thousand peaceful Muslims would try to restrain and rehabilitate
that one lost sheep who has gone astray.

    Let the experiments begin.
And we will judge the programs by the fruits they bear.
Which programs actually have saved violent 'Muslims'
from their former terrorist ways?
When we have more actual examples of former 'Muslim' terrorists
who have joined peaceful Islam,
we will be able to face the future with hope rather than fear.
Will the next decades of history prove that love is stronger than hate?

first drafted and revised July 2005; revised 8-13-2005; 11-13-2009; 5-4-2011; 12-3-2011; 5-9-2012;
5-16-2013; 8-29-2014; 1-9-2015; 1-23-2015; 2-10-2015; 3-11-2015; 4-7-2015;
4-17-2016; 12-30-2016;

See the following related on-line essays:






All of these essays have now become chapters in this book:
World Peace Force: Disarming the Planet Earth.


    Here is the beginning of a bibliography on terrorism based on religion:


    James Park is an independent philosopher
living peacefully in Minneapolis, Minnesota,
a city in the middle of the North American continent,
which has never experienced any act of terrorism.
He belongs to a liberal religious movement called Unitarian Universalism.
No member of this peaceful movement has ever committed a terrorist act.
James Park is the author of several books,
which will be discovered in his free on-line library:
James Leonard Park
Free Library.

This on-line essay has now become a chapter in:
Iraq: Mutual Genocide.

Read other free books on the Internet.

Go to other on-line essays by James Park,
organized into 10 subject-areas.

The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author.
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by the University of Minnesota.