THE REAL ENEMY - The fatal flaw in current strategy lies in our failure to identify the real enemy. Terrorism is simply a tool in the hands of radicalized men and women, often Muslims following a distorted narrative of Islam called Salafi Jihadism. Honest self-assessment makes clear that our policymakers are unequipped to address the religious ideology and complexity of this radicalization—and thus the terrorism it inspires.
A STRATEGIC BLUEPRINT - We must declare war on radicalism itself. Bridges to Common Ground (BCG), a not-for- profit organization with decades of real-world success in political and religious peacemaking, offers a blueprint to defeat radicalism through a unique blend of scholarship, science, and faith. Where the well-worn tracks of diplomacy, politics, economics, and military solutions have failed, a “fifth track” is needed—one that can engender personal trust between adversaries where no basis for trust now exists.
COUNTERING RADICALIZATION - The appeal, often overtly religious, that lures a potential recruit into radicalization can be successfully undermined through application of pivotal linguistic discoveries in the holy books of both Christianity and Islam. These discoveries illuminate centuries of deadly misunderstanding and identify wide tracts of surprising common ground between the faiths. And the ancient teachings of Jesus—revered by both Muslims and Christians—provide a paradigm-altering counter-narrative to the promise of glory and sexual pleasure often used in the seduction of new recruits.
REAL WORLD IMPACT - BCG has developed this philosophy into a proven behavioral algorithm incorporated into its field-tested peacemaking approach. The science of neuroplasticity tells us that the human brain can develop new neural pathways. The impact of key linguistic discoveries, successfully used in concert with “fifth track” engagement in dozens of real-world conflict zones, indicates that this neural reprogramming can literally alter an adherent’s mindset away from violence and toward peace.
FRONTLINE INITIATIVES - An entire spectrum of additional tactics—including the undermining of radical social media using “peacehackers”—should be brought to bear against the recruitment programs of radical Islamic groups. Many of these can be implemented by the private sector with governmental sanction but little additional burden on overstretched Federal budgets. BCG recommends an array of high-impact initiatives, including a “socialization toolkit” to facilitate a more robust integration of Muslims into American society and reduce the incidence of home-grown self-radicalization. Leaders committed to this kind of success can inspire and attract a massive cooperative movement for peace.
THREE AWAKENINGS - The Muslim world is experiencing a political awakening—evidenced by the Arab Spring— challenging entrenched political and religious authority. When political revolution fails to deliver real change, many are drawn to a second awakening, seeking a new interpretation of Islam. This movement is growing in the wake of Muslim extremism, among those weary of ISIS bloodlust, who claim their violent actions are “Islamic.” Finally, millions of Muslims are experiencing a third, spiritual awakening, toward Jesus—not about conversion to another religion, but toward a new spiritual path. They are discovering a new way, one of mercy and compassion.
We, in the predominantly Christian West would be wise to embrace these three awakenings—and courageously lead our communities in exchanging fear for love and reconciliation. An array of practical initiatives can be implemented, building from a fresh strategic blueprint to undermine the very core of Muslim radicalization. With an overdue change in our strategic paradigm, the West can turn the tide and eliminate the fertile recruitment fields used by radicals to channel endless recruits into their relentless assault.
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