The massive Hamas terrorist attack on Israel brings to the fore a forgotten reality: the continuing jihadi Islamist threat not only to democracies, but even the rest.
It has to be defeated through a global consensus, not encouraged by giving legitimacy to the weaponisation of Muslim victimhood.
Even if Israeli existence were to be erased to appease the Palestinian jihadis, the Islamism that drives this extremism will be strengthened, not weakened. This is because Islam is not just a religion; it is a politico-military enterprise.
The Russia-Ukraine war of the last 19 months shifted our focus to this latest intra-European war, but the world would be extremely unwise to ignore this greater Islamist threat.
If America wanted it, it could end the Ukraine war with minor concessions on NATO expansion and the imposition of acceptable financial costs on the Russians. What the world cannot do is shut down the menace called jihadi terrorism.
Jihadi terrorism, backed by Islamic extremists of various kinds, is now a threat to most democracies and we cannot wish it away by trying to pretend that Islamophobia is the real problem.
We should be clear on one thing: jihadi Islam is Nazism raised to the power of ‘N’. The Nazi slogan was Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Fuehrer. The Islamist slogan is supra-national, One Umma, One Caliph, One Last Prophet, and One God, Allah. Once you include god in the equation for political supremacy, you are essentially equipping yourself with endless power in his name.
The world needed to defeat only one country’s army to get rid of Nazism, but jihadi Islam is present in large parts of the world, inside most democracies, including the US, Europe and India, not to speak of its epicentre in West Asia and Pakistan.
Defeating Nazism needed both the democratic and autocratic parts of the world (Western Europe, the US and Stalinist Soviet Union) to join hands. Defeating jihadi Islam needs a similar coming together of forces, but with the acknowledgement of one caveat. Often, the enemy is not outside, but within. Fighting the enemy within is tougher than fighting with one outside.
The autocracies have acknowledged this by taking on the Islamists within their own territories. China has been brutally dealing with the Uyghurs, and Russia has dealt similarly with it Chechen and Dagestan extremists.
But the democratic nations are clueless on how to deal with jihadi Islam. As democracies, they cannot obviously deal with them the way the Chinese or Russians have, but they ought to remember a simple question posed by philosopher Karl Popper: how tolerant can the tolerant be of the intolerant? The answer should be “not very tolerant”.
You can’t be undemocratic, but you can’t give Islamists a free hand within democracies either.
The problem with Islam is as old as the faith, which is the second largest in the world. Islam is not just a religion. It is a politico-militarist ideology where religion is merely the glue to enable the aggregation and grabbing of unlimited power.
We know this from our own history, where Islam was used to vivisect India in 1947. Islam was used to drive out the Hindus from Kashmir Valley. Islam has been used to ethnically cleanse Hindus in both Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The world needs a few parallel approaches to deal with this threat.
First, it must agree that any Islamist threat to any democratic country must be fought resolutely, by jailing identified jihadists.
Second, it must stop using the term Islamophobia to overlook the excesses of radical Islamists within their own countries. Islamists know how to weaponise victimhood status, and this plank must be denied to them.
Third, the two great autocracies, Russia and China, have suppressed their own Islamists with brute force, but they are busy stoking the same forces elsewhere, whether it is in Syria, Iran or Pakistan.
The Western democracies must confabulate with them to come to an agreement that they will tone down their criticism of how Russia and China deal with their jihadi groups in return for not backing other jihadis against democracies.
This bargain may not sound good to liberals, but they should understand that when the choice is between internal evisceration and survival of their cultures, this deal is a must.
Fourth, the world must agree on a strategy for de-radicalising Muslims even while making it clear that they are not opposed to the practice of their religion, which surely has some redeeming features.
Importantly, they must encourage Muslims to introspect and reinterpret their religious texts, and even abandon them where necessary.
Islam is the only major religion that has never had to rethink its premises.
The road to ijtihad, which is the use of reason to evaluate even scriptures, was closed to Muslims more than 10 centuries ago. It has to be forced open, just as Germany and the Axis powers were forced by defeat in a world war to come to terms with their own devils.
Right now, the world is letting jihadi Islam grow to proportions that even the Nazis could not hope for.