The Corner

National Security & Defense

What Is the Antidote to Radical Islam?

“Radical Islam is the problem, moderate Islam is the solution” has been my watchword since 2002, meaning that Islam’s many problems will only be solved when Muslims leave Islamism, an attempt to regress to a medieval model, and favor a modern, moderate, and good-neighborly version of their faith.

Plenty of people disagree with this analysis but, until now, no one offered an alternate solution. Now, Murat Yetkin of the Hürriyet Daily News in Turkey has done so in a recent column, “Antithesis of radical Islam is not moderate Islam, it is secularism.”  

He finds my solution old and discredited: “As radical Islamist movements started to emerge, politicians in the West . . . tried to recruit ‘moderates’,” building them up “without realizing or bothering to understand that they would become the new radicals.” Yetkin locates this pattern variously in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq, and Syria.

The real antithesis of radical Islam, he posits, is not moderate Islam, but rather “separating state affairs from religion.” Secularists, the West can rest assured, won’t turn against it. Calling for a revival of Atatürk’s secularism, Yetkin approves of a recent speech by Turkish opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu urging Muslims to adopt secularism as “the antidote to terror.”

In reply, I start by noting that secularism has two quite different meanings:

‐ Separation of church and state: This kind of secularism, which Yetkin alludes to, is not “the antidote to terror” (think Communists) but it does offer a previous method to avoid religious conflicts. Indeed, secularism evolved out of the ferocity of religious wars in seventeenth-century Europe, providing a live-and-let-live haven from faith-inspired violence. What worked in Europe four centuries ago will work again in Muslim-majority countries today.

Yetkin is right to promote a secular order. I also do so by calling on Western governments always to work against Islamists, to cooperate warily with tyrants, and to exuberantly support liberals and secularists.

‐ Irreligiosity: Secularism also means rejecting faith — similar to agnosticism or atheism. Quietly, irreligiosity is spreading among Muslims; organizations of ex-Muslims, an unprecedented phenomenon, have appeared in twelve countries. One analysis finds that 25 percent of Arabic-speakers have become atheists.

But even if this (high) number is accurate, 75 percent of the population remains believing. Moderate Islam applies to them, offering sound ideas to replace the repugnant ones of Islamism. In this sense, Yetkin is wrong, for irreligiosity cannot fulfill the spiritual longings of most Muslims. Moderate Islam can. It therefore offers the main solution to radical Islam.

But I partially concede Yetkin’s point: Together, moderate Islam and secularism are the answer to radical Islam; so too is conversion to other religions. Nearly anything works that takes Muslims away from the Islamist mentality. 

Most Popular


An Idea for Student Loans: Get Rid of Them

Here is a three-part plan for something practical the federal government could do to relieve college-loan debt. Step 1: The federal government should stop making college loans itself and cease guaranteeing any such loans. Step 2: It should prohibit educational lending by federally regulated financial institutions ... Read More

A Reckoning Is in Store for Democrats

The crisis of the Democrats is becoming more evident each week. Those of us who have been loudly predicting for years that the Russian-collusion argument would be exposed as a defamatory farce, and that the authors of it would eventually pay for it, are bemused at the fallback position of the Trump-haters: that ... Read More
White House


Some of you will be familiar with a lefty, partisan Democratic organization called MoveOn, formerly MoveOn.Org. It was founded during an investigation into President Bill Clinton’s shenanigans (which were not, Democratic mythology notwithstanding, strictly sexual in nature) and argued that it was time for the ... Read More

Why ‘Stop Sanders’?

'Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?” T. S. Eliot asked. “Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” And where is the intelligence we have lost in cleverness? Cleverness is the plague of our political classes, an influenza of the intellect. The consultants are always trying to ... Read More