A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Zuhdi Jasser speak at the Cunningham Center. The Richard R. Halleck Foundation founded by colonel and Mrs. Richard R. Halleck before Col. Halleck's death in 1999 funded Dr. Jasser's presentation. The Columbus State University Political Science Department sponsored the event and similar presentations addressing important current events.
This program was especially interesting given the threat we face from Islamic extremists. Dr. Jasser referred to this political movement of followers of Islam as "Islamism." Islam is a religion. Islamism is a political ideology that uses the Koran as the basis for a theory of political activism that is hostile to Western culture and political systems.
Dr. Jasser made a number of interesting points. He remarked that one of the strengths and appealing aspects of the United States is the idea of pluralism. This country is composed of people from many backgrounds. We enjoy more than tolerance where one group dominates all others but allows for peaceful coexistence. Our laws and cultural values encourage acceptance of all people as equals. Our society is far from perfect, but the intent is a pluralistic society. Islamism doesn't encourage tolerance let alone pluralism. No enlightenment as experienced in the West elevated concerns for people outside of a religious context in the Middle East.
Our conflict with Islamism is really a conflict between a post-enlightenment culture (Western liberal democracy) and that of a pre-enlightenment culture (Islamism). Muslims must resolve this conflict through maturation of cultural norms toward an acceptance of pluralism rather than dominance or even toleration alone as a goal.