West Must Encourage Moderate Voices of Islam, Wolfowitz Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 6, 2002 America and the West must encourage moderate Muslims who believe in a vision of Islam that embraces free thought, free speech and tolerance, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said May 3 during a speech in Monterey, Calif.
In his prepared remarks to the World Affairs Council, Wolfowitz said the United States is fighting back against extremists who are attempting to hijack a religion for their own purposes. But, he said, it is not enough to defeat terrorists, the United States and the West must win a larger war.
"The larger war we face is the war of ideas , but one that we must also win," he said. "It is a struggle over modernity and secularism, pluralism and democracy, real economic development. To achieve victory in this larger conflict, we must work to understand the many facets of the Muslim world."
He said Islamic extremists struck a blow against the United States and all it stands for last September. "But, given the scope of the evil of the terrorism we now oppose, this fight for a just and peaceful world is not one to be waged only by America, or only by the West," he said. "This fight must be fought by all who aspire to peace and freedom throughout the world -- for that aspiration is what the terrorists wanted to destroy.
"And this fight must be fought most emphatically in the Muslim world itself, and by Muslims."
The West needs to understand that there are many different interpretations of Islam, and that secular authority and Islam can live peacefully together. He said Turkey, with its democratic character and commitment to secular government and tolerance, is an example to the rest of the Muslim world.
Indonesia, with the largest Muslim population on the planet, is a country the West needs to encourage to walk this secular path. Wolfowitz, who served as U.S. ambassador to Indonesia in the 1980s, said the country is blessed with natural resources and a large population, and could develop along the lines of South Korea.
"There is every reason to believe that Indonesia, with its own traditions and culture, can move forward as South Korea has, because when people are free to work and keep what they produce, they work hard and organize creatively," he said. "And if we are serious about opposing terrorism, we also must be serious about helping Indonesia in its quest for a stable democracy and a stable economy."
Other countries also need encouragement. He cited Morocco, Pakistan, Jordan, the Persian Gulf states and the Central Asian nations as examples.
The United States and the West must reach beyond governments and address the hundreds of missions of Muslims who do not believe in extremism. "We need to recognize that the terrorists target not only us, but their fellow Muslims, upon whom they aim to impose a medieval, intolerant and tyrannical life," he said.
U.S. policy should be aimed at helping moderate voices in Muslim countries. "We must work to appeal to a broad population, as well as the voices struggling to rise above the din of extremism, voices that tell us the Islam of Muhammad is not the religion of bin Laden and suicide bombers," Wolfowitz said.
Those moderate voices are under attack by extremists. Well- known Muslim clerics and thinkers who espouse these ideas are often attacked in words or by actions.
Wolfowitz also addressed the Arab-Israeli conflict. He stressed the Bush administration's goal of "two states, living side-by-side, in peace and security." He said terrorism is a big part of the problem in the Middle East, but that escalating the violence can solve nothing.
He said now is the time for small steps to resolve the differences in the region. Both sides, he said, need to remember the words of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, who said, "Any life that is lost in war is a human life, be it that of an Arab or an Israeli."
"There are moments in the lives of nations and peoples," Sadat said, "when those who shoulder great responsibilities must have the courage to make decisions that fit the magnitude of the situation and never forget that infallibility belongs to God alone."