The struggle over the future of Islam is not taking place within the West or between the West and Islam, argues Carl Gershman, the President of the National Endowment for Democracy. Rather, it is a battle over the identity and future of the vastly diverse Muslim world (which also includes Muslim minorities in Europe and North America and in scores of other countries that are not part of traditional Muslim-majority countries and regions) and must be fought within that world, he writes for World Affairs:
The leaders of that battle need to be Muslim religious figures and educators, intellectuals and activists, workers and entrepreneurs, young people and especially women—Muslims who do not reject the modern world but have a vision of success and achievement within it. Far from being our enemies, such leaders and activists within the Muslim world are the most important friends and allies we have in the battle against Islamic extremism. Since they’re fighting for the future of their own religion and culture, it’s a struggle that they must lead and wage. But we must do what we can to help them, basing our support upon values we share with them of human dignity, social justice, and democratic rights. At stake is nothing less than the future of our common human civilization.
This article is based on remarks delivered at the conference on “Democratization, Authoritarianism, and Radicalization: Exploring the Connections” sponsored by The Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy on April 21, 2016, in Washington, D.C.