Though the bombs failed to detonate, this week's attacks in London have exploded persistent myths about Islamic terrorism. These myths—perpetuated by the politically correct, the unreasonably optimistic, and the willfully ignorant—have crippled the West's ability to adequately confront the Islamic threat. Unless the West finally wakes up and faces reality, our chance for long-term survival is questionable. Hopefully the bombs of London will be our wakeup call.
The first myth to go up in smoke after this week's failed attempts at terror is that radical Islamic theology is the result of poverty and illiteracy. Some commentators would have us believe that terrorism would cease if all Muslim children were educated and affluent, and therefore, America's foreign policy should focus on economic aid and education. It is increasingly clear, however, that many of the men behind the London bombings were physicians. Highly educated with well-paying jobs in a prosperous nation, these men certainly do not fit the profile so often painted of Islamic terrorists. One thing is clear: it is not poverty or ignorance that drives Muslims to terrorism. Even those who are highly educated and trained to "cure" were willing to kill in the name of Allah.
A second myth, which has dominated the thinking of some fellow conservatives, is that democracy is the surefire antidote to terrorism. They maintain that if Muslims lived in freedom and were able to elect their leaders in a democratic way, then our terrorist enemies would lose their desire to kill innocents. President Bush said in his Second Inaugural Address, "The concerted effort of free nations to promote democracy is a prelude to our enemies' defeat." It now seems clear, however, that even those who enjoy freedom and democracy can be won over by radical theology. The medical professionals implicated in this week's attacks were living miles away from tyranny and were enjoying all of the benefits of modern Western Democracy. But, it was not enough to blunt their impulse to inflict terror. Their interpretation of Islam inspired them to bomb the very nation which offered them freedom. We must not deceive ourselves into thinking that once men and women live in democracy, then terrorism will cease. It is not that simple.