“How should liberal democracies address the Islamic radicalism?” The former Berliner Parliament member, Alexander Ritzmann, was invited by the Transatlantic Dialogue Program of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung für die Freiheit) to discuss around this topic on January 18 in Washington. Ritzmann, currently performing as researcher of a think tank in Brussels specialized on topics such as Islamism, terrorism, and immigration policy, imparted his lecture to more than 110 interested attendees representing diverse spheres, such as politics, management, research, and diplomatic corps.
Alexander Ritzmann started his presentation outlining the topic of the debate. He did not want to devote to the Islam as a whole, buy only to its radical manifestations, such as Islamism and Jihadism. This is an essential distinction, since most of Muslims are not ruled based on a fundamentalist interpretation of their religion. By analyzing the issue, it is also crucial to differentiate among the different denominations inside the Islam, such as ideologies and goals of various radical groups.
After a brief summary on the history of Islamism, Ritzmann stated that Muslim values are hardly reconcilable with Western principles, such as the separation of the State from religion, and the outstanding position granted to the individual. However, the Muslim believer does not have to stand in opposition to the code of Western values in a hostile and radically opposite manner: The Koran text, subject to strong interpretations, allows the Muslim believer to assume –depending on the interpretation- the posture of a terrorist or a democrat.
In the second part of his presentation, Ritzmann addressed the open issue about the way liberal democracies should face Islamism. He advocated that liberal democracies should not put their liberties aside to face the Islamic radical aberrations. It is imperative to further highlight at an international level the advantages intended by a liberal system. The core element of this strategy should be as follows: to eagerly support -much more than one has done until now- moderate Muslims in the Islamic world. This imperious need emerges by recognizing that liberal democracies only manage to handle –but not autonomously solve- the problem and perils derived from the radical Islam. Decisive steps to eradicate fundamentalist tendencies within the Islam should emerge from the religious community itself.
Ritzmann believes that it is feasible to consistently fight Islamism this way. Most of Muslims do not identify themselves with the Koran’s radical interpretation; many followers even think of Islamism as a “cancer” of the Islam. Ritzmann estimated the minority representation held by fundamentalists, among other items: 90% of all Muslims condemn the al-Qaida activities, for not being reconcilable with the Islam. It is foreseeable that Muslims themselves will take decisive steps against Islamists in the long term, since it is increasingly evident the damage the latter caused to religion and its image to the world. In addition, most of Muslims prefer to live according to a moderate interpretation of the Koran, than to abide by the strict rules of a caliphate.