Media

Thomas Friedman, Goodwill Ambassador

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The longer I hold this expression, the more serious everyone will think I am.

Thomas Friedman writes:

Only Arabs and Muslims can fight the war of ideas within Islam. We had a civil war in America in the mid-19th century because we had a lot of people who believed bad things—namely that you could enslave people because of the color of their skin. We defeated those ideas and the individuals, leaders and institutions that propagated them, and we did it with such ferocity that five generations later some of their offspring still have not forgiven the North.

Islam needs the same civil war. It has a violent minority that believes bad things: that it is O.K. to not only murder non-Muslims—"infidels," who do not submit to Muslim authority—but to murder Muslims as well who will not accept the most rigid Muslim lifestyle and submit to rule by a Muslim caliphate.

Bryan Alexander counters:

That's a fun explanation of the Civil War, as a kind of kindergarten lesson. But note the exhortation to the Muslim world to, um, have a giant, bloody, sustained civil war: "Islam needs the same civil war." How appealing! "Thanks, Tom," murmur grateful Muslims around the world.

In the same column Friedman writes ruefully that "we infantilize" the Muslim world. Ordinarily when a pundit says "we" he means "everyone but me," but in this case the word fits, given that it's been less than a month since Friedman compared Afghanistan to "a special needs baby."