For much of the past 13 years, ever since al-Qaida attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, the West has found itself confronting an increasingly dangerous foe in the form of jihadist terror.
From New York to London to Madrid, Islamic extremists have carried out brazen attacks, targeting airplanes, public transportation and, of course, innocent civilians.
They have left a trail of tragedy and bloodshed and it would appear that the struggle to defeat them is far from over.
But despite the passage of so much time, and the gallons of ink that have been spilled in reporting on their actions and analyzing their motives, there is one critical question that has been largely ignored by the mainstream press.
It is a sensitive issue, the kind that makes people shift uncomfortably in their seats and anxiously clear their throats, but it is one that must, nonetheless, finally be addressed.
Simply put: If Islam is a religion of peace, then why are so many of its followers in so many countries killing so many people with such brutality? And, no less important, why are Western leaders so insistent on telling us after each attack that Muslim terrorists are distorting Islam? Each month, literally hundreds of people, if not more, are being killed by Muslims in the name of Islam in a multiplicity of conflicts around the world.
From the streets of Baghdad to the markets of Mogadishu, and from Benghazi to Bangladesh, the frequency and ferocity of such attacks is staggering.
Consider the following: On October 23, a man armed with an axe attacked four New York city police officers, wounding two of them, before he was shot dead. The perpetrator was a Muslim radical.
The previous day, on October 22, a gunman shot and killed a Canadian soldier guarding the National War Memorial in Ottawa and then proceeded to shoot up Canada’s parliament before being killed. In this case, too, the perpetrator was a Muslim extremist.
Meanwhile, in the city of Maguindanao in the southern Philippines that same day, two soldiers were shot and killed at a hospital. The attack was carried out by four Muslim militants.
And then, of course, there was the terror attack in Jerusalem, where a Palestinian driver intentionally rammed his vehicle into a group of innocent Israelis at a light-rail station, killing three-month old Chaya Zissel Braun and 22-year old Karen Yemima Mosquera.
And the list goes on and on and on, with terror striking in Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, Mali and elsewhere. Muslims targeting other Muslims. Muslims targeting Christians. And Muslims targeting Jews.
Also on October 22, an Islamist suicide attacker crashed his bomb-laden car into a security checkpoint east of Benghazi, Libya, killing one person and injuring four.
On October 21, four Christians were killed, two churches were destroyed and 50 homes razed to the ground by a Muslim terrorist organization in the Nigerian village of Pelachiroma.
I think you get the point.
Despite this startling and ongoing record of violence and terror committed by Muslims in the name of Islam, condemnations of it by Islamic scholars are notably few and far between.
If my faith were being used in such a manner, to target and kill innocent people around the world on a daily basis, I would expect my spiritual leaders to shout from every rooftop and condemn the wrongdoers.
Why aren’t Muslims everywhere doing the same? After all, much of the violence is being carried out by extremist Islamic organizations, groups of jihadists whose inhumanity has captured the attention of the world.
In Syria and Iraq, Islamic State (IS) has set a new standard in barbarity, crucifying individuals, beheading others and selling young girls as sex slaves.
In Nigeria, the Boko Haram Islamist terrorist organization has carried out suicide attacks, bus bombings, forced conversions and kidnappings of children to further its aims.
Other Islamic groups, such as al-Shabab in Somalia, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen, the Taliban in Afghanistan, Hamas in Gaza, and the al-Mourabitoun in Mali, all employ violence and terror as well.
If their actions run counter to the spirit and law of Islam, then imams, sheikhs and ayatollahs the world over should be denouncing them at every opportunity and distancing themselves and their faith from those who kill the innocent.
But that is clearly not happening.
Moreover, each attack is followed by the same assurances from Western leaders, who go out of their way to stress that the terrorists are misrepresenting Islam and perverting its teachings.
I would love to believe that, I really would. How comforting it would be to know that the extremists are just a misguided band of butchers rooted in criminality rather than theology.
And to be sure, there are plenty of Muslims who do not engage in violence, do not support it and simply wish to live their lives and raise their children in peace.
But as the daily Islamist-inspired violence continues, wreaking havoc on various parts of the globe, isn’t it time for a frank and open discussion about the issue rather than just sloganeering? The media has shown itself to be fearless when it wants to be, taking down sacred cows and challenging accepted norms. But when it comes to exploring jihadist terror – one of the preeminent issues of our times! – the debate regarding its roots suddenly falls silent.
Obviously, we live in societies that are dominated by political correctness, which often sacrifices free speech and free inquiry for the sake of not “offending” anyone.
But the price of such an approach is that it frequently prevents people from coming to grips with the clear and unvarnished truth, inhibiting efforts to truly understand the challenges and problems that societies face.
With no end in sight to Islamist violence, perhaps the time has finally come to muster up the necessary courage and take a long, hard look at why it is afflicting dozens of countries around the world.