Islamists, these terrorists? Why don't they just live their lives, and let us live ours? Why can't they just leave us alone?
Those are just a few of the many natural, normal questions that the typical, uneducated American usually asks themselves about the radical Islamists.
Why are the terrorists blowing up themselves and others, cutting people's heads off, and hating Israel, the United States, and western culture so much?
The answer lies in understanding one simple concept: the Caliphate. Radical Islamists want to overthrow and eliminate western governments and culture, and reinstall the rule of the Caliph over first the traditional Muslim lands of the Middle East, and eventually the entire world.
So what is this 'Caliphate', and what is a 'Caliph'? Let's take a quick trip back in history, to the late 7th century.
Muhammad is the key personality in Islamic history, but we will save a more full treatment of him for another day. For now, let's just preface things with the fact that he was inspired to, founded, and spread the Muslim faith during his lifetime.
In 632 A.D., at the age of 62, Muhammad died, and control of the Muslim world was debated and fought over.
One group, who became known as the Sunnis, believed that Muhammad's successor should come in the way that tradition dictated at that time: through election, appointment, or consensus.
Another group, who became known as the Shiites, believed that the successors should come from Muhammad's family. He had a family member by the name of Ali, and Shiite supporters felt that Ali should be the successor, and then his descendants down through time.
The Sunnis were by far the larger, more powerful group, and their idea of succession through election/appointment took control of the largest portion of the Muslim world under an appointed leader known as a 'Caliph'. The word finds its origins in the old Arabic words halifa (successor) and halafa, meaning 'to succeed'.
The Muslim lands ruled over by the Caliph became known as a Caliphate, and this ruling authority spread the rule and control of the Muslims to dominate much of the known world including the entire Middle East, westward into Europe, and eastward into India.
Then around the year 1300 A.D., the Ottoman Turks first came to power, and the Ottoman Empire spread the rule of the Caliphate further into the east and west. This rule of the Caliphate would basically remain continuous in one form or another for almost 1,300 years until World War I.
For one of the few times, the Muslim world got involved in an outside dispute at that point, joining the war effort on the side of the Germans, the Axis power, which was ultimately the losing side.
In the aftermath of World War I, secular (non-religious) government came to power in the Middle East, and the new leader of Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, abolished the Caliphate. For the first time in 13 centuries there was no central religious leadership in the Muslim world, and religious control fell to the local Imams and clerics in each country, where it remains today.
So what do the radicals want? Ultimately what they want is the return of the Caliph to power over the Muslim world, and the expansion of control of the Caliphate to again occur throughout the Middle East, the hemisphere, and ultimately the entire world. That is their ultimate goal.
Major obstacles to this goal include the presence and influence in the Middle East of the non-Islamic government and society in places like Israel, the financial and cultural influence of the west as led by the United States, and ideas and concepts like democracy and capitalism, which are wholly anti-Islamic in their view.
Bottom line is, they demand that you and I, our government and societies sure, but we as individuals also, do one of three things.
First, we can do what they really want: convert to Islam and be a good Muslim. If we don't want to do that, we can pay a tax to the Muslims, which they call the Jizya, and submit ourselves under their rule and 'protection' as second-class citizens. Failing conversion or submission, we can fight.
That's it, there is no 'live and let live'. There is no 'you do your thing, I do my thing, and let's leave each other alone'. There is no peace treaty or deal to be cut. They want your conversion, submission, or physical destruction. Period.
So now you know what the radical Islamists want: the return of the Caliphate, which includes your conversion or submission.
Is that what you want?
If not, you have only one choice, the same choice that faced our forefathers who fought the similar ideology of Nazism in World War II: fight them until their influence is completely destroyed.
If we 'bring home the troops' from Iraq and Afghanistan, only one side will have quit the war, because they will continue it, that much is guaranteed.
So we can have the fortitude to stay and fight them until their influence is eliminated, or we can continue to deal with their terrorism, attacks, destruction, and hatred throughout the world. Your choice.
This is the continuation of my regular feature
'Islamism Series'. At the bottom of this entry, you can click on the label of that name to read the prior entries.