February 26, 2009:
Islamic terrorism is caught in a self-destructive cycle of its own making. It works like this. Islamic radicals obtain their popularity and power by proclaiming that they are defending Islam from non-believers and sinners (within Islam). In order to maintain this moral superiority, the Islamic radicals must be better Moslems, and insist that others do as they do. Since Islam is a religion that dictates how one lives, in considerable detail, as well as how one plays, this business of being a "good Moslem" can get tricky. And it is. There's a race underway by Islamic radicals, and the clergy that provide theological support, to issue, and enforce, more and more rules on how a good Moslem should live.
For example, a Saudi Islamic scholar recently issued a fatwa (a religious ruling by a qualified religious official, although unqualified clergy can try to issue these and hope that people will obey) banning the use of alcohol as a substitute for petroleum in vehicle fuel. The reasoning is that the Koran forbids the use of alcohol for any use, not just for drinking. The fatwa applies to all Moslems, everywhere.
The Indonesian council of Islamic Clerics, the senior fatwa issuing authority in that country, recently issued a number of interesting fatwas. One banned smoking in public, or by children or pregnant women under any circumstances. Another allowed men to marry child brides (as young as 9). This one might be a problem, as Indonesian civil law makes it illegal to marry a woman under the age of 18. Islamic clerics justify this because the Prophet Mohammed consummated his marriage to a nine year old. The sex with minors thing has been going on in Indonesia, with the assent of the clergy, for years, and only became an issue recently when a clerical group sought to have the civil law changed to make such activities legal. Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia, civil and religious officials are arguing over this very issue. The clergy are arguing among themselves over the idea of marrying young girls, and civil officials are against it. But many Saudi men are for it.
The problem with controversial issues like this is that, once enough clergy get behind some lifestyle rules, they also grant permission for religious vigilantes to use force to enforce these rules. Saudi Arabia and Iran have lifestyle police that can arrest, and imprison you. The God Squad can also use force to restrain (arrest) offenders, and often do. In Saudi Arabia, this has gotten so bad that the king recently fired the head of the religious police. There were growing complaints from the public about the rough treatment they were getting from the religious cops, and the king agreed that things had gone too far.
In the late 1990s, the Taliban in Afghanistan made themselves so unpopular with the use of their lifestyle police, that they lost control of the country after the U.S. intervened in the civil war (against some northern tribes who had not yet been conquered by the Taliban) with a few hundred Special Forces troops and CIA operatives (and a few hundred smart bombs.)
The Islamic radicals have not come up with a way to avoid this trap. Every time the Islamic radicals gain power, they begin implementing stricter, and sometimes absurd (even to many of the locals) lifestyle rules. When the radicals try to enforce all these rules, the people eventually push back, and the religious dictatorship falls.