All the time we hear about "radical Islam" and our fight against it, but never a clear definition of what that either "radical Islam" means or what our fight against it entails exactly. Too many people, pundits and politicians prominent among them, have decided that the West (whatever the heck that means anymore) is at war with Islam in general –all sects and expressions thereof– and every part of the world where Islam is the dominant faith.

Fareed Zakaria injects some desperately needed sanity into the discourse:

The split between Sunnis and Shiites—which plays a role in Lebanon as well—is only one of the divisions within the world of Islam. Within that universe are Shiites and Sunnis, Persians and Arabs, Southeast Asians and Middle Easterners and, importantly, moderates and radicals. The clash between Hamas and Fatah in the Palestinian territories is the most vivid sign of the latter divide. Just as the diversity within the communist world ultimately made it less threatening, so the many varieties of Islam weaken its ability to coalesce into a single, monolithic foe. It would be even less dangerous if Western leaders recognized this and worked to emphasize such distinctions. Rather than speaking of a single worldwide movement—which absurdly lumps together Chechen separatists in Russia, Pakistani-backed militants in India, Shiite warlords in Lebanon and Sunni jihadists in Egypt—we should be emphasizing that all these groups are distinct, with differing agendas, enemies and friends. That robs them of their claim to represent Islam. It describes them as they often are—small local gangs of misfits, hoping to attract attention through nihilism and barbarism.

The greatest weakness of militant Islam is that it is unpopular almost everywhere. Even in Afghanistan, where the Taliban has some roots, it was widely reviled. And now, when Taliban fighters occasionally take over a town in southern Afghanistan, they disband the schools, burn books, put women behind veils. These actions cause fear and resentment, not love. Most Muslims, even those who are devout and enraged at the West, don’t want to return to some grim fantasy of medieval theocracy.

And by the way, in Sarajevo, a city estimated to be more the 80 percent Muslim, no one gives a hoot about Salman Rushdie’s knighthood.

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