I’ve been spending some time studying Islamic thought and law, and I’ve started to come away with the impression that a case can be made that the ideals of the United States fall closer to that of Islam that anything that Al-Qaeda is proposing, and that one of the strategies for winning the Long War involves making this case.
My background is in physics, and as such what I try to do is to strip everything to its essential characteristics. In the case of Islam, the essential message is that there is one God and all are equal before God, this is actually the same message as the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. The second essential characteristic and commonality between Islam and the United States is the commitment to law and justice. You read writings of Supreme Court justices and these feel exactly the same as the writings of Islamic scholars or students of the Talmud.
Everything else is detail. Important detail, but its detail.
And this is why the proposed tribunals that the Bush administration is proposing is doing incalculable harm. Law becomes very attractive if you are living in a lawless environment. When bombs are going off and rapists are going unpunished, you want law and order, and so when Bush talks about having military tribunals with separate rules for US citizens and non-citizens or going against some of the foundational principles of due process, he moves the United States away from some of its foundational principles which coincidentially are the same principles that are at the foundation of Islam, and this makes it easier for Al-Qaeda to argue that it is creating the true Islamic state which I don’t think is the case at all.