Radical Islam, like radical Christianity, is a problem for normal people, religious or not. They tend to proselytize and insist on verbatim interpretations of texts written long before our common lexicon was formed. Legal systems before around the 13th century in Europe, and post-World War I in the Middle East, were tribal and harsh. Islam, formed in the 7th century, adheres to legal standards of the day – stoning (execution by blunt force trauma) for adultery (for females); amputation for theft; and the Islamization of infidels by conquest. Much of fundamental Shar’iah law, for most of the world, has been ameliorated by modern legal nuance, but not for today’s radical Islamists waging jihad on the non-radical Islamist world.
It is important to understand also that fundamentalists adhere to the 7th century idea that Islam is more than a mere religion, it is a whole-of-life experience. “No matter the question, Islam is the answer,” they are fond of saying. Islam is a political philosophy, legal system, and foreign policy, in addition to the worship of Allah.
There is no room for tolerance, secular existence, democratic institutions, or criticism of Islam – all of which are punishable by death.
The short answer to “Does Islam pose a threat to Western Civilization?” is no. Most of the 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide pose no threat to us, but an alarming number of them also pose no threat to radical Islamists – they quietly permit them to commit atrocities in the name of their religion. They tolerate them in their mosques, in their neighborhoods, even, in some cases, in their families. They know who they are, but are afraid to do anything about it. This is the chief weapon of terrorism – terror.
The matter is further complicated by an internecine war within Islam between the Sunni majority and Shi’ite minority. It is a war over, basically, who is allowed to lead Islam. There are many subtleties beneath the surface, of course, but the dispute boils down to which sect holds the “true” interpretation of the Prophet’s words. The seat of Shi’ite power is Iran; the seat of Sunni power is Saudi Arabia (home of the holy sites of Mecca and Medina). Iran, the world’s most profound state sponsor of terrorist groups, works largely on “apostate” states in the Middle East – Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, etc. Saudi Arabia works mainly through funding smaller terrorist groups around the world, and the sponsoring of madrassas (Islamic schools for boys) around the world, which are run by Wahabbi imams. Wahabbism is a harsh Salafist sect of Sunni Islam, and teaches a fundamentalist view of the Qur’an.
Arab Muslims (in this case, to include Persian Shi’ites) look down on the rest of the world’s Muslims as second-class to those who “speak the tongue of the Prophet.” While Indonesia is world’s most populous Islamic state, and Egypt the Middle East’s most populous, it is the Saudis who hold the seat of Sunni power. This is why there is so much bitterness between Riyadh and Tehran. They are vying for the heart and soul of Islam. This, in turn, explains Iran’s desire to construct a “Shi’ite Crescent” reaching from Iran to the Mediterranean, which would “cap” the Arabian Peninsula with Shi’ite dominance, thus geopolitically isolating them.
This also explains why a nuclear Iran is unacceptable. The moment Saudi Arabia even thinks Iran has breakout capability to produce a nuclear weapon on demand, the Saudis will acquire nuclear capacity as fast as it can (as will, probably, Bahrain, Egypt, and who knows who else). This doesn’t even consider the Israeli response, who already possesses a deliverable nuclear stockpile. This would completely unhinge the world’s least stable region.
Iran is a problem Islamic state, but more to its own region than to Western Civilization – but it does have the capacity to become our problem. Hizbollah (a creation of Iran), before 9/11, was responsible for more American deaths than all other terrorist groups combined. And they have training camps (as does al Qaeda) in the lawless Tri-Border Region where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet.
The Saudis are a problematic Islamic state for their sponsorship of terrorist groups and the spreading of Wahabbist teaching worldwide. They have had us over an oil barrel, but that situation is improving as we ramp up hydraulic fracturing, making us the world’s largest oil and gas producer. If we would unleash the technology and clear the decks for exporting oil and gas, we could take that weapon out of Saudi hands. The Saudis are currently locked in a price war, trying to allow crude prices to drop below the break-point of fracking (the price at which oil and gas can be profitably produced by the method).
Pakistan is problem Islamic state because its intelligence service, ISI, has a history of complicity with various terrorists – it created the Taliban to obtain a Pakistan-compliant post-Soviet Afghanistan; the Peshawar region in the northwest is largely lawless because Pakistan refuses to administer it, and that is home to many armed Islamists groups; it hosted Osama bin Laden for years less than two miles from its premier military academy (their West Point); they have jailed the physician that confirmed bin Laden’s presence to CIA case officers in Pakistan; and so on. They are beginning to come around as various terrorist groups begin claiming Pakistan to be an apostate government – and Pakistan has deliverable nuclear weapons.
Syria and Libya are problematic because they are essentially ungoverned spaces with bands of warlords roaming the landscape (this also describes Somalia). Iraq shows signs of slipping into failed state status, but its new leadership is saying the right things – it now remains to be seen if the Sunnis, Shi’ites and Kurds can come together to govern the country. If not, Iraq with fracture into three duchies.
Turkey is becoming increasingly a problem because of its moving more and more toward a hard-line Islamist worldview. Ankara is being as uncooperative as it can in the West’s struggle against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, not even allowing our aircraft to base, for example, at Incirlik, which we used during the Cold War. One of the problems Turkey has with the current situation is that the most effective fighters against ISIS are Iraqi Kurds, and this poses a problem for Ankara because of the Kurdish independence movement, which extends to all Kurds – northeastern Iraq, southern Turkey, and northwestern Iran. Turkey has been conducting low intensity warfare with Turkish Kurds for years, and although ISIS poses a threat to the Turkish state, joining with Iraqi Kurds (or those supporting them) is a scary prospect to Ankara.
Central Europe has somewhat self-inflicted problems that are coming to the fore now. These states have been liberally allowing Muslim immigrants into their countries, and watched as they formed Islamic enclaves in some of the larger cities. These enclaves have devolved into hotbeds of radical unrest, and some of them have been granted local governance of the ghettos under Shar’iah law. Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Sweden all have “no-go” zones where Shar’iah law prevails and the state is unable to supply such basic services as police, fire and ambulance. This boiled over in Paris last Wednesday. These countries have allowed “multiculturalism” and “political correctness” become home to a nasty element of radicals that seek the destruction of Western Civilization. It is going to be very difficult for these countries to correct the problem.
The most prolific problem for the West is what is called “home-grown terrorists” that are self-radicalized, usually through the internet, and conduct small-scale attacks – either via self-made bombs, hand guns, axes or knives. We have followers of al Qaeda, Hizbollah, ISIS and others here in the United States. One such was Major Hassan of Fort Hood [TX], who shot up an auditorium full of soldiers waiting to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan. He had actually contacted Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric who ran information operations for al Qaeda out of Yemen. This all dovetails with the Islamist enclaves in Europe representing a decentralization of command and control, where core al Qaeda supplies philosophical leadership, largely through their online magazine Inspire, informing embedded operatives around the world of possible targets, new techniques, instructions on bomb construction, and so forth.
So, does Islam pose a threat to Western Civilization? Well … define “threat.” Are radical Islamists going to strike at Western targets? Yes. Are they a threat to bring down Western Civilization? Not unless we just give in or give up. This is a battle of ideologies – as it was during the Cold War. Radical Islam believes that they should rule the world – that all states should be governed by Shar’iah. There is no compromise in their worldview. Dissenters and infidels are to be killed. They claim that any state that has ever been under Islamic rule should be returned to Islamic rule – that, of course, entails the territory held by the Ottoman Empire (the last khalifat) at its zenith. ISIS, al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) reconstituted, claims its territory in northern Syria and northwestern Iraq as a khalifat, and has called for all Muslims to come and join in. They have attracted many foreign fighters, but not many families moving from Indonesia to Syria.
Deterrence doesn’t work on these extremists. They are the cockroaches of humanity – the only way to defeat them, unless and until mainstream Muslims begin excising them from their mosques and neighborhoods, is to kill them.
 See the bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut.
 Currently ~$38.70 a barrel.
 Many CIA U-2 flights over the Soviet Union originated from and/or were recovered at Incirlik AFB.