“To me the real fight is not Islam versus the West,” Democratic Party strategist Paul Begala said during the panel discussion. “It’s within Islam. Between the terrorists and the tolerant. Between al-Qaeda and Malala [Yousafzai].”
“And here’s the thing about making that distinction — and there should be a distinction, because obviously the vast majority of Muslims would never do anything like this,” Maher replied. “But they share bad ideas.”
Bad ideas are common to many religions. Bad ideas are common to much of the human race, not even just religion. We need to be flexible enough to evolve and improve on those ideas. It's strict adherence to those bad ideas that's the bigger problem. Take me, for example - yes, I am trying to evolve on this, myself.
Whether or not Islam's ideas are especially bad is beside the point, because the vast majority of people, of any religion, are simply not going to abandon it altogether. Telling them that their entire religion is worse than everyone else's is just dangerously counterproductive. Even if it really is.
The problem with terms like fundamentalism and extremism is that they imply a fringe minority, because that's our ethnocentric experience. In many places though, that sort of strict adherence to backwards tradition is not a fringe thing, it is the norm.
That's what needs to change, and that's the sort of change that might not only be possible, but seems to already be happening, to some degree. Some people will say that jihad really means this, or really means that, but no, it means what you want it to mean. It can mean inner struggle, if that's how you prefer to think of it.
I think the more effective strategy for "the West" to take would be to support and encourage efforts of Muslims themselves, of that very nature. Before the march of technological advancement brings this to an unprecedentedly brutal head.