By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
I wasn't surprised to read that British police officers in white protective suits and blue gloves were combing through the Iqra Learning Center bookstore in Leeds for clues to the 7/7 London bombings. Some of the 7/7 bombers hung out at the bookstore. And I won't be surprised if today's bombers also sampled the literature there.
Iqra not only sold hatemongering Islamist literature, but, according to The Wall Street Journal, was "the sole distributor of Islamgames, a U.S.-based company that makes video games. The video games feature apocalyptic battles between defenders of Islam and opponents. One game, Ummah Defense I, has the world 'finally united under the Banner of Islam' in 2114, until a revolt by disbelievers. The player's goal is to seek out and destroy the disbelievers."
Guess what: words matter. Bookstores matter. Video games matter. But here is our challenge: If the primary terrorism problem we face today can effectively be addressed only by a war of ideas within Islam - a war between life-affirming Muslims against those who want to turn one of the world's great religions into a death cult - what can the rest of us do?
More than just put up walls. We need to shine a spotlight on hate speech wherever it appears. The State Department produces an annual human rights report. Henceforth, it should also produce a quarterly War of Ideas Report, which would focus on those religious leaders and writers who are inciting violence against others.
I would compile it in a nondiscriminatory way. I want the names of the Jewish settler extremists who wrote "Muhammad Is a Pig" on buildings in Gaza right up there with Sheik Abd Al-Rahman Al-Sudayyis, a Saudi who is imam of Islam's holy mosque in Mecca. According to the Memri translation service, the imam was barred from Canada following "a report about his sermons by Memri that included Al-Sudayyis calling Jews 'the scum of the earth' and 'monkeys and pigs' who should be 'annihilated.' Other enemies of Islam were referred to by Sheik Al-Sudayyis as 'worshipers of the cross' and 'idol-worshiping Hindus' who must be fought."
Sunlight is more important than you think. Those who spread hate do not like to be exposed, noted Yigal Carmon, the founder of Memri, which monitors the Arab-Muslim media. The hate spreaders assume that they are talking only to their own, in their own language, and can get away with murder. When their words are spotlighted, they often feel pressure to retract, defend or explain them.
"Whenever they are exposed, they react the next day," Mr. Carmon said. "No one wants to be exposed in the West as a preacher of hate."
We also need to spotlight the "excuse makers," the former State Department spokesman James Rubin said. After every major terrorist incident, the excuse makers come out to tell us why imperialism, Zionism, colonialism or Iraq explains why the terrorists acted. These excuse makers are just one notch less despicable than the terrorists and also deserve to be exposed. When you live in an open society like London, where anyone with a grievance can publish an article, run for office or start a political movement, the notion that blowing up a busload of innocent civilians in response to Iraq is somehow "understandable" is outrageous. "It erases the distinction between legitimate dissent and terrorism," Mr. Rubin said, "and an open society needs to maintain a clear wall between them."
There is no political justification for 9/11, 7/7 or 7/21. As the Middle East expert Stephen P. Cohen put it: "These terrorists are what they do." And what they do is murder.
Finally, we also need to shine a bright light on the "truth tellers." Every week some courageous Arab or Muslim intellectual, cleric or columnist publishes an essay in his or her media calling on fellow Muslims to deal with the cancer in their midst. The truth tellers' words also need to be disseminated globally. "The rulers in these countries have no interest in amplifying the voices of moderates because the moderates often disagree with the rulers as much as they disagree with the extremists," said Husain Haqqani, author of the new book "Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military." "You have to deal us moderates into the game by helping to amplify our voices and exposing the extremists and their amen corner."
Every quarter, the State Department should identify the Top 10 hatemongers, excuse makers and truth tellers in the world. It wouldn't be a cure-all. But it would be a message to the extremists: you are free to say what you want, but we are free to listen, to let the whole world know what you are saying and to protect every free society from hate spreaders like you. Words matter.