When I speak of “moderate Muslims,” I refer to people who identify themselves as Muslim but have genuinely renounced violent jihad and any intention, now or in the future, to impose Sharia on non-Muslim countries. The situation is complicated by many factors, however:
1. Taqiyya and kitman. Many Salafis and other radical Muslims have no trouble deceiving the unbelievers, in line with Muhammad’s statement, “War is deceit.”
2. Since most Muslims today are not Arabs but all Islamic worship must be in Arabic, and because the Qur’an itself is in difficult classical Arabic, a significant number of nominal Muslims in the U.S. and around the world have no clear idea of what the Qur’an actually says, or what the traditions of their religion in fact do teach.
This group, of course, is the radicals’ largest recruiting ground: again and again they have radicalized such “moderates” simply by teaching them what the Qur’an says.
The smallest number is a third group: Muslims who know that the Qur’an and other Muslim sources teach violence against unbelievers but are ready to set that aside in all circumstances.
Also complicating the picture is the fact that jihad, while it has meant warfare against unbelievers throughout Islamic history, has indeed also meant, as Islamic apologists routinely claim, a spiritual struggle. A “moderate” may renounce violence but not jihad, which is similar to but not necessarily identical to the renunciation of terrorism by terrorists who prefer to call what they are doing “jihad.”
In any case, Daniel Pipes in this FrontPage piece provides a useful summation of groups that tend more to be actual moderates as opposed to those that do not. (The original article at FP is full of links, which I have in the interests of time not imported here.)
This material must be approached with caution, because of the complications I have noted here and others “” not least of which is the fact that the “moderate Islam” which is “the solution” is still in an inchoate state theologically, and is still a-borning as something more than a cultural habit that is ever-vulnerable to being overturned by by-the-book radicals.
Of course, another moderate Muslim spokesman, Stephen Schwartz, vehemently denies this. He recently reacted with supercilious and contemptuous indignation to the claim, advanced by an unnamed non-Muslim, “that Bosnian moderation has no basis in Islamic tradition, and that the absence of such means the country will always be susceptible to extremist infiltration.” Of course, the problem isn’t that Bosnian moderation, whose charms I believe he somewhat overstates, has no basis in Islamic tradition, but that it has but a slim basis in Islamic theology. In the same piece he notes that he “was alarmed during my recent trip to see a resurgence of ‘street Wahhabism’ among young people and others easily swayed by superficial influences.” He asserts that “the appeal of Wahhabism in Bosnia has little to do with the history of Islam or its theology, and everything to do with poverty, hopelessness, and the failure of Europe and the United Nations to effectively assist in the reconstruction of the wartorn country.” Yet this fails to explain why places that are relatively untouched by poverty and hopelessness “” most notably, Wahhabism’s birthplace of Saudi Arabia, but by no means limited to the Kingdom “” have not been able to stop resurgences of “street Wahhabism.”
(No, Stephen, I am not attacking you. Your characterization of my earlier attempts to raise questions about your assertions as “attacks” was false. In free societies we call this “dialogue.”)
Anyway, here is Pipes:
There is good news to report: the idea that “militant Islam is the problem, moderate Islam is the solution” is finding greater acceptance over time. But there is also bad news, namely growing confusion over who really is a moderate Muslim. This means that the ideological side of the war on terror is making some, but only limited, progress.
The good news: Anti-Islamist Muslims are finding their voice since 9/11. Their numbers include distinguished academics such as Azar Nafisi (Johns Hopkins), Ahmed al-Rahim (formerly of Harvard), Kemal Silay (Indiana), and Bassam Tibi (GÃ¶ttingen). Important Islamic figures like Ahmed Subhy Mansour and Muhammad Hisham Kabbani are speaking out.
Organizations are coming into existence. The American Islamic Forum for Democracy, headed by Zuhdi Jasser, is active in Phoenix, Arizona. The Free Muslim Coalition Against Terrorism appears to be genuinely anti-Islamist, despite my initial doubts about its founder, Kamal Nawash.
Internationally, an important petition posted a month ago by a group of liberal Arabs calls for a treaty banning religious incitement to violence and specifically names “sheikhs of death” (such as Yusuf Al-Qaradawi of Al-Jazeera television), demanding that they be tried before an international court. Over 2,500 Muslim intellectuals from 23 countries rapidly signed this petition….
The bad news: There are lots of fake-moderates parading about, and they can be difficult to identify, even for someone like me who devotes much attention to this topic. The Council on American-Islamic Relations still wins mainstream support and the Islamic Society of North America still sometimes hoodwinks the U.S. government. The brand-new Progressive Muslim Union wins rave reviews for its alleged moderation from gullible journalists, despite much of its leadership (Salam Al-Marayati, Sarah Eltantawi, Hussein Ibish, Ali Abunimah) being well-known extremists.
Fortunately, the authorities kept both Tariq Ramadan and Yusuf Islam out of the United States, but Khaled Abou El Fadl got through and, worse, received a presidential appointment.
Even anti-terrorist rallies are not always what they seem to be. On Nov. 21, several thousand demonstrators, some of them Muslim, marched under banners proclaiming “Together for Peace and against Terror” in Cologne, Germany. Marchers shouted “No to terror” and politicians made feel-good statements. But the Cologne demonstration, coming soon after the murder of Theo van Gogh on Nov. 2, served as a clever defense operation. The organizer of the event, the Islamist Diyanet IÃ¾leri TÃ¼rk-Islam BirliÃ°i, used it as a smokescreen to fend off pressure for real change. Speeches at the demonstration included no mea culpas or calls for introspection, only apologetics for jihad and invocations of stale and empty slogans such as “Islam means peace.”
This complex, confusing record points to several conclusions:
Â· Islamists note the urge to find moderate Muslims and are learning how to fake moderation. Over time, their camouflage will undoubtedly further improve.