Peter Hannaford, a member of the Committee on the Present Danger, announces in “Mozart in Arabia” in The American Spectator, July 22, that “the forces of moderate Islam are finally beginning to emerge vocally and in numbers.”
Great news! After Western governments and the mainstream media have engaged in an unstinting and largely uncritical seven-year hunt for “the forces of moderate Islam,” at last they’re on the scene, “in numbers”! Since these forces have been and remain such an object of Western desire, it is important to examine Hannaford’s evidence.
Mozart’s music gets around a lot, but never before in Saudi Arabia where it was recently on the program of a first-ever concert of European music to be performed in the desert kingdom. Not only that, the German quartet was playing before an audience composed of both men and women in the same hall.
In Saudi Arabia’s carefully gender-segregated society, the event was unprecedented.
Unprecedented, and indeed, fine. With a few exceptions music is forbidden in Islamic law, so the Saudis clearly set themselves up for criticism from hardliners by doing this. Still, while I’m glad Mozart finally made his debut in the “Kingdom of the Two Holy Places,” this is not quite on the level of the Saudis, say, allowing churches and synagogues to be built in the Kingdom, or granting non-Muslims equality of rights with Muslims, or any number of other things that could have been done that would have signaled much more strongly that the days of strict Sharia in Saudi Arabia are over — if indeed they are. So perhaps it would be unwise to get too enthusiastic about this alone — but Hannaford has much more.
This came on the heels of King Addullah’s [sic] call for an interfaith dialogue between Muslims, Christians and Jews — this in a country where conducting religious services other than Islamic can land one in prison.
The king followed through with his call, first by convening in June a group of 500 Muslim scholars — Sunni and Shiite — in Mecca to exchange views about interfaith dialogue. The conference closed with an endorsement of such a dialogue.
The conference also called for “exerting efforts to clarify misconceptions about Islam,” which has always in the last few years meant assuring non-Muslims that Islam is peaceful and has no doctrines of warfare or supremacism that should make anyone feel concerned. It also “recommended taking action at the media level to counter distorting campaigns and confront calls for confrontations among civilizations, urged international organizations namely the UN to face the culture of hatred among nations and racist and arrogant attitudes that contradict religious messages and international charters.”
Asking the UN to “face” the “racist and arrogant attitudes that contradict religious messages and international charters” looks like a veiled reference to the ongoing Muhammad cartoon controversy, and the efforts by the Organization of the Islamic Conference to compel Western governments to restrict free speech and place Islam beyond criticism. After all, Islamic spokesmen have maintained that the cartoons are “racist,” even though Islam is not a race, and have asked the UN to work to restrict them, along with honest discussion of the elements of Islam that jihadists use to justify violence and supremacism.
This led to King Abdullah’s invitation to 200 Muslim, Christian and Jewish clerics to meet with him last week in Madrid to discuss areas where all could find common ground. While this meeting produced no breakthroughs, it was not intended to. Spain was chosen for the meeting site because, from the 8th to the 13th century, Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived more-or-less in harmony there.
More or less! Anyway, not only did this meeting “produce no breakthroughs,” but in the words of one participant, it was filled with “the same old rhetoric that has led to more hatred and the building of a wall between the Jews and the Muslims for the last 60 years.” Steven Emerson reports that “it was sponsored by the Saudi monarch and organized by a man who justifies Palestinian suicide bombings and is alleged to have links to a senior Al Qaeda financier.”
Hannaford continues by portraying Abdullah as a moderate who must proceed cautiously against Saudi hardliners, and then says:
MEANWHILE, MODERATE VOICES in Islam are beginning to speak out elsewhere. In Late May, several thousand Indian Islamic clerics and madrassa teachers met in New Delhi for an Anti-Terrorism and Global Peace Conference. The major event was the issuance of what has been called the world’s first unequivocal fatwa against terrorism. The fatwa states, “Islam is a religion of peace and security. In its eyes, on any part over the surface of the earth, spreading mischief, rioting, breach of peace, bloodshed, killing of innocent persons and plundering are the most inhuman crimes.” The fatwa was developed at Darul Uloom Deoband, the world’s second largest Islamic seminary which controls thousand of Islamic seminaries in India. The fatwa was validated with pledge by the approximately 100,000 people at the conference.
As we saw here (see also here and here), the statement rejected the killing of innocent people, while not defining “innocent.” In a world in which at least some Islamic jihadists maintain that no non-Muslim can be innocent, this is not enough. The statement also says that “Islam rejects all kinds of unjust violence.” There again, the door is left open for violence that can be just. And it says nothing whatsoever about the Islamic supremacist imperative to impose Sharia wherever possible.
Other Muslim groups are speaking out against Islamist terrorism. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, with 20 million members worldwide, routinely takes the position that there is nothing in the Koran to justify violent jihad in modern times.
And they’re routinely persecuted by mainstream Muslims for, among other things, saying just this. And they do not, meanwhile, renounce Islamic supremacism. They just advocate jihad by means other than violence.
In Britain, which tends to handle matters pertaining to its Muslim minority with kid gloves, the government is developing a plan to send imams into schools to teach students that extremism is wrong and to emphasize citizenship and multiculturalism.
This would be more reassuring if we knew who these imams were, and how they were being vetted, and what the content of their preaching of “multiculturalism” was going to be. Will they teach that Muslims should live together with non-Muslims as equals under non-Muslim law on an indefinite basis? Or something short of this? Is anyone even attempting to find out?
In Pakistan, an idea of a Turkish Islamic scholar, Fethullah Gulen, himself steeped in the Sufi tradition of introspection, has materialized in the form of seven schools in Pakistan cities. There, Turkish teachers dispense a Western curriculum of courses, in English, from math to science to literature. They also encourage the maintenance of Islam in the schools’ dormitories. In a country with a weak public school system which competes with many hard-line madrassas, the Turkish schools have found a strong following.
While suicide bombings may capture the attention of the evening news’s cameras, the forces of moderate Islam are finally beginning to emerge vocally and in numbers.
Hannaford’s article is, unfortunately, just another example of just how eager Western analysts are to find moderate Muslims, and the weak reeds they will depend upon in this search (Mozart in Saudi Arabia!). Any sincere Muslim reformer who acknowledges and rejects the violent and supremacist elements of Islam, and works sincerely against them in the Islamic community, deserves support. But there are a lot of snake oil salesmen out there, and a lot of eager buyers.