Michael Totten recently published a piece, “An Israeli in Kosovo,” that contained this passage:
“Israelis are okay,” said a waiter named Afrim Kostrati at a cafe named Tirana. “The conflict is not our problem. We are Muslims, but not really. We have respect for Israelis because of the U.S. I have good friends from there.”
Charles posted it at LGF on Monday, and after awhile several people notified me that I was being attacked on the LGF thread. I have no quarrel with Michael Totten, but I am skeptical of the prospect of an independent Kosovo becoming a reliable anti-jihad American ally, and this was being held up as indication of an intellectual and moral failing there — anyway, after awhile I decided to respond. You can read through the voluminous comments there if you are so inclined; a couple of pro-Kosovo activists, one of whom became quite abusive (mostly after I bowed out) and eventually began railing against “crusaders” and “jewhadists,” mixed it up with me there. I have no intention of reproducing or recounting that full controversy here, or of republishing here all my comments in that LGF thread (which spilled over to an entirely unrelated post here at Jihad Watch yesterday), but I have decided to post here some of my main points in that exchange, so as to provide a context for an additional post that is to follow here this morning.
Many people see the “moderate Islam” of the Kosovars as a great sign of hope, both for the prospects of a stable, democratic Kosovo and for the prospects of a stable, peaceful Islamic world living in peace with non-Muslims. But the quote above from Totten’s piece, “We are Muslims, but not really,” precisely illustrates a point I have made many, many times — about how Wahhabis and other jihadists present themselves as pure and true Muslims, and moderate Muslims do not have any effective comeback. In fact, they often, as in this case, grant the jihadists’ point on that even while not following them.
My contention has always been consistent on this: that even in a secularized nominal Muslim population (eg Kosovo), granting that point leaves the door open for the radicalization of those who decide at some point that they wish to recover their faith or live it more fully. There is no Moderate Islam for such people to get into, analogous to Reform Judaism — there is no Reformed Islamic Mosque to go to, no history of non-literal understandings of the Qur’an and Sunnah. The only Islam they can recover, should they choose to recover Islam rather than being “not really” Muslim, is the supremacist variety.
Does this mean that the secularized Kosovars cannot be depended upon as American allies? Time will tell, but their vulnerability to jihadist recruitment proceeding on the basis of the jihadist claim to Islamic purity cannot be ruled out as unappealing to them forever, precisely because their own cultural Islam lacks a theological foundation within Islamic tradition.
The statement “we are Muslims, but not really” indicates that they believe that they aren’t quite true Muslims now — and that is what makes for the vulnerability.
Anyway, more to come on the Kosovo issue, soon.