Geert Wilders, said Charles Krauthammer, is “extreme, radical, and wrong.” In reality, Charles Krauthammer is ignorant, naive, and wrong.
From “Krauthammer’s Take” at National Review, March 9:
…What he says is extreme, radical, and wrong. He basically is arguing that Islam is the same as Islamism. Islamism is an ideology of a small minority which holds that the essence of Islam is jihad, conquest, forcing people into accepting a certain very narrow interpretation [of Islam].
This is an artificial distinction imposed by non-Muslims like Charles Krauthammer onto the Islamic world; it is not a distinction that is generally made by Muslims themselves, at least outside the U.S. and Western Europe — or if it is, it is made in a different way. Muslims who object to Al-Qaeda and other groups like it generally speak of them as neo-Kharijites, referring to an early rigorist group in Islam that rejected both Sunni and Shi’ite authorities if they deviated from Muhammad’s example, or as takfiri, referring to the jihadists’ promiscuous use of the practice of takfir, that is, declaring other Muslims to be unbelievers. When Muslims have protested against contemporary jihadist activity, it has been when the jihadists murder large numbers of fellow Muslims; the murders of non-Muslims have not generally stirred similar outrage.
Those are essentially the differences between the Al-Qaeda types and other Muslims: the others object to the jihadists’ rigorism and tendency to condemn other Muslims, and to the jihadists’ killing of other Muslims (which violates the command in Qur’an 4:92 never to kill a fellow Muslim intentionally). That’s it. There is no widespread debate among Muslims, outside of a few professors and self-proclaimed reformers with tiny followings, about whether the umma should wage war against unbelievers and strive in various ways to impose Sharia upon the world.
But Krauthammer seems to assume that there is a sharp division between Muslims who are political and supremacist and those who are not — for that is the essence of his saying that the “Islamists” believe that “the essence of Islam is jihad, conquest, forcing people into accepting a certain very narrow interpretation [of Islam].” Jihad — however variously interpreted — is a key element of the Islamic faith according to every single Islamic authority on the planet. Krauthammer, of course, is referring to violent jihad, and assuming that Muslims who are not engaging in it are not rejecting it as a matter of practicality or strategy, or an indifference to their faith, or a failure of courage, but because they actually do not believe it legitimate as a matter of Islamic theology for Muslims to wage war against unbelievers. He would be hard-pressed to find any honest Islamic authorities who would back him up on that — as evidenced by what Islamic authorities say and write to their fellow Muslims, not by what they say and write to easily and eagerly fooled non-Muslim Westerners.
The untruth of that is obvious. If you look at the United States, the overwhelming majority of Muslims in the U.S. are not Islamists. So, it’s simply incorrect. Now, in Europe, there is probably a slightly larger minority but, nonetheless, the overwhelming majority are not.
So Krauthammer is taking the fact that most U.S. Muslims are not engaging in jihad violence to mean that they reject it in principle. This would be a naive assumption in any context. There may be any number of reasons why someone is not doing something, and it would be silly to assume that anyone who is not doing some particular thing is refraining because he believes that to do it would be wrong.
He never considers, of course, the fact that all the mainstream sects and schools of Islamic jurisprudence teach as a matter of faith that Islam is intrinsically political and that Muslims must wage war against unbelievers and subjugate them under the rule of Islamic law. But that is a matter of verifiable fact, and it is the cornerstone of Wilders’ argument. There is nothing extreme, or radical, or wrong about noting that fact, and Charles Krauthammer should have the intellectual fortitude to look into this matter; if he did, he would realize that Wilders is correct.