Faith in the Moderate Muslim

 Posted by on 11 February 2006 at 11:15 am  Religion
Feb 112006

Another good letter from ARI:

Dear Editor:

President Bush has staked America’s security on his policy of spreading “democracy”–i.e., unlimited majority rule–throughout the Middle East. But the democratic victory by the terrorist group Hamas is further proof that the President’s strategy is suicidal.

Our enemy in the Middle East is not a handful of unpopular dictators and terrorists, but a popular, militant ideological movement–Islamic totalitarianism–that enjoys support by numerous regimes. The Islamic totalitarian enemy cannot be defeated by bringing the vote to the civilians who support, sympathize with, or appease it. Victory can only be achieved by defeating the enemy; that means doing whatever it takes to end state support of Islamic totalitarianism and Islamic terrorism.

Dr. Yaron Brook
President of the Ayn Rand Institute
Irvine, CA

2121 Alton Parkway
949-222-6550 ext 226

Copyright (c) 2006 Ayn Rand(R) Institute. All rights reserved.

Over the past few days, I’ve hoped that the violent response to the Danish cartoons would undermine the standard faith among civilized peoples that a peaceful and moderate Muslim majority silently lurks in the homes of the Middle East. However, I suspect I’ve been entirely too optimistic, since the world has already been offered adequate reason to think that no such moderate Muslim majority exists at all. After all, that supposed majority has registered no substantial protest against violent Muslim fanaticism in my many years of following Middle East politics, despite countless significant opportunities to do so. (The student protests in Iran a few years ago are a notable exception, so we do know that Iran has a significant pro-Western element.)

I strongly suspect that our whole goofy (i.e. non-essentialized, package-dealing) way of speaking of ideologies in terms of “extremes” and “moderates” contributes greatly to the presumption that a moderate Muslims must constitute a real but silent majority. How so? The “extremes” in American politics are defined by two very consistent evils: socialism and fascism. (In fact, those evils are fundamentally similar to one another: they are merely variations of collectivism.) The “moderate” American view is some form of mixed economy, with some elements of capitalism, socialism, and fascism all magically combined. (Unsurprisingly, consistent capitalism is nowhere represented on the spectrum, but instead usually unjustly equated with fascism.)

Most Americans are advocates of a basically secular mixed economy, differing only in their preferred mixture. Few are so concerned with ideological consistency to be genuine fascists or socialists — or capitalists. Consequently, the “moderate” view is the majority view, while the “extremes” are sparsely populated.

From that perspective, militant Islam is an “extreme” view, simply because lies so far afield of the standard range of ideologies found in the politics of Western democracies. So the presumption seems to be that a whole culture couldn’t possibly be that irrational, that more reasonable views must exist and must exist in large numbers. An extreme requires a moderate, right? Since those moderates aren’t heard, they must be silent, perhaps due to fear of the violent fanatics.

Yet from all that I’ve seen and read, the “militant,” “radical,” “fundamentalist,” and “extreme” Muslims do constitute the majority in the Middle East. Not all of them are willing to strap on bombs to blow themselves to bits for the sake of jihad, yet most seem at least sympathetic to the ideals of the militants, if not outright supportive of them morally and financially. If not, they should have stood up in protest long ago. Yet that doesn’t even happen in democracies where free speech rights are protected. (For example, while Muslims in Denver did not approve of the violent response to the cartoons, they were clearly far more concerned about the offense of the cartoons than about the threat to free speech posed by their rioting Muslim brothers.)

In fact, after reading Edward Cline’s recent post on The Myth of the ‘Moderate’ Muslim, I’d have to say that moderate Islam is a contradiction in terms. Here’s the basic argument:

An acquaintance asked me recently, in response to a statement of mine in a past article on the Danish cartoon crisis, if it was not possible for Islam to undergo the same “taming” process that Christianity underwent. Wouldn’t most Muslims see the differences between the freedom of Western nations and the tyranny of Islamic nations? I had written: “Fundamentally, there is no such thing as a ‘moderate’ Muslim or a ‘civilized’ Islam, not when the core beliefs of the Koran and commands of the Hadith sanction the murder and enslavement of non-Muslims in an on-going jihad that will end only with the establishment of a global caliphate.”

My answer was two-fold: In dozens of injunctive instances, the Koran sanctions murder and conquest. For example, the Koran 2:191 commands, “And slay them wherever ye catch them” — “them” being any and all unbelievers in Allah. It is not necessary to cite any of dozens of similar commands to be found in the Koran and Hadith; they are all equally homicidal in nature, competing in lunacy with the ravings of a Charles Manson. To believe they can be interpreted as non-belligerent and pacific modes of serene tolerance is a gross evasion of the fact that words mean what they mean. No prism of interpretation, not by Western non-believers, not by Islamic scholars, can change the literal meanings of “slay,” “kill,” “terror,” “smite,” “cut off” and all the other gory verbs and nouns.

The second part of my answer addressed my acquaintance’s concern with the “moderate” Muslims. Surely they outnumber the “extremists” and “fanatics” among them, and could play a role in taming Islam.

My answer was that this was unlikely, given the nature of the creed and what it demands of its rank-and-file adherents, which is intellectual torpor and unquestioning “submission.” I replied that every Muslim I had encountered personally, or had observed in the press and the news media, did not seem to care about the differences between the West and Islam; that, in fact, it was the wealth and freedoms enjoyed in the West that are regularly condemned as “decadent” by their mullahs and imams.

“Moderate” Muslims choose not to question that official estimate of the secular West. They are taught from day one never to question the wisdom or statements of their “experts” or “holy men,” that to do so would amount to questioning or doubting Mohammed himself. Depending on the mood of a Muslim judge, this could be deemed either blasphemy or apostasy. Either way, it would earn the transgressor the death penalty, the loss of some of his limbs, or some other bestial retribution, with no chance of repentance. Here I cite the Koran 2:39: “But those who reject Faith and belie our Signs, they shall be companions of the Fire.” That is, murdered or banished, and presumably destined for Hell.

I wrote to my acquaintance: “This is an instance of being caught between a rock and a hard place. The man who would extricate himself from that dilemma would no longer be a Muslim. He would be quite extraordinary.” Not to mention brave. He would have earned and deserve our respect for such a soul-wrenching feat. [DMH: If I remember correctly, Islam regards rejecting the faith as a far worse sin than refusing to accept it.] I ended my answer with the observation that it took Christianity about 1,500 years to leave barbarism behind, dating, say, from the murder in 415 of Hypatia, the pagan philosopher and mathematician by Christian monks outside the Alexandrian Library in Egypt. The instigator of that atrocity was St. Cyril, archbishop of Alexandria. How long would it take Islam to abandon its jihadist agenda and relegate its saints and prophets to the dustbin? Could the West survive such a wait?

Islam can be “reformed” only by surgically removing its homicidal injunctions. What, then, would be left of Islam? Perhaps a “belief system” that would be as truly pacific as that of the Amish or Quakers. But then it would no longer be Islam.

After a bit of commentary on how our cowardly press is hiding behind the supposed “sensitivities” of the supposedly moderate Muslim to justify their refusal to print the Danish cartoons, Edward writes:

[Daniel Pipes said,] “It is a tragic mistake to lump all Muslims with the forces of darkness. Moderate, enlightened, free-thinking Muslims do exist. Hounded in their own circles, they look to the West for succor and support. And, however weak they may presently be, they eventually will have a crucial role in modernizing the Muslim world.”

So, where are these “enlightened, free-thinking” Muslims? A Muslim by definition can be neither “enlightened” nor “free-thinking,” not if he conscientiously subscribes to the tenets of Islam and is not inclined to risk losing the approbation of his fellow Muslims. If he attends Muslim services and practices the required rituals, but plays golf and the stock market, drinks alcohol, lingers over Victoria’s Secret ads, reads Shakespeare and is fascinated by the longevity of the Mars rovers, then he must be a counterfeit Muslim, as counterfeit as are many model Christians. Fire-breathing mullahs and imams would be the first to point that out. So, how much of a “crucial role” then could he have in “modernizing” the Muslim world?

None. Rank-and-file Muslims do not “interpret” or “sanitize” the Koran and Hadith. Their duty is to discuss its contents, seek clarification, and obey. Interpretations and meanings are left to their ordained holy men. More “liberal” interpretations might surface if it were not for the existence of the equivalent of Mafia hit squads and enforcers: Hamas, the Glory Brigade, and other gangs of theocratic killers. What average, law-abiding Muslim or imam is going to risk their wrath by committing what the “faith police” would regard as blasphemy or apostasy?

In short, how much “reforming” influence can we expect of a cowed congregation of Muslims?

The answer is obviously: none.

To be clear, I am well aware that some Muslims reject the violent barbarism of those threatening the lives and limbs of the Danish cartoonists. Although that’s better than nothing, it’s still not enough. To the extent that a person is a Muslim, he is intellectually disarmed by the barbaric demands of his own religion, particularly its call to expand the dominion of Islam to the whole world — by whatever violent means necessary. (Remember, the essence of Islam is submission to God’s will as transcribed by Mohammed in the Koran in the form of direct instructions, not ambiguous tales.) So based upon both history and ideology, we have absolutely no reason to hope great mass of moderate Muslims will ever rise up against their fanatical brothers. To do so would require the rejection of Islam itself.

Oh, now I’m depressed.

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