Friday, June 02, 2017

What is Moderate Islam

Most reaction on the Facebook page for my new book, "What is Moderate Islam," has been positive. As I mentioned when first approached about the book, people are hungry for good information and real-life insight.  Otherwise, they are left to make sense themselves of the frequent terrorism carried out in the name of Islam.  At the same time, there also has been a string of reactions essentially saying that there is no such thing as "moderate Islam"; that all Muslims are either waging jihad or waiting in the weeds for the right time to do so.  They are wrong both ethically and factually.  As the noted scholar and activist, Dr. Daniel Pipes, has told us, it is a mistake to confuse Islam the religion with Islamism the ideology.  Pipes is also a long time supporter of my work, and he contributed a chapter to What is Moderate Islam.  In that chapter, "Smoking out Islamists with Extreme Vetting," Dr. Pipes provides us with a set of insightful questions to get beneath any veneer of moderation to the essence of a radical's beliefs.  They also help us recognize that most Muslims are not open or closet jihadis.

Those who insist that all Muslims are jihadis are no different than those who insist that Jews control the banks, all Christians are crusaders, or all Hindus are passive and weak.

Beyond being wrong, that is a strategic cul de sac; it leads to nothing productive.  Where do you go from declaring a fourth of humanity your enemy?  Do you issue blanket rulings, taking actions that sweep up the innocent with the guilty?  What do you do about children?  Are Muslim children also "eventual" jihadis so subject to the same action? Do you reject allies simply because of their faith?  Do you tell Muslim leaders that their interests are the same as those of suicide bombers?  And do we force friends to become enemies? Perhaps the impossibility of taking action that is both moral and effective is a reason why many who insist on their position do nothing other than yell.

On the other hand, those of us who have been on the front lines in the fight against radical Islamist terror know that we fight alongside of Muslims no less so than others.  In my fight to save Bengali Hindus from Islamists, I often am accompanied by Muslims who have put their own lives in jeopardy standing up for Hindus.  Similarly, no one would ever consider Robert Spencer soft on radical Islam or an appeaser.  Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and an outspoken critic of those who take claims of moderation at face value.  In his review of What is Moderate Islam, he called the book "essential reading" for "befuddled" policy makers.  He is smart enough and knowledgeable enough to know that we defeat our real enemies only when we have identified them and those who give them ideological cover; and we have distinguished friend from foe.

And that is the rationale for What is Moderate Islam.  Radical Islamists are arguably the greatest source of international instability in the 21st century.  We must defeat them and their ideological supporters.  Too often, however, all people have to choose from are two extremes:  either all Muslims are really jihadis or it's racist even to discuss a link between Islam and terror.  They need more than empty fist shaking or fear of being labeled.  What is Moderate Islam contributes to that by recognizing that both extremes are dangerous; that there is something better.

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