When I write about our current struggle with Radical Islam, I try to maintain a careful differentiation between the Radical Islamists (Islamic fascists) who desire to kill as many of us as possible and impose their will upon us, and those "Moderate" Muslims who are more willing to live and let live. On a fairly regular basis, such posts are met with comments that are variations on a theme:
Moderate Islam is an oxymoron. There is no such thing as Moderate Islam. Islam itself is an imperialistic, intolerant, and murderous ideology.
Sadly enough, such comments may be accurate, if we accept the words of such an authority on the subject as the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan: [HT: Snouck Hurgronje]
Speaking at Kanal D TV’s Arena program, PM Erdogan commented on the term “moderate Islam”, often used in the West to describe AKP and said, ‘These descriptions are very ugly, it is offensive and an insult to our religion. There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam and that’s it.”
This is especially disheartening when we consider that Turkey has been the shining light of an Islamic democracy. Yet I would propose a radical notion of my own:
Even if there is no such thing as Moderate Islam it is in our best interests (and the Muslim World's best interests) to act as if the distinction is valid.
I have written about Moderate Muslims on many occasions. I have discussed the parallels between "Good Muslims" and "Good Germans":
It is also worth wondering if there even exists a sizable population of moderate Muslims. The MSM, our government, most civilized people seem to believe that if they insist there exists a moderate Islam, then it must be so. While I have no doubt there are moderate Muslims, their lack of visibility is troubling. When even in this country, where dissenters are safer than most anywhere else, a rally for Muslims against terror draws minimal numbers, it is troubling. Whenever there is an article written, or a public stance taken, opposing the Islamic fascists, the brave individual Muslim puts their life at risk, receives condemnation from official organs of Islam, and often receives death threat fatwas. They receive nothing but calumny from the governments which are supposed to be our allies in this war. The official Egyptian press and the state sponsored Imams in state supported mosques, regularly spew out the worst hatred of infidels (that is Americans and Israelis, especially, but with special vitriol for those Europeans who have the temerity to object to their increasing dhimmitude) and apostates. Most Islamic states have death penalties for apostasy, for desecration of the Koran, and for any of a number of offenses against Islam; at the same time, Shariah law openly, arrogantly, discriminates against those who are not sufficiently Islamic, and grants almost no rights to non Muslims.
I followed that post with Moderate Islam and Moderate Muslims Revisited; in both posts I commented on the dearth of evidence supporting the existence of a large cohort of Moderate Muslims, yet I continue to write as if the distinction between Islam and Radical Islam is valid and important.
How can I support the apparent use of denial by proposing we act as if there is a valid distinction between Islam and Radical Islam when such a distinction may not in fact exist?
No one argues there is no such thing as a Moderate Muslim. There are obviously a great many Muslims who believe in their religion and yet do not seek to use violence to impose it upon the rest of us. There are also most certainly a great many Muslims who are perfectly willing to "let and let live", which is the hallmark of a tolerant, liberal religion. Such liberal and modest Muslims are prime targets of the Radicals who are intolerant of any measure of apostasy. They are natural allies to the West although they do seem to be cowed and/or marginalized by the Radicals, who threaten them with death, and the liberal MSM and governments which do all they can to ignore such people. (As an example, why is CAIR, a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot, so often quoted as representative of American Muslims, rather than Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, a truly moderate American Muslim?)
The problem we face is not a lack of Moderate Muslims but a surfeit of Muslims who have a fundamentalist view of the Koran and Sharia, which is admittedly intolerant, violent, expansionist, and cruel. Among the 30-75% of Muslims that accept such a view of Jihad, a significant fraction support extreme violence against their enemies (especially Americans and Jews, but not excluding Europeans, other Christians, non "peoples of the book", etc.) A much smaller fraction take active part in financing and carrying out such deeds.
The ideological fight of our times is the fight against that fraction that supports overt violence against us. Out tactics must always be in the service of a strategy or strategies which can effectively minimize the size of the cohort willing and able to take violent action against us. Once fundamentalist Muslims are willing to eschew violence and engage in an ideological fight, they will have already lost. Radical Islam cannot survive Modernity.
To that end, we need to stabilize Iraq and leverage the Iraqi's loathing of the excesses of al Qaeda to create a country that is intolerant of such extremist violence. This seems achievable in the light of the successes we have already seen from the surge.
Further, as our troops on the ground have discovered, we need to be careful not to alienate the population of Muslims who believe in their religion and are primed to see infidels as evil enemies.
The idea that we are creating more enemies than we are killing is a valid concern; recent evidence suggests we are now creating many more allies than enemies among Iraqis (though the ease of dissemination of Radical Islamic propaganda and the monopoly on information that is held by their fellow travelers throughout the Arab world especially, means that for the foreseeable future, until Iraq is unmistakably a better place, we will see both Shia and Sunni Radicalism grow in susceptible locations.)
Again, in the long term, Radical Islam is fundamentally incompatible with modernity, which is why the Islamists are so desperate; they know they cannot win.
Tom Barnett commented on the Lilla article I wrote about (and will return to) in a recent post, The renovation, not liberalization, of fundamentalist faith in a globalizing world; his conclusions parallel mine:
Does that speak to a long struggle? Sure. Globalization's penetration of traditional societies is highly disruptive, so don't expect less fundamentalism in response but more. The Great Separation is a refuge from the nastiness of religious wars, but we can't expect people to pre-emptively make that leap of logic without first indulging their wars of the spirit (Fukuyama's point).
Again, that's why I called it "The Pentagon's New Map." I have no illusions about the inevitable violence ahead. I just want people to understand our best strategies for the long haul so they can keep their eyes on the prize.
In a different post, Questioning the most sacred national interest, Tom Barnett comments on how expanding the war into Iran has the predictable outcome of derailing globalization's progress in the Middle East. His piece is a fascinating read, which delineates some of the ways in which even the most disquieting and noxious ideas can serve a long term interest. I will not attempt to describe his response to Walt and Mearsheimer's thinly disguised reprise of the Protocols, but do find his strategic thinking useful and provocative:
We’re being sold a war right now with Iran that will likely prove the death knell for the Big Bang strategy and all the American lives so far sacrificed for that ambitious goal. And that’s a showstopper that need not occur, especially as dynamics in the region are finally gelling nicely toward the sort of movement I tried to depict in my Mideast-one-year-from-now-column (laid out nicely in the Erlanger piece, where he says “The Bush administration finally seems to understand, one American official said, that there is no sustainable status quo.” To which I reply, “Duh!” Wasn’t that the whole point of the Big Bang?!?!).
In this, I agree with Tom Barnett that our goal needs to be to create conditions for the advance of globalization (ie, the penetration of the modern world into the formerly hermetically sealed world of Islam, any puns fully intended) though I think he underestimates the danger of communal violence and anarchy, and the passions thus liberated, to derail globalization as effectively as any American missteps of commission.
Any ideology that prescribes a narrow, pinched, ascetic life for its minions in the face of a world in which the individual is becoming more and more free and empowered, will lose adherents at an accelerating pace when the fruits of globalization reach them. We can expect that the Radical Islamic intelligentsia (those who see themselves as the vanguard of the revolutionary mix of Islam and socialism they espouse) will continue their efforts to recruit the losers in the Islamic world as their spear carriers and suicide bombers, but their pool of potential recruits will shrink in direct proportion to the increasing potentials that globalization brings.
If we can avoid creating situations which support the Radicals' meme that the West is waging war against all of Islam, the conflict will remain limited and containable. And just as Communism lost adherents when the gap between its promises and its reality became unmistakable, so too will Radical Islam lose adherents when the gap between the promised Utopia of the Caliphate and the reality of the disaster that Radical Islam has brought upon its people wherever it has been imposed becomes unmistakable.
When the adherents of an ideology lose battles, whether militarily or economically, the ideology loses followers. That is human nature. Radical Islam looks like a loser when it fails, whether on the battlefields in Anbar or the economic arena in Iran.