Monday, February 20, 2006

Moderate Muslims?

I posted about the Free Muslims Coalition earlier, noting a moderate Muslim group. Interestingly, a Washington Post article by Fleming Rose, the Jyllands-Posten editor who commissioned and published the 12 cartoons, points out some moderate Muslim victories in Denmark:
Since the Sept. 30 publication of the cartoons, we have had a constructive debate in Denmark and Europe about freedom of expression, freedom of religion and respect for immigrants and people's beliefs. Never before have so many Danish Muslims participated in a public dialogue -- in town hall meetings, letters to editors, opinion columns and debates on radio and TV. We have had no anti-Muslim riots, no Muslims fleeing the country and no Muslims committing violence. The radical imams who misinformed their counterparts in the Middle East about the situation for Muslims in Denmark have been marginalized. They no longer speak for the Muslim community in Denmark because moderate Muslims have had the courage to speak out against them.

In January, Jyllands-Posten ran three full pages of interviews and photos of moderate Muslims saying no to being represented by the imams. They insist that their faith is compatible with a modern secular democracy. A network of moderate Muslims committed to the constitution has been established, and the anti-immigration People's Party called on its members to differentiate between radical and moderate Muslims, i.e. between Muslims propagating sharia law and Muslims accepting the rule of secular law. The Muslim face of Denmark has changed, and it is becoming clear that this is not a debate between "them" and "us," but between those committed to democracy in Denmark and those who are not.

Still, I think the cartoons now have a place in two separate narratives, one in Europe and one in the Middle East. In the words of the Somali-born Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the integration of Muslims into European societies has been sped up by 300 years due to the cartoons; perhaps we do not need to fight the battle for the Enlightenment all over again in Europe. The narrative in the Middle East is more complex, but that has very little to do with the cartoons.

This is good to know, and it is good to know the moderates seem to have won some battles in Denmark. What will the net effect be? I don't know, but I do think this cycle of events has kicked a few more Westerners awake, particularly Europeans. I hope it leads them to address the real issues, with moderate Muslims where they can be found, instead of burying their heads in the sands of submission (aka, tolerance). I also have to agree that the narrative in the Middle East has little to do with the cartoons.

On the other hand, Muslim commentator Mansoor Ijaz tells us in the LA Times:
The first truth is that most Muslim ideologues are hypocrites. What has Osama bin Laden done for the victims of the 2004 tsunami or the shattered families who lost everything in the Pakistani earthquake last year? He did not build one school, offer one loaf of bread or pay for one vaccination. And yet he, not the devout Muslim doctors from California and Iowa who repair broken limbs and lives in the snowy peaks of Kashmir, speaks the loudest for what Muslims allegedly stand for. He has succeeded in presenting himself as the defender of Islam's poor, and the Western media has taken his jihadist message all the way to the bank.


The second truth — one that the West needs to come to grips with — is that there is no such human persona as a "moderate Muslim." You either believe in the oneness of God or you don't. You either believe in the teachings of his prophet or you don't. You either learn those teachings and apply them to the circumstances of life in the country you have chosen to live in, or you shouldn't live there.


But to look at angry Islam's reaction on television each night forces the question of what might be possible if all the lost energy of thousands of rioting Muslims went into the villages of Aceh to rebuild lost homes or into Kashmir to construct schools.

In fact, the most glaring truth is that Islam's mobsters fear the West has it right: that we have perfected the very system Islam's holy scriptures urged them to learn and practice. And having failed in their mission to lead their masses, they seek any excuse to demonize those of us in the West and to try to bring us down. They know they are losing the ideological struggle for hearts and minds, for life in all its different dimensions, and so they prepare themselves, and us, for Armageddon by starting fires everywhere in a display of Islamic unity intended to galvanize the masses they cannot feed, clothe, educate or house.

On moderate Muslims, specifically, I don't think Ijaz understands what we mean by 'moderate Muslims,' so I guess I should explain what I mean: tolerant Muslims. Since he is advocating Muslim tolerance, I think his definition is different. I think he means 'half-way Muslims,' which is not what I mean at all.

Still, that last paragraph is excellent: Islam's mobsters and terrorists are terrified that the West has it right, so terrified that they must, at all costs, prove to themselves that they are still relevant by destroying the West, first by humbling it into submission, then gradually by taking over. I don't know if the West has 'perfected the very system that Islam's holy scriptures urged them to learn' or not. I don't know enough to comment on that part, but I agree with the rest. The terrorists themselves are acting out of the all-consuming fear that the West has made them irrelevant.

If Rose is to be believed, some Muslims, like the moderates in Denmark, see this and are taking action to become relevant to the West not through violence, but through assimilating to it and practicing their religion within the boundaries of liberal democracy. This inspires hope that peaceful resolutions can work, hope that we are winning over some Muslim hearts and minds, but the rest of the world right now leaves me very uneasy about the foundations of that hope. Is it silly to say that I hope my hope is well-founded?

Well, anyway, here's hoping ...

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