Saturday, September 01, 2007

Moderate Muslims

I have, in the past, scoffed at the notion of such a thing as moderate Muslims. My thinking on that has been formed by what appeared to be a complete lack of condemnation of the actions of extremists, by practitioners of that faith; if indeed there were moderates, my reasoning went, why were they silent on atrocities committed in the name of their faith?

I was listening to the Michael Medved show this week and he devoted a segment to encouraging moderate Muslims. It got me to thinking about the issue some more, and I've refined some of my thinking on the matter.

Before going further, I'd disclaim that I share a slightly different perspective than someone like Dennis Prager when discussing religions: Prager asserts that it is most appropriate to judge the practitioners of a particular religion, and not the religion itself. While Prager makes a point of not criticizing the particular doctrinal aspects of a religion, I think it is appropriate to begin to shift the conversation in that direction. My blogmate Terry pointed out a post at VFR wherein Auster discusses liberalism, and how it manifests itself even in conservatives; particularly notable to me is the self-censoring that conservatives engage in on a given topic, such as criticizing another faith. Inasmuch as I reject moral relativism, I'm inclined to say that we should begin to make informed (righteous) judgments, yes, even with respect to other faiths. More on that in a bit.

I blogged a while ago on the South Korean missionaries who were taken hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Thankfully, the remaining hostages were all released just the other day, see here for details. At what price their freedom comes, the outside world will never know; let us hope that the deal was not a sell-out for immediate gain at the expense of long-term success against extremism.

Especially in light of the hostage crisis, I've been reflecting on the leadership of Hamid Karzai, and to a lesser degree, that of Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq. These leaders are, in fact, living, breathing, moderate Muslims. Karzai in particular was highly critical of the taking of the Korean hostages as being unjustified. He has also taken a leadership role in trying to settle tribal differences, knowing that it is local leadership that will bring Afghanistan out of the middle ages and thus improve life for all Afghanis.

Now here comes the dilemma. As I readily admit, I am not a Koranic scholar. I have read a few books on the religion and, along with anecdotal evidence, have enough data to conclude that there are fundamental problems with Islam. While this post isn't a critique of the tenets of that faith - and perhaps I may yet provide one someday - suffice it to say that if we begin with a fairly core belief, we're immediately at odds with reason.

Muslims contend that the angel Gabriel visited their prophet through which Allah revealed the Koran to Mohammad; they claim Allah is the same God of the Jews and Christians. The Koran - the supposed word of God - permits violence, slavery and the possession of concubines; and this is a short list of the contradictions between the Koran and the Holy Bible. God is a perfect being and cannot contradict Himself: he cannot be both God and the devil; He cannot be both the Truth and a lie; He cannot be inconsistent. So, of the three monotheistic faiths, two suggest that God is one thing and the third suggests He is something quite different.

An interesting discussion remains to be had - also not the point of this post - about the compatibility of reason with major world religions. Rodney Stark wrote a wonderful book called the Victory of Reason, which I wholeheartedly recommend.

At long last, here is where I have been headed with this post: while we're engaged in a battle for our existence with a large segment of Islam, it is worth noting that there are "moderates" in that faith - something I have not done, in a candid critique of my own rhetoric. While Islamic societies have been closed to outside influences for centuries, we should encourage and be encouraged that there are these people, many in leadership roles, throughout the Muslim world. And we should engage moderates where ever we meet them, in the hopes that the Divine gift of reason may enlighten a dark part of our world.

17 comments:

Terry Morris said...

Mike,

I acknowledge that there are moderates within Islam. These are people who really don't take their religion seriously. And if ever they did take their religion seriously, they'd cease to be moderates, much in the same way that lukewarm Christians would cease to be lukewarm if they'd take their religion seriously. So what's required of moderate Muslims is a conversion. Auster has written a lot on this.

But I'd like to direct your attention to my last comments to one of Auster's articles here.

I'll insert the hyperlink to Auster's article on the unprincipled exception where you mention it within the post.

-TM

Michael Tams said...

TM,

Thanks for the comments.

Probably no surprise to you, but that's exactly what I'd see happening. As moderates shed light on the teachings (and interpretations, as importantly) of that faith, that conversions would happen. A faith that is incompatible with reason (be it communism, global warming, whatever) cannot long last when light is shed on it. Like any belief system that is incompatible with reason, it requires blind adherence and darkness (no questioning) to survive.

Might I probe a little? In your opinion of that faith, is it possible to have moderates who are not lukewarm? I know someone of that faith that I'd consider lukewarm. I don't know anyone personally who fits into the mold of a Karzai or al-Maiki, but these don't appear to be moderates of the lukewarm variety. Does that make sense? Maybe the difference is not that they're lukewarm/weak in their faith, but that somehow they've been... Westernized?

-MT

Terry Morris said...

Mike, you may probe all you like. You know me, I'm pretty thick skinned, and I believe firmly that when we cease to learn, we're dead.

There's an old saying that goes something like this (and I hope I don't mess this up too bad): "It's hard to reason someone out of what they didn't reason themselves into."

I think that holds true pretty much. Someone who blindly follows a faith like Islam (and they must blindly follow that faith because, as you say, it is incompatible with reason) is first not accustomed to reasoning about it, and second, Islam, unlike Christianity, teaches that God is unknowable and cannot be explained by reason or logic or by man's rationality. Of course, you and I see the illogic in this. For if God cannot be explained, then how do Muslims know enough about him to explain that he cannot be explained? Moreover, how do they know enough about him to explain that he can contradict himself, and so on?

When you talk about "Westernized" Muslims, I think you're talking about a very insignificant minority. This raises the question of whether they can be reached in numbers large enough to make a difference. I can't answer that with any degree of certainty. Given enough time I guess virtually anything is doable. But I can hardly see how a permissive society like ours can formulate any kind of reasonable response to Islam and expect Muslims to take it seriously. We need to clean our own house before we go to trying to correct the Muslims.

I want to do a post on this because I've been putting quite a lot of thought to it lately, but in essence I see both liberalism, and Islam collaborating together to accomplish their own ends. And what is so striking about this 'unholy alliance' is that both would destroy the other, yet they work together to destroy the only thing that permits their western existence to begin with. It's crazy.

-Terry

Michael Tams said...

In his book, Mark Steyn wrote a chapter about this (that I wish I had read before posting on this topic). He makes a distinction that I think might be important to highlight - and very similar to something you said early in these comments. He says something along the lines of "there are moderate Muslims, but there is no such thing as moderate Islam." This rings of truth and is problematic to the ideas I was suggesting in my post.

He also points out how remarkably Islamists have adopted the tool of victimization to aid their cause - using the tactics of lberalism against, even, liberals. Some imam commented on how homosexuality was wrong and immoral and unacceptable. A gay rights group immediately came out and requested an investigation into the group he was with and suggested such language was hate speech. The imam countered by saying that the government should investigate the gay rights group for hate speech and charged them with islamophobia.

I'll probably finish the book in the next couple of days and post on it some more. I do see that we've sort of allowed liberalism to de-claw our culture. It'll be a challenge to our culture - as it stands today, diseased with liberalism as it is - to meet the threat of Islam and come out ahead.

God help us.

-MT

Terry Morris said...

"He says something along the lines of "there are moderate Muslims, but there is no such thing as moderate Islam."

Mike,

This is exactly what I was getting at in my original comments to this post. It's been a while since I read Don Richardson's book that I mention in that hyperlink, but that's the tone of the book throughout as he explains how Islam is the extreme exception as compared with other religions in finding a suitable redemptive analogy for Muslims. And this is also what I meant when I said Auster has written a lot on the subject.

I'll say some more on this later. Like I said, I've been putting a lot of thought to this problem lately. And I've been reading a couple of books on the subject, as well as revisiting some things I've read in the past and so forth.

-Terry

Terry Morris said...

Mike, and all,

I want to turn you on to some of Auster's writings on this subject of dealing with Islam. Again, I'm not going to say much about it, I'll just let y'all do your own reading. Of course, my posting the link to this article (which itself links up to other articles on the same subject) would seem to indicate that I endorse his method, which I do. I'll embed the hyperlink within the article title which is: If We Can't Democratize Islam, and We Can't Destroy it, Then What?.

Happy reading.

-Terry

Michael Tams said...

Whoa.

I have to put that up under its own post.

I have mentioned before that while we can't go off invading other countries every couple of years, there's more than one way to change a regime, and it sounds like Auster agrees with that. Great link.

-MT

Terry Morris said...

Yeah, that's a great article isn't it! And yes; I recall your saying things along those lines on numerous occasions.

But look, I think there are some strong similarities between Islam and our own Western liberalism. Where I quoted you in bold in an earlier comment, I think the same may apply as well to liberalism:

"There are moderate liberals, but there is no moderate liberalism."

-TM

Michael Tams said...

Hmm.

A question? Does balanced government - carried to the logical conclusion we've discussed in the past - have the ability to drag liberalism kicking and screaming into the light and lay the holy smack down on it?

You know, I think it might.

-MT

Terry Morris said...

Mike, see my post above. But to answer your question more directly, yes, I think that Balanced Government, as we've discussed it, sort of implies a separationist strategy to deal with the threat of liberalism. This is the train of thought I've been on the last few days.

-Terry

John Savage said...

Did anyone see this post and the discussion following?

Terry Morris said...

John, that's an interesting discussion. Thanks for the heads up.

-Terry

Muslims Against Sharia said...

"Gradually--painfully gradually--people are beginning to see that islam is the enemy. Period."
The above quote is one of the milder examples of how many Westerners view Islam these days. This quote is a part of the comment to the article titled "Why We Cannot Rely on Moderate Muslims." posted on the Gates of Vienna blog. The article talks about radical Muslims in the West claiming to be moderates. It also brings up very interesting points. "[T]he government and media are avid to find moderate Muslims -- and as their desperation has increased, their standards have lowered.", "The situation is complicated by many factors, including, taqiyya and kitman", and "How can we ever trust assurances from self-proclaimed moderate Muslims when deception of non-Muslims is so widespread, and lying to infidels is an accepted and established way of hiding Islamic goals? The answer, with all its difficult implications, is: We can't."

But that's where the Gates of Vienna is wrong. The main problem is that the term 'Moderate Muslim' is poorly defined. There is a clear distinction between a 'Moderate Muslim' and an 'Islamist' and the distinction is in the ultimate goal. An Islamist believes in Islamic Supremacy. Islamist terrorists and their supporters want to achieve it by waging Jihad. Non-violent Islamists want to achieve it by peaceful and democratic means. The means are different, but the goals are the same: Islamic World Domination. Moderate Muslims do not believe in Islamic Supremacy. For someone not very familiar with the subject, the distinction may be subtle. But in reality, it is the most important, because everything that Democracies hold dear is based on this distinction. This is the Koran vs. the Constitution, Islamic State vs. Secular State, and ultimately, Dhimmitude (Subjugation to Islam) vs. Freedom. I cannot stress enough how important this distinction is!

Now, comes an uneasy task of weeding out false moderates. Hopefully, with a clear definition of a 'Moderate Muslim' that task could be a lot easier. Coming back to the title of this post. Muslim community as a whole is not the enemy. Part of it is. A large part. But not all of it. The next time you ask yourself a question "How can we ever trust assurances from self-proclaimed moderate Muslims?" don't trust their assurances; look at their record. No matter how well false-moderate Muslims such as CAIR or MPAC polished their facades, they have a record. Whether it is their support of terrorism or advocating Islamic supremacy, any Islamist group or figure who's been around long enough, at one time or another has shown its/his/her true face. Just because some government official or some talking head declares someone to be a moderate Muslim, it doesn't make it so. There are several counter-terrorism and Islam experts who keep track of Islamists. Most of these experts happen to be non-Muslim, but there is also a list of moderate Muslims who could be used as trusted sources for these inquiries. The list of those prominent Muslims is posted at the upper right corner of our blog. So now, my non-Muslim friends, when you have the tools to identify REAL moderate Muslims, you can no longer use your ignorance as an excuse to declare that Islam is the enemy.

L.A.

Michael Tams said...

L.A.,

Thanks for your comments. I'd like to invite a deeper discussion, if you'd be interested in that.

You can reach me through my e-mail link under my profile.

Thanks.

-MT

Terry Morris said...

Mike, I think a private email conversation is fine and all, but I think it might be productive and fruitful to engage MAS in a conversation on the matter here as well. So I hope it's not considered too presumptuous of me to ask MAS the following question:

Do you subscribe to the Muslim doctrine of the Five Pillars?...

-Terry

Michael Tams said...

TM,

For the record, I never had any follow-up comment from this commentor.

-MT

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