Today's Perpetual Snipe Hunt: The Search For "Moderate Muslims"
March 23, 2016, 09:22 PM
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In our time there's probably no holier grail than "moderate Islam" together with its corresponding adherents, "moderate Muslims."  That's because, in the West's—more generally, in civilization's—ongoing existential confrontation with the religion of perpetual outrage, "Radical Islam is the problem, moderate Islam is the solution," according to those such as prominent scholar of Islam Daniel Pipes.

But does "moderate Islam" even exist?  Back in 2005, the late Lawrence Auster did his usual deep and exhaustive unpacking of the concept (The Search for Moderate Islamhere and here) as found in Pipes's writings and showed definitively that Pipes was simply engaged in wishful thinking: i.e. "Moderate Islam" needs to exist and, therefore, does exist because it would be too terrible for the world if it doesn't.

National Review's Andrew McCarthy, educated initially about Islam by being lead U.S. Attorney prosecuting the Blind Sheikh for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, shares Auster's well-informed doubt and regularly reviews the absence of evidence that "moderate Islam" exists.  In January, for example, while debunking the Pipes-like fantasies of another writer (Cheryl Bernard), McCarthy wrote:

As is the wont of Islam’s Western apologists, Bernard is attempting to shield from examination what most needs examining. Her reliance on the potential of “moderate Islam” to quell “radical Islam” is entirely premised on the conceit that Islam is, in fact, moderate and peaceful. Her assumption that the vast majority of Muslims can be won over (indeed, have already been won over, she seems to say) to Western values is premised on the conceit that those values are universal and, hence, locatable in the core of Islam — such that “tolerance and interfaith cooperation should prevail” because Islam is all for them.

Islam, however, is not a religion of peace. It is a religion of conquest that was spread by the sword. Moreover, it is not only untrue that jihad refers “mainly” to the individual’s internal struggle to live morally; it is also untrue that the Islamic ideal of the moral life is indistinguishable from the Western conception.

To be clear, this is not to say that Islam could not conceivably become peaceful. Nor is it to say that jihad could not be reinterpreted such that a decisive majority of Muslims would accept that its actual primary meaning — namely, holy war to establish Islam’s dominance — has been superseded by the quest for personal betterment. To pull that off, though, will require a huge fight. It cannot be done by inhabiting an alternative universe where it has already been done.

[The Problem with Islam Is Aggressive Scripture, Not Aggressive ‘Traditionalism’, January 16, 2016; emphases in original]

McCarthy leaves open a possibility that Auster generally didn't, that Islam could, conceivably, evolve in a bearable way.  It's only a dim possibility, though, and it's entirely out of our hands.

On this subject, Auster proceeded and McCarthy proceeds by careful examination of texts, both the texts of Islam itself and the hopeful writings of non-Muslims.  But I'm an experimental physicist, so I was intrigued to see last November that Takimag writer David Cole had done a clever real-world test for the existence of "moderate Muslims"—and come up empty-handed, as he described it more than a decade later:

After 9/11, I was waiting, hoping for some Muslim of note to publicly state that the dirty looks and suspicious glances from non-Muslims were justified, and that Muslims should stop playing the victim card. Finally, two weeks after 9/11, a Muslim-American named Marlon Mohammed spoke up in the op-ed section of the L.A. Times in a piece titled “U.S. Muslims Should Tolerate the Stares.” It was a blunt, straightforward concession, exactly what I’d hoped to hear:

We know for a fact that Osama bin Laden publishes a handbook on how his terrorists can “blend in” by pretending to be average Muslim immigrants. They’re instructed on how to make friends, talk sports, get work, all in the name of fooling the community into thinking they’re someone they’re not…. I don’t begrudge non-Muslims their suspicions right now. How can they tell if that friendly Muslim sitting next to them on the plane is for real or not? Yes, suspicious gazes can cause hurt feelings, but American Muslims should temper their anger with the understanding that hurt feelings mend, but the thousands of lives lost in the Sept. 11 attacks are gone for good.

Marlon’s sober assessment resonated with many people. His piece was reposted on hundreds of websites and online forums. Marlon’s words of wisdom were even immortalized in the 2006 book Of Thee I Speak: A Collection of Patriotic Quotes, Essays, and Speeches, alongside quotes from Abraham Lincoln, John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Dwight Eisenhower, and Albert Einstein.

How refreshing to hear a Muslim eschew claims of victimhood in favor of a blunt admission that Muslims should buck up and put the blame where it belongs—not on “mean” non-Muslims, but on the murderous fanatics in their own flock. Well, it would have been refreshing, had a Muslim actually written it. I suppose it’s high time to admit that the author was yours truly. Marlon Mohammed was a crackhead I went to high school with in the early ’80s. He robbed me blind and died in a ditch several years later. I figured he owed me, so I used his name to write a piece that I knew the Times would never accept from a non-Muslim (in those days, I was a semi-regular contributor to the Times, so I knew the editors’ rules quite well). My goal was to break the ice, so to speak. Perhaps American Muslims were just waiting for one of their own to say what needed to be said. Maybe a piece in the Times would open the floodgates, at least a little.

“Marlon’s” op-ed was so popular, the Times ran another one in April ’02. However, if my objective had been to make it easier for Muslims to express self-criticism, I failed. The innumerable “fan” emails the Times forwarded to me (and the one it published in the paper) were all from non-Muslims thanking “Marlon” for speaking common sense. None were from Muslims thanking him for articulating their views.

If there is a “silent majority” of Muslims who reject self-pity in favor of self-examination, they stayed pretty damn silent after my op-ed.

[Let the Bastards Be Scared, November 19, 2015; links and emphases in original]

Quod erat demonstrandum [q.e.d.].