TCS Daily


What Is a Moderate Muslim?

By Stephen Schwartz - January 12, 2006 12:00 AM

As we enter 2006, Islamic radicalism remains no less a challenge to the world than it did four years ago. One of its chief aspects involves how non-Muslims, who typically have little knowledge of Islam, may accurately identify Muslim moderates.

Muslim moderation is defined by attitudes and conduct, not by abstractions or historical precedents, which, as with all religions, may be interpreted to support any ideological position. Observing and analyzing Sunni Muslims by such positive, practical criteria is extremely easy. There are more than a billion Sunnis in the world, and they are not all jihadists or fundamentalists, so telling them apart should not be difficult with a little effort. Identifying moderate Shia Muslims is harder, but one thing may be said immediately: those who follow Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Iraq prove their moderation daily, by their silent but effective support to the U.S.-led liberation coalition.

Moderate Sunni Muslims may be recognized in person by asking a simple question: "what do you think of Wahhabism, the state Islamic sect of Saudi Arabia?" Every Muslim in the world knows about Wahhabism, and knows that it is embodied in al-Qaida. If a Sunni Muslim is asked about Wahhabism and states that it is a controversial, extreme doctrine that causes many problems because of Saudi money, the respondent is probably moderate. Denouncing the Saudis alone is not enough; radicals criticize the Saudi monarchy for insufficiently enforcing Wahhabi beliefs. The root cause of Sunni terror is Wahhabism, not the monarchy.

It seems unnecessary to add that those who try to disclaim a link between Wahhabism and al-Qaida, or who blame al-Qaida on American machinations, cannot be considered moderates. If a Sunni denies that Wahhabism exists by saying "there is only Islam," or tries to cover Wahhabism with an ameliorative term like "Salafism" -- a fraudulent effort to equate Wahhabism with the pioneers of the Islamic faith -- the individual is an extremist. Such a radical will not, under any circumstances, declare his or her opposition to Wahhabism per se. They may even claim that the whole concept was invented by Westerners such as myself.

A parallel example may be cited from the history of Communism. Stalinist Communists would repudiate the charge that they were Communists, calling themselves progressives, liberals, or socialists. They would deny that Communism intended anything malign toward the U.S., portraying America as an aggressor (something Islamists and Stalinists have in common) but nonetheless claiming loyalty to it. They would often argue over whether Stalinism even existed. And they would never denounce Stalin, even though the entire planet knew about the atrocities of the Soviet regime. Neither will Islamist radicals denounce Wahhabism.

Moderate Muslims may also be identified by what they do not do, to contrast them with radicals. And at the top of that list comes the practice of takfir, or declaring Muslims unbelievers over differences of opinion. Takfir also includes describing the ordinary, traditional Muslim majority in the world as having fallen into unbelief.

Takfir is used to justify the radical Sunni massacres of Shia Muslims in Iraq. It underpins the ideology of the Saudi-Wahhabi sect, the extremist Sunni Islamic Brotherhood in Egypt, and the bloodthirsty Sunni jihadist movements in Pakistan. It also serves to bind together Muslim extremists through the illusion that they belong to a purified elite. Islam is not, and never was, a radical or fundamentalist religion in its mainstream practice, regardless of the fantasies of Islamist fanatics and Islamophobes alike.

Moderate Muslims do not engage in takfir. Shias shun takfir, including radical Shias, and Shias fighting against Sunnis who persecute them do not practice takfir against their foes. Enemies of terrorist Wahhabis do not accuse them of unbelief, but of criminality. Traditional Muslims avoid accusations of unbelief, as they were counseled to do by the Prophet Muhammad. The Prophet never anticipated that Muslims would fall into unbelief.

Moderate Muslims, including Shias as well as Sunnis, also do not refer to followers of other religions, especially Jews and Christians, Zoroastrians, Hindus, and Buddhists, as unbelievers. The Koran never refers to Jews and Christians as unbelievers, but as People of the Book, worthy of respect and protection. Moderate Muslims adhere strictly to this outlook.

Moderate Muslims do not employ the rhetoric of jihad, including attempts to split hairs over the meaning of the term. Moderate Muslims seek a place in the contemporary world for Islam to be respected as a faith, not conflicts in which they may gamble on victory with the lives of others. Jihad vocabulary does nothing to advance the cause of Islam; it creates obstacles to it.

This does not mean moderate Muslims do not defend themselves when attacked. They do. But moderate Muslims in Iraq are under attacks from Sunni radicals, just as moderate Muslims were murdered by Serbs in the former Yugoslavia and moderate Muslims in Chechnya are killed by both Russian troops and Wahhabi adventurers. Iraqi Sunni radicals have more in common with Milosevic's fascist bands than with moderate Muslims. Wahhabis in the Caucasus have interests closer to those of Putin than those of ordinary Chechens, in that both seek a pretext for war. And the Iraqi Sunni radicals and other Wahhabis, Putin the neo-Stalinist, and the Serbs all benefit from the same "antiwar" cheering section in the U.S.

Moderate Muslims also do not reject allegiance to non-Muslim governments. According to current interpretations of Shafi'i sharia, a major school of Islamic jurisprudence through history, there are no countries where Muslims are not required to obey local governments, for the security of their communities. Moderate Muslims do not proclaim public loyalty to such governments while privately counseling that Western governments are inferior to Muslim religious decrees. They do not invent civil rights violations as a political means of fighting Western authorities. Moderate Muslims recognize that Muslims have more rights and opportunities for advancement in most Western countries than in most Muslim lands.

Finally, moderate Muslims are not Arabocentric or trapped in the rhetoric of Pakistan and elsewhere in the Indian subcontinent. They recognize that the styles, idioms, and spiritual practices of Islam differ considerably from Mali to Malaysia and from Bosnia to Botswana. Moderate Muslims accept that such diversity should also exist among Muslims in the West; that there can and will be an Islam that is fully American in its culture, as Bosnians and Indonesians reflect the customs and cultures of their lands.

How do moderate Muslims deal with radicals?

Moderate Muslims admit there is a problem in the body of the religion -- not in the principles and traditions of the faith, but among the believers themselves. They recognize that radical ideology and terrorism threaten the future of Islam and must be stopped.

Moderate Muslims do not limit their struggle against extremism to perfunctory statements stating that terror is incompatible with the religion. Rather, moderate Muslims publicly identify, denounce, and combat radicals.

Is the Islamic establishment in the U.S. -- the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), and the Muslim Students Association of the U.S. and Canada (MSA) -- moderate? No, it is not. Not one of these three groups has ever identified or criticized a Muslim radical in the U.S., except to slander authentic moderates by trying to portray them as extremists. To cite a few notable examples: the aforementioned organizations, which I have called "the Wahhabi lobby,"

  • accused the moderate author Khalid Duran of being a non-Muslim because they disagreed with an opinion he held (takfir);

  • labeled the Sufi spiritual shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani a dangerous sectarian because he warned at the end of the 1990s that Islamist extremists in Russia were attempting to purchase nuclear materials;

  • accused me of "jihadism" because I defended the Kosovar Albanians. In reality, I insisted on recognition that the Albanians are multireligious and that the Kosovo war was ethnic, not religious.

Meanwhile, however, the Wahhabi lobby has stood by every accused radical to appear before an American court, paying for their lawyers and inventing excuses for their transgressions.

Moderate Muslims do not come up with bogus fatwas and other gimmicks to try to befog the Western public. Nor do they suddenly remake themselves as Sufis to purge the record of their previous radical statements. Moderate Muslims know that the foundational texts, commentaries, and legal, philosophical and theosophical works of the religion suffice as a bulwark against extremism; that is why today's extremism is a new and radical, not a traditional or conservative, phenomenon. They also know that for a person to be called a Sufi, authentic spiritual study, based on meaningful traditions and precedents, must be the basis of his or her religious activity, not a search for instant credibility.

Finally, some moderate Muslims may seek to "reform" Islam, but moderates are not required to be "reformers." Many who today proclaim their desire to "reform" Islam are not moderate at all in their manners and mental equipment; some are simply publicity seekers who think that by talking about "Islamic reformation" they will gain access to the non-Muslim public. Others are obsessed egomaniacs who consider arguing over an 800-year old text to be more important than defeating terrorist conspiracies. But Ibn abd al-Wahhab, founder of the eponymous sect 250 years ago, is proclaimed a reformer, and Saudi Wahhabis assert they have reformed Islam. Opportunism and sectarianism are ever the twin obstacles to the success of moderates who seek real improvement in society and especially, today, its interreligious relations.

Moderate Muslims concentrate on devotion to their religion, not on politics or public relations, and always recall that the Prophet called for his umma to be a community of moderation.

Stephen Schwartz is the author of The Two Faces of Islam.
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37 Comments

Dar al Islam vs. Dar al Harb
Schwartz has yet to convince me that there is not something at the core of Islam which condones if not promotes violence against unbelievers. Islam means "submission" and most Muslims believe that the rest of the world must submit to Islam before there will peace.

On balance Muslim nations are backward politically, economically and culturally. Indonesia, Bosnia, Palestine, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iran and Algeria represent a broad cross-section of races and cultures. Islam--along with oppression, stagnation and poverty--binds them together.

I'm sorry, but there is nothing in this article that counters the growing belief in many people that Islam is a net negative in the world.

to TheSmoov
So, what are you going to do about it? Wipe out all Muslims, like the Serbs tried to do in the Balkans and like Russians would like to do in the Caucasus? (Although, of course for Russia's leadership it's not Islam that is bad but people who have a distinct ethnic identity and who don't submit to the Kremlin's ideology of Eurasian empire. So they wipe out moderate Muslims and instead promote the new, Palestine-centered, anti-Western, anti-Semitic-conspiratorial kind of pseudo-Islam, well represented by the Kremlin's official Islamist, Talgut Tadjuddin.)

You find inherent evil in Islam about as much as you find it in any religion: most of the holy books of world religions contain calls for violence against infidels at some points, and all kinds of intolerance and promotion of the idea that this is the only true religion - others should convert. Lo, we are the nation selected by God.

Muslims didn't start any of the conflicts in the Balkans or the Caucasus - those did, who wanted to spread hatred against Muslims. With the same logic you implicitly use, any Islamist can ask what's wrong with the Christians, since it's obvious they are the most belligerent religion of all. After all, there must be "something"...

Or try having some time perspective. What about the lands of Christendom compared with Dar al-Islam in Medieval times? What a barbarian lot there was on the northern side of the Mediterranean, and how much more intolerant and fundamentalist the Catholics were compared with the Ottoman Empire they so much sought to distroy (and still continue the campaigning against modern secular Turkey).

Also with your logic, the Christian South Sudanese "rebels" (if resisting aggressive colonization is rebellion) must be pretty inferior to the Arab white masters in Khartoum, since the South is so poor and underdeveloped.

moderate vs radical
I like most parts of this article. There are some details I don't agree with. I tried to test the (rhetoric?) suggestions of how to identify a "moderate" on myself and found out that in some aspects I must be an extremist.

First of all, I would react in many points with the kind of "haircutting" and explanatory questioning that Mr Schwartz seems to hate. I fully understand your fervent campaign against the Wahhabi sect. I don't like them either. However, as a supporter of religious freedom and freedom of choice of one's faith (since faith is a present from God while religion is man-made, as a good sheikh might tell), I choose to tolerate anyone who for his or her own reasons believes in a different set of religious values than myself. I have nothing against fundamentalists who live in their village, have long beards and veils, and live their pious lives. I very much respect such people - more, to be honest deep inside, than libertine hedonistic urban dwellers. It makes not much difference if these pious fundamentalists are Muslims or Christians, or if they live in Waziristan or in Texas. Of course they should not prevent one of their young men or indeed women from leaving the village and moving into a sinful city if the individual disagrees with the puritan life back home. But this is a matter of family ethics and civil law, having nothing to do with the war against terrorism.

You say yourself how we should distinguish between conservatives and radicals, but sometimes it seems you fail to follow your own advice. Not all "Wahhabis" are fanatical murderers even though they may be intolerant and stubborn rednecks who don't like new age Sufists, Jews, homosexuals, emancipated women, aliens and other sorts of anomalies. (This is irony.)

On the other hand, as you almost recognize but yet not quite, the dangerous ones are not of the profile people generally attach to them. They are not poor, uneducated, rural people, and definitely not from conservative backgrounds. Only a tiny handfull of them (and often only in Southeast Asia) have ever been to a madrasa. Most of the terrorists are well educated, Westernized, urban young men - in all respects individuals we would think about as the "winners", competent and skillful, well experienced, widely travelled, fluent in several languages, usually with technical or university background.

Their willing financers (those who know where their money is going - unlike many ordinary people who give their little sums to mosques or to support "humanitarian" work in Palestine or Kashmir - are not ignorant conservative Saudis, but spoiled, Westernized rich guys, who may spend their holidays in a brothel off the border or gambling in a Lebanese casino.

If we employ your method, we end up distinguishing a typical Islamic redneck, not necessarily a dangerous one in any way, but we fail to identify the real enemy. Comparing them with Stalinists is very good. The mindset is essentially same: very modern kind of totalitarian politicization and dismissal of the "liberal democratic" world order and its vanguards, the imagined Zionist American conspirators whose hands and "snakes" lurk behind every problem we encounter.

You find some of these people in the Muslim countries, yes, but how comes that a hugely bigger proportion of such people is to be found in the Muslim communities of the West? And even among non-Muslims? I think it has something to do with these people lacking deep roots in Islamic or any other traditional identity. If you have another kind of purpose for your life, you don't need a totalitarian ideology to fix your identity problem.

What you say about takfir is correct and important. But speaking about the "other religions" I would elaborate a bit. A fanatic would stick in tawhid (monotheism) and claim the reason why representatives of other religions - as well as Shias, Sufis and so many others - are blaimed of heresy is that they are guilty to polytheism in adopting other things that the accuser thinks are objects of worship, such as Jesus, an admirable sheikh or a shrine dedicated to one of the faith's heroes like Ali or Hussein.

The reason why any Wahhabi would refuse to call himself Wahhabi is that Ibn Abd al-Wahhab was a person, and devoting "worship" to him would risk the lethal sin of polytheism. I know - this is the "extremist" mind, but let's just try to understand that also many non-violent people believe in this way and you cannot just go and say hey this is wrong, because that only means you lose the ears of several million potential listeners who might otherwise be the badly needed spiritual buffer against takfiri jihadism. Of course the blasphemy in the jihadists' claim that they are "Salafis" should be revealed. Question is only how to do it and get the message through.

Finally, about jihad. I prefer to "cut hairs", since jihad really doesn't mean what every Westerner thinks it means, just because the word is only known to Western public through a marginal use of the notion, which for most of the average "moderate" Muslims has a positive connotation, just like words such as "struggle" or "endeavor" have in English. Not very seldom you hear Christians using expressions like "a crusade against terror" without really indicating fanatic extremist nature of the speaker.

Even when we speak about armed jihad, we should be a bit more understanding. I have nothing against good old jihad. Not only the secular Kosovar Albanians and their bit more religious brethren in Bosnia and Chechnya have the full right to defend their homes and lives against aggressors - armed, if necessary - but I also see nothing wrong in the jihad that the Afghans waged against Soviet invaders.

No doubt the Muslim Brotherhood is radical, but it's far from the worst of its kind. Remember Sheikh Abdullah Azzam, who originally founded Maktab al-Khidamat in Peshawar? It was a jihad agency - a defensive one. When Azzam wrote that "in every era there must be individuals who dedicate their lives to defending Muslims" he really meant "defending". When he wanted to support the legitimate Afghan jihad against the Soviets, and supply Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Sufi, with weapons, the internal marginal opposition within the jihadi movement - headed by Ayman al-Zawahiri and his loyal listener, Osama bin Laden - those guys blew up (in autumn 1989) Azzam and his two sons with a car bomb in Peshawar. Only after this they could capture the movement and redirect it against the West, renaming it as al-Qa'ida.

Our worst enemy is very similar to the Stalinists. They were the Bolsheviks inside the jihadi movement. Maybe you don't love the Mensheviks either, but you have to distinguish between various scales of grey, or otherwise your fight will be not very successful. There are things that are much worse than others. And there are things a state (or world police) must intervene and others they shouldn't or otherwise they will make things worse like Putin's henchmen have done in places like Nalchik.

What is a moderate muslim
The problem with identifying a moderate muslim is that what ever that definition might be--the true issue is the Koran, itself, which provides full and detailed justification for anything that Islam decides to do. Unless or until Islam allows what we in the West call "higher criticism" to examine and consider objectively the dictates of the Koran--there can no peace in the world. Islam is far too belligerent, brutal, paranoid, and unreflective to refrain from the path it has followed for 1400 years.


Peter G Jones Carmel, IN 46033

This is a long and misleading answer
The moderate is a Muslim who only kills Jews.

This was Mohamad's practice.
Or preferance I should say.
Not that they do not kill other mon Muslims, just that they prefere Jews.
I know that because I have read his book.

From day one, Mohamad did not Islamize.

His aproach was convert or die.

Every true Muslim folows that today.

Saudi Arabia is the best example.
Possess a bible.
Die.
Open your mouth, die.

That is the true love and respect of Islam.

Responding to a bigot
How much time have you spent in Bosnia or Indonesia? I lived in Bosnia. I just came back from Indonesia. Indonesia is an Asian tiger with a booming economy.

Talking about "Indonesia, Bosnia, Palestine, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iran and Algeria" as reprsentative of the Muslim world is like talking about the U.S. as represented by Texas, Louisiana, Guam, Arkansas, Alabama, Massachusetts, and California as representing the whole U.S.

Iran is not a country of stagnation and poverty at this point.

The "dar ul-harb" vs. "dar ul-Islam" trope is a myth believed in by ignorant Westerners. Shafi'i Islamic jurisprudence holds that there is no such division today. Hanafi jurisprudence holds that there is a third category, the "dar ul-sulh," or world of contract, in which Islam has rights but is not the dominant religion.

Go back and hide in your hole.

What possible authority...
does Peter G Jones of Carmel, Indiana, have to expatiate on Qur'an? Qur'an has been the subject of interpretation and argument throughout the history of Islam. Critic, criticize thyself.

Don't try driving a car...
when you don't have the mental equipment to walk upright.

Here We Go Again .. with another chiding of infidels.
When leftists want to "explain" the recurrent death and misery inherently associated with socialism, they inevitably resort to chiding critics as benighted or hypercritical. They then explain all previous implementations as defective. Never once do they consider that somehow THE SYSTEM they espouse as intrinisically disordered and the results it invariably produces as inevitable because of that philosophy' internal philosophical disorder.

So here we get an example of a muslim apologist trying to guide us in spite of our own ignorance. Notice the typical implicit, condescending Schwartzian sleight of hand- you don't understand Islam, but he of course understands Christianity, Judaism and every other faith and creed well enough to be our guide, so that once we wade through the thickets and thorns, we'll appreciate the sweet rose of the "scourge of God"

I've read enough of the Koran (Q'uran, whatever the spelling of the moment is) to find massive philosophical contradictions in its pages. At one point, it forbids "compulsion in religion" and honors other "people of the book" in later parts, it countenances ambush and compulsion and punative taxation. Yet somehow I'm supposed to believe this collection of contradictions is divinely ordered? If I were a Muslim, I could see passeage after passages justifying the actions of any of the now far too well-known terrorists.

Personally, I pity those born under the rule of the crescent. The ancestors of many of those peoples gave us great gifts in Math, literature and other fields. Since they adopted the ways of the prophet, scholarly advances are gone. Why is that. Of eightysomething conflicts in the world, all but a few involve Muslims not playing well with others. Where are the great advances in Mathematics, Medicine or even human charity. I guess its hard to adjust a microscope with a sword in your hand.

Thank you Mr. Schwartz, but I (we) understand Islam well enough to know its an aggressive martial philosophy masquerading as faith, its dangerous and that trying to retrofit democratic structures on an inherently oppressive way of life only give it the appearance of decency.

Since Rabbbis and Nuns don't fly planes into buildings, tie bombs on themselves and sneak into weddings, or bomb buses, trains or department stores, or plot to detonate a nuclear bomb at lunch, let me deal with the infidels anyday.

What I really want to know about Islam is how can the civilized world rid itself of it, permanently. No amount of petromoney can wash the spiritual and intellectual want from Saudi Arabia, we all know that absent the West, the "princes" would be still fighting over camels and concubines and justifying ever act with a specious "god willing".

Unfortunately, I fear the answer is we can't-its already metastacized. In the interest of expediency, our government embraces the lie of the "great religion of peace".

May we never forget how lucky we were on September 11. 1683, that is.





And therein lies the problem...
Qur'an has been the subject of interpretation and argument throughout the history of Islam..

Since nobody seems to be able to figure it out, Peter G Jones of Carmel, Indiana can offer an opinion as good as any other. If his name was Saleem and he was sympathetic, I'm sure you'd have no problem with his "authority" to "expiate".

Responding to a Bigot
The "dar ul-harb" vs. "dar ul-Islam" trope is a myth believed in by ignorant Westerners.

Oh come now, surely you say "ignorant westerners" when you know all Westerners are ignorant. Say what you mean. I'll admit its true, we aren't as knowledgrable at terrorism, bombmaking, honor killings, oh well.

Have you considered going back to Indonesia permanently?

Don't let the door hit you on the backside on the way out and don't complain about the indignities of airport security.

Don't try driving a car...
If you are a woman in Saudi Arabia.

How impressive...
too cowardly to sign your own name to this blather. Are you really under the impression that algebra was invented before the coming of Islam? It's an Arabic word. So is algorithm, which is named after the Muslim scientist al-Khwarezmi.

Nobody among the 9/11 terrorists was an imam. Several ultras in Israel who have committed terrorist acts were self-proclaimed rabbis, a terrible shame, may their names be erased, and several Christian terrorists in Northern Ireland and right here in the good old USA are self-proclaimed and even learned ministers of the gospel. Ever hear of that fine, tolerant man of God, Ian Paisley?

Where?
most of the holy books of world religions contain calls for violence against infidels at some points

Where, what books and what passages? I can recall numerous accounts of warfare in the Jewish testaments that are part of the Christian Bible, but no invocations to violence and all I read from the accounts of Christ are "love thy neighbor", "turn the other cheek", forgive one another, pray, etc. There are many people who use their religion as an excuse to do volence but what other book tells people to "slay themm where they lay" among other gems.

Back up your charge with specifics, instead of relativistic but vaccuous charges.

Travel plans
Have you considered checking into a mental hospital permanently?

Superheater
isn't that something you use to consume drugs? Plenty of people can figure out Qur'an -- except for a few mysterious passages. You think Bernard Lewis or Paul Wolfowitz are stupid?

Idiocy from idiots
I have done more to publicize the injustices imposed on Saudi women than you will ever imagine. Go back to your ZZ Top records.

You get impressed too easily
Name calling doesn't impress me.

"too cowardly to sign your own name to this blather."
Was that an insult or a veiled threat?

But back on subject... I wonder if the person who told President Bush that "Islam is a religion of peace." is still employed?

Hilarious
It's funny the way you abusive loudmouths are so quick to claim you are being threatened. What kind of threat could I make via a comment on a website?

You're still too cowardly to sign your real name.

Yeah, the guy that told Bush that is still employed. His name is Wolfowitz and he is now the head of the World Bank. He was supported by Bill Kristol who is still employed as editor of THE WEEKLY STANDARD and Bernard Lewis who is still an emeritus professor at Princeton.

And what do you do for a living, test Kleenex?

Agreement
I have always defended the Afghan resistance to the Russians. I agree with you that the problem of radicalism is much worse in the U.S. and UK than in Muslim countries, where unknown to most Westerners, a real conflict between moderates and radicals is taking place. In the U.S. and UK radicalism dominates.

I also agree that the typical Muslim radical is an educated, even prosperous person, for several reasons. One is that poor and desperate people are too busy surviving. The other is that all forms of radicalism represent rising expectations. When the rising middle class sees a clear path open it goes in a liberal direction; when it sees its way blocked it goes in a fascist direction. The blockage of the Egyptian and Pakistani entrepreneurial class is the source of radicalism there. And in Saudi radicalism is in decline because it is a radicalism at the end of its historic era.

While Egyptian and Pakistani radicals struggle sgainst a lack of entrepreneurial opportunities, without knowing or admitting it, Saudi radicals fear the collapse of the system that has benefited them. Either way, both represent rising or privileged classes that feel themselves to be threatened or marginalized.

To me the Wahhabis are Stalinists, the Saudi royals accepting the need for change are the Khrushchevites, and the Sufis are the Mensheviks.

We don't watch these guys closely enough...
As it turns out I am indirectly involved in tracking undesirables in the airline industry.

Some times I feel that maybe we are getting a little heavy-handed, but then along comes someone like " karastjepan" to remind me why we need to keep a sharp eye on these SOBs.

"karastjepan" - what ARE you here anyway?

Wipe out all the Muslims?
"So, what are you going to do about it? Wipe out all Muslims, like the Serbs tried to do in the Balkans and like Russians would like to do in the Caucasus?"

Well I should certainly hope not! However that is more up to Muslims than it is to us. I know for exampe that Israel can take out approximately 250 cities within a 1,500 mile radius. If they have to go down to Iranian nukes they will take a lot of the Arab world down with them.

Read Richard Fernandez "The Three Conjectures" which deals with such awful, horrific possibilities: http://belmontclub.blogspot.com/2003/09/three-conjectures-pew-poll-finds-40-of.html

I think Muslims should understand that America was prepared to annihilate much of the population of Russia. Thank God it never came to that, but we would have done it had the Russians attacked us.

and we would be dead also
If there had been thermonuclear war between the West and the USSR we too would be horrifically damaged. If the conflict with Muslims gets to that point (I don't believe it will) then it would be much more one sided in terms of lives lost, although Western civilization would be all but lost in the process.

The Gospel according to Schwartz
Being as fluent in Greek as Arabic, Mr.Schwartz seems unaware that Diophantine equations, the Pythagoran Theorem and all that antecede islam by a millennium. However , now that he has found an Albanian publisher , perhaps there is hope that TCS readers will be spared the overflow from his pen to the cutting room floor ofthe Weekly Standard, as he diverts his literary energy into the braod channel of Sqip.

I will glady forward the efforts of readers attempting clerihews on 'Karstjepan' to the Pseuds Corner editor of Private Eye, which offers a tenner for sucessful submissions.

You make good points but…
I liked reading your posts on this subject. I am not a Muslim, but I have read the Koran (Q'uran if you perfer). Unfortunately it loses something in translation to english, or so my Islamic brothers say. I believe them. But it isn' t the actualy words where they translation is lost, it is the inflection and knowledge of the multiple use words that don't translate. I found most of the Koran to be tolerant and insightful, but there are destrubing passaages and, as with the Catholics, many professed believers use that as an excuse to do whatever they want.
I don't believe that the problem is with the Koran, it is with the fact that the societies where it is most practiced, and therefore the religion itself, has not matured. Look at what Christians were doing in the name of God less than 600 years ago and I think you will find a very uncomfortable similarity.
The problem is that this type of maturing process is simply not acceptable in the modern world. Life and living conditions were much different, and difficult, everywhere on earth just 100 years ago. Everything has change at a constantly accelerating pace and in the present global society that makes Islam an enemy to many. Though I disagree with that philosophy, sadly I understand it.

Have you?
Have you considered checking into a mental hospital permanently?

No, but I suggest you consider it.

Its your assertion, not mine that the book is so difficult to understand
The devil is always in the details, but can you try to keep on the discussion? Your assertion was that the Q'r'an has been debated for centuries and that Peter G Jones of Carmel, Indiana was not a likely candidate for properly conducting exigesis. What drugs, Wolfowitz or Lewis have to do with this thread is beyond me. Irrelevance isn't clever.

BFD...
I have done more to publicize the injustices imposed on Saudi women than you will ever imagine. Go back to your ZZ Top records.

BFD.. lets see you STOP the injustices. Better yet, publicize it in the Kingdom, if your really want to show your valor. We're free to say anything here, but we need the black liquid to much to have our government tell, let alone confront the "kingdom" to address its most pressing need to pound its most copious asset-sand.

No Subject
What non-muslims conceive of as "good" and "evil" are both represented in the koran. As the koran is the words of allah and sacred, the believers can pick and choose their actions according to the situation. A moderate muslim can be practicing his faith according to the "good" parts of the koran and the sunnah, but at any moment, he can change his behavior to follw the "evil" parts, "kill the unbelievers where you find them" "do not take Jews and Christians for your friends," etc. In other words, the koran represents a dual ethic which is not seen as contradictory.

Moderate islam is an imprecise, deceptive term. Islam is by its own definition a fundamentalist system or way of life that includes politics(war and law), religion and social customs(how to bathe, have sex, eat, drink, etc.) and if a believer tries to leave or deviates from the ideology, they become apostates and can be killed. I think Mr Schwartz is practing taqiyya(if you don't know this word, please google it as all non-muslims should understand it and its implications for national security). Or he is an intellectual lightweight who hasn't read his own religion's sacred texts.

Dual Ethics
sorry, I didn't give my comment a title and posted it in the wrong place. And I bet JonathanSwift that the person is still on staff. My comment:

What non-muslims conceive of as "good" and "evil" are both represented in the koran. As the koran is the words of allah and sacred, the believers can pick and choose their actions according to the situation. A moderate muslim can be practicing his faith according to the "good" parts of the koran and the sunnah, but at any moment, he can change his behavior to follw the "evil" parts, "kill the unbelievers where you find them" "do not take Jews and Christians for your friends," etc. In other words, the koran represents a dual ethic which is not seen as contradictory.

Moderate islam is an imprecise, deceptive term. Islam is by its own definition a fundamentalist system or way of life that includes politics(war and law), religion and social customs(how to bathe, have sex, eat, drink, etc.) and if a believer tries to leave or deviates from the ideology, they become apostates and can be killed. I think Mr Schwartz is practing taqiyya(if you don't know this word, please google it as all non-muslims should understand it and its implications for national security). Or he is an intellectual lightweight who hasn't read his own religion's sacred texts.

One question for moderate muslims
I have only one question for moderate muslims:

Was Mohammed's killing of the Jews of Yathrib in the 7th century a morally right act, or was it morally wrong?

How many moderate Muslims are there in the world?
A question for the author: What percentage of today's Muslims are "moderate" by your definition? And a related question: How many Muslims are there?

I'm not looking for anything precise -- within 20 percentage points would be fine.

Obviously, I'm trying to comprehend what we're up against here in terms of the number of extremist Muslims out there that want to murder me, my family, and my countrymen.

on moderate Muslims and bigotry in this forum
First an answer to "nwcnwc": There was an extensive study made to answer this question by the CIA, and it has been recently declassified. However, I am not yet sure if the author wants to be named, so look for it through your own channels. The result suggested that about 2 per cent of the world's Muslim population are "extremists" in the potentially dangerous sense. Even if this is a tiny proportion of the Muslims, it is numerically a lot of people, who are, moreover, shattered across the globe, so that not a single genocide will rid you of them (answer to another author on this forum).

You could approach the problem by trying to estimate what is the proportion of the supporters of fascist and communist ideologies in the West. Luckily most Western countries are real or nominal democracies and so you can refer to, for example, some election results. Look at France, Serbia or Russia and you find out something truly frightening.

Now, in this forum, a great amount of the postings seem to be based on the insistence that "there's something wrong in Islam itself", or at least "Muslim communities / culture is inferior". I don't agree with these claims, but at least I understand the basic assumptions they are based on.

However, there you have the basic problem of religious extremism in work: If you keep on insisting that the problem can only be solved by ridding the world of either Islam (as a religion) or all Muslims (as individuals), there is nothing short of genocide to satisfy your thirst of blood. Believe me, I see a lot of this mentality around me both in the West and in the Muslim majority countries. People are simplistic, and although most of them can be educated, it will always be so much easier to many to follow all kinds of bigots, fundamentalists and other kinds of political populists.

So, all those arguments are irrelevant, until you start making some practical strategic suggestions that could be employed in a civilized strategic behavior. If you really mean it "The Smoov" when you say you don't wish to obliterate all Muslims, you should start thinking about what to do - like thousands of intellectuals do around the Muslim world - instead of continuing to advocate "a clash of civilization". (Btw, Professor Huntington is among those Western scholars radical Islamists very much like to read, along with Che Guevara.)

Christian bigots continue to yell around that first "Muslims must start recognizing the problems in their own philosophy". Well, have you ever tried to read the columns of any Middle Eastern or Pakistani newspapers? The bashing of their own "system" there is worse than in American liberal press.

However, if you keep on demanding that someone from Carmel, Indiana or whatever it was should rewrite the Koran to better suit your contemporary values, you will force even the most "moderate" of nominal Muslims to get fortified in a defensive position.

Of course Mr Karastjepan ("Black Stephen", an obvious pseudonym for Stephen Schwartz, i.e. Stephen Black) knows exactly what he does when resorting to same kind of writing style as his critics, but in his actual articles he is actually doing something important, and in my lengthy response which somehow lost my name-tag I rather intended to offer him some advice how to avoid losing potential ears. I suppose the Islam bashers of the forum are not even interested in getting one outside of their own political-religious circles.

What I find funny
It's funny how Christians pull out the old or the bad stuff in the old testment and we don't use it when it suits them but are quite keen on it when it suits them.

Matthew (10:34-36)
10:34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
10:35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
10:36 And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.
10:37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
10:38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.
10:39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.

Superheater I think needs to have a read of the history books to find out how various christians have used this passage.

In the end Steve on hiding to nothing here as the Christian neocon has more in common with the Islamic nocon. And both can't see past their own noses.

Re: Here We Go Again .. with another chiding of infidels
Hopefully all readers of Schwartz's piece can agree that the attacks listed at http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/
were not committed by moderate muslims.

I like the authors definition but Id be more confident if. . .
I like the author's definition of what constitutes a moderate muslim but I'd be more confident that it matters if someone could cite a list of Muslim majority countries where the numbers of Jews and Christians have not been dramatically falling because of persecution.

Another confidence builder would be some sign that the world's moderate Muslims think there is something peculiar about the the open proclamation of death penalties on folks who "insult" Islam by so called religious leaders.

People
I'm from Finland, have lived in the US for a long time (but not anymore) and was just watching Syrians attacking the Danish and Norwegian embassies over the cartoons.

The thing that frustrates me most is that I feel like I have no channel through which to talk with Muslims. Any. At all. And if I, who am going out of my way to try to meet with "the other side" am having no luck, then I can only see both sides, in their isolation, misunderstanding each other more and more. I've found this discussion on this forum very interesting with lots of new points, but it's sad that it has to degenerate into "go home durn foreigner/shut up redneck". It seems like karastjepan, for example, has a very interesting background, having actually lived in these places that are so casually referred to, and I'd like to hear more of what he thinks, because he is making clear, calm, reasoned arguments sincerely.

I think Iraq hasn't been going so well for the US because there wasn't all that much time spent on educating the troops on local culture. It's high time everyone begins to realize that as we get increasingly global, from-the-source information about another culture is worth its weight in gold. Multinational corporations realize this. Why don't governments/armies/the rest of us?

In regards to the cartoons: I don't see Islam as inherently more violent at its root than Christianity is. I find fundamentalism of any kind consistently suspect, and the real root of belief-based violence. And I mean secular fundamentalism as well. So here's my question (which is why I went out to the internet in the first place):

The news shows Muslims furious about the cartoon with Muhammed with a bomb-shaped turban, saying that it is a bigoted assumption that Islam is a violent religion. In response to this, Muslims send death threats and destroy embassies. What the hell is going on? By responding like this, it reinforces and practically proves the assumption. "We're not violent but we'll kill you for saying so"? Every time non-Muslims hear of a death threat made against someone who insulted Islam, assumptions get worse. If I were a moderate Muslim, this would really **** me off. I bet it also results in an increase in individual attacks on Muslims in general around the world. Why the feedback loop?

And why the outrage at this in particular? The internet is full of much, much worse, including every religion/shape/creed/preference equally in one vast vat of satire and slime.

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