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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Who is an Islam-hater?

Ralph Peters, whom I generally like, wrote an op-ed last week accusing some unnamed people in America of being "Islam-haters."
The most repugnant trend in the American shouting match that passes for a debate on the struggle with Islamist terrorism isn't the irresponsible nonsense on the left - destructive though that is. The really ugly "domestic insurgency" is among right-wing extremists bent on discrediting honorable conservatism.

How? By insisting that Islam can never reform, that the violent conquest and subjugation of unbelievers is the faith's primary agenda - and, when you read between the lines, that all Muslims are evil and subhuman.

I've received no end of e-mails and letters seeking to "enlighten" me about the insidious nature of Islam. Convinced that I'm naive because I defend American Muslims and refuse to "see" that Islam is 100 percent evil, the writers warn that I'm a foolish "dhimmi," blind to the conspiratorial nature of Islam.

Web sites list no end of extracts from historical documents and Islamic jurisprudence "proving" that holy war against Christians and Jews is the alpha and omega of the Muslim faith. The message between the lines: Muslims are Untermenschen.

We've been here before, folks. Bigotry is bigotry - even when disguised as patriotism. And, invariably, the haters fantasizing about a merciless Crusade never bothered to serve in our military (Hey, guys, there's still time to join. Lay your backsides on the line - and send your kids!).

It's time for our own fanatics to look in the mirror. Hard. (And stop sending me your trash. I'll never sign up for your "Protocols of the Elders of Mecca." You're just the Ku Klux Klan with higher-thread-count sheets.)

Another trait common among those warning us that Islam is innately evil is that few have spent any time in the Muslim world. Well, I have. While the Middle East leaves me ever more despairing of its future, elsewhere, from Senegal to Sulawesi, from Delhi to Dearborn, I've seen no end of vibrant, humane, hopeful currents in the Muslim faith.

I'm no Pollyanna. I'm all for killing terrorists, rather than taking them prisoner. I know we're in a fight for our civilization. But the fight is with the fanatics - a minority of a minority - not with those who simply worship differently than those of us who grew up with the Little Brown Church in the Vale.

Nidra Poller wrote an interesting response that was quoted in Robert Spencer's Jihad Watch site.

As a person who may or may not qualify as an Islam-hater in Peters' estimation, I am somewhat offended at potentially being labeled a bigot.

I have mentioned before that I have no real problem with Islam as a personal belief system, and in fact I find much of it admirable. In my estimation, the danger is not from individuals practicing their faith privately or communally; it is from them using Islam as a political ideology.

Political Islam is, from everything I can see, essentially equivalent to fascism. And opposing it is not being bigoted any more than opposing any other ideology from communism to Nazism. A political movement that aims to literally take over the world and subjugate non-members under its control is a pretty good definition of evil.

Peters then brings up massive strawmen - that these unnamed bigots want to kill a billion Muslims, that none of the millions of American Muslims have ever strapped a bomb and attacked a Wal-Mart.

But it is possible to ask questions about Islam and how it is practiced by today's Muslims - whether by the majority, a significant minority or even the 0.1% that still represent over a million potential terrorists - without being bigoted. In fact, not asking these questions would be foolhardy.

I have one basic question that I would like Peters to answer. This question is, I believe, the key to knowing whether Peters is right that we do not have to worry about the vast majority of Muslims or not. I know how Jihad Watch would answer, but if Jihad Watch is being tarred with the "bigot" brush by Peters, then I'd like to know what he thinks:

Is it an important tenet of Islam to establish a worldwide Islamic 'ummah, using jihad as the method?

It is easy to say that the extremists are "hijacking" the religion. But it seems to be exceedingly difficult to define the religion in a way that proves that the extremists' interpretations of the Koran are wrong.

I am not aware of any "reform" Islam that interprets the Koran in any way that is not literal. Perhaps many Muslims are not religious, perhaps many Muslims are liberal. But if they cannot argue with the mullahs and sheikhs on their own turf, if they do not have a strong liberal philosophy that can stand on its own and remain within the tradition of Islam, then they are worthless to fight Islamism. So many people say that "moderate Islam" is the solution, but this is a theoretical construct - there may be Shiites and Sunnis and Salafists, but there are no identifiable Reformers or Liberals within the Muslim religion that have made any inroads.

Peters is right when he points out that American Muslims are far more liberal then their Middle East counterparts, and less likely to gravitate to terror. But one must ask - is this because they interpret Islam in a liberal fashion, or because they are a minority and only act towards the jihad of political Islam when they reach a critical mass?

Dearborn has the greatest concentration of Muslims in the US. When they enjoy a greater measure of political power and cohesiveness, do they remain as liberal as the Muslims elsewhere in America, or do they become more intolerant? From what I am reading, they are the biggest supporters of the Hezbollah terror group in the US, and their size makes them unafraid to say it out loud.

If Muslims as a whole embrace and agree with the philosophy of jihad, of a reconstituted caliphate, of reconquering Spain, of killing all infidels and extracting the jizya tax from the dhimmis - then we have a major problem. If, on the other hand, most Muslims reject these goals as irrelevant in today's world - where are their voices and articles saying that? Even when a brave Muslim speaks up, he does not do it from within the parameters of Islam.

All apologetics aside, we have seen the polls where Muslims in most nations (Western and Eastern) do support terror in large numbers. Sometimes they are the majority, sometimes not. Sometimes they go through mental gymnastics to justify only certain kinds of terror (Jewish kids in Tel Aviv are legitimate targets, but not in New York.) What is clear is that the "tiny minority" is not tiny, and pointing this out is not bigoted - it is a necessary step in identifying the scope of the problem, and in finding a real solution.

If you are relying on moderate Muslims to solve the problem, you had better identify their leaders. By any reasonable Western standard, practically all "moderate" Muslims have said things that would be considered outside the pale had a Jew or Christian said something similar.

Answer the question - if people who are identified as "Islam-haters" are such bigots, find a recognized strain of Islam that does not accept the political components of the religion and publicize it. This should be easy if, as Peters say, so many Muslims worldwide "are struggling to move their faith forward in constructive ways."

I haven't been able to find it during the past five years, and I would be thrilled to see it.