• Why I Despise the Term “Moderate Muslim”

    Anti-ground zero mosque protest

    Ever since the Islamic atrocity of 9/11 (some would argue even before that), it has become fashionable to run after “moderate” Muslims, to court them, to highly value their views, to appease them to the point of losing freedoms won through centuries of bloodshed and activism. And yet at some point we must ask ourselves, have we been chasing a mirage all along? Fareed Zakaria explains:

    Over the past decade, the United States helped organize Iraq’s “moderates” — the Shiite-dominated government — giving them tens of billions of dollars in aid and supplying and training their army. But, it turned out, the moderates weren’t that moderate. As they became authoritarian and sectarian, Sunni opposition movements grew and jihadi opposition groups such as ISIS gained tacit or active support. This has been a familiar pattern throughout the region.

    For decades, U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East has been to support “moderates.” The problem is that there are actually very few of them.
    Indeed there seems to be much over what makes a “moderate” Muslim. Look, for example, at the majority of Pakistani Muslims who support all kinds of Sharia-based physical penalties-some of them for pure crimes of conscience-as much as they despise Islamic militants. This could not possibly jibe with a concept of “moderate” in a liberal democracy by any stretch of imagination. And yet we are obviously willing to set the bar lower, as far as Muslims are concerned.
    As an example closer to home, look at the despicable “Council of American Islamic Relations” (CAIR), which, while billing itself as a “moderate” Islamic organization, uses bullying tactics to silence Islam’s critics. What should be clear is that going to “moderate” Muslims in the hope that they will be a counterweight to Islamic militants is an exercise in futility because the two of them essentially follow the same goals, even if they are not equally open about it: that everyone on this planet, Muslim or not, should be living under Sharia rules. Which is why I believe “enablers” is a more fitting term for the likes of CAIR than “moderates”.
    Does this mean all hope is lost, that there are no grown ups among Muslims we can communicate with? The answer is no. There are some who do understand the reality of Islam’s problems, and openly advocate reform. But (even among circles following debates on Islam) they are not household names, unlike Aslan, CAIR, etc, etc.
    Let’s meet a few of these brave souls. (Quite literally; criticizing the practice of Islam as is, is quite risky, and that is no secret).
    Here is someone opening his mouth about Islamic apostasy rules in a country with some of the strictest such rules, Malaysia, one of Aslan’s “moderate” Islamic utopias:

    Professor Dr Nader Hashemi said for the mainstream interpretation of Islam, apostasy was considered to be a severe offence and punishable by death. “Muslims think that only one interpretation of apostasy is allowed but they fail to take certain factors into consideration, including freedom of religion,” he said in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

    He argued that Islamic scholars needed to adapt to changing times and re-interpret the Quran and Hadith instead of blindly following the teachings of ancient times.

    “Islam is perceived by many to be medieval and barbaric and especially antagonistic to human rights, because the interpretations have not changed with time.

    Nader said there were a lot of political forces and movements who were firmly against any re-interpretation of Islam, preferring to continue with the old ways.

    “These political forces are also advancing their own personal interests above that of Islam and the faithful. They prefer to maintain their grip on power.”

    Of course they do. Now, is CNN ever going to give this guy a forum to advocate his views, like they do for Aslan (and get insulted in the process)? I am not holding my breath.

    Here is another example: M. Zuhdi Jasser, a devout Muslim physician originally from Syria who has himself been involved with mosque-building projects in the US, critiques the controversial Park 51 Islamic center, known colloquially as “ground zero mosque”:

    Exemplifying the ire of many Americans, a recent poll showed that 53% of New Yorkers were opposed to the mosque. And while that majority may not include as many Muslims as we’d like, more and more are speaking up in opposition to the mosque. These Muslims offer many Americans a vital interpretation of the Islamic religion as a whole and show that Islam is not in fact a monolithic faith.

    Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, M.D., president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), is one of these devout yet patriotic Muslims. A former U.S. Navy lieutenant commander with 11 years of service as a medical officer under his belt, Dr. Jasser has made it clear that “until anti-Islamist Muslims wage the intellectual battle against Islamism within the Muslim consciousness, we will make no headway against ‘the narrative.'”

    Jasser also expresses deep concern that the organization funding the mosque, led by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, has refused to exclude foreign funding from filling its coffers. Such financial transactions immediately offer the opportunity for foreign Islamists and their sympathizers to preach their version of political Islam and sharia, he warns, and present a very significant threat to national security.

    “I cannot see genuine Muslim reform happening on the dime of foreign Islamist interests,” Jasser says. “Make no mistake, this Islamic center is not a spiritual statement but a global political one in the name of Islam. … Every group I have been directly involved with in building mosques and Islamic projects in the U.S. have rejected foreign funds entirely because of the ideological hypocrisies and Islamism that comes with them.”

    And yet, Abdul Rauf was hailed by the political left as an “interfaith moderate“-and Jasser? Whoever has heard of him? Well, the wonderful CAIR has, and unsurprisingly, has been accusing him of “enabling Islamophobia”.

    As a third example, let’s look at the Pakistani columnist Khuldun Shahid, whom I have frequently quoted, has an unmatched sense of humor when it comes to critiquing Islamic practices:

    Your #MuslimahPride movement against #Femen was a slap on the collective face of Western imperialists who believe that Muslim women can’t fight for a cause. It was also a resounding reminder for the rest of the world that you have what it takes to spark a revolution. What the ignorant world does not realise is that once you have the permission of your husbands, fathers, brothers, uncles, the approval of your neighbours, in-laws, their relatives and the consent of your spiritual guardians, their God and their scriptures, you can be quite the rebels.

    It takes volumes of bravery and valour to bow down to the status quo, and toe the lines that have been forced upon you. It takes unbelievable amounts of gallantry to act out a script that someone else has written for you.

    Who on earth are those damn Europeans to try to steal your voice? Who are those unabashed infidels to protest on your behalf? Do they not realise that you are not allowed to express, let alone clamour in favour of, anything that contradicts the ostensibly divine scriptures? Who are those shameless activists to try and liberate you? Do they not realise that you can’t be liberated without the permission of your mehrams? [Male relatives-NoCrossNoCrescent]

    And lastly, I need to mention the wonderful Tarek Fatah, who I have also quoted frequently.

    It is worth noting that not a single Muslim cleric since 9/11 has mustered the courage to say the doctrine of armed jihad is defunct and inapplicable in the 21st century. They rightfully denounce terrorism, but dare not denounce jihad. The armed jihad launched against the infidels, is clearly promoted by the 20th-century writings of such Islamists as Syed Qutb and Hassan al-Banna of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and the late Syed Maudoodi of Jamaat-e-Islami of Indo-Pakistan.

    Unless the leaders of Canadian and American mosques as well as the Islamic organizations denounce the doctrine of jihad as pronounced by the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islami, and distance themselves from the ideology of Qutb, al-Banna and Maudoodi, they stand complicit in the havoc that these jihadis are raining down on the rest of us. For those who search for the root cause of Islamist terrorism, it’s the doctrine of jihad, stupid.

    I will close with a final thought:

    As harshly as I have often criticized Islam, I am now beginning to think the we westerners bear part of the responsibility. Not in the way the likes of Noam Chomsky and Osama bin Laden have been accusing us; but by setting the bar for acceptable behavior too low for Muslims; by rewarding the likes of Abdul Rauf, granting them the coveted title of “moderates”; by bowing to demands of CAIR to avoid “Islamophobia”; and not least, by ignoring Hashemi, Jasser, Fatah et al.

    We should stop talking about “moderate” Muslims. We need to make the distinction clear between reformists and enablers of the status quo. We cannot expect Islam to change unless we start changing our own behavior first.


    Image credit: Wikipedia

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