Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Islam's Islam, but strategically you have to support moderate Muslims

Robert Small  causes a small firestorm with his post "A New Model of Islam with Less Bark and More Bite".  The simple issue is this: is there a moderate Islam? [Update, 24 Nov: Small answers me, see end of post]
On the one side, Spencer et. al. who say that Islam's Islam, and that at its core it is a violent and supremacist religion.
On the other side, Andrew McCarthy, Robert Small, who say that there is a moderate form of the religion, or at least moderate adherents and that we should work with that/them to overcome their more radical alternatives.
In my view, Spencer is correct. His view is echoed by the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Erdogan, who once said "there is no such thing as moderate or immoderate [sic] Islam.  Islam is Islam and that's it".  The doctrine of Islam, the core texts, the Koran, the Hadith and the Sirah of Muhammad, all point to the one conclusion: that it is violent, supremacist, anti-semitic, homophobic and the rest of it.
The problem with that conclusion about Islam, correct as it may be, is this: "where does it lead you?".  Are you now going to face off against all 1.2 or 1.6 billion Muslims?  What policy are you going to follow?  Is resistance the only policy you can follow? Or stopping all Muslim immigration to western countries?  That's not going to happen, is it, not in my lifetime, anyway.
On the other side, we may even agree, quietly, with the Spencerian view (as I do myself from study of the doctrine) that Islam is inherently violent, but recognise that strategically, tactically and politically, you need to act as if there is indeed a moderate form.
You can actually finesse the "Islam is Islam" issue quite simply: by taking the reasonable view -- as Robert Small does -- that there are moderate Muslims.  That I would take as read (even though the commenters on his post don't).  As even one of Small's critical commenters points out, the great and incisive critic of Islam, the ex-Muslim Ibn Warraq says "there's no moderate Islam, but there are moderate Muslims".
If you do this, if you assume that there are indeed moderate Muslims -- however much they may infuriate the west by failing to take a critical stand against their violent co-religionists -- then you can work with them and you can make some practical inroads on the issue we face: the Islamification of western societies and the creeping of Sharia into western legal systems.
In short: I think it is best to work on the basis that there are moderate Muslims and to work with them to create an Islam that better fits in with the rest of humanity: that is more like "other religions", a matter of private faith, not a matter of supremacism.
Unfortunately, not one of the commenters on Small's article agrees with him. They may be right, but that robust view, realistic as it may be, is not going to fashion an realistic policy.  Pretending, if that's what it takes, may do so.

A New Model of Islam with Less Bark and More Bite
November 20, 2011

By Robert Small
Andrew Bostom's September 25th blog likens my "True Story of Moderate Islam" to a Rudyard Kipling "Just So Story."  From his position up there on the watchtower, he apparently can't see that he's guilty of promulgating his own "just so" tale.
Bostom insists that there may be moderate Muslims, but Islam is by definition extreme.  His story is long in describing the problem, but short in offering a solution because A) Islam isn't simply going to go away or change on its own, B) even the most moderate Muslim isn't going to completely reject his Islamic heritage, and C) Islam isn't some bad neighborhood of the globe we can avoid; it's 1.6 billion people bound by a common heritage dispersed across many sovereign nations.  What's more, the problem more precisely defined is Islamism and its goal of establishing a global Islamic state.  Bostom's simple model surrenders Islam to the Islamists, which is ultimately self-defeating because it offers no counter-strategy except resistance.
The best solution is to increase the proportion of moderates to extremists; however, Bostom and other proponents of the simple model are quick to "correct" anyone who dares pair the word "moderate" with "Islam" or give moderate Muslims a measure of relevancy.  In my last article, Bostom's targets were the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and its former head and one-time president of Indonesia, Abdurrahman Wahid.  Never mind that Andrew McCarthy, in his excellent book The Grand Jihad, wrote of my "much ballyhooed" Wahid that "by any estimation, he is an authentic moderate who urges interfaith tolerance."  McCarthy also cites George Cardinal Pell, Catholic archbishop of Sydney, Australia, who describes Wahid's brand of Islam as "synchronistic, moderate, and with a strong mystical leaning" that "thrives because it is reinforced in schools established by Wahid's [NU]."  Establishing schools sounds like building infrastructure for moderate Islam to me, but to Bostom, I guess it's just more "uninformed and heavily redacted apologetics."
Don't get me wrong: we need our guard dogs inside the fence -- sniffing out Islamists on our soil, baring their teeth and barking loudly about creeping sharia (Islamic law).  But that's not nearly enough to counter the threat in our own backyard, much less on the other side of the fence.  We also need a more sophisticated model of Islam that offers a framework for both distinguishing moderates from Islamists (Bostom's mainstream Muslims) and swelling their ranks to help stop the advance of sharia here and abroad.
When Reagan called the Soviet Union an "evil empire," he demonized the tyranny of the Communist state, not the people forced to live in it.  I think that citizens of the region today will agree that the Russian Federation is moderate by comparison, and it didn't require a direct strike on Moscow to get it there.  It took winning at a kind of chess-boxing: physically beating back Soviet expansion outside the USSR by supporting resisters, while playing ideological chess with its central government between rounds.  Islam is more complex in many ways, but America could lead the way to similar success against Islamism by identifying Mecca and Medina as representing the geopolitical capital of the Islamic state and opposing the ideology of conquest and subjugation that rules the Middle East.
Unfortunately, our leaders subscribe to an even worse model than Bostom's, erroneously identifying the enemy as "borderless terrorists" and treating militant Islamists like homeless trespassers rather than expeditionary units from an empire.  Their counter-strategy has been simple eviction.  Worse still, their faulty and superficial definition of "moderate" as anyone who isn't an Islamic militant has permitted Islamist agents to use our institutions to spread "religion of peace" propaganda and lecture us about "Islamophobia."
Religion (peaceful or otherwise) is irrelevant to a Reaganesque doctrine targeting tyranny in any form, and we're losing against the Islamists because political correctness has blinded Western governments to the parallels between communism and Islamism.  As Eric R. Staal, in his January article "A 'Containment' Policy for Islamist Expansionism," points out, "[i]f anything, the predominant view is simplistically that Islam is one of the world's Great Religions, morally equivalent to Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism."
Bostom and others have certainly been working to correct the predominant view, and we can all agree that Islamic governments based on sharia law are stuck in the dark ages.  However, just because they still burn witches in Saudi Arabia (figuratively speaking -- I know they actually behead them) doesn't mean we can't find moderate Islam in places where they've put away their torches and are trying to keep others from getting lit.
As McCarthy concludes in his chapter on Islamism (emphasis mine),
The stubborn fact remains that there are hundreds of millions of Muslims who either do not wish to live under the tyranny of sharia or are so indifferent that, even if they would abide by sharia in a Muslim country where it applies, they do not support converting non-Muslim societies into sharia enclaves.
A great many of them are concentrated in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country.  Bostom frequently cites a 2007 World Opinion Dynamics poll reporting that about half of Indonesian Muslims favor living under Islamic law and think the rest of the world should, too.  Conversely, his data demonstrates that the other half (over 101 million, based on a 2009 Pew Foundationpopulation report) don't.  As I argued in my last article, the NU with its 50 million members is certainly a better alternative to the Islamist wolves in sheeps' clothing we've been partnering with who dosupport establishing sharia enclaves in non-Muslim societies, including our own.
The flaw in Bostom's model isn't so much its absolutism as that it ignores all those moderate Muslims it acknowledges "may" exist.  My model starts with the hypothesis they do exist and determines to find them by defining moderate Islam as follows:
  • Respects our principle of separation of church and state;
  • Resists movements within its borders to create an Islamic state;
  • Allows other religious faiths, including Christians and Jews, to practice openly within its borders; 
  • Rejects blasphemy laws and protects freedom of speech; 
  • Does not seek to establish sharia enclaves in non-Muslim countries or promote the establishment of a global caliphate (unified Islamic state); 
  • Does not harbor recognized terrorists or support terrorist groups operating within its borders or abroad; and 
  • Supports Israel's right to exist.
A model with clear definitions would both allow us to sort out the willing subjects of the Islamic state from those who want no part of the empire and lend itself to a Cold War strategy to contain the empire.
Most presidential hopefuls invoke Reagan, but Herman Cain seems to also understand the power of definitions, telling interviewers:
Reagan's philosophy, as you know, was peace through strength. My philosophy is peace through strength and clarity. We need to clarify who our friends are, clarify who our enemies are, stop giving money to the enemies and make sure that our enemies know who our friends are, that we are going to stand solidly behind.
If Iran can't be stopped from obtaining nuclear weapons, and it's probably already too late, then Saudi Arabia will be sure to follow.  As the Cold War parallel becomes more obvious, it's also becoming clear that the world needs a U.S. president who isn't afraid to dust off the Gipper's playbook.
Taking the Cold War to Islam, however, will require at least one new play: a vigorous domestic energy policy designed to deprive the Islamic state of the petrodollars that fuel its expansionism.  If we can find the will, we may be able to help moderate Islam achieve the critical mass necessary to pull the rest of Islam into the Enlightenment.
Update, 24 Nov:
Robert Small Sends me email re the post, titled "Nice blog". He gave me permission to post it:

You get it! Thanks for taking the time to write your blog.

When Reagan took a hardline against the Soviet Union, he didn't have  
the press, politicians, and politically correct culture working  
against him to defend the Communist system and assimilate Communist  
principles into our society like they have with Islam. Being an open  
Marxist in our society was still a no no until very recently. Our  
government is so dysfunctional right now in every area that the first  
step is to get true Conservatives in office who will stop working with  
CAIR, the Saudis, and the MB, and seek alternative partners who fit a  
Jasser/McCarthy definition of moderate. These are going to be Muslims  
living outside the Middle East, including groups like the NU who are  
themselves under threat from Saudi-funded Wahhabis.

Geert Wilders is right, Spencer is right, Geller, even Bostom may be  
right about Islam; but none of them--as far as I've read so far--has  
been willing to go out on a limb to propose an offensive strategy-- 
it's all defense with them. McCarthy, Jasser, Libforall are also right  
in that we gain nothing by dismissing Muslims who agree with the  
principles of liberty and ignore the fundamentalist stuff but still  
identify with their Islamic heritage. Jasser and Libforall/NU are  
actually trying to do something to establish a counterweight to  
radicalism. There's no reason these two camps shouldn't be able to  
work together as part of a dual strategy. I haven't  argued in any of  
my articles that Islam is not extreme. My position is that it's  
critical, as a matter of national security, that  we change our  
definition of moderate and set the terms of our partnerships rather  
than the reverse. There is no political will in our country right now  
to do what should be done as far as immigration, energy independence,  
or taking a hard line against the Saudi government (our biggest  
strategic "partner").

I'm not an academic like Bostom so have no reputation to lose and am  
not concerned about the commenters, but I appreciate your piece and  
wish you a happy Thanksgiving.


Next day:

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All the best to you,