The Immoderate Moderation of the “Moderates”

RamadanIn an article I posted on FrontPage Magazine, in which I was at pains to suggest that from the standpoint of the ongoing war of Islam against the West—anyone who doubts this has not been paying attention—the distinction between Islam and Islamism is functionally moot, if not chimerical. I was by no means implying that “moderate Muslims” are in conscious league with their jihadist co-religionists. Rather, my argument was that “moderate Muslims” are essential to maintaining the vigor and power of a faith that is inherently militant and expansionist, and provide the medium their jihadist counterparts are able to exploit to their advantage. In other words, the contextual environment of “moderate Muslims” furnishes precisely the ambient culture in which those we call “extremists” can operate effectively, taking shelter therein when necessary and relying on the very existence of the unreformed, and possibly unreformable, faith they claim to represent.

The argument I am pressing is, obviously, prone to objections, many fanciful or irrelevant. Some of my critics will persist in their belief that Islamism is a perversion of Islam and that the core texts upon which the faith is predicated are subject to reinterpretation. But it is frivolous to dismiss the innumerable calls and injunctions to violence against the infidel enunciated in a holy book. The Koran is not regarded as a contingent and descriptive text, whose wider implications are basically ethical; it is eternal and unchangeable, hortatory and unforgiving, entailing a series of commands to wage endless battle in order to establish worldwide domination, a global Caliphate. To this species of critic, I would say that persistence in a demonstrable error or sheer doctrinal ignorance do not qualify as a valid objection.

More persuasive, at least initially, is the kind of historical and comparative insight proposed by one of the commenters to my original article, who uses the moniker “Visitor.” The two prior Abrahamic faiths, he points out, Judaism and Christianity, evolved over the centuries to become the less sectarian and more embracing communions we see today; surely in the course of time the same can be predicted of Islam, which will eventually detach itself from its early medieval gradients and adjust to the modern world. This is a strong argument on its face, but it neglects several crucial factors.

First, the Koran is categorically unlike the two Testaments in that it is not primarily a narrative and preceptual account aiming toward a condition of redemptive inclusivity. Despite the presence of Canaanites and Romans, the Testaments are not war manuals or piratical logbooks and neither are their talismanic figures desert raiders. Moses gave us the Ten Commandments and Jesus brought the Word of mercy. True, the Commandments have been regularly violated and mercy may be a rara avis among ordinary communicants of Judaism and Christianity, but this does not change the fact that such prescriptions are scriptural ordinances and are meant to be obeyed.

The Koran, on the contrary, features nothing like the Decalogue and treats the concept of mercy as extraneous or foreign to its over-arching message—a few milder passages here and there, mainly in the earlier Meccan portion of the text, only serve to accentuate the pervasive bellicosity of that message. Indeed, the Koran posits a hard and fast distinction between votary and infidel, between us and them, a theological chasm articulated in the form of a legal principle by the 8th century Hanafi school of jurisprudence as the great divide between Dar al-Islam, or the House of Islam, and Dar al-Harb, or the House of War. As Kipling wrote in The Ballad of East and West, “never the twain shall meet”—never, that is, until one is crushed by the other, or until they “stand at God’s great Judgment Seat.”

Secondly, time is short and Islam is long. In an age of advanced weaponry, typified by proliferating chemical, biological and nuclear stockpiles, not to mention more conventional arms that can be massively destructive, we simply do not have the political leisure to wait another century or two for Islam to undergo a reformation and shed its imperial theology, to regard Mosque and State as two separate realms, and ultimately to demilitarize itself. Time is running out. Islam cannot be appeased, it must be contained.

Thirdly, to cite yet another argument put forward by “Visitor”:

“The Islamic fascists say that the West is at war with the Muslim religion and that therefore the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims should make war on the West. And you play right into their hands by saying our enemy is not Islamic fundamentalist terror gangs but rather the entire religion and everyone who believes in it. I don’t think that is a very intelligent strategy.”

That is, those who indicate the danger represented by Islam are practicing a reverse “Islamism,” treating the faith as a monolithic bloc in the same undifferentiated way that Islam ostensibly treats the entire Western world.

This argument is both foolish and asymmetrical. Some Western nations may be engaging various terrorist groups and regimes on diverse fronts, but the West as a whole is not on a war footing and has done everything in its power and even beyond its means to accommodate itself to Islam—witness its magnanimous immigration and welfare policies, its protective hate speech legislation, its refusal to investigate the terror-spawning mosques, its procedural accommodation of Muslims in the courtroom, its extra-legal arrest of those who are publicly critical of Islam, and so on. But Islam is another kettle of piranhas; its foundational texts enshrine the doctrine of conquest and subjugation of non-Muslim peoples. Islam at its core is incompatible with Western liberal democracy and is indeed in a state of perpetual war with it.

It should be mentioned that a companion argument often pursued by observers like “Visitor”—I have been on the receiving end of it innumerable times—is that vigorous and unsparing criticism of Islam will only drive moderates into the arms of the jihadists. This is like saying that criticism of bullies will only create more bullies. What we have seen is something very different, namely, that the coddling of moderates has not made them an iota more visible or vociferous in protesting the excesses of their religious congeners. Their silence is deafening and effectively dissident. In a video titled Message to ‘Moderate’ Muslims, tele-journalist Pat Condell points out that “If they were really that moderate, they would face up to what their religion teaches, and disown it.” Anything less, he continues, than a clear, public rejection of the doctrine of jihad and a willingness to report on the subversive declamations and activities of their imams renders them complicit.

The existence of “moderates,” many of whom may not be devout Muslims and wish only to go about their lives in peace, does not alter the reality that they constitute a silent majority that has not risen up in protest against armed jihad—there is something distinctly immoderate about their vaunted moderation. Nor does their existence hide the fact that the central thrust of Islam, as the Muslim Brotherhood’s oft-quoted manifesto asserts, is to destroy Western civilization and sabotage its “miserable house.” The war will go on until the West is defeated and accepts the hegemony of the Caliphate. To remark, as “Visitor” does, that we “play right into their hands by saying that the enemy is…the entire religion” is abject nonsense and a rather dense and certainly defeatist strategy.

Understanding the nature of Islam is the first step toward ensuring our survival. The West, as Pope Benedict XVI contended in his famous Regensburg Address, is suffering a progressive “de-Hellenization,” losing its reason and ability to analyze the world. Perhaps more to the point, the West has been beheaded, having surrendered its intelligence to the Islamic political and theological cleaver.

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  • AdinaK

    REPEAT after me…there is NO moderate Islam. NONE at all. While there are moderate Muslims, they are not in the majority and they are not considered full Muslims by those who hold sway. Herein lies its efficacy and blow back –

    And the poohbahs can insist, till the cows come home, that Islam is a "religion of peace" and the west must get on board. But those of us who know better must continue in the opposite direction, thus blaring the real truth. Islam IS a political/religious-mired death cult and that is that.

    Adina kutnicki, Israel

  • Chezwick

    I heard a pundit on Fox castigating his fellow pundits for "not having the moral courage to actually name the enemy, which is radical Islamism."

    Radical Islamism, get that???????

    Hiding behind a double-qualifier is moral courage??????

    I was drifting off into sleep at the time, but it didn't prevent me from chuckling.

  • ziontruth

    "…we simply do not have the political leisure to wait another century or two for Islam to undergo a reformation and shed its imperial theology,…"

    Even if we had the time, why do people think a century or two would be sufficient? With the appeasement of the jihad by governments all around (cracking down on old ladies' "Islamophobic" Facebook posts sooner than blatant Islamic calls for terrorism), the incentive for a reinterpretation of the Koran's imperialistic passages is just about zero.

    The non-Muslim world is by and large like a person avoiding the pain of a little dental treatment in exchange for much greater pain in store for the inevitable root canal operation.

  • LiveFreeOrDie

    I agree with the thrust of this article, but while admitting that "time is short", it still seems to me that the West would be well-served by continuing to make as much of modern civilization available to the unwashed masses of whatever-stan. When people really have a choice, they will begin to choose Youtube over Sharia. This does not mean they will not have to face repercussions from the Imam's death squads, so it will not be easy. But overall, the rise in standard of living has defeated strict religion everywhere it has occurred.

    • chimbot

      Very keen point here. It implies that the West is no less at war with Islam than Islam with the west — a notion David Solway rejects. The West is slowly conquering, undoing Islam with its culture, allowing Mulsins to choose youtube over Sharia; happy hour over prayer hour. Out of this group arises the Muslim moderate, which in point of fact is a transitional phase: he will either fall back on his religion or reject it entirely. Solway correctly states there is not middle ground here. My sense is that 80% of Muslims who are exposed to western culture eventually completely embrace at which point they are no longer moderates but westerners. But Solway is correct when he states that the moderate (who is still sympathetic to Islam) provides the background and operational grid (the Koran, the Mosque, Islamic culture) without which the extremist would find himself in a vaccuum, without purpose, a character in search of an author.

      • LiveFreeOrDie

        I don't think of it as the West ("us") being "at war" with Islam. It is merely the relentless spread of letting people be free to choose. Of course, the religious fundamentalists will view it as "war" (cf. the "war on Christmas", etc.). Remember how much blood was shed between Christians to get where we are today!

        Currently, I agree with Solway that moderates are part of the problem, but eventually (the time factor again), it won't matter a bit what Muslims *nominally* believe, as long as they don't act on it, just like it doesn't matter that most Christians don't take seriously many NT verses (e.g. if any man not work, let him not eat, etc.). In fact, that would be the best way, because it allows Muslims to save face and to never have to explicitly reject their scriptures and admit that it was flawed.

        • chimbot

          Aren't you perhaps naive in thinking that the West wouldn't like to see Islam disappear forever gently into the night? The best in the West don't don't refer to it as a war because it's being fought with unconventional weapons: culture, in particular, the Internet. But make no mistake about it, the West, in its own fashion, is doing its best to destabiiize Islam just as Islam is doing its best to destabilize the West, resulting in an almost sublime symmetry — at least for the time being. But we all know who is winning the war? The Arab spring is simply the first of a sequence of historical events that foreshadows Islam's gradual demise or assimilation into the western ethos. A hundred years ago, how many Muslims were wearing baseball caps?

  • Richard Blake

    Interesting article. As an advocate for the persecuted church, I sought out 'moderate Muslims,' as allies in that struggle. I felt that the martyrdom Salman Taseer in Pakistan and the public reaction to the Taliban's attack on a schoolgirl demonstrated that there were in fact, some moderates. I emailed all of the (hopefully) moderate Muslims I could locate including at a local mosque here in Colorado. I never received any response but the mosque was holding an open house on first of each month. The first time I attended I was able to talk to and get much agreement from the Muslims holding the open house until the imam showed up in the last 20 minutes. They are recording these conversations and I have asked for a copy of that tape, which they have agreed to provide. The open houses are being encouraged by CAIR and aim to do two things for them, the first is to recruit new Muslims (indeed they do give it the hard sell) and the second is to provide credibility in the community. Clearly the imam is in charge when he is around the others,

  • determined1215

    I have been anxiously waiting for the Church of Rome to offer substantive theological guidance to Catholics about the fundamental issue of the existence and nature of 'moderate Islam' having abandoned hope that any western political or cultural institution, other than Mr. Solway and his Frontpage colleagues, would define and tackle the problem. Benedict XVI at Regensburg attempted to initiate this discussion but was immediately beaten back by worldwide Islamic organizations and fellow western travelers. John Paul II, while clearly stating the Koran completely reduces divine revelation and is not a religion of redemption, nevertheless indicated that the religiosity of Muslims deserves respect. All the while, the church touts endless ecumenical dialogue with Islam while its adherents cleanse Christians from the middle east, Africa and Asia. In the resulting moral confusion about this pressing issue, I am left to conclude either that the church is woefully derelict in providing its flock with the spiritual education necessary for its safety and survival or it deeply understands and puts full trust in the historical workings of a higher power to guide it through an epoch of a rising and antogonistic Islam. I don't know the answer.

  • Yativ

    Brilliant article

  • Larry Riteman

    The liberals and progressives totally ignore that Islam is a mortal threat to the Western values and the notion of equality before the law which in no way is dispensed with by the fact that there are so few “radicals”. Ipso, Islam supports the radicals and, facto, the Moslems support Islam. Ergo, Moslems do indeed support the radicals. The silence of the so called "moderate Muslims" speaks volumes.

    • Michael Petek

      Not only their silence. Anyone who invokes the name of God in aid of an evil act – such as the murder of Lee Rigby in London last month – is guilty of blasphemy. They are also guilty of neglect of the Divine Name who fail to curse the blasphemer.

  • SuicidePrevention

    Instead of merely targeting Islam as the singular enemy, I would suggest elevating positive principles.
    For example, separation of church and state and the right to free speech. Of course Islam is incompatible with these principles (and is perhaps incapable of reform), but so was Christendom in the past.
    I would rather march into battle under a loftier flag, that would constrain all religious movements, although obviously the threat to free society now comes from just one direction.

  • An admirer of David Solway

    The message is blunt, but it needs to be. Time is running out for the West. It’s time for Muslims who live by Western values to demand reform and reject the violence and jihad prescribed in the texts and actually practiced by the prophet.