At "[Finding Moderate Muslims:] Do You Believe in Modernity?" I formulated questions to ask of Muslims to discern whether they are moderates or not. The United America Committee has now issued a useful list of complementary danger signs to discern signs of radical Islam, which I list here:
- Justification of any Islamic Terrorism, Palestinian or otherwise
- Supporting or refusing to condemn Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, Hamas, or other terrorists or terrorist organizations by name
- Promoting jihad for Muslims to fight against what they determine is "injustice" or "aggression"
- Demands for Sharia law in the West, or denying that Sharia forbids equal rights for women and members of religions other than Islam
- Demanding that Americans accommodate the public expression of Islamic laws, customs, and practices that conflict with, or are harmful to American laws, customs, and practices
- Denying that Muslims were involved in the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and other attacks around the world
- Refusal to cooperate with or inciting others not to cooperate with authorities or standard security procedures
- Branding progressive Muslims or Muslims of different opinions as apostates.
- Refusal to interact, converse, or socialize with non-Muslims
Also, this is a good place to note the "ten commandments of democracy" formulated in 2002 by Naser Khader, the Danish parliamentarian of Syrian Muslim origins:
- We must all separate politics and religion, and we must never place religion above the laws of democracy.
- We must all respect that all people have equal rights regardless of sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religious beliefs.
- No person must ever incite to hatred, and we must never allow hatred to enter our hearts.
- No person must ever use or encourage violence – no matter how frustrated or wronged we feel, or how just our cause.
- We must all make use of dialogue - always.
- We must all show respect for the freedom of expression, also of those with whom we disagree the most.
- No person can claim for themselves or assign to others a place apart, neither as superior persons, as inferior persons or as eternal victims.
- We must all treat other people's national and religious symbols as we wish them to treat ours – flag-burning and graffiti on churches, mosques and synagogues are insults that hinder dialogue and increase the repression of the other party.
- We must all mind our manners in public. Public space is not a stage on which to vent one's aggressions or to spread fear and hate, but should be a forum for visions and arguments, where the best must win support.
- We must all stand up for our opponent if he or she is subjected to spiteful treatment.
(October 5, 2005)
Dec. 16, 2005 update: Tarek Heggy, the liberal Egyptian political thinker, worries about the impending U.S. government dialogue with his country's leading Islamist force, the Muslim Brotherhood. He proposes a list of questions for American diplomats to ask their would-be interlocutors. With his approval, I have edited these for reasons of space and style.
- Could a Copt (an Egyptian Christian) in principle be elected president of Egypt?
- Would you follow the Saudi model of segregating girls from boys in schools and universities?
- Beach tourism generates in excess of 75% of Egypt's tourism revenues; what are your views about alcoholic drinks, gambling, and casinos, and about women dressing as they choose?
- What is your opinion concerning the peace treaties between Egypt and Israel and between Jordan and Israel?
- What do you think of the different forms of economic cooperation between Egypt and Israel, such as the Qualifying Industrial Zones?
- How do you describe the killing of Israeli civilians in suicidal operations by Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad?
- Is Sayyid Qutb's doctrine of Hakimiya (à system of government based exclusively on Allah's law that rejects democracy and human law) still your political goal?
- What are your views on women occupying high governmental offices?
- What are your views on George W. Bush's vision of Israel and Palestine living peacefully next to each other? If it were achieved, would you accept the right of Israel to exist? Would you accept that the Jewish section of Jerusalem is Israel's capital?
- Egypt's legal system since 1883 has been based on the Code Napoléon. Do you have plans to change it? Do you endorse physical punishments, such as are used in Saudi Arabia?
- The Egyptian banking system is based on the notion of interest; would you keep it?
- Is Iran today a force for stability or instability?
Heggy concludes by warning Americans talking to the Muslim Brotherhood to be aware of the latter's likely use of taqiya, or dissimulation. This, he says, is permission to lie, if so doing "would assist them to ultimately defeat the infidels."
July 11, 2006 update: Tashbih Sayyed, a well-known moderate Muslim, has a similar list (to which I have added bullets for added clarity):
Who is a moderate Muslim? Muslims who oppose theocracy, who seek democracy, who want equal rights for women and an end to child labor, honor killings, and child marriages are moderates. But there is much more to the concept than just these basics. Before enlisting an apparently moderate Muslim group in the war on Islamist terror, we must know a bit more.
- Do they believe that non-Muslims are inherently inferior?
- Do they consider religious or national identity pre-eminent?
- What do they believe about Jews and Israel?
- How do they characterize Arab terrorism in Israel?
- What is their opinion about Osama bin Laden's long list of grievances?
- Do they consider the war on terror a war on Islam?
Dec. 15, 2006 update: "A Proposed Charter of Muslim Understanding" offers a different approach; it drafts out an outlook moderate Muslims should subscribe to. It is not yet online: the charter itself is on pp. 9-23 and is too detailed to summarize here, but columnist Cal Thomas focuses on five points:
- Respect non-Muslim religions and issue a fatwa (an Islamic religious decree) prohibiting the use of force, violence or threats to their followers.
- Respect all civilizations, cultures and traditions and promote understanding of the precedence of national laws over Sharia law.
- Respect Western freedoms, especially of belief and expression and prohibit violent reaction against people who make use of these freedoms.
- Prohibit the issuing of any fatwa that would result in violence or threat against individuals or institutions.
- Request Islamic institutions to revise and issue new interpretations of Qur'anic verses calling for Jihad and violence against non-Muslims.
The charter is written by Sam Solomon, identified by the Jerusalem Post as a human rights activist who "was born in the Middle East, became a renowned Islamic scholar and went on to become a leading imam and emir with the authority to issue fatwas" and by Christian World News as "a former Muslim scholar in the Middle East and now a leading Christian apologist in Europe." Gerald Batten, member of the European Parliament for the UK Independence Party, who also launched the project in Strasbourg on December 13, wrote the charter's introduction. Thomas notes Solomon's ambition:
the charter begins first as a discussion document. Sponsors hope it will create interest and discussion among the European public, as well as in the European Parliament. They are hoping one of the MEPs, possibly Gerard Batten, will put forward a proposal to introduce this charter as a bill.
Apr. 5, 2007 update: Angel Rabasa, Cheryl Benard, Lowell H. Schwartz, and Peter Sickle offer a series of questions in their new study, Building Moderate Muslim Networks (RAND Corporation).
- Does the group (or individual) support or condone violence? If it does not support or condone violence now, has it supported or condoned it in the past?
- Does it support democracy? And if so, does it define democracy broadly in terms of individual rights?
- Does it support internationally recognized human rights? Does it make any exceptions (e.g., regarding freedom of religion)?
- Does it believe that changing religions is an individual right? Does it believe the state should enforce the criminal-law component of shari'a?
- Does it believe the state should enforce the civil-law component of shari'a? Or does it believe there should be non-shari'a options for those who prefer civil-law matters to be adjudicated under a secular legal system?
- Does it believe that members of religious minorities should be entitled to the same rights as Muslims?
- Does it believe that a member of a religious minority could hold high political office in a Muslim majority country? Does it believe that members of religious minorities are entitled to build and run institutions of their faith (churches and synagogues) in Muslim majority countries?
- Does it accept a legal system based on nonsectarian legal principles?
Nov. 26, 2007 update: Zuhdi Jasser, a leading American moderate Muslim, has nine questions to ask about schools, to differentiate the Islamist from the non-Islamist:
1. How does the school teach American history and the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights? What is taught about the struggle of our founding fathers against theocracy? Is European Enlightenment ideology taught? Are students encouraged to learn from non-Muslim philosophers especially those who influenced our founding fathers and taught liberty and freedom?
2. Are students taught that sharia is only personal or that it also specifically guides governmental law? Does their answer change whether Muslims are a minority or a majority?
3. Do they view non-Islamic private and public schools as part of a culture of "immorality" and decadence since they are not Islamicized or can non-Islamic schools be morally and equally virtuous?
4. Do they teach their children that "being American" and being "free" is about moral corruption or is being American and free about loving the nation in which they live and sharing equal status before the law regardless of faith tradition?
5. Is complete religious freedom a central part of faith and the practice of religion? In the Islamic school, how are children treated who refuse to participate in school faith practices?
6. Are the children taught Muslim exclusivism with regards to the attainment of paradise in the Hereafter? From that, are the children also taught that government and public institutions must thus be "Islamic" in order for the community as a whole to be able to enter the gates of Heaven?
7. How are student discussions, debate, and intellectual discourses approached regarding American domestic and foreign policy? Do the teachers have a political agenda? Does that agenda demonstrate a dichotomy between Islamist interests and American interests?
8. Is the historical period of Muslim rule of Spain (Andalusia) taught in the context of the history of the world during the Middle Ages or is it looked upon as superior to current day American ideology even after the advances of the Enlightenment?
9. Is the pledge of allegiance administered every day at the beginning of the school day?
Oct. 6, 2008 update: Robert Spencer, a top American analyst of Islam, offers his ten criteria to distinguish a moderate Muslim:
- Acknowledge the existence of and repudiate the traditional Islamic imperative, taught by all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence that Muslims recognize as orthodox, to impose Islamic law upon non-Muslims, whether by force or by stealth.
- Renounce any intention, now or in the future, to replace the U.S. Constitution with Islamic law.
- Clarify, and call upon other Muslims in America to clarify, what is meant by the words "terrorism" and innocent" in Muslim condemnations of terrorism, so that it is clear that what is being condemned is the murder of American and other non-combatants by Muslims acting in the name of Islamic jihad.
- Repudiate the idea that Muslims have a divine mandate to force, when possible, Jews, Christians, and other "People of the Book" to pay a special religion-based tax from which Muslims are exempt (Qur'an 9:29).
- Call upon Muslims in America to institute comprehensive, honest, and transparent programs in mosques and Islamic schools, teaching the virtues of the non-establishment of religion, and teaching directly against Islamic supremacism and the idea that Muslims must fight against Jews and Christians until they "feel themselves subdued" (Qur'an 9:29).
- Call upon Muslims in America to institute comprehensive, honest, and transparent programs in mosques and Islamic schools, teaching against honor killing, and against the idea—which is enshrined in Islamic law—that a parent faces no penalty for killing his or her own child (see ‘Umdat al-Salik o1.1-2).
- Call upon Muslims worldwide, including in Saudi Arabia, to end all institutionalized discrimination against and harassment of non-Muslims, and to allow churches and other houses of worship to be built in majority-Muslim countries with an ease comparable to that with which mosques are currently built in Western countries.
- Repudiate the idea that a Muslim who renounces Islam and adopts any other faith or no faith at all should be killed—as is the teaching of Muhammad and all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence—and call upon Muslim groups in America to teach the freedom of conscience as a God-given right in American mosques and Islamic schools.
- Call upon Muslims in America and worldwide to drop the traditional and authoritative Islamic prohibition of marriage between non-Muslim men and Muslim women, and to repudiate and teach against the idea of divinely sanctioned wife-beating (Qur'an 4:34).
- Condemn Hamas and Hizballah as terrorist organizations, and the Islamic Republic of Iran for its continuing the barbaric practice of stoning people to death. Call upon Muslim groups to teach against stoning as a punishment for adultery or anything else in American mosques and Islamic schools.
Related Topics: Moderate Muslims
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