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Moderate/non-militant Islam

Reader comment on item: On Being Borked

Submitted by Peter Herz (Taiwan), Sep 8, 2003 at 20:40

Hopefully, Dr. Pipes will help the US government think straight. For what it's worth, I think our govenrment has been lost in space and stumbling over its own feet about Islamist ferment ever since Khomeini blindsided the US back in 1979. When I was with the State Department, I recall being told that the "Monsoon Islam" of Bangladesh and Insular SE Asia was a much softer and gentler thing than the "Desert Islam" of the Arab, Persian, Turkic, and NW subcontinental peoples; and that sufis were the kindest and gentlest Muslims of all (they dialogue with Quakers!). I'm also old enough to remember when the official line was that "(Ugh!) Fundamentalism" was a Shi'ite disease to which Sunnis were supposedly immune. The learned brows that spilled such pap on us back then had no excuse for such nonsense, for the jurementados who gave our troops such trouble back in 1900-02 and whose grandchildren in the Moro LIberation Front torubling the independent Philippines were both Monsoon and Sufi Muslims. Sufis also were long the backbone of Islamic revolt in Western China and resistance to both Tsars and Soviets. Somehow our mentors ignored pro-Western Turks and Sa'udi bigotry among Sunnis; and that the average Afghan mujahid--even ones who hoped for a mutually respectful, stable alliance with the West--believed the Qu'ran cover to cover.

Our elites think that mystical, non-doctrinal religion is good; hard-edged, textual and doctrinal religion evil--yet another legacy of the silly sixties, when it was "in" to be the sort of Zen Buddhist who wouldn't be recognized anywhere west of Guam. Yet I can't help but note that Quaker pacifists are nothing but violent Ranters and Fifth Monarchy men who got the worst of it in armed run-ins with Cromwell's Ironsides--and that the Pentecostals, who are so feared east of the Hudson and West of the Beltway whenever they organize their voters, are in fact a lot like the original Quakers in beliefs and outlooks.

I agree with Dr. Pipes that much of militant Islam (but not necessarily all of it) really, really, really wants a fight with the USA, and dances and ululates at our every injury. We have real enemies in that camp who need to be watched and, when necessary, warred upon. The response to 9/11 also makes me confident that most Americans would probably agree.

But I also fear that a high profile American propmotion of "moderate" Islam won't get us very far, and could well backfire in a world in which "neocolonialist" scares more people than "neo-totalitarian". Worst of all, it commits the United States to policing the Muslim conscience from outside--something that just doesn't seem to work (remember Geraldine Ferarro, the pro-abortion Catholic, going around accusing the recently aroused Evangelicals of being bad Christians?).

Those Muslims who are appalled at co-religionists who see every murder of a peaceful ahl-al-kitab or kafir as "jihad" will just have to organize themselves and sell their program to their own peoples. At the same time, I'm also sure that radical Islamism, if victorious in Muslim-majority countries, will be no more successful than Nasserism or any other West-baiting "ism" tried in those countries. The rigidity and anger of radical Islamism's leaders would probably lead to a lot of intramural Muslim wars and troubles long before it would do anything serious to the West.

There's hope. I note that the Assassins of the middle ages morphed into the peaceful, industrious Ismai'li followers of the Agha Khan (whose center seems to be in a minority community in secular India) some time after Hulaku Khan sacked the Alamut. It could well be that when face with the realities of holding power and answering to the expectations of the governed, today's radical crazies will end up facing the choice of either growing up or getting overthrown.

Submitting....

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