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Let's face reality, please.

Reader comment on item: [The Search for Moderate Islam:] A Reply to Lawrence Auster

Submitted by Jason Pappas (United States), Jan 29, 2005 at 21:23

Before I express my criticism on this one issue, let me say that these comments are expressed in the context of an overwhelming appreciation of your extensive work exposing radical Islam.

You oppose Auster's "essentialist" approach to defining Islam and advocate a nominalist line of thought. "Islam can be whatever Muslims wish to make of it," you say. But this is to obliterate the religion's identity. Concepts cannot be just anything and everything. Does the meaning of democracy change because over one billion communists used to refer to themselves as Democratic People's Republics? This is nominalism and it undermines all conceptual knowledge.

Who defines Islam? Mohammad did – 1400 years ago. It's done. For the religion to have an identity there has to be an essence – some enduring core of beliefs and practices. There's no conflict between the historical and essential.

Islam is anything but moderate. However, you are right, there are moderate Muslims (yes, most are). But they don't become moderate by practicing something call "moderate Islam." They become moderate by being lax or lapsed for one reason or another. If we sometimes use the word "Muslim" in a demographic sense (my almanac says 99.8% of Turks are Muslim) we should not confuse that with a practitioner of Islam – one who takes seriously his duty to wage jihad on the Infidel. The demographic sense is a virtually meaningless secondary sense that is derivative in nature. Islam, the ideology and associated practice, transcends the failure of Muslims to practice their religion.

We can't continue to lie about the current state of Islam; we can't be morally agnostic. What I worry most, Mr. Pipes, is that America may wake up after a catastrophic attack and all previous commentators, having been discredited by their lies, will be swept aside and replaced by some crude demagogic fool. We need to face reality now. You've done a great job, but we can't rest here and start to fanaticize.

Jason Pappas

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