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Does "Moderate Islam" really mean anything?

Reader comment on item: Washington Finally Gets It on Radical Islam

Submitted by Peter J. Herz (Taiwan), Apr 25, 2005 at 09:53

If this project works, it will owe far more to the stupidities of al-Qaeda and Taliban than to the brilliance of anyone in Washington. Washington is viewing the world from the standpoint in which a large portion of the common herd sees all religions as equally true; the intellectual elite sees them as all equally false; and the politicians see them as all equally useful. Unfortunately, it does not seem that the Islamic world is buying into this game. The American elite is also, by and large, made up of people for whom apostasy from a received theological tradition is a rite of passage--and has a hard enough time talking to democratically-inclined Evangelicals in the Midwest, much less fascistically-inclined Muslim radicals in the Middle East.

The moderate-"fundamentalist" dichotomy governing Washington's Weltanschauung wrongly reads into the Islamic a situation descriptive of Protestant Christianity in the early 20th century. Yet nowhere in the 'ulema is there a body of respected opinion analogous to the modernists in early 20th century Christianity. America's professional (as opposed to elected) leaders in government, academia, and the media further insist on a moral equivalence of the two "fundamentalisms", despite politicized Christian fundementalism being, if anything, more committed to limited government and liberty under law than the socialist wannabes who contemptuously speak of "Jesusland"; while Islamicist radicalism seems committed to the methods of 20th century totalitarianism even while rejecting its philosophical materialism.

Also, Islam was born and took its definitive form under the guidance of four successful military conquerors (Muhammad, Abu Bekr, Umar, and Usman). It is constitutionally unable to see divine guidance and protection in anything like Judaism's Babylonian Exile or Christianity's formative period, when the New Testament was being written by men with virtually no access to the levers of power. Instead, a situation in which Muslims are non-ruling minorities in large areas of what were once part of the Dar ul-Islam will be seen as a perverse inversion of the rightful order of things; and slogans like "Today Falastin; tomorrow Andalus (or Hindostan)" will continue to have a lot of resonance in Islam. I would feel a lot more comfortable if there were some people who truly understood traditional theologies somewhere near the helm this time.
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