May 9, 2007
We Found the "Moslem Methodists!"
The day after the debut of Big Lizards, we published a post titled "Where Are All the Moslem Methodists?"; we weren't actually seeking some bizarre Christian-Moslem hybrid -- we sought an Islamist alternative to militancy... something like the Quietism school of Shiism, historically associated with the scholars of Najaf, in Iraq. Quietist ayatollahs, such as Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, stand in stark contrast to the radical Shia who follow Khomeiniism (which is more associated with the holy city of Qom in Iran).
I described what I would call a "moderate" Moslem: This is a person who does not believe force should be used to enforce sharia law and who does not support violent jihad against others, merely because they are "infidels." The acid test of a "moderate" Moslem would be this: Even if he hates the Jews, he cannot support terrorism against them. That is not the only criterion, but it's clearly the hardest!
The problem, I argued, is that, while most Moslems are "moderate" as I defined the term in that earlier post, nearly all Moslem organizations in the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas are radicalized, strident, and militant; this is true of secular as well as religious organizations:
I don't have data on this; but my gut feeling is that the majority of Moslems are moderate as I have described it... but nearly all national or international Moslem organizations, whether overtly religious (like a mosque) or more secular in purpose (like CAIR), are strongly inclined towards militant Islamism and therefore dangerously tolerant of Islamic terrorism. If all that a moderate Moslem sees around him as the public face of Islam are groups that call for jihad, either overtly or slyly, he may well feel that there must be something wrong with him not to feel that same rage and hate. He'll probably fall silent, afraid to object, both because of physical threat, and more important, fear of social shunning....
Maybe if moderate Moslems would concentrate on creating Islamic organizations that give a sense of solidarity to "Moslem Methodists," showing them they're not alone, the natural tendency toward laziness would take over: hating is hot, hard work.
I think I was onto something.
It turns out, however, that this has already been done; there are a number of moderate Islamic organizations... including one Indonesian whopper of a group called Nahdatul Ulama (NU), which claims a membership of around 40 million, but is more likely closer to 30 million... which still makes it the largest Moslem organization in the world.
What amazes me about NU -- mostly because we hear so little about it here in the United States and evidently Europe as well -- is that this very conservative Sunni Moslem organization is pro-Israel, pro-West, and totally opposed to Islamic terrorism against anybody. In fact, the more I read about it, the more convinced I become that NU holds the key to actually winning the war against global jihadism: demonstrating how to be a strong, conservative, religious Sunni without having to slaughter women and children... or even Jews. From the Wall Street Journal opionion piece by Bret Stephens linked above:
Suppose for a moment that the single most influential religious leader in the Muslim world openly says "I am for Israel." Suppose he believes not only in democracy but in the liberalism of America's founding fathers. Suppose that, unlike so many self-described moderate Muslims who say one thing in English and another in their native language, his message never alters. Suppose this, and you might feel as if you've descended into Neocon Neverland.
In fact, you have arrived in Jakarta and are sitting in the small office of an almost totally blind man of 66 named Abdurrahman Wahid. A former president of Indonesia, he is the spiritual leader of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), an Islamic organization of some 40 million members. Indonesians know him universally as Gus Dur, a title of affection and respect for this descendant of Javanese kings. In the U.S. and Europe he is barely spoken of at all -- which is both odd and unfortunate, seeing as he is easily the most important ally the West has in the ideological struggle against Islamic radicalism.
I think everybody reading these words would agree that we're never going to win the war against global jihadism unless we engage Islamism, not only with military muscle, not only with diplomacy and economics... but in the realm of ideology: We must convince militant Moslems (red) to become more moderate (pink) and convince "moderate" Moslems to join the fight on our side (white). If we fail to convert red to pink and pink to white, the war will go on and on ad infinitum; Americans will not be safe in the Middle East, in Europe, or even here in America (remember the soldiers at Fort Dix).
I deliberately invoke the counterinsurgency strategy of Col. Galula and Gen. Petraeus, because it's the same core idea: You win by converting enemies to neutrals and neutrals to friends. But how do we go about doing that? You can't beat something with nothing, and we can't beat militant Islamism with a pocketful of secular humanism.
I have seen many people argue that Islam is inherently violent, intolerant, bigoted, and completely incompatible with democratic ideals. But Robert Spencer notwithstanding, the mere existence of the powerful voices of Quietism among the Shia, the colossal NU within conservative Sunnism, and the democracy-ready Kurdish versions of Shafi-Sunnism, Shiism, and Sufism prove that there is nothing inherent in Islam -- or even Islamism -- that demands militancy.
We desperately need a great communicator who can speak to America about the need for moderation among Moslems. And we need a great Islamic communicator, one who can reach those Moslems who do not support jihad and sharia (except as personal goals within their own souls)... but who feel alone and threatened by the militant groups they see all around them.
None of this can possibly come from the Bush administration, I am convinced; but one advantage of the accelerated campaign schedule is that President George W. Bush will very shortly cease to be the loudest voice of the Republican Party. He will be supplanted by Rudolph Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and possibly others who will jump in... and possibly shoot past these three.
This is very good, because each of the big three (and several second-tier GOP candidates) is a far better communicator than the current president. I just hope that they all realize -- and soon -- that our national conversation about Islam and democracy is long overdue. Our counterinsurgency strategy depends upon it, as does much of our diplomacy and even our military posture in the war against global jihad.
We have the arguments; we even have powerful allies. All we have lacked for is the voice. Speak up, Republicans... let yourselves be heard! If the (small-d) democratic majority stays silent long enough, it will cease to be a majority.
And that, as we're now starting to see, would be all the more tragic because it is so avoidable.
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 9, 2007, at the time of 6:35 PM
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The following hissed in response by: Bill Faith
Fascinating. I added an excerpt and link to my 2007.05.10 Dem Perfidy // Islamism Delenda Est Roundup
The above hissed in response by: Bill Faith at May 9, 2007 10:46 PM
The following hissed in response by: soccerdad
I wonder how the "civil rights" group CAIR would react to Nahdatul Ulama.
The above hissed in response by: soccerdad at May 10, 2007 9:47 AM
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