Category ►►► Moslem Miscellany
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.
May 4, 2007
Great Satan In a Red Dress - CORRECTION, see below
Top American diplomat Condoleezza Rice managed to terminally offend Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, at a state dinner in Egypt, by wearing Western clothing: to wit, one red dress. He fled the room, shrieking that she was "dressed too revealingly," as AP puts it.
"I don't know which woman he was afraid of, the woman in the red dress or the secretary of state," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Friday.
Rice and Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki met earlier at a lunch Thursday but exchanged only pleasantries. Neither appeared ready to make the first move for a real meeting.
"You can ask him why he didn't make an effort," Rice told reporters Friday. "I'm not given to chasing anyone."
If Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) were present, would she have offered to let Condi borrow her chador? Nah... the diminutive robes of the squeaker couldn't possibly fit the statuesque secretary of state.
February 25, 2007
The Pentagon's New Map - Simplified
I just realized I can boil down much of what Thomas P.M. Barnett writes in his book the Pentagon's New Map to a single pair of sentences. This drops all the fine detail, of course; its advantage is that it makes the central point as clear as a nutshell.
Barnett divides the world into two regions: the Functioning Core and the Non-Integrating Gap. And I can define those two thus:
- The Functioning Core comprises the nations whose people say "We love life." This includes all those countries that are taking advantage of globalization to interconnect their economies, their communications, and their legal systems to the rest of the civilized world, hoping to "immanentize the eschaton" -- or at least create la dolce vita.
- The Non-Integrating Gap comprises the nations whose people say "We worship death." This includes all jihadist states, of course, but also places like Rwanda-Burundi, Congo, Zimbabwe, North Korea, and Haiti... places where life is a flickering spark, and murder is a negotiating tool or an expression of tribal triumphalism.
I use the verb "to worship" with great deliberation: it's not an abstract love of death that animates these cultures; rather, it's almost like human sacrifice -- as if they must appease a dark and terrifying Chaos Lord by feeding him blood and souls.
Although the details are important, it's also critical to understand that our Grand Strategy over the next few decades (what replaces the Cold War) is the fight between the culture that loves life and the culture that worships death. Our task is to shrink the geographic area that comprises those nations that are members of the latter... to deny our enemy territory.
September 18, 2006
Bride of Moslem Groups Speak Out
First, the good news: two of the groups mentioned in the precursor to this post, Moslem Groups Speak Out Against Violent Islamic Reaction to Pope, have actually issued statements in response to the pope's remarks and what has happened since.
Even more good news, the Muslim Public Affairs Council said the following:
The Muslim Public Affairs Council today condemned the murder of an Italian nun in Somalia, which reportedly took place as a result of Pope Benedict XVI's remarks on Islam last week....
The Italian nun was shot in the back in the Somali capital of Mogadishu by two gunmen. The nun's bodyguard and a hospital worker were also killed, doctors said. In the West Bank, two churches were set on fire. MPAC unequivocally condemns any violence in response to the Pope's remarks as being antithetical to the teachings of Islam.
On Friday, MPAC reached out to American Catholic leaders urging them to convene a dialogue between Catholic and Muslim leaders. In a letter to Cardinal Roger Mahoney of the Los Angeles Archdioces, MPAC Executive Director Salam Al-Marayati and Senior Advisor Dr. Maher Hathout, stressed the need for the Vatican and Catholic leaders to clarify and explain the remarks. The letter states in part: "In this spirit of dialogue and understanding that we continue to further, we would like to call for a meeting and dialogue regarding the recent comments made by Pope Benedict XVI. We do not want to allow for those individuals who call for divisiveness at such volatile times to speak on behalf of our communities.
I would love to believe that this letter was in response to the previous Big Lizards post; alas, I'm quite certain they've never even heard of us. (Heck, the vast majority of people who read Power Line or Captain's Quarters have never even heard of us!)
At the same time, the Council on American-Islamic Relations has also finally issued a statement on this issue: U.S. Muslims Call for Dialogue Over Pope's Comments on Islam. It begins thus:
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today called for increased dialogue between Muslims and Catholics over the controversy sparked by remarks perceived as insulting to Islam and the Prophet Muhammad made by Pope Benedict XVI. CAIR is also seeking a meeting with the Vatican's representative in Washington, D.C., to discuss the remarks.
But here is the part of most interest to readers of this blog (well, to all but one of them), the part where CAIR also recognizes -- and denounces -- the Moslem violence sweeping the globe in reaction to the pope's remarks. It's actually quite encouraging that they would say this:
There, see? Even those most mired in religious tribalism can reform themselves and admit when their own fellow Moslems have gone too far!
September 17, 2006
Moslem Groups Speak Out Against Violent Islamic Reaction to Pope
...And the worldwide spasm of Islamic violence in response to the pope saying that the emperor of Constantinople once suggested Islam was violent.
The firebombing of Christian (not even Catholic) churches in Gaza and other areas; the death sentence declared against Pope Benedict XVI by a top Somali cleric; riots almost everywhere there are Moslems. And all because the pope said, in the midst of a windy academic treatise on reason and faith:
I was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by Professor Theodore Khoury (Münster) of part of the dialogue carried on-- perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara-- by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both. It was probably the emperor himself who set down this dialogue, during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402; and this would explain why his arguments are given in greater detail than the responses of the learned Persian.
The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur'an, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship of the three Laws: the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Qur'an. In this lecture I would like to discuss only one point-- itself rather marginal to the dialogue itself-- which, in the context of the issue of faith and reason, I found interesting and which can serve as the starting-point for my reflections on this issue.
In the seventh conversation edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the jihad (holy war). The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: There is no compulsion in religion. It is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat.
But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels,” he turns to his interlocutor somewhat brusquely with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words:
Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.
The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul.
God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death....
The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature.
Responding to this almost comically ironic proof of everything Emperor Manuel II Paleologus told his learned Persian, in the midst of a terrible crisis in the Islamic world, where Westerners around the globe see the Moslem community as hysterical, violent, and utterly out of control, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, as of 01:33 PDT, September 17th, 2006, had this to say:
Well! Who could argue with that? It's a powerful counterargument to the thesis that Moslems are an excitable bunch, I'll tell you. But I'm not quite sure it really makes the case for the religion of peace. But we'll keep checking back with CAIR every now and again.
By contrast, the American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee was much more voluble and forthcoming. Offering their position on the developing anti-Christian frenzy, President Hon. Mary Rose Oakar (former Congresswoman, D-OH) -- last seen rapidly exiting the House after cashing over 200 bum checks on the House bank -- addressed the issue forthrightly:
The Muslim Public Affairs Council likewise takes the boiling froth of Islamic paranoia and violent reaction just as seriously as do CAIR and the ADC. Speaking candidly about the crisis, MPAC said:
By contrast, the youngest and fastest growing moderate Islamic organization in America, the American Islamic Congress, seems to have nothing to say about the issue. They did, however, announce the prize winners of the “Dream Deferred” Essay Contest on Civil Rights in the Middle East.
So there you have it; let no one say the major Islamic and Arabic groups in the United States haven't stepped up to the plate and at least shown how concerned they are about outrageous and unprovoked Moslem madness all around the world, in response to a minor anecdote in a speech that would seem otherwise to require propping one's eyelids open with toothpicks, à la Fred Flintstone.
Such courage must be encouraged wherever we find it.
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