February 21, 2005

Where are the moderate Muslims?

Posted by Mary Madigan

Free Muslims against terrorism respond to the Freedom House Investigation (posted at Dean's World)

Muslim-bashing. That's the accusation many of my fellow Muslims now hurl at the various news outlets for their news stories about a Freedom House investigation that found extremist Islamic literature in some leading American mosques. This name-calling is unfortunate.

Since 1980, the Muslim world has experienced an enormous growth of religious fanaticism and extremism the likes of which Islam has not experienced in its 1,400 years. This movement continues to grow because of the spread of Wahhabi Islam; a sect that used to number no more than one percent of all Muslims, but because of money and technology, has spread to more areas around the world…

..Will Muslims wake up before it is too late? Or will we continue blaming an imaginary Jewish conspiracy and entities like The Dallas Morning News for all our problems? The blaming of all Muslim problems on others is a cancer that is destroying Muslim society. And it must stop.

Muslims must wake up, look inward and put a stop to many of our religious leaders who spend most of their sermons teaching hatred, intolerance and violent jihad. We should not be afraid to admit that as Muslims we have a problem with violent extremism. We should not be afraid to admit that so many of our religious leaders belong behind bars, and not behind a pulpit.

Free Muslims against Terrorism was "created to eliminate broad base support for Islamic extremism and terrorism and to strengthen secular democratic institutions in the Middle East and the Muslim World by supporting Islamic reformation efforts."

Moderate Muslims are also here, here, here and here.

Posted by Mary Madigan at February 21, 2005 11:47 AM

Comments

Moderate Muslims can also be found here.

Posted by: jeet at February 21, 2005 01:44 PM

Oh boy - I don't even know where to start I am still somewhat steamed over the previous thread! What I take away from that thread is that Muslim "moderates" - whomever they may be ("good people" raised in the Muslim tradition suffices for me) are perhaps powerless to fundamentally reform their religion. They are losing control over their mosques (because they may not in fact have a theological ground to stand on in confronting the extremists among them given the origins of their Holy Book) plus there is the obvious intimidation of anyone who speaks out - Muslims especially. The Islamic laws against blasphemy of the prophet plus the death threats for apostasy would silence anyone. But now - ADD to that - western folks who basically want to imply that folks like me (and many others - even the LGF folks, excepting the lunatics who just want to bomb everyone into oblivion) who ARE willing to call a spade a spade - will be responsible for WWIV - as if that is what the intention is in trying to speak openly about Islam - man - yes it steams me! It isn't enough that a Holy War is declared on US! With the stated intention to literally destroy as many innocent lives as possible? That is MY family! My closest family lives in Manhattan, DC and LA. Yes - I take that personally. But we are to shut up too. Lest we "offend" anyone. What utter bullshit is this? In America we actually have 1st amendement rights. We are allowed to state truth as we see it (hell - people get away with stating LIES all the time). If lunatics take that as license to kill people - then THEY are responsible for those actions - not people who do not advocate violence but whom simply point out the facts about Islam and Muhammed. Every other religion has been subject to the crudest criticism. It goes on today quite openly against Christians in this country. That criticism is NECESSARY to force people to take a hard look at their religions. That blunt criticism forces them to reflect and to change! But it seems to be rare indeeed for anyone to demand - I mean DEMAND - that of Muslims. We're all supposed to just shut the f**ck up. What a f**cking joke! Why should westerners bow down to the same intimidation that silences the moderate Muslims? Frankly - as an individual I am just a nobody. Just some idiot addicted to the blogosphere. I don't represent the US government. Argghh! Muslims need to take a hard look at their religion - they aren't bloody babies for Pete's sake - and the last solution for this problem is for folks to cower and pussy-foot around because they are intimidated.

Posted by: Caroliine at February 21, 2005 03:33 PM

Mary -

Thanks for posting this.

I have never equated Islam as an evil unto itself. Mix holy writ with the hand of evil men and you have a recipe for disaster, which is what we are dealing with right now.

I still stand by my earlier post (two threads down) that the Koran is in a class by itself for use as a foundation for extremism.

Just as Christianity has had its periods of Torquemadas, Jim Jones', and witch burners, Islam now has Wahabbists and Salifist and mere despots.

I have read Schwarz before, and respect his experience and analysis. I find it intriguing that he lays a lot of the blame for Islamophobia on our media. I have agreed with his assessment of organizations like CAIR and the others he mentions for years.

My problem is not with what people believe. It's with their actions. Actions invite investigation of motive, and that's been the driving force behind my interest in the Koran.

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 21, 2005 04:38 PM

"My problem is not with what people believe. It's with their actions"

Action follows from belief as surely as day follows night.

Posted by: Caroline at February 21, 2005 05:12 PM

Caroline -

I don't deny the truth of that at all. They could hate us from sunup to sunset as long as they respected our right to live on the same world as they do. They don't. So they must be dealt with.

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 21, 2005 06:08 PM

You know, we don't need to hear and see moderate American Muslims. Now that I think about it, what we need to hear and see a lot of are patriotic American Muslims. When my Catholic ancestors came here in droves, they did not adopt a "moderate" stance. They proved themselves passionate Americans. Let's see some Muslim love of America.

Posted by: EssEm at February 21, 2005 07:06 PM

You know I started recieving emails from Free Muslims against Terrorism without being aware that I'd signed up for then. Maybe a pettition I signed or something.

But anyway I'm always suspicious of spam. I'm thinking "if someone put me on a mailing list, they should at least tell me and tell me why."

Anyway I've seen a few of sites by people like those at Muslims against Terrorism. I hope that democracy in Iraq (an other places) give traction to these ideas... But it's sure been disappointing to watch the drama around Iraq and see that while many Iraqis prayed for freedom, most American Muslims seemed to distain the freedom they already had and wish eternal Saddam on their "brothers" in Iraq.

I get this feeling that Muslims in the West are like the teen who doesn't want to seen with her parents... While middle easterners want freedom, our own Muslims want everyone to know that they're NOT with the rest of us infidels. They have to be MORE totalitarian than the people back home. Because infidels are God's enemies, don't you know.

Posted by: Joshua Scholar at February 21, 2005 07:18 PM

Caroline -

It's becoming exceedingly difficult to address your rants with reason. You seem to think you're being criticized because you dare speak a forbidden truth. The reality is that you're spreading misinformation, ignorance, and even bigotry about something you clearly know little about.

Your first comment in the previous (related) thread tried to blame Islam for everything from FGM (a practice that preceded Islam in Africa and is unheard of in most of the Muslim countries I've visited -- and it's been practiced by Christian and even Jewish tribes in Africa) to calls for the murder of apostates, which most Muslims denounce. You also make repeated claims about what most muslims believe, when I doubt you even know any.

You seem to be a devout Christian, Caroline. How would you like it if I tried to blame your religion for, say, this?

And how would you feel if someone who was not Christian, and had no intention of ever becoming Christian, continued to lecture you on how you needed to reform your religion? That's not the kind of healthy self-criticism that has led to enlightened tolerance and pluralism in the West. It's just plain bigotry.

Posted by: Bill Herbert at February 21, 2005 09:14 PM

Bill-

I'm with Caroline. MOST muslims haven't repudiated anything, they're sitting on the sidelines. America has gotten almost no help at all from its muslim population.

Islam should be criticised by non-muslims, the muslims sure as hell ain't doing it. Islam breeds unhappiness and oppression, a religion run by psychotic, semi-literate imams who'd be pumping gas if they lost their jobs. Islam as it's being practised almost guarantees a primitive, tribal society where males fail at meeting even the most basic needs of their women and children. Its this chauvinism of male failure that leads them to instictively try to dominate their women and children as they can't control anything else in their lives.

As for the 'moderate muslims', they can go f--k themselves, all 50 or 100 of them. They haven't shown much of anything since 9-11.

Posted by: Raymond at February 21, 2005 10:07 PM

Bill - I agree with you that that I am getting too emotional about this. My apologies for that. But you are wrong about my religion. I was raised a Catholic. Very Catholic. I lived near the Vatican when I was a child because my father was on a Papal commission. We even had a private audience with the Pope. I left the Church when I was 19 and belong to no organized religion. When folks come to my front door and try to tell me that only people who accept Jesus as their savior are going to heaven and the rest are going to hell I practically laugh in their faces. I argue with them about it – try to explain to them how irrational it is. (Ditto for Mormons and their crazy Joseph Smith stuff.) If I did happen to belong to that Church in the article you linked to - and they spouted that stuff - I'd give them a huge piece of my mind before walking right out the door. It’s not that hard to do. You go find another church that doesn’t preach hate and if they all preach hate – then you leave the church. Likewise, if Wahhabi extremists took over my local mosque and started preaching their hatred, I’d walk out! That is precisely what moderate Muslims in the US ought to do if their local mosque is spewing hateful filth! Why don't they just walk out? Would you just sit there and listen to someone spewing hateful garbage in the name of "religion"?

Posted by: Caroline at February 22, 2005 12:42 AM

Caroline,

These people you speak of who decry you, me and others like us are afraid of Truth. They are afraid because to them the Truth is the big bad wolf who can blow down their house of straw. That house is the theories and postulations upon which they've formed their every value and opinion and in their self-righteousness, arrogance, and indignation they refuse to question the foundations upon which they've built their house of straw. It's a shame and I actually feel pity for people like that, not just those on the left as we speak of in this instance, but of those from all areas of belief; because to recognize Truth is a vry freeing experience. Almost like a babtism of faith, it will release you from your ideolgical bonds and burdens.

Orwell once wrote "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a Revolutionary act."

Posted by: Mike T. at February 22, 2005 07:37 AM

Raymond -- if you're going to insult people who are on your side, it's your right, but have the honesty to spell it "fuck" not "f--k" you little weasel.

Caroline -- I think that your passion for justice can be useful. But you need to watch out, you could be heading into LGF bomb-Mecca territory. Already you assume that Bin-Laden and his followers are better Muslims than self-styled moderates who don't want to blow us up. (By better Muslim I mean someone who lives his life as the Prophet would have.) I'd suggest you involve yourself with the Other side: TALK to moderate Muslims, read Karen Armstrong, etc.... And then voice your disagreements with them, challenge them, excoriate them, whatever. But stay from the bomb Mecca crowd. They have nothing positive to teach you.

Also, consider that all major world religions are ideologies, to use your term, and that regardless of how the details of these differing ideologies read to outsiders like you and I, terrorism and other manifestations of barbarism have been practiced by adherants of all of them (ok, perhaps not the Bahai's). Consider that the same ideology that produced your teacher Krishnamurti also produced the racist caste system and other repulsive cultural practices of the Indian subcontinent, including the self-immolation of widows.

Posted by: markus rose at February 22, 2005 07:58 AM

Markus,

That is all well and good and definitely a true point, however past misdeeds in the name of religion on the part of adherants to the other various religious ideologies aside from Islam is of little consequence in the here and now. The only benefit of recognizing those people, places and incidents in history, in contrast to our present predicament, is to learn the lessons laid forth by their mistakes. However, that being said we can't exempt and excuse militant Muslims and the vile acts committed by certain sects of Islam just because we can admit the same indescretions on the part of other religions througout history.

We have a problem; it eminates from Islam. That can't be denied or overlooked. It is imperative that we have a dialogue with the moderates within that religion, and we must also implore to them that if they do not get off their asses and help fix the problem, they will sink with the ship. There is only one alternative when faced with individuals who refuse to co-exist peacefully; elimination of the aggressor.

Posted by: Mike T. at February 22, 2005 09:03 AM

Markus - as an aside, Krishnamurti was educated in England. Re the "bomb Mecca" crowd - good lord I hope I haven't said anything to indicate that I would endorse killing anyone! I'm not so easily influenced that reading some of the stuff at LGF is going to turn me into a flaming neo-nazi! I think what we're having here is a disagreement about whether denouncing Islam itself publicly ultimately serves to inflame and ratchet up the level of violence - hardening people in their positions and as Bill said - making it harder to win over moderate Muslims, or whether it forces moderate Muslims to either get on with reforming the darn thing or just recognize that it cannot be reformed and hence has to be abandoned. I think its certainly a reasonable debate to have, although I admit that I have let my emotions run away with me in a most unbecoming manner that might lead someone to fear that I would endorse violence (so I can't blame you for getting that impression!) I just tend to chafe under the notion that we should shut up about it. Certainly it appears that folks in Europe are being forced to shut up about it and it seems to me that the consequence is going to be a massive explosion of violence at some point which will be unleashed indiscriminately against Muslims or even just people who sort of look like them. Here is Ali Sina's take on it (you might recall that he is quite familiar with Krishnamurti):

Ali Sina

So you see - I am simply trying to lend Mr. Sina a hand :-)

Posted by: Caroline at February 22, 2005 09:37 AM

Raymond – there are more than a few hundred moderates. There are thousands. Unlike the terror-supporting groups like CAIR, these moderates don’t have millions of dollars in Saudi money to get the attention of the press. So we never hear them.

About two years ago, the moderate Islamic Supreme Council testified in favor of the complete separation of Church and State. Did you hear about that when it happened? I didn’t.

Tens of thousands of Muslims in Iraq have had protests in the street against extremism and terrorism. The press regularly ignores these protests.

These moderates know, better than we do, who the ‘radicals’ are. Most of them know that the radicals are the representatives of ‘political Islam’, our Saudi "allies." We need to listen to the moderates, despite the fact that they’re often hard to hear.

Posted by: mary at February 22, 2005 09:42 AM

Mike T. -- here in America (and Europe AND the Middle East), Islamic terrorism is the problem.

In the Gujarat province of India, the problem is Hindu terrorism against both Muslims and Christians. In Sri Lanka, the problem until very recently has been Buddhist terrorism (the Tamil Tigers), against Hindus.

I'm opposed to religious extremists of all stripes. Militant Islam is at the top of the list. What has NOT happened in that religion is the institutionalization of the idea of the separation of mosque and state. In that respect, they are a few centuries behind the West, where the Spanish Inquisition finally ended in 1834. My problem with Catherine is her designation of Bin-Laden and his ilk as the good Muslims, and her designation of progressive Muslims as apostates. What is needed is the marginalization of Islamic extremism, just as Jewish and Christian extremism has been largely marginalized.

Posted by: markus rose at February 22, 2005 09:49 AM

Catherine -- so you want to help Mr. Sina "erradicate" the "unreformable" religion of Islam? And you wonder why Muslims who believe that Bin-Laden is an apostate are leery of joining Mr. Sina's cause?!

Unlike communism, Islam is an ideology that gives answers to the fundamental questions of life (why are we here? what happens after death? what is the purpose of life? etc...). Also, unlike Communism, which I think it is safe to say only a tiny minority of those who lived under it believed in, 1.7 billion human being identify themselves as Muslim. Just what do you expect these people to believe in?

It seems transparently obvious that Mr. Sina is a crank, and you discredit yourself, Catherine, by endorsing his crusade (from the link that you provide):

"At FFI, we do not want to reform Islam. We want to eradicate it. Just as cancer cannot be reformed and the only way to cure the patient is to eradicate it, Islam can’t be reformed either and it must be eradicated for the world to be saved. This will succeed, because all we have to do is to tell the truth, quote the Quran and refer to the deeds of Muhammad and question them in the light of reason and commonsense.

Now you may say but Muslims lack the commonsense. Yes, many of them do, but there is a small percentage that is still endowed with commonsense. These are the group that we want to reach.

What effect a small percentage will have on the rest of Muslims? A lot! Even if there are only 10% Muslims with commonsense, (and I dare to say this is a conservative number and in actuality more Muslims have commonsense), still we are talking of over 100 million people. Imagine if 100 million Muslims leave Islam. This will cause consternation among the rest of the Muslims and since Islam is not a religion based on logics but on pure hypes. The rest of the Muslims will become disheartened and they too will start shaking in their faith.

But the key here is in the hands of the non-Muslims. That is why I am so much focusing on this group. The non-Muslims hold the key to awakening that small percentage of the Muslims. All they have to do is denounce Islam and do not try to “be nice” and appease the Muslims with foolish and false pretense that Islam is also another religion. No, Islam is not also another religion; it is a dangerous cult and must be denounced strongly.

The non-Muslims must help defeating Islam. They must write against it, ridicule it and even ridicule its proponents.

Islam cannot be reformed, but it can be eradicated. If we work together, we will succeed."

Yeah, right, whatever.

Posted by: markus rose at February 22, 2005 10:40 AM

Caroline -- I don't know why I keep wanting to call you Catherine. I once dated a Caroline, while my interest at the same time to someone else named Catherine went unrequited, but I'm not sure if that has anything to do with it.

To amend what I said, intellectuals who hated Christianity, like Voltaire, Gibbon, and Hume, did contribute toward making toward making the religion they opposed into a more tolerant ideology. And maybe Mr. Sina also has something of the same role to play in Islam. But if the only opposition to Wahhabism is the call for the eradication of Islam, then Wahabbism will flourish. And I don't think that an attack along those lines from those OUTSIDE the Muslim faith serves any purpose.

Posted by: markus rose at February 22, 2005 10:58 AM

Egyptian peace activist Ali Salem was once asked whether he thought that Islam will become moderate.

He answered that Islam can not become moderate, but it can become irrelevent. He said that the younger generation has much less interest in Islam than you'd think and that he expects that the people will eventually forget Islam...

So even people who live in the middle east don't necessarily take the line you'd expect. But I see a lot of despair in Ali Salem's position. He sees that Islam can not moderate and that leaves getting rid of Islam as the only answer, unlikely though that is.

A year and a half ago he also said (despite supporting the Iraq war!) says that the west should stop trying to help middle eastern democrats... I'm sure that stems from the having to deal with the xenophobia that, you guessed it, comes from Islam. So I don't see Salem as a hopeful man.

But I remember just after 9/11 Salem gave an interview on PBS where he said that the attack on the US will be good for the Middle east, because now [paraphrase] "our problems and our enemies [extreemists] are your problems and your enemies, and you are good at dealing with problems" He also said "now you will have to become a bit more like us to deal with these problems and we will become more like you" A wise man.

Posted by: Joshua Scholar at February 22, 2005 01:47 PM

Mary-

The thing is...it seems like 'moderate' muslims often say the right things, but follow up with horrible things. What I mean is that too many times in the past I read something where a muslim supports separation of church and state, then someone points out how the same person wants jews and gays exterminated. Know what I mean?

I spent a year in the middle east and lived and worked with them and experienced the same thing. I'm not willing to call someone a 'moderate' if they are genocidally inclined.

Markus- I absolutely stand by what I wrote. I've survived cancer, combat, one marriage and yes, I'm opiniated, but that's only because I want this problem dealt with and not left for our children to deal with. I'm lots of things, but think of something better than little weasel please.

Posted by: Raymond at February 22, 2005 03:12 PM

Markus - I might hope that the name confusion means that Catherine - and not myself - is discredited :-)

I will say one last thing and then - like the obnoxious dinner guest who has disrupted the conversation and overstayed their welcome, I will depart and hope that I haven't caused too much consternation or insult to the kind hosts.

Islam as an ideology is evil because it was inspired by an evil man who either lied (or hallucinated) about receiving God's word and then used that ideology to both kill and enslave millions upon millions of people - about 1.5 billion today. To contemplate the sheer numbers of lives it has destroyed in the past and will likely continue to destroy in the future is to identify a little with the subject of the Munsch painting "The Scream". I have generally scoffed at stuff like Christian "prophecy" and "Revelations" but it doesn't seem very funny to me now. It must be the little Catholic still in me. Crazy notions like "Satanic" and the "anti-Christ" occur to me. It has nothing to do with the individual human beings who belong to this "religion". I really do believe that all human beings are the same. But people are motivated to action through belief, through "ideology". Krishnamurti (yes - my hero) has spoken endlessly about the dangers of belief and ideology. It seems to me that the truth about Islam should be apparent to any rational person. If there is a God - he would not reveal his sacred message to an evil man like Muhammed. Its that simple. The implications, however, are enormous.

Enough said. I will do my utmost to refrain from talking about it again - at least on this site - because I really like this site, I respect its hosts, and I do not want to discourage future "dinner parties" where civilized folks can gather.

Posted by: Caroline at February 22, 2005 05:01 PM

Raymond -- I didn't have any problem with what you said. I just have a pet peeve when I people write "shit" as "s--t" and "fuck" as "f--k". To not to spell it out is to evade responsibility for the words, which are harsh ones. As they say, it's the thought ("fuck 'em") that counts.

But I overreacted and so I apologize to you.

Posted by: markus rose at February 23, 2005 06:25 AM

Um, this is a little OT, but because it has been mentioned so much I just went over and checked out LGF for the first time and I have to say it's not for me. From time to time I start to question whether I'm leaning too far over to the right, but then I see stuff like that and it convinces me otherwise. Some of those people are downright scary and irrational. Caroline and Mary, as I've come to respect you both by the depth and intellectual honesty you display through your posts I sincerely hope that you don't spend too much time over there, and/or truly buy into a lot of what is tossed about in their comments sections. (I single you two out b/c you're the first who come to mind as recently referencing LGF).

Markus,

I too replace most of my expletives with other characters (unless someone really pissed me off), but I actually do it just out respect for MJT and his site. Not to escape responsibility for saying them.

Posted by: Mike T. at February 23, 2005 07:45 AM

Raymond - as far as I know, the moderates that I linked to above are opposed to the extermination of Jews and homosexuals. Some, like Irshad Manji, are gay.

Yes, there are some Islamists who are opposed to equality and are called 'moderate', like Sistani. And there are a lot of secular Muslims who side with the extremists because they see a chance to gain political power.

It's very confusing. That's why we should listen to the genuine (certified?) moderates - they can tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys. Often, we can't.

Posted by: mary at February 23, 2005 08:13 AM

markus - I replace expletives with other characters so that political websites will be accessible to people with those 'parental controls' on their computers. I've never used them on my computer, but I think they search for certain words. I thought that was what Raymond was doing.

Posted by: mary at February 23, 2005 08:17 AM

Where are the unicorns. Where is the tooth fairy.

Posted by: Jake at February 23, 2005 05:18 PM

Mike T - thanks for looking out for my soul. You're a true gentleman :-)

Posted by: Caroline at February 23, 2005 06:19 PM

I have my doubts concerning Islam's ability to reform. I suspect that, just as with Christianity, fanatics are naturally created at a certain irreducible rate, no matter what the leaders teach. In the case of Christianity, most of these fanatics are self-destructive and contagious but not harmful to others. It would be wishful thinking to expect the same of Islam.

I have noticed many people glossing over the religious differences by pointing out that Muslims are warned to be fair and kind to the "people of the Book", meaning Christians, Jews and some other group that I have forgotten. But there are many millions, possibly billions, of people who are not covered by this protection. Even in the best of interpretations I have read, these people have no recourse or sanctuary.

Posted by: jj at February 24, 2005 07:22 AM

During the Cold War,(WW3),the countries were divided into 1st, 2nd, and 3rd world nations as a method of short hand classification. These rankings were based mostly on economic development, and much effort was made on both sides of the Iron Curtain to be the economic sugar daddy of strategic countries in order to advance one's position, or at least check the moves of the other side.

I submit that what we have been seeing since the collapse of the world-wide Marxist movement that began with the implosion of the Soviet empire is that the complexity of development is much more than just economic progress. Cultures are not just at different economic levels---they are, in a very real sense, in different times.

The 1st world is actually in the 21st century, and is pulling the rest of the world along with it. This means not only economic development, but a world wide viewpoint, a realization that the many cultures and societies of the world have a complex interwoven set of universal similarities, and an equally complex set of differences.

The reality of societies that are 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th world countries is that they are still living in an earlier era, not only economically, but in the cultural viewpoints that are still suited to a small village, isolated, struggling, agricultural, homogenous, non-individualistic, politically repressed environment.

The Islamic world has been trapped in a 16th or 17th century cultural bubble. They are still ready to burn Galilleo for suggesting the earth moves around the sun. The reformation has been delayed, and they have spent most of the last few centuries huddled behind circled wagons as the decrepit Caliphates that formed their societies were overrun by the more energetic societies of the industrializing West.

It will be a long, slow, frustrating process for everyone as the culture of Islam begins to adapt to the realities of a world-wide, 21st century culture. Repression, such as the attempt to prevent access to satellite TV and telephones, or the internet, are symptoms of fear and weakness, not strength and confidence.

If the Afghan and Iraqi experience can be made to work, and reasonably free societies result, the example of their ability to operate within an open world system might be enough to push along the much needed re-examination of the stagnant state of most Islamic societies. Then the reformation can begin, and the power of the fanatics can be reduced.

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