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Post-Iraq Views
of the New Year,
Part IV

Part I
Part II
Part III

Natalia J. Garland

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What are the differences between moderate Muslims and extremist Muslims? In the effort to create a post-Iraq lexicon for anti-terror and--when and where possible--non-military intervention, it is necessary to translate the definition of words into behavioral actions. Referring back to Tony Blair's concepts such as multi-faith societies, social capital, and spiritual capital: how can we identify Muslims who can contribute to these positive conditions? In an attempt to answer that question, I will describe the characteristics of moderate Muslims. Then, I will offer two definitions of the Muslim concept of jihad. I will do this with the help of other writers, including those with expertise in the field of Middle Eastern scholarship.

In 2004, Jeff Jacoby wrote an article, "The Courage of Muslim Moderates;" and, in 2006, Stephen Schwartz wrote "What Is a Moderate Muslim?" Drawing directly from these two sources, I have arranged several characteristics by which non-Muslims can identify moderate Muslims.


  1. Tolerate countries with non-Islamic governments.
  2. Cooperate with the laws of non-Islamic governments when residing in or visiting those countries.
  3. Tolerate non-Islamic religions and cultures.
  4. Recognize that all people have civil rights: including all women and all non-Muslims.
  5. Recognize that America, Great Britain, and Europe offer freedoms and opportunities.
  6. Recognize that Arabocentric Islam is not the only model of the Islamic faith; that American and European Muslims can develop their own cultural traditions while remaining fully faithful.
  7. Recognize that Muslim extremists are not tolerant of moderate Islam or differences of opinion.
  8. Understand Islamic texts and be able to use these texts to refute any justification for terrorism and extremist activity.
  9. Recognize that Muslim extremists were responsible for 9/11.
  10. Recognize that America is not the aggressor.
  11. Condemn all terrorist acts.
  12. Condemn Al-Qaeda and Wahhabism.
  13. Condemn suicide bombing.
  14. Condemn slavery.
  15. Support anti-terror efforts.

Now, what is it that extremist Muslims want and which cannot be achieved through moderation? Are there any political demands that can be reasonably satisfied? Or, can their agenda (i.e., destruction and/or domination) be accomplished only by means of terrorist activity? And, if accomplished, will such terrorist activity then cease? If there are psychopathological roots to terrorism, as there seem to be, then there cannot be any positive fulfillment or resolution through the murdering of innocent civilians and the demolishing of property, commerce, and transportation.

If there is deep resentment toward Western Civilization, the destruction or domination of America, Great Britain, and Europe will not restore the real or perceived losses of the Islamic countries. The former grandeur of the Middle East (which began before Islam was introduced) can be gained back only through education and peaceful co-existence. If the Western world is regarded as culturally inferior, discordant, and unbefitting with regard to Islamic beliefs and lifestyle, then those beliefs must be strengthened from within in order to withstand any negative or different influences from without.

So, what is the purpose of waging violent jihad against America? What is jihad? To define jihad, I will draw from two scholars: Albert Hourani who wrote A History of the Arab Peoples; and William L. Cleveland who wrote A History of the Modern Middle East. The paragraphs below are quoted from Hourani (1) and Cleveland (2), respectively.


The obligation of jihad, although not a formal part of ritual, constitutes an integral component of Islamic doctrine. The basic meaning of jihad is striving in the path of God. This can refer to an individual's inner struggle against sinful inclinations or to an exceptional effort for the good of the Islamic community. Certain modern Muslim writers have thus emphasized the need to internalize jihad in order to achieve religious reform. Jihad has also been invoked by late-twentieth- and early-twenty-first- century movements as an instrument of political protest. These movements have defined the incumbent regimes, whether in Egypt or elsewhere, as irreligious and have claimed that it is therefore necessary to overthrow them by means of a popular jihad. In addition to its spiritual connotations, jihad means armed struggle against non-Muslims for the purpose of expanding or defending the territory under Muslim rule. Jihad, then, is a nuanced doctrine, and rendering it simply as "holy war" is incorrect and should be avoided.
[End of quote.]



From an early time in the history of Islam, there seem to have begun two processes, closely intertwined. There was a movement of piety, of prayer aiming at purity of intention and renunciation of self-regarding motives and worldly pleasures, and one of meditation upon the meaning of the Qur'an; both movements took place in Syria and Iraq more than Hijaz, and it was natural that they should draw sustenance from the modes of thought and moral action already existing in the world in which Muslims were living. Those converts to the new religion had brought into Islam their own inherited ways; they were living in an environment which was still more Christian and Jewish than Muslim. This was the last great age of eastern Christian monasticism, and of ascetic thought and practice. In principle the Prophet had frowned upon monasticism: 'no monasticism in Islam,' ran a famous hadith, and the Islamic equivalent was said to be jihad. In fact, however, the influence of Christian monks seems to have been pervasive: their ideal of a secret world of virtue, beyond that of obedience to law, and the belief that abandonment of the world, mortification of the flesh and repetition of the name of God in prayer, might, with God's help, purify the heart and release it from all worldly concerns to move towards a higher intuitive knowledge of God.
[End of quote.]

It becomes apparent that extremist Islam involves a limited yet loose interpretation of the religion and of jihad. Extremists, and Al-Qaeda specifically, are against any policies or cultures that are anti-Islamic or non-Islamic, whether those attitudes and behaviors are exhibited in America and the West, or in the Middle East, or elsewhere. [See Cleveland and Hourani.] It would probably be accurate to say that some cultural attitudes and behaviors begin in the Western world, especially in America, and then spread to other countries. These attitudes and behaviors are both positive and negative. Just because a culture is non-Islamic, that does not mean the culture is totally non-conducive to the practice of Islam or politically against all Muslims. [There is also a tension between Muslims and Hindus, such as exists between Pakistan and India, but that is outside the scope of today's essay.]

What were Americans to think when Al-Qaeda attacked the World Trade Center? Al-Qaeda wanted to put America in a position where the only response could be a military attack. Al-Qaeda had to do something more severely terroristic than the attacks on the World Trade Center in 1993 and on the U.S.S. Cole in 2000 in order to provoke American military response. We can only imagine that if America had not shown military might after 9/11, Al-Qaeda would have continued its destructive path toward American targets.

How are Americans to feel when watching T.V. coverage of Muslims carrying signs that read Death to America? Are Americans supposed to feel guilty for having a middle class, for being more advanced than Islamic countries, for having a culture that is both civil and decadent, for having Christian roots, for defending our territory?

It also becomes apparent that the Al-Qaeda attack on America was intended, via American military response, to turn all Muslims against America. The purpose was to portray America as essentially anti-Islamic (not anti-terror) and, therefore, dangerous to all Muslim peoples including moderate Muslims. This was a partially successful strategy, insofar as the presidency of George W. Bush became identified with the war on terror, manipulated by some to mean a war on Muslims in general. [See Cleveland and Hourani.] Perhaps beyond the expectations of Al-Qaeda, many Americans themselves turned against their own country--politically and psychologically. Some of the psychological dynamics (naivete, sentimentality, delusion) had an impact on our 2008 presidential election. It could take years for some Americans to move forward from their hatred of Bush and their idolatry of Obama.

Tony Blair's voice is important not only in establishing a global and non-military response to terrorism, but in helping Americans to acquire a post-Iraq psychological equilibrium and in helping moderate Muslims in America and throughout the world to accept America as a humanitarian leader and partner. What we must never forget, however, is that Al-Qaeda has its own political version of jihad: death to America, Christianity, and Judaism. Let us engage in problem-solving and form positive relationships, use military intervention when there is no other alternative, and overcome the barriers of naivete, sentimentality, and delusion. (Written 01/28/09: bibliography available.)

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2009 Natalia J. Garland