of the New Year,
Natalia J. Garland
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
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.
15 CHARACTERISTICS OF MODERATE MUSLIMS
- Tolerate countries with non-Islamic governments.
- Cooperate with the laws of non-Islamic governments when
residing in or visiting those countries.
- Tolerate non-Islamic religions and cultures.
- Recognize that all people have civil rights: including all
women and all non-Muslims.
- Recognize that America, Great Britain, and Europe offer
freedoms and opportunities.
- 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.
- Recognize that Muslim extremists are not tolerant of moderate
Islam or differences of opinion.
- Understand Islamic texts and be able to use these texts to
refute any justification for terrorism and extremist activity.
- Recognize that Muslim extremists were responsible for 9/11.
- Recognize that America is not the aggressor.
- Condemn all terrorist acts.
- Condemn Al-Qaeda and Wahhabism.
- Condemn suicide bombing.
- Condemn slavery.
- 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.
UNDERTANDING JIHAD (1)
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.]
UNDERSTANDING JIHAD (2)
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.]
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
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