Last week on Uncommon Knowledge, Peter Robinson asked me how to draw the distinction between radical and moderate Moslems. The question is so important that I''ve decided to devote some time to it on Ricochet.
Exhibit A: Mona Eltahawy tells Tariq Ramadan where to shove his burqa.
Bravo, Mona. Now, Tariq Ramadan is often lauded--much like Imam Rauf of Ground Zero Mosque fame--as an exemplary moderate Moslem. If you're unfamiliar with the controversy surrounding him, start with these pieces by Ian Buruma and Paul Berman.
To sum it up in a sentence, Berman believes Ramadan is the "gateway drug" to radical Islam. Whether or not he's right, I note there is no such ambiguity about Mona Eltahawy--and note also that she is a self-described, practicing Moslem. Mona, clearly, is the barrier to radical Islam, not the gateway to it. (By the way, I'll be discussing burqa bans with her this weekend on Bloggingheads TV--I'll let you know when that's up.)
Peter and I were only able to begin discussing this issue on Uncommon Knowledge; and obviously, I have a lot more to say. Here's my position, in brief:
- Yes, there are a lot of Moslems who are moderate, in the sense that they are not implacably hostile to the West, not remotely interested in undertaking activities that threaten Western security or constitutional democracy, nor in fact particularly political at all. In many cases, Moslems who are superficially hostile to the West are not lost causes: The hostility is cosmetic, or fashionable; it goes no deeper than many Americans' vague distaste for the French, and could turn around quite easily upon greater knowledge of, and exposure to, the attractive aspects of Western culture and political life.
- That said, many Moslems (politicians, academics, clerics) believed by the West to be “moderate” are in fact our enemy. They are also the enemies of moderate Moslems. They know and understand the West far better than we know and understand them, and they are winning the propaganda war—winning the war, generally.
- It is as inaccurate and dangerous to US foreign policy to believe that there are no peaceful Moslems as it is to believe that there are only peaceful Moslems. I’ve been living in an Islamizing Europe and in the Islamic world for about twenty years. When told—as I sometimes am—that Islam is inherently so warlike that we have no hope of doing business with the Islamic world, I know immediately that I’m talking to someone who has never set foot in the Islamic world. Likewise, the moment someone assures me that Islam is always a religion of peace, I know I’m dealing with someone who is either completely inexperienced of this region or an outright propagandist.
- If most Americans have no idea how to answer these questions, this is not because they’re stupid. It’s because the Islamic world is huge and vastly complex; the languages spoken in the Islamic world are hard to understand; the cultures of the Islamic world are profoundly alien to the West; and because the Moslems who aren’t peaceful aren’t stupid, either: They lie.
- I’m continually astonished by the unwillingness of the American media to do the difficult investigative and analytical work of figuring out who is who. It’s impossible, literally impossible, to get a deep sense of what’s going on in Turkey from the US media right now, for example—no publication is doing this kind of reporting at the level it needs to be done, and the ideological bias of the mainstream media has reached a point beyond parody.
- Where these issues are concerned, there's no substitute for on-the-ground observation and laborious investigative work--and this is often boring work, like examining the complex networks of financing behind certain political figures and trying to figure out if it means anything that Politician X took a donation from Corporation Y, on whose board serves Cleric Z, who seems to be associated with a chapter of the Moslem Brotherhood in Village K. No wonder no one wants to do it.
But this work is utterly necessary, and someone's got to do it.
To this end, Moderate Moslem Watch will now be a regular series here on Ricochet. In the coming weeks, I'll be discussing so-called moderate Moslems--some of whom you may know, some of whom you may not--and making the case for doing business with them, as genuine friends of the West, or denouncing them as the frauds they are.
Next up: Fadela Amara and Ni Putes Ni Soumises.