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Thank you, Confucius the OEV, for pointing out this lucid piece by Ron Radosh. He sums up the key question prompted by the GZM debate:
An important issue is now emerging in the conservative constituency. It boils down to the following: Is Islam itself our enemy, and should Americans work to oppose Islam throughout the world; or, is it only radical Islam, what Christopher Hitchens calls Islamofascism and others call Islamism, the enemy we must oppose?
He provides a tour of the opinions, overt or implied, of politicians and prominent observers who have weighed in on the issue since September 11. He notes:
One must also heed what Daniel Pipes wrote some years back, that the real problem is identifying correctly who is and who is not a moderate Muslim. Imam Rauf may not turn out to be one—but that does not mean that moderate Muslims who actively seek influence are not real moderates. “With time,” Pipes wrote, individual Muslims are finding their voice to condemn Islamist connections to terrorism.” He presents many examples which must not be overlooked; yet he too warns that “There are lots of fake-moderates parading about, and they can be difficult to identify, even for someone like me who devotes much attention to this to this topic.” If it is difficult for Pipes, imagine how difficult it is for those of us attempting to make sense of all this from the outside.
I don’t agree with every word Radosh writes in this piece, but I agree with almost all of it. His discussion of the Imam Feisal debate is particularly worthwhile. On one point, as I’ve mentioned here, I disagree–Radosh thinks the plans for the GZM have led to a “divisive and dangerous” debate. Divisive, yes; dangerous, probably not: It is giving rise to pieces like Radosh’s, and many others, that are the essence of necessary and useful debate.
A last point–Confucius the OEV noted to me that those less inclined to see Islam as monolithic are often those who have had a lot of exposure to the Islamic world. There are exceptions (Ayaan Hirsi Ali comes to mind), but generally, I think that’s true: Someone like me, who lives in Turkey, just can’t be persuaded that everyone who calls himself a Moslem believes the word means the same thing–no more than you could be persuaded that everyone who calls himself an American understands that word the same way.