The search for moderate Muslims

I’ve written in the past about the challenge of seeking out legitimate moderates in the Muslim world. Now
author Claire Berlinski has undertaken a series at Ricochet called the “Moderate Muslim Watch” which is well worth reading. Berlinski writes here on the challenge of determining true moderates from fraudulent ones:

The question is entirely legitimate. Yes, there is a long-established Islamic doctrine of taqqiya–variously translated and interpreted as “precautionary dissimulation,” “religiously-sanctioned deception,” “keeping one’s convictions secret,” “tactical dissimulation,” “holy deception,” and “lying.” Even if there weren’t, any radical with half his wits about him could see that Westerners just adore the word “moderate.” The very utterance of the word seems to have a soothing, soporific effect on them. So long as you just keep enjoining the words, “I’m a moderate,” a parade of hopeful Western buffoons will assuredly line up on your doorstep with roses and the Barry White mix tapes, eager to embrace you in moist gratitude and admiration even as you face the television cameras and call for their enslavement and destruction. If you do this in a language that your interlocutors haven’t bothered to learn, you’ll be just fine.

What’s more, you can almost always convince the West to do business with you or look the other way if you insist that since you’re a moderate, it is important to engage you or support you to stave off the radicals. If you want evidence of this, look no further than what is apparently our new strategy in Afghanistan: cut a deal with Mullah Omar on the grounds that he represents the moderate wing of the Taliban.

There are certainly risks here. Beyond the obvious cultural challenges at issue, there’s little question allure of bridge-building with the Muslim world has in the past put America in a position of courting “false moderates.” And even though such religious moderates certainly do exist, observers like Reuel Marc Gerecht have questioned whether their words or deeds will, in any way, further the interests of the United States.

Yet one example of a call for moderate engagement that may prove quite profitable for our relationship with the Muslim world can be found in the Malaysian example. While on a trip to New York last month, during which he called for a “global movement of moderates” to retake the center of the international conversation, I asked Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak about the experience in his country.

“We have always taken the position that Islam is an integral part of public policy in Malaysia. By doing so, we have taken the wind from the sails of the extremists. There is no contradiction between being moderate and being Muslim,” Najib told me. “Being moderate, taking the middle path, is fundamental to Islam. It is one of the pillars of Islam. Muslims have rights, but it’s also enshrined in the teachings of Islam to safeguard non-Muslims in your midst. It’s wrong for Muslims to even be unkind to non-Muslims.”

One prominent example in recent months has been the jailing of two Muslims convicted of church arson during a series of religiously motivated attacks earlier this year. They were given five year jail sentences.

“We want to show that we are fair. If you desecrate a church, or a mosque, or a temple, the punishment is and should be the same,” Najib said.

These are the kinds of examples of respecting minority religions that more Muslim nations ought to adopt. While words about moderation, tolerance, and evenhanded justice are well and good, it’s the actions that bear this out.

Bay Area NewsNEP

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

BART Ambassadors are being called on to assist riders in social situations that don’t require police force. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
BART formalizes ambassador program, prepares to hire more crisis intervention specialists

Public safety and police reform are key elements in campaigns of Board members Dufty and Simon

School board members Gabriela Lopez (left) and Alison Collins (right) say they have been the subject of frequent hateful, racist and sexist attacks during their time on the school board. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F Examiner)
Angered by Lowell decision, SFUSD grad targets school board members with violent imagery

Facebook page depicts two women of color on board with swastikas and x-marks on their faces

Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, a former school board member, said it was ‘ridiculous’ that the school district did not yet have a plan to reopen. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Supervisors demand SFUSD set a timeline for reopening

Pressure grows on district to resume in-person learning as The City’s COVID-19 case count goes down

“Tenet,” the new Christopher Nolan film starring John David Washington, is showing at the drive-in in Concord. (Courtesy Warner Bros.)
Drive-ins are popping up all over the Bay Area

There are pandemic-era options for movie lovers who want to watch outdoors

The San Francisco International Arts Festival will present performances this weekend outdoors at Fort Mason, including on the Parade Ground, Eucalyptus Grove and Black Point Battery. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF International Arts Festival wins health department approval for weekend performances

Rules allow no more than 50 people at outdoor Fort Mason performances

Most Read