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The Search for Moderate Islam: Part II (FrontPageMagazine.com) By Lawrence Auster 01/28/05)Source: http://www.frontpagemag.com/articles/readarticle.asp?ID=16801&p=1 Front Page Magazine.com Front Page Magazine.com Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
If it doesn´t exist, then what?

When people speak of moderate Islam as the solution to radical Islam, they mean that there is a modernizing core within the Muslim community capable of transforming it into a civilized member of the world community. They foresee that the dar al-Islam, the Realm of Islam, will cease to be at war with the dar al-Harb, the Realm of War, and particularly with that part of the Realm of War known as the West. I describe these ideas as the "ecumenist" school of Western- Islamic relations, because to believe in the existence of moderate Islam is to believe that the two civilizations can erase their mutual divisions and get along as friends—even mingle together, as some urge, in a single, shared civilization.

Based on my analysis of the writings of Daniel Pipes, one of the chief advocates of the moderate Islam idea, I argued in the first part of this article that moderate slam does not and cannot exist. Yet its proponents still feel a deep need to go on believing in it, since the only alternative they can envision is unending civilizational warfare. It would be a war waged not only between the Western and Islam parts of the globe, but—because of the huge Muslim immigrant populations already sojourning in Europe and North America— within the West itself. The prospect seems so horrible that the ecumenists cling to the faith in a moderate Islam no matter how unsupported it may be by the evidence.

Notwithstanding these fears, there is a rational alternative to the belief in a moderate Islam. I call it the "civilizationist" school, because, in contrast with the ecumenist school, it not only posits irreconcilable differences between the two civilizations, but grapples head-on with their practical implications. Thinkers of the civilizationist school note essential facts about Islam that make any friendship or cooperation with it suicidal in the long run. These include the Koranic command on Muslims to engage in jihad against non- Muslim societies until the whole world is Islamized; the imposition of the totalitarian Sharia law wherever Islam becomes politically dominant; and the permanent subjection of non-Muslims to the miserable oppressed status of dhimmis.

According to the civilizationists, there is and can be no such thing as moderate Islam, and therefore no solution to the Islamic problem that can come from within Islam, since Islam itself—not "radical" Islam—is the problem. Moreover, the civilizationists do not say these things, as the ecumenists do, because they want Islam to be that way, but because Islam, unfortunately, is that way.

When ecumenists report various moderating trends within Islam, civilizationists respond with skepticism. They point out that the apparent moderateness of any Muslim community consists of either a temporary abeyance of the militancy that defines Islam (and such periods of non-aggression have been an established part of jihad strategy since the days of Muhammad), or simply the natural quiescence of the masses who lead their lives, pray, and don´t involve themselves with activist movements. Such masses do not constitute any moderate Islam. They are not forming any organized political body or belief system distinct from and opposed to jihadism. Furthermore, regardless of any reforms that may occur from time to time within Islamic society, the center of the faith remains the Koran, which commands jihad, death to apostates, death to Christians and Jews, the stoning of adulteresses and all the rest of it. The fundamental point is that Islam cannot reform itself in any lasting way, because Islam has no source of authority apart from the Koran. In any debate between hard-liners and putative moderates, the hard-liners will have the Koran on their side and will ultimately win the debate.

Therefore no matter how long an Islamic society has been relatively peaceful, moderate, and perhaps even irreligious, an unexpected social or political crisis can bring radical Islam to the fore again— any spark can re-ignite jihad. Iran, a modernizing if authoritarian regime for decades under the Shah, returned to Sharia and jihad within months of his fall from power in 1979. Turkey, officially secular for eighty years, has recently started returning to Islamic rule. Egypt, the most important "moderate" Arab country, is teeming with fanatical jihadists, whose rantings are published in state- controlled newspapers. More than one Westerner has reported his shock on seeing a thoroughly westernized Muslim woman suddenly show up in traditional Muslim dress and proudly announce that this is who she really is.

For all the above reasons, civilizationists do not place their trust in anything arising from within Islam, whether traditional, modern, or "moderate." Their sympathy for moderate Muslim dissidents and victims as human beings does not lead them to drop their guard against Islam itself.

The cultural "peace" process

Yet Daniel Pipes wrote that we must cleave to the hope of a moderate Islam because the alternative is too horrible to contemplate. He thus sidestepped the issue of the truth or falsity of his moderate-Islam theory and made an appeal based on the bad consequences of rejecting it. I think Pipes´s remark opens up a useful approach to the issue, if we apply the same analysis to both sides. I shall proceed, then, to address these questions: what are the likely consequences of our accepting the belief in moderate Islam, and what are the likely consequences of our rejecting the belief in moderate Islam?

Let us begin by noting that the practical viability of an idea cannot be separated from its underlying truth. If moderate Islam does not exist, a strategy premised on its existence would be delusional, even suicidal. An example is Israel´s decades-long quest for peace with the Arabs, fueled by the repeatedly dashed, repeatedly renewed hope that a "moderate" Arab leadership would somehow emerge that would endorse Israel´s right to exist.

There are, in fact, striking parallels between Pipes´s half- realistic, half-utopian approach toward Islam, and the Labor Zionist movement´s approach toward the Arabs, starting from before the founding of Israel and culminating in the disastrous Oslo Accords. On one hand, the Zionists were tough-minded nationalists who knew they would have to fight and defeat the Arabs in order to secure a Jewish homeland; on the other hand, the Zionists were utopian leftists who hoped (and many of them still hope today, against all the evidence) that once the Arabs had been stopped in their attempt to destroy the Jewish state, they would miraculously turn around and accept Israel´s existence, inaugurating a glorious epoch of Arab-Jewish brotherhood. As a result of this way of thinking, each time the Israelis have won a war, instead of pressing home their advantage and achieving real and permanent security for their state, they have launched yet another series of negotiations that has only weakened their position and lost the gains that had been achieved at such cost. In a parallel fashion, Pipes´s respect for Islam, his faith in its essential benignity, and his abiding hope (despite all the evidence) that we can ultimately live in complete harmony with it, contradict and undercut his realistic analysis of its dangers.

While the analogy is not perfect (most importantly, the Oslo "peace process" included unrepentant terrorists, while Pipes is firm on the fact that we must have nothing to do with radicals or terrorists), the Oslo process nevertheless demonstrates the kinds of perplexities into which the search for a moderate Islam must lead us. The Palestinian leadership, corresponding in our analogy to the jihadist core of Islam under its "moderate" clothing, never wanted peace on terms that were compatible with Israel´s survival. In order to keep the process alive, the Israelis systematically ignored the Palestinians´ radical lack of compliance with their obligations under the Oslo Accords and treated them as though they were civilized men engaged in good-faith discussions. The effect of such conciliation was to liberate Palestinian aggression as never before. Within a few months of the signing of the Oslo agreement, the first suicide bombings of Israeli buses began. This initiated a pattern that lasted throughout the years of the "peace" process, in which intensified suicide bombings would be followed by Israeli crack-downs on the Palestinians, which in turn would lead to a quieting of terror, until the Israelis would once again get their hopes up and let their guard down, and the suicide mass-murders would re-commence.

Similarly, if we embrace the idea that moderate Islam is the cure for extremist Islam, we will have to carry out a cultural peace process, in which we strive to build up the "moderate" Muslims (whether in our own country or in the Mideast) and turn them into leaders of the Islamic community. The path is filled with punji traps. In light of Pipes´s desolating observation that we often cannot even tell a moderate from a radical, our efforts to raise the influence of "moderate" Muslims—many of whom will turn out not to be moderate— will simply mean giving Muslims qua Muslims more caché and power in our society, with their demands and perhaps their threats ever increasing, while we get more and more entangled in the process of instructing, exhorting, bribing, and (maybe) changing them, even as we keep desperately assuring ourselves that moderate Muslim solution will work in the long run.

Because the search for moderate Muslims requires us not to see the other side as it really is, we must replace truthful speech with politically correct slogans that demoralize us and encourage our enemies. For example, almost every time Pipes criticizes radical Muslims, he must—in order to prove that he´s not a bigot and that he still believes in an ecumenic resolution—assure his audience that "moderate Islam is the answer." Varieties of this double message, repeated constantly by the government and the intelligentsia, create deep confusion and ambivalence in the public mind. On one hand we´re being told that radical Muslims are a remorseless wicked enemy; on the other hand, we´re being told that almost all Muslims are moderate and harmless, and that we are bigoted if we think otherwise. The net effect of these two contradictory statements is to establish the unassailable legitimacy of Islam in our country. But, since there is no moderate Islam, the Islam that gets legitimized will, inevitably, be radical Islam.

The cultural peace process would distract and weaken us in other ways. Instead of spending our energy building up our own society and culture, which is within our power to do, we would be attempting to build up the Muslims´ society and culture, which is not within our power to do. We would be gambling our freedom and survival on the chance that we can bring something into existence that has never existed. We would be making our safety contingent on whether the moderate Muslims can be what we want them to be. We would keep gazing expectantly at each Muslim as a potential moderate, and averting our eyes when he turned out not to be one—just as the leaders of Israel and the U.S. kept closing their eyes to the real nature of the Palestinians for all those years and are closing them still. We would have to keep refusing to acknowledge failure, because that would wreck our fantasy of an ecumenic and peaceful world. Regardless of all disappointments, we will still keep telling ourselves that some wonderful "moderates" are just around the corner and that we have to reach out to them.

In the end, our refusal to face the truth about Muslims, our flattery of non-moderate Moslems as "moderates," will convince them that we are saps lacking the wit and will to defend ourselves, which will increase their aggression against us. Like the Marxist dream with its 150 years on the road to nowhere, our dream of a moderate Islam will inevitably collapse one day, and the price might be nearly as high.

If the universalist dream fails, the alternative could be slaughter If, on our ecumenist road to peace, we refuse even to consider the possibility that Muslims as a whole might be our permanent enemies, if we decide that even to think such a thought is evil, then we are preventing ourselves from acknowledging something that may, in fact, be true. What then happens if it actually is true?

Mark Goldblatt writing at FrontPage Magazine provides a terrifying glimpse of where the demand for a universal peace can lead. Arguing that jihadism can only be defeated if the Muslim populations rise up and defeat them, he continues:

There are ... only two conceivable scenarios by which the requisite pan-Islamic upheaval will happen. The more humane scenario is the one being pursued by the Bush Administration—that is, establish a democratic Iraq in the heart of Islam and hope that it inspires moderate Muslims to reject the radical elements among them. ...

But what if democracy in Iraq fails outright? Or what if it survives but fails to inspire the overwhelming majority of Muslims to reject the radicals? In that case, Islamic terrorism continues unabated. What follows then is the "Hobbesian" scenario [political philosopher Lee] Harris sketches: Sooner or later, the United States will take one hit too many, or one hit too catastrophic, and the American people will set aside their natural aversion to mass bloodshed and demand a disproportionate response. They’ll elect a government that promises to end the threat, permanently, whatever the cost—and the cost will likely be millions of Muslim lives. [emphasis added.]

Like the German and Japanese civilians in 1945, Muslim civilians from North Africa through the Persian Gulf and down into Southeast Asia will at last feel their absolute defeat. They’ll accept that the fundamentalist struggle against the West has been lost. They’ll dig out from the ruins of their cities and recognize that they cannot allow the radicals to make martyrs of them all. Then, with our assistance, both military and financial, they’ll set out to purge themselves of the terrorist cancer.

Tragically, the Hobbesian scenario is the more probable of the two.

Goldblatt doesn´t consider any options beside the total democratization of the Muslim world on one side and its mass destruction on the other. Scenarios such as the one I suggest below— of forcing and encouraging Western Muslims to move back to their home countries and isolating them there where they can´t harm us—do not occur to him. He more easily envisions the slaughter of millions of Muslims in their native countries than the exclusion of Muslim immigrants from America. He would sooner contemplate genocide than be seen as intolerant.

The attitude is not at all rare today on the political right. At the pro-Bush website Lucianne.com, the Id of the Republican party, pundits have repeatedly threatened the nuclear annihilation of Muslim countries. The website´s editors evidently see such remarks as normal and acceptable, since they are freely made and no one seems to be banned for making them (though the editors do routinely exclude people for such misbehaviors as criticizing President Bush). For the L-dotters, the moral and practical idea of stopping all Muslim immigration, closing all Wahhabi mosques, and deporting all jihadists and terror supporters is unthinkable and is never spoken of. But the idea of killing millions of human beings is thinkable, and has been expressed—with sanguinary enthusiasm—many times.

This is a logical if extreme result of the ecumenist vision. Universalists cannot imagine radically different civilizations residing and flourishing in distinct spheres. They can only imagine a single global system formed by a single set of democratic ideas. A culture permanently hostile to democracy or to America defeats, by its very existence, the universalist idea. The only way to defend the idea from such a recalcitrant culture would be to annihilate it.

By contrast, civilizationists accept the fact of civilizational differences and have no fear of alien civilizations—so long as they stay in their own territory. It follows that we don´t need to destroy Islam, we just need to contain it within its own sphere so that it can´t threaten us.

The results of rejecting moderate Islam

To summarize the argument thus far, the consequences of our seeking peace with Islam will be disarray and distraction on our side, surging confidence and aggression on the Muslim side, renewed major terrorist attacks by Islamists against us, and the punitive killing by us of hundreds of thousands or perhaps millions of Muslims—after which, according to Goldblatt, we will become responsible for rebuilding the Muslim world.

What are the likely consequences if we reject the quest for peace?

Here again is the Pipes quote that began this whole discussion:

[I]f one sees Islam as irredeemably evil, what comes next? This approach turns all Muslims—even moderates fleeing the horrors of militant Islam—into eternal enemies. And it leaves one with zero policy options. My approach has the benefit of offering a realistic policy to deal with a major global problem.

Pipes says that the first result of our failing to believe in moderate Islam is that we would see Muslims as our eternal enemies. Yet for the last 1,400 years Muslims have been—as Pipes himself indicates in some of his writings—our very long-term enemies. And it was during those same centuries, when Western civilization viewed Islam as its enemy, that it successfully drove back repeated Islamic invasions and saved itself from conquest and extinction. By contrast, it is only in the modern period, when the West stopped viewing Islam as its enemy (which occurred at the same time that the West stopped being publicly Christian), that it dropped its guard and began admitting the Islamic immigrant masses that now threaten the survival of Europe. So which way is better? To view Muslims as our enemies (which we did for a thousand years and it didn´t harm us but saved us), or to view Muslims as our friends (which leads promptly to our own defeat, dhimmitude and ultimate extinction)? If a certain party is our enemy, isn´t it better to know that he is our enemy, rather than to imagine that he is not? This is especially the case when the appropriate response to the enemy is simply to build solid walls between us and him, rather than to wage a world war in order to force him to become like ourselves.

The civilizationist approach

Pipes´s second objection to the belief in permanent civilizational conflict is that it leaves us without policy options. In fact, the civilizationist perspective has given birth to a variety of proposals for coping with the Islamic menace, ranging from intellectual confrontation to military confrontation to radical changes in immigration policy.

Bat Ye´or, author of The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam and the soon-to-be published Eurabia, has said that our aim as Westerners should not be to save the soul of Islam but to save ourselves, our values, and our civilization. The approach she urges is primarily intellectual: we must stop closing our eyes to the reality of jihad, stop blaming ourselves for Muslim terrorism, and stop imposing crippling taboos on our own speech. Instead, we must openly discuss the Muslims´ jihadist beliefs, both among ourselves and with the Muslims. This would force them to face the truth about themselves, which in turn might bring about a positive alteration in their outlook and demands. An unstated premise of Bat Ye´or´s argument is that Muslims cannot change themselves. We must help them do it—or rather, we must put them in a position where they will have no choice but to moderate their own attitudes and behavior toward us. Bullies respect strength.

A corollary is that any such positive changes in Muslim attitudes could only be temporary. This is because the changes would not be the result of any organic development arising from within the Muslim community, but of pressure and rebuke coming from without. As soon as that external pressure and rebuke were withdrawn, as soon as the West reached out a hand of friendship and tolerance, the Muslims would return to their "default" mode, which is jihad. Therefore, as long as Islam exists, the only solution to the problem of Islam is to keep the Islamic world in a powerless condition, as it had been through all of modern times until 1979. Western criticism of and confrontation with Islam must be permanent.

On the military side, Mark Helprin of the Claremont Review has proposed a World War II-scale expansion of American military capabilities plus a permanent U.S. base located in an isolated though strategically central spot in the Mideast or Persian Gulf region, giving us the ability to destroy any Muslim regime that becomes dangerous to us. Helprin rejects any notion of occupying and reconstructing a Muslim country after we topple its government. The purpose of his strategy is not to reform or democratize the internal politics of terror-supporting Muslim societies, as President Bush and the neoconservatives seek to do, but to make militant Muslim leaders realize that they have no hope of harming us and that they face the loss of their regimes and their lives if they try. Once they get this message, they will change their behavior. In Helprin´s military plan, as in Bat Ye´or´s proposal for intellectual confrontation with Islam, the West does not seek to change the Muslims, but places them in circumstances, not of their choosing, where they will be pushed to change themselves. The demand is not that they become democrats and liberals, but only that they cease being dangerous to us.

Angelo Codevilla, also at the Claremont Review, goes further than his colleague Mark Helprin, advocating the outright destruction of several terror- and jihad- supporting Muslim regimes, either by killing the members ourselves (about 2,000 in each country) or, better, turning them over to their domestic enemies. This, he says, is the only way real regime change occurs in the Arab and Muslim world. Like Helprin, Codevilla advises that we have no interest in occupying these countries or building democracies there. The precise borders and political systems of Mideastern Arab societies are not our concern. We´re not trying to create a positive, we´re only trying to eliminate a negative—the international network of jihadist and Ba´athist terrorists and the regimes that make them possible.

Let us also note the remarkable fact that Helprin and Codevilla, who reject the need for universal democracy and accept civilizational differences, talk about killing only the top 2,000 regime members in several hostile countries, while Mark Goldblatt, who sees universal democracy as the only long-range solution, warns that if universal democracy fails we will have to kill millions of innocent Muslims.

Finally, there is the immigration side of the problem. I have proposed at FrontPage Magazine a set of policies—the end of mass Muslim immigration, the deportation of all jihad-supporting resident aliens and naturalized citizens, the closing of Wahhabi mosques, and the explicit abandonment of multiculturalism—aimed at achieving a net out-migration of Muslims from this country. If we reduce both the jihadism and the numbers of the U.S. Muslim immigrant community, those who remain will no longer pose a cultural or physical danger to us, simply because they will have become a relatively insignificant group. Or rather, they will have been made insignificant, by our decisive actions. As with Bat Ye´or´s, Helprin´s, and Codevilla´s proposals, the aim of my plan is not to reform the Muslims, i.e., to "assimilate" them to our way of life, but to confront them and diminish their power. Those policies will have the effect of encouraging the reduced U.S. Muslim population to adapt themselves more to our society, or choose voluntarily to leave.

Whatever the specific proposal may be, the basic civilizationist idea is to speak the truth about Islam, to confront Islam, and to contain Islam. It is to initiate a net out-migration of Muslims from the West and to isolate the Muslim world in its historic lands. It is to restore the Realm of Islam to the powerless and quiescent condition in which it resided during the early modern period. We of the West, along with other non-Muslim peoples, cannot be safe co-existing in this world with Islam, unless Islam has no ability and opportunity to affect us.

Years ago the historian Gertrude Himmelfarb called for the "re- moralization" of society—the reviving of the moral fiber and discipline that had made earlier generations of Westerners, particularly the Victorians, such strong, disciplined, and self- confident people, whereas we have become unsure, guilt-ridden, and disbelieving in ourselves and our culture. If I may coin a phrase, I would suggest that alongside the re-moralization of our own society, what we need today is the re-demoralization of Islamic society.

Of course, Daniel Pipes says: militant Islam is the problem, and moderate Islam is the solution.

But I say: Islam is the problem. The defeat and re-demoralization of Islam, combined with the steady return of Muslims from the West to their own countries, is the solution.

Many people will condemn me for saying that Islam is dangerous and must be suppressed. They will say that there are good and deeply rewarding things about Islam, at least from the Muslims´ perspective.

But the key point, from our perspective, is that Islam can only be "good" when it has no power. As soon as Muslims achieve power relative to non-Muslims, or feel that they are gaining such power or that they can gain such power, then the jihad aspect of Islam automatically kicks in. When we make a cult out of "moderate" Muslims, we are, in the long run, helping Muslims gain power. Their moderateness will revert, sooner or later, to militancy, but they will still have the power—and the moral sanction—that we gave them. The only way to keep Islam´s inherent tendency toward jihadism in abeyance is to keep Muslims in a situation where they have no influence over non-Muslims and no chance of achieving it.

To weaken Islam in the manner I´m suggesting is not to deny the Muslims´ humanity. Powerlessness or defeat is not what most deeply bothers Muslims, but the loss of honor. As they have demonstrated over and over in their history, they view honorable defeat, even honorable death, as desiderata. Thus Muslims can be powerless, and still keep their honor. It should be the goal of our policy to return the Islamic world to that salutary condition.

Once that has happened, Western students and romantics of Islam could still pursue friendships and cultural interchanges with Muslims. Such inter-cultural contacts would no longer be dangerous because they would no longer be premised on the myth that Islam is benevolent to non-Muslims. If we want the possibility of decent human relations between individual Westerners and Muslims, we must defang the dar al- Islam and keep it that way. Lasting peace—or, rather, the absence of violence—can only be achieved through Western strength and dominance, not through trying to make friends with a non-existent moderate Islam. Under such circumstances a more decent type of Islam may arise. But, as I´ve said over and over, it will have arisen only because we confined the Muslims to narrower quarters on this globe.

Summary and conclusion

Two starkly different paths lie before us.

If we pursue the course of ecumenism, we will embark on a decades- long attempt to turn Muslims into moderate Muslims. The endeavor would become the central political project and moral commitment of our society, an obsessive, irrational quest that—like the Oslo "peace" process—we could never permit ourselves to abandon, no matter how many times it had failed. In the process we would empower Islam and lose ourselves.

If we pursue the course of civilizational defense, we will unstring Islam as a global force by decreasing Muslims´ presence in the West and containing them within their historic lands. Once the two civilizations are no longer in each other´s faces, our freedom and safety will no longer depend on our begging, cajoling, and bribing them to give up their deepest convictions.

Which path is more promising? The path of civilizational realism, in which we recognize Islam as our eternal adversary and act accordingly, or the path of the civilizational peace process, in which we look on a billion Muslims as moderates who have somehow failed so far to realize that they are moderates, but who—we devoutly believe—will somehow discover that they are moderates if we keep trying hard enough to convince them of that fact?

Lawrence Auster is the author of Erasing America: The Politics of the Borderless Nation. He offers a traditionalist conservative perspective at View from the Right. (©2005 FrontPageMagazine.com 01/28/05)


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