Getting a read on moderation
by Salim Mansur
Since the Islamist terrorist strikes on America's heartland six years ago and counting, the West wistfully waits for "moderate" Muslims to come together to take back their faith/tradition from those promoting mayhem and murder in the name of Islam.
The wait has been empty. What then is one to conclude from the absence of an organized effort by Muslims in the West stepping forth publicly to repudiate Islamists without exception?
Mark Steyn is one observer of Muslims most insistent in stating, as he does in a recent column in the National Review, that a "moderate" Muslim is a mythical creature. I enjoy immensely Steyn's writings, yet on this matter I differ with him.
It is true we have not seen Muslims living in the West come out in substantive numbers against Muslim extremists and their ideology of political Islam. But there are individual Muslims, as I observed in a column written some time ago, who at great risk "condemn the culture of violence Muslims have bred for extremists among them to exploit."
Moreover, these vulnerable Muslims "work alone, or in small groups of like-minded Muslims, despite being maligned and ostracized by fellow Muslims, to dissect and expose Muslim extremism to the world at large while striving against immense difficulties to keep faith in the ideals of Islam."
Tarek Fatah – a "moderate" Muslim by any definition, television host in Toronto of the Muslim Chronicle and founding member of the Muslim Canadian Congress – in a recently published book, Chasing a Mirage, confirms my observation.
Since Iran's leader Ayatollah Khomeini pronounced in 1989 the notorious religious-based opinion for Muslims to murder Salman Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses, the world remains witness to the peril any writer faces when contemplating any critical study of Islam and Arab-Muslim history. It is a peril Fatah has had to contemplate in writing a book of much merit, and then being dismissive of Islamists in Canada who have threatened him for his "moderate" stand taken against them in public.
Fatah provides an insightful reading of how Arab-Muslim history, in casting aside the universalism of Muhammad's message, headed into the dead end of tribal power and conquest out of which morphed the contemporary politics of Islamist chauvinists.
One of the useful distinctions Fatah offers is between a "state of Islam" and an "Islamic state." The former he describes as strivings of an individual for inner spiritual tranquillity that is timeless and universal. The latter he speaks of as the fanatical quest of Islamists to resurrect in the 21st century a political arrangement from the 7th century contrived by Arabs of Muhammad's generation after his demise. The contemporary struggle within Islam is between these two quests, and in their eventual outcome rests peace or war in our time.
Consequently, the West cannot remain neutral in this struggle spanning continents. The great irony is, as Fatah illustrates, Muslims may acquire a "state of Islam" living in the West while denied such repose wherever the morbid reality of "Islamic state" has been proclaimed as in Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Tarek Fatah has provided an urgent inside view of the struggle consuming the Arab-Muslim world and the future at stake with how it eventually ends. His book deserves to be widely read.