Muslim "Moderates"

Why this attention paid to Muslim 'moderates' - a politically insignificant number - when the United States and Israel are at war with Muslims? Imagine focusing public attention on German "moderates" in the midst of World War II. Wouldn't this be disarming?

Prof. Paul Eidelberg,

Paul Eidelberg
Paul Eidelberg
Daniel Pipes, a board member of the U.S. Institute of Peace, is one of four members of the Presidium of the Jerusalem Summit, ostensibly a conservative or right-wing organization that includes distinguished Israeli academics. Surprisingly, various Muslim "moderates" were invited to and spoke at the Summit's second annual three-day conference in Jerusalem. The Summit not only focused on the subject of "moderate" Islam, but also called for action to help Muslim "moderates" magnify their influence in the Islamic world. This has been a mission of Daniel Pipes, a renowned expert on Islam.

Consistent with that mission, Dr. Pipes distinguishes "militant Islam" or "Islamism" from Islam, per se. However, as I show in A Jewish Philosophy of History, Islam has always been militant. Indeed, the fact that 9/11 was gleefully celebrated throughout Islamdom makes the distinction between "moderates" and "extremists" problematic.

Not that there are no Muslims who sincerely deplore Islamic extremists. Pipes has brought the names of some to the public's attention - surely those who spoke at the Jerusalem Summit. He succumbs to obscurantism, however, when he admits that "militant Islam, with its Westphobia and goal of world hegemony, dominates Islam in the West [my emphasis] and appears to many to be the only kind of Islam." (Jerusalem Post, September 24, 2003) Why only "in the West"? Doesn't "militant Islam" dominate the East - the heart of the Islamic world and its one billion and more inhabitants?

But now I ask: Why this attention paid to Muslim 'moderates' - a politically insignificant number - when the United States and Israel are at war with Muslims? Imagine focusing public attention on German "moderates" in the midst of World War II. Wouldn't this be disarming? That the Jerusalem Summit, reputedly a conservative organization, should focus on Muslim "moderates" while Muslims are slaughtering Jews in Israel and Americans in Iraq is bizarre.

The more so since Pipes has himself indicated that many "moderate" Muslims may be or become quiescent "extremists"! In Militant Islam Reaches America, he quotes the following spokesmen:

1) Algerian secularist Sa'id Sadi: "A moderate Islamist is someone who does not have the means of acting ruthlessly to seize power immediately."

2) Osmane Bencherif, former Algerian ambassador to Washington: "It is misguided policy to distinguish between moderate and extreme Islamists. The goal of all is the same: to construct a pure Islamic state, which is bound to be a theocracy and totalitarian."

3) Mohammad Mohaddessin, director of international relations for the People's Mojahadin in Iran, a leading opposition force: "Moderate fundamentalists do not exist.... It's like talking about a moderate Nazi."

Here are Muslims or former Muslims who, contrary to Dr. Pipes, suggest that what he calls "militant Islam" or "Islamism" is authentic Islam. As Henri Boulad, an Egyptian Jesuit and a specialist in Islam, states in an article, "L'Islamisme, c'est l'Islam" ("Islamism is Islam"): "This statement is perfectly consistent with history and geography, with the Quran and the sunna, with the life of Muhammad and the evolution of Islam, with what Islam says about itself. I reject the position of people - Muslims or Christians - who bury their heads in the sand like ostriches... refuse to see the situation objectively, or take their wishes for realities, on behalf of dialogue and tolerance."

Dr. Boulad evidently sees a clash of civilizations between Islam and the West, a clash clearly articulated by Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntington and exhaustively documented by the gallant Bat Ye'or in Islam and Dhimmitude. Although Pipes denies this clash - he even contends that Islam is compatible with democracy - he has assembled a wealth of information confirming what he denies.

However, to minimize the appearance of this clash of civilizations, he states in the preface to the 2002 reprinting of his 1983 book In the Path of God: Islam and Political Power, that "militant Islam [is] best understood not as a religion but as a political ideology." To the contrary, Islam has always been a political ideology.

As the very subtitle of Pipes' book - Islam and Political Power - suggests, and as its content makes obvious, "However much institutions, attitudes, and customs have changed, the Muslim approach to politics derives from the invariant premises of the religion and from fundamental themes established more than a millennium ago."

Surely, the most conspicuous theme of that religion, manifested throughout Islamic history, is none other than jihad - as Pipes demonstrates in a November 2002 article critical of American professors who deny this doctrinal and existential fact. To contend that Islam and the West are not involved in a clash of civilizations when the former is steeped in absolutism, while the latter is mired in relativism, may be "politically correct," but dangerously so and symptomatic of declining confidence in the justice of one's own cause. Relativism comes in degrees.

Consistent with Pipes' politically correct view of Islam - and I applaud his courageous exposure of "militant Islam" - the Jerusalem Summit has established a "Council of Civilizations", as if no clash of civilizations exists. This suggests that there is no irreconcilable conflict between the Jewish State of Israel and Islam. Needless to say, this is not the way Muslims see Israel. They see things in terms of black and white. The second annual conference of the Jerusalem Summit does not seem to see things in terms of black and white. But this suggests that the Summit, contrary to its literature - and contrary to virtually all its many prestigious members - is based on crypto-moral relativism. Perhaps this is why it maintains that all religions lead "equally to God."

Given the Summit's eminent and influential membership, such an organization, in the capital of Israel, needs to be carefully monitored - the more so in view of the fact that it equates civilizations not with ideas, values and customs, but with defined geographic areas. Obscured in the process is not only the global magnitude of Islam, but also the idea of Hebraic civilization, to which the best minds in Israel aspire.

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