May 24th, 2007

Muslim moderates, Muslim secularism

Here’s a must-read (and it’s relatively short, too) by Robert Spencer on the topic of Muslim secularism.

We often speak of the need for moderate Muslims. And it’s undoubtedly true that some Muslims are indeed moderate. But as Spencer points out, that is no guarantee against a repressive Muslim theocracy such as that in Iran which, once imposed (even if this is initially done democratically), is very difficult to reverse.

Ataturk of Turkey was aware of the dilemma back in the 1920′s and 1930′s, when he instituted a number of exceedingly important reforms there that made it far less likely that the country would ever come under the sway of a repressive Muslim theocracy. And, although there is currently a threat of theocrats taking over in Turkey, so far Ataturk’s institutional reforms have held the line against it.

This was done, as Spencer points out, not by making Turkey a “moderate Muslim” country, but by adopting a nearly Western-style separation of church and state—in other words, secularism. And secularism isn’t really a traditional Muslim concept at all, it is an affront to it. That is why Ataturk represented a huge break with Muslim tradition, and why a similar break is so difficult for other Muslim countries.

Spencer writes:

[F]or peaceful Muslims to prevail over the proponents of jihad and Sharia, they must be prepared not just to ignore, but to reject explicitly, the elements of Sharia that are at variance with accepted norms of human rights and with government that does not establish a state religion.

This is a huge leap. It’s also the underlying reason that democracy, in and of itself, will not necessarily save or even help the Muslim world. I have always tried to be explicit about that by using the term liberal democracy—that is, democracy with protection of human rights, including separation of church and state—to refer to the goals for government in that part of the world and elsewhere. And encouraging liberal democracy is a far more difficult and lengthy proposition than instituting pure democracy, which unfortunately is no bar to tyranny.

26 Responses to “Muslim moderates, Muslim secularism”

  1. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Moderate Muslims are moderately Muslim. That is, they’re about halfway between the whackjobs and the slackers. If we have a normal distribution, about 85% are pretty close to the in-between version of Islam.
    That’s nice. What we need are moderates in our sense, who happen to be Muslim.
    I think it’s been overstated, perhaps as a matter of wishful thinking, that someone who is moderately Muslim must necessarily be a moderate who happens to be Muslim.
    That might be true, and it might not be true. It is not necessarily true. It needs to be demonstrated. So far, it has not been.
    Or, the distribution for Islam could be so far in one direction that only a couple of dozen of the most extreme slackers overlap our version of moderate.

    Unfortunately, after subtracting the moderately Muslim and the slackers, about 7% are toward the whackjob end. That’s a problem by itself, but it is only the only problem if we presume that none of the moderately Muslim will also be a problem.

    After the Canadians disrupted a plot to take over Parliament, behead the PM on live television and then blow the place up, a poll found that twelve percent of the Muslims responding thought it was a good idea. In Canada, that would amount to about 84,000. And to get twelve percent, we have to use all the whackjobs and some of the moderately Muslim.
    Are the Muslims in the UK who hope the entire place will be run under shari’a moderates, or are they moderately Muslim? I think that percentage is about 40%.
    Ten percent of a poll taken in Indonesia thought the Bali bombing was justified as a defense against an attack on the Faith. Said attack was Australia’s interference in the slo-mo genocide against Christians on East Timor.
    So, if you’re looking for the kind of moderate Muslim who will be a help to us, or at least not a threat, start out by looking for a moderate. Perhaps he’ll be a Muslim.
    Also, google “Tulsa Mosque” for a glimpse of how things go among the moderately Muslim.
    All of the above, I’m sure, would pain moderates who happen to be Muslims. But it isn’t my idea.

  2. Ymarsakar Says:

    We found a moddy Muslimy Neo and Richard. He is the leader of the faction in Al Anbar that is working with the US against terrorism.

    Leaders are made in the furnace of war. If you want moderate Muslims to be organized and effective, you must bring war to them, to test them. Otherwise, they will bring war to you, and test you and your resistance to the Cartoon Jihad.

  3. Ymarsakar Says:

    Here is the link

    http://hotair.com/archives/2007/05/07/iraqis-vs-al-qaeda-in-anbar/

  4. Richard Aubrey Says:

    ymar.
    So he’s on our side. What happens when the war’s over?
    Could be he’ll know that the odds are more in his favor if he’s on our side.
    But what happens to, say, somebody who gets caught with a man not her husband?
    That kind of society will default to terror-supporting.
    Eventually.

  5. frank Says:

    Neo

    You are just about all by yourself on this blog now. It is happening all over the blogosphere. The Right wing sites are drying up. Feel those walls closing in?

  6. frank Says:

    Ymarsakar

    You are a ridiculous little twit.

  7. rickl Says:

    frank:

    The Right wing sites are drying up. Feel those walls closing in?

    You don’t get out much, do you?

  8. camojack Says:

    What we need is for Islam to experience a Reformation…

  9. Sally Says:

    frank: You are just about all by yourself on this blog now.

    Awww, frank! We’re all still here — it’s just you trolls who are drying up! Humiliated by the collapse of your Congressional party of defeat, and riddled with dread that things might actually be looking up in Iraq, you all seem to have gone from the ostrich position to the fetal position overnight. But hang in there! Something bad is bound to happen! And then, for a while at least, you can dance and ululate again to your little hearts’ content!

  10. Vicenza Says:

    zmag.orghttp://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=12901

    An extremely important and truthful piece of information from Congressman Kucinich.

    After you read it – please contact your representative in Congress and demand the U.S stop the war crimes in Iraq.

    Impeach Bush now.

  11. harry Says:

    You mean its all about oil!! Why havent I heard this before? Im outraged!!!

  12. stumbley Says:

    Note to vinnie:

    Dennis Kucinich is a raving loon.

  13. Good Ole Charlie Says:

    Piasano Vicenza:

    Non lo so. Sei tu Pazzo?

    Ciao

  14. RedPencil Says:

    Democracy is overrated.

    It is not, should not, be a goal in itself.

    Under the right circumstances, it is a means to an end. The end is liberty.

    History shows that there can be a large measure of liberty without democracy, and a large measure of tyranny WITH democracy.

  15. Ymarsakar Says:

    So he’s on our side. What happens when the war’s over?

    There’s actually an answer for that, and it is present in both the American Civil War and the Trail of Tears.

    It is a principle of human affairs that if you fight with and for someone, it is not a guarantee that you will always be friends and allies. But it is guaranteed that if you DON’T fight for and with a certain faction, that faction will never recognize or cement their bonds of loyalty to you. Too much distrust and prejudices would get in the way, and war is the best way to remove prejudices.

    You know this to be true if you know the nature of the Band of Brothers bond. You know this to be true because of women’s rights and equal rights protection in desegregation in WWII because of how blacks and women fought in the war.

    There are two benchmarks and standards for a good alliance. One, both of the factions have to be strong enough so as to be able to offer something of tangible worth to the other. It doesn’t matter what the US wants in terms of alliances if the US is isolationist or neo-isolationist. You get back what you offer, and if you offer nothing, you get nothing. If you offer lies and promises, you get lies and promises.

    The other benchmark is that you have to cement the loyalty of your two people, whether this is military attache programs or hostage situations where the Prince of this lord goes over to the other lord’s household and is raised, or just diplomatic communication between two warriors. One Iraq and one American. In the ditch, fighting it out, watch each other’s back.

    Blood is thicker than water, Richard. And it is thicker than the ink on paper, laws, and agreements. It is not true for everyone, but it is true for the great majority of human beings.

    You are a ridiculous little twit.-Fanrk

    you’re a heinous piece of human slime that I should have stepped on, except you weren’t sentient enough back then to feel enough pain.

    That kind of society will default to terror-supporting.
    Eventually.

    Afghanistan has it worse than Iraq. The only thing that matters is leadership, not cultural templates. Blacks here in the US have it better cultural wise than the Islamic Jihad, but so long as they have artists like Sharpton and Jackson as leaders de facto, what do you think will happen? How will they grow? More Katrinas? More Democrat funded disasters and corrupt?

    You say that society as if society is the leader that decides which path a society will go. That’s wrong. People, human beings, lead both their citizens and their society in one direction or another historically speaking.

    There is no one kind of societal fate, except the fate that results from human free will.

  16. Lee Says:

    The problem isn’t that Islam needs a “reformantion”, it is that Islam is a political system based on false beliefs in the first place. The trick is not to “reform” it’s teachings, but to expose them as false, so no one will bet their soul on it ever again.

  17. Ymarsakar Says:

    The problem isn’t that Islam needs a “reformantion”, it is that Islam is a political system based on false beliefs in the first place. The trick is not to “reform” it’s teachings, but to expose them as false, so no one will bet their soul on it ever again.

    A simple test would be to see whether you could ‘expose’ the Democrats beliefs as false so that no Democrat, Leftist, or anybody else would ever lose their soul to their ideology. If you can’t do that, what makes you think that can even be done for Muslims?

    Educated people living in the United States still believes in crap. What makes you think those living in ignorance, violence, and repressive indoctrination, can achieve what not even the US has achieved?

  18. subadei Says:

    From what I’ve read in the commentary here (minus the weak and intellectually depraved likes of frank) the approach seems to be one of top down or , vertical thinking. To wit:

    “The problem isn’t that Islam needs a “reformantion”, it is that Islam is a political system based on false beliefs in the first place.”

    That, my friend, is the last ideal one must embrace to effectively realize a counterinsurgency. Quite the contrary, US tactics should be those that embed and accept. This isn’t to say that US operatives need “go native” or accept Allah, rather that the whole “Islam is the problem” approach is utter failure. The entire basis of counterinsurgency should be dividing the existing populace from the resistance. In terms of Iraq, margenalizing Islamic ideals in the fashion of “exposing them as false” is counterproductive.

    In light of Ymarsakar’s post I would suggest a military doctrine that entailed the US occupation of the Philippines in the late 19th century be applied to Iraq. In effect the American occupation was divided between islands and, not having the modern advantage of radio, each officer who commandeered a slice or island of the Philippines was afforded essential sovereignty. The effect was a division between the insurgency and the populace as each officer’s approach was based not on the central commands edicts but the reality of the territory that they controlled. In essence, tailor made politics.

  19. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Ymar.
    You speak of the bonds of combat. Russian soldiers and US soldiers drank together on the Elbe on the spring of 1945.
    Then….

    Point is, the traditional ME culture breeds lots of young men, not so many young women due to female infanticide and now abortion for sex selection.
    It also locks the huge majority of them into lives of poverty and no hope.
    It is a shame culture and the young men not favored by family or connections are bitterly ashamed by their inability to support a family, attract a woman, or get any action, and are good recruits for jihad. Where they can expiate their shame on the enemies helpfully pointed out to them by their imams and governments.

  20. Ymarsakar Says:

    blackfive.netSuba, check out Grim’s post that describes the same principle you just mentioned.

    http://www.blackfive.net/main/2007/04/coin_the_gravit.html

    I tend to think the US military was learning as it went concerning how COIN was going to fit inside regular Army command. COIN usually fits inside SF and small unit tactics and commands because there really is no need for a greater strategic command other than logistics support. It was far better as you said, to calibrate tactics to your neighborhood and to select one neighborhood to guard and to base yourself in.

    With Petraeus, the US military has learned pretty much all it can, now it has to do. To apply what it has figured out. Hopefully for some beneficial rewards.

  21. Ymarsakar Says:

    Russian soldiers and US soldiers drank together on the Elbe on the spring of 1945.

    You’re mistaking individual bonds for national bonds.

    Which I covered concerning the Gurkhas.

    I don’t remember Russians taking orders from Americans division generals or vice a versa, Richard. They weren’t even fighting together against a common foe, but pushing the foe towards each other. That is another difference, quite apart from the national vs individual bonds deal.

    Again, you’re assuming that cultural templates determine the destiny of nations. Rather than arguing why that is true. Your example of the Russian communists is one of those examples. Where you argue based upon national destiny based upon communist socio political templates, rather than determining the human motivations and decisions which created Russia’s Cold War history with the US.

    We’re arguing about what determines the fate of nations. I’m not automatically going to accept your assumptions here.

    Enemies like Japan and Germany were killing Americans, and in the latter case beating them like animals. Now a days… as I said, the destiny of nations is determined by leadership, not culture.

    Certainly culture plays a part, but it is only the foundation. The engineer is the will, he that shapes events and material. A good culture with a bad leadership isn’t going anywhere, where a bad culture with good leadership gets ahead faster.

    Point is, the traditional ME culture breeds lots of young men, not so many young women due to female infanticide and now abortion for sex selection.
    It also locks the huge majority of them into lives of poverty and no hope.

    We’re talking about Iraq here, Richard, not the entire Middle East. Don’t you think we should take one stepping stone at a time here?

    It doesn’t matter what the problem is, because simply repeating and restating the problem doesn’t do anything. It is solutions that matter, and in this case leadership is the solution. Or leadership provides the solutions.

    Where they can expiate their shame on the enemies helpfully pointed out to them by their imams and governments.

    By their leadership, you mean. So what is your position here. That they are better leaders than you are, that they can provide better and more powerful and more charismatic leadership than we here in the US can provide? I disagree.

  22. Ymarsakar Says:

    I got something for you Neo, and it just so happens to relate to leadership and what I was talking about to Richard.

    The therapy Bandura is most famous for, however, is modeling therapy. The theory is that, if you can get someone with a psychological disorder to observe someone dealing with the same issues in a more productive fashion, the first person will learn by modeling the second.

    Bandura’s original research on this involved herpephobics — people with a neurotic fear of snakes. The client would be lead to a window looking in on a lab room. In that room is nothing but a chair, a table, a cage on the table with a locked latch, and a snake clearly visible in the cage. The client then watches another person — an actor — go through a slow and painful approach to the snake. He acts terrified at first, but shakes himself out of it, tells himself to relax and breathe normally and take one step at a time towards the snake. He may stop in the middle, retreat in panic, and start all over. Ultimately, he gets to the point where he opens the cage, removes the snake, sits down on the chair, and drapes it over his neck, all the while giving himself calming instructions.

    After the client has seen all this (no doubt with his mouth hanging open the whole time), he is invited to try it himself. Mind you, he knows that the other person is an actor — there is no deception involved here, only modeling! And yet, many clients — lifelong phobics — can go through the entire routine first time around, even after only one viewing of the actor! This is a powerful therapy.

    One drawback to the therapy is that it isn’t easy to get the rooms, the snakes, the actors, etc., together. So Bandura and his students have tested versions of the therapy using recordings of actors and even just imagining the process under the therapist’s direction. These methods work nearly as well.

    http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/bandura.html

    It is not just powerful therapy, Neo, it seems to be the process by which leaders create behavior in a society. Meaning, inspire, lead, cause you to do things you otherwise would not have done. A powerful and charismatic leader can motivate people to follow him to hell. Whether to fight there or just have a tea party with Satan.

    The Arab version is obviously that of the martyr and Imams. But none of that is set in stone. Leaders can die and they can be replaced in battles over domination. Good leaders can replace bad ones, bad ones can replace good ones, godo leaders like reagan might die first leaving folks like Carter around. You know.

  23. anonymess Says:

    frank says:

    “Neo
    You are just about all by yourself on this blog now. It is happening all over the blogosphere. The Right wing sites are drying up. Feel those walls closing in?”

    Get a grip frank. Public discourse on Iraq in the blogosphere isn’t going away. The “drying up” and “walls closing in” apparently have more to do with the arid condition and narrowness of your mind than with reality.

  24. Richard Aubrey Says:

    As long as the ME does what I say it does, which includes breeding huge numbers of young men for whom the oridinary, bourgeois future is impossible, we will have trouble.
    Should, for example, the sudden turn of the tribes in Anbar succeed, what we will have, besides a sort of victory, is a tried and tested, successful power locus which may be reluctant to go along with Baghdad.
    And if they decide to institute shari’a, then we’ll see the problems I’ve mentioned.
    That kind of culture doesn’t work, and its waste products, expendable young men, hatred, poverty, and fanaticism are inevitable.
    So, while I like the idea of the Anbaris getting after the foreigners, the future is not necessarily a New England town meeting democracy and a proliferation of Rotary Clubs.

  25. Ymarsakar Says:

    As long as the ME does what I say it does, which includes breeding huge numbers of young men for whom the oridinary, bourgeois future is impossible, we will have trouble.

    They will have trouble, because those young people are going to be working alongside the US. That’s what leadership is about, getting people to follow you or at least along with you.

    Should, for example, the sudden turn of the tribes in Anbar succeed, what we will have, besides a sort of victory, is a tried and tested, successful power locus which may be reluctant to go along with Baghdad.

    The only thing that matters as to calculating and predicting what power groups will do is just basic human psychology. They will do what their psychology tells them to do. And it is not predetermined by your words, Richard. Why do you act as if it is?

    The US needs a successful power locus, you cannot win without one, and just because you want to deny your enemy one doesn’t mean you want to deny your allies one es well. You might as well have said the same thing about the Norther Alliance, that they were successful and were going to cause problems because of the Warlordism.

    And if they decide to institute shari’a, then we’ll see the problems I’ve mentioned.

    See this is where you’re not looking at what is going on. Why would people who fight against foreign jihadists because they tried to impose shariah on them, after winning then institute Shariah themselves? You don’t expain that for the Sunnis. You just say they will, as if that makes any kind of psychological sense. These are not communists, I remind you, they are not fighting a doctrinal war over who gets the spoils.

    That kind of culture doesn’t work, and its waste products, expendable young men, hatred, poverty, and fanaticism are inevitable.

    Do you know how the South worked as a Culture back in the American Civil War and during Reconstruction? It worked inefficiently. Of course the culture works. They’re working the slaves aren’t they? They’re producing jihad aren’t they? Things don’t work because they Have to follow your blueprint. Things work all by themselves for their own purposes and goals.

    So in this case, it doesn’t matter whether you think a society works or not. It only matters how efficient that society is at in accomplishing their self-stated goals.

    To add in some perspective. People have to choose whether they will side with Al Qaeda and play for their team or side with the US and the iraqi government and play the game our way. A person can make that decision in peacetime and it would normally be inconstant because it is just letters on paper. But in war time, these decisions are permanent. Once you have chosen your allies, there’s no going back, not without some drastic actions. The Democrats resorted to those actions when they had to cut off the US-Vietnam alliance. Just as France and America still has an alliance going even after France’s betrayals. Once you choose your allies, you are stuck with them, until they get killed of course.

    You’re saying Richard that Al Anbar Sunnis will ally with the occupation American foreigners to fight against Al Qaeda who has been imposing Shariah Law and killing tribal members in Al Anbar, and then institute Shariah Law after the US has helped Al Anbar defeat the terrorists.

    Your analysis of the situation has less to do with Al Anbar and more to do with what you personally think is workable or non-workable for Muslim societies in the Middle East. While totally irrelevant to the specifics of Al Anbar, you try to make it as if they will follow a certain trend. But they can’t follow the trend, because that trend exists in the ME because of a lack of American interference.

    So, while I like the idea of the Anbaris getting after the foreigners, the future is not necessarily a New England town meeting democracy and a proliferation of Rotary Clubs.

    Those are worthless when the objective is to create frontline shock troops, observation posts, border guards, and enforcers in Iraq. You act as if logically speaking, if you dont’ get Shariah, you get new England “democracy”. Incorrect.

    You don’t get Shariah precisely because of the tribal nature of Al Anbar. And tribal doesn’t mean “democracy new England” style.

    There are specific cultural, societal, and personal traits to the Sunnis in Al Anbar that you are grossly ignoring in favor of the Shariah storyline. If you want to analyze the situation in Al Anbar, then you should analyze the situation itself, not the situation in Iran or other Shariah Muslim nations. Explain to me why the leaders of Al Anbar would be motivated into becoming Al Qaeda Lite after shedding blood with Americans, fighting with Americans, by Americans, for Americans, in defense of their homeland?

    Obviously you’ve given it some thought, considering how you often talk about how they will go Shariah or some other “inevitable” trends afterwards.

  26. Ymarsakar Says:

    outsidethewire.comThe Arabs have been very stubborn and dense in a sense, especially the Sunnis.

    But all things end eventually, even stubborness

    Reality will in the end decide which side people thinks is better. Ours or theirs. If we are right, then people should join ours if nobody coerces them or just our enemies coerce them. I think it is a simple lack of belief in the American position, but on a righteous basis and a strength basis, to believe that Al Anbar will choose Shariah or anti-Americanism after fighting with the US.

    War breaks down all prejudices, even the Sunni’s. For them to choose Al Qaeda, Shariah, or what not after that, would literally mean the US is not worthy of victory. And I could not accept that, because the logic would spell our doom.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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