Sunday, January 01, 2006

Moderate Islamists?

A responder to a Volokh Conspiracy post noting the anniversary of the demise of the Soviet Union on this date in 1991 responded (and later responded again with his source) with a citation of an Economist article observing that "Uzbekistan, in particular, has jailed many thousands of moderate Islamists...".

Moderate islamist? What the hell is that? Before I'm accused of bigotry, that's "islamIST" not "islamIC" or "Muslim". IslamIST. What the hell is a "moderate islamIST"?

"Moderate islamist" immediately struck me as a contradiction in terms, along the lines of "compassionate nazi" or "thoughtful bully". But this was from the Economist. I'd better go look it up.

So I Googled "moderate islamist" and got lots of hits (of course - Google is awesome that way). The first hit was to Tech Central Station and an interesting article by Michael Vlahos.

But what exactly is a "moderate Islamist?" The moderate Islamist should not be confused with the moderate Muslim. The moderate Muslim is the kind of Muslim America likes. Americans are comfortable with moderate religiosity; so like the quiet churchgoer, we would prefer Muslims who are not above, for example, knocking back an occasional beer. But this is not what we should expect. Islam is a demanding religion -- and a demanding way of life. Islamic renewal will be full of piety and passion.

The moderate Islamist, like the radical Islamist, seeks to renew the Muslim World -- not help it relax. The Islamist is dedicated to the Islamic cause, and he is an active proselyte. Thus moderate Islamists like radical Islamists are dedicated to change within and expansion of the Muslim World. But unlike the radicals they reject the path of aggressive struggle, or Jihad. Moderate Islamists would renew their faith and their world instead through Islamic reinterpretation, or Ijtihad.

Moderate Islamists are thus self-proclaimed leaders -- clerics and scholars -- in the renewal of Islam. The moderate Islamist is highly educated, in contrast to many radical Islamists. The moderate Islamist is also receptive to Western ideas -- but selectively receptive.
OK, so a "moderate islamist" is, like some christian fundies, completely absorbed in his mythology and dedicated to his memeplex's growth and eventual dominance, but not necessarily by the violent upheaval favored by more wild-eyed radical jihadis.

Back to Google. The third hit is to the summary of a policy brief from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace which observes that
Political actors or observers who still insist that there is no such thing as a "moderate Islamist" miss the reality that activist organizations in Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, and Yemen have evolved after decades of failed opposition to repressive regimes. Instead of clinging to fantasies of theocratic states, many Islamist movements now see the wisdom of competing peacefully for shares of political power and working within existing institutions to promote gradual democratic openings.
OK, but the cynic in me wants to scream "One man, one vote, one time!" That may be xenophobia, I know, but still... Moving right along...

You know what? I've grown tired of this topic already. I don't have much patience for people of any stripe who wish to impose their mythology on other people. Whether they be "moderate" or radical, to hell with them all.

Is my inner scream of "one man, one vote, one time" a xenophobic reaction? For the time being I think it's more likely to actually represent the reality of islamism, moderate and not.

That's it for now. Maybe I'll revisit this topic, starting with Wikipedia's essay on "islamism".

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