by Steven Zak
You can't fight an enemy you're afraid to offend
Pick up the morning paper any day or log on to your computer and you'll be treated to reports of savagery by followers of Islam. No one could blame you if you drew the inference that Islam worldwide is a malevolent force. Yet, many would have you believe that the problem isn't Islam, but "Radical Islam."
In other words, somewhere there's a good Islam, distinct from the bad one that assaults civilized sensibilities every day. This postulate has two variants:
Good Islam "exists" even if only in the past.
"There have been occasions of Muslim moderation and tolerance, such as those in long-ago
I'd defer to Dr. Pipes on the facts; Islam may change (it may get worse). But that is no reason to characterize a once-upon-a-time or hypothetical future Islam as more authentic than the one here and now. Islam is what Islam is now, not what we hope it could be. Lead is lead before it turns to gold.
Dr. Pipes argues, though, that we need to maintain the construct that Islam differs from Radical Islam, because "if one sees Islam as irredeemably evil, what comes next?" Such a view "leaves one with zero policy options."
This argument conflates descriptive and prescriptive issues. "What is Islam?" is one question. "What should we do about it?" is another. It is one thing to hold that we ought not reveal our true thoughts to the enemy, quite another to create fictions that we come to believe. I'm concerned with the descriptive question -- What is Islam? -- and suggest that, if truth matters, we shouldn't skew our answer out of fear.
Good Islam and Bad Islam exist simultaneously.
While Dr. Pipes concedes that in the present "it is hard to recall the positive side" of Islam, the prevailing wisdom is that good Islam and Radical Islam exist simultaneously, the latter as a small subset of the former. The problem is that the evidence shows that the "subset" isn't so small.
As Michael Freund has documented, poll after poll demonstrates the non-trivial numbers of anti-civilization adherents of Islam. An Al-Jazeera survey on September 11, 2006, for instance,found that half the respondents support Osama Bin-Laden. Virtually all voters in "
Even so, some might argue, since less than 100% of Muslims are terrorists or terrorist sympathizers, we still have an obligation to distinguish Islam from Radical Islam. But it is never the case that 100% of any population shares or acts in accordance with the collective ideology of that population.
IN WORLD WAR II, not all Germans supported the Nazis. In the last German election before the war, Nazis failed to get even half the vote and scholars still debate whether the majority of Germans ever supported the regime. Some, of course, were victims of the regime. Yet, we were at war with
Not even all Nazis were bad -- Oskar Schindler, a hero in
By that standard, Islam today is unquestionably a malevolent force. We should be unafraid -- and unapologetic -- to say as much.
Khalim Massoud, the president of Muslims Against Sharia (whose members, according to the group's own poll, 20% of Muslims want to behead) agrees. "Islam in its present form is incompatible with modern society," he says, and adds that we should "stop worrying about offending Muslims and start calling things what they are."
Amen to that. You can't fight an enemy you're afraid to offend.
Exhibit A is the case of the British school teacher recently imprisoned in
Even in small ways, we cower before Islam. Take
And so, we degrade ourselves with such spectacles as the
In recent news, a suicide bomber in
Steven Zak is an attorney and writer in
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