Saturday, November 08, 2008
The False Moderates—and the fools who believe them
Along with the phenomenon of asymptotic analysis (defined as the kind of analysis of the problem of Islam that never quite gets to the conclusion that Islam itself is the problem and that all Muslims are therefore also the problem), there is the indirectly related phenomenon of the asymptotic moderate Muslim, or the False Moderate.
The alternative analysis is what I have called holistic analysis, which comes to the logical conclusions that Islam itself is the problem, that all Muslims enable Islam, and that all Muslims are equally dangerous in the practical terms of our inability, in the context of our collective self-defense, to sufficiently verify the harmlessness of any given Muslim. For holistic analysis, all seemingly “moderate” Muslims are to be regarded as, in fact, False Moderates.
The asymptotic moderate Muslim is the Muslim who seems to distance himself from the bad features of Islam and sometimes does so to such a degree, he or she virtually seems to become an ex-Muslim—but never quite gets there. And this aspect of “never quite getting there” manifests itself in this type of Muslim in various ways that all have the effect of reinforcing the notion that Islam itself is harmless and good, and that the majority of Muslims also are harmless and good.
The asymptotic moderate Muslim, therefore, serves to reinforce one of the central axioms of the PC MC paradigm with regard to the problem of Islam—and his example has extra influence insofar as he comes from the Muslim world and yet also criticizes features of Islam, and so this gives him added “credibility”. When such a Muslim embarks upon a quasi-career of apologetics and activism to advance his point of view, the damage he can do increases accordingly.
Such a Muslim, I recently learned, is Naser Khader—famous in Denmark and well-known in Europe, but until a week ago, unknown to me. What I also learned, to my dismay, is how many otherwise intelligent anti-jihadists swallow Khader’s “moderate Muslim” propaganda hook, line and sinker. Such naivete should no longer surprise me, but it still does. This naivete indicates that there remains, within the anti-jihad movement itself, and among many of those who otherwise seem hard-line, a strong tendency to defend and support the asymptotic analysis of the problem of Islam.
Asymptotic analysis is not uniform: it has degrees. We may divide it into three levels: On the low end, we have the standard PC MC view as reiterated ad literal nauseam by President Bush:
Islam is a great religion of peace, and most Muslims are good decent “moms and pops like the rest of us”, and the only danger is coming from a tiny minority of extremists who are trying to “hijack” Islam. (At this low end, there is a continuum moving out of asymptotic analysis and merging into Islam apologetics, and often the line between the two is blurry.)
In the middle end, we have essentially the same message, but seemingly strengthened by tougher language against things Islamic. The net result is that the pool of the “tiny minority of extremists” is broadened to a larger and more geographically dispersed number, but basically the structure of the Bush view is retained along with all its premises and conclusions, and the logical responses to the problem that follow from that.
At the high end, we see the curious phenomenon of the analyst strengthening the language against Islam and Muslims so much, one wonders why he doesn’t just cross over and become a holistic analyst. This curious phenomenon is the nodus at which the analysis becomes “asymptotic”—getting closer and closer, but never quite arriving at the logical conclusion. There are complications to this necessarily simplistic presentation—for example, we have analysts who seem to straddle two or more of these three levels, as for example, Robert Spencer. One can also locate on this continuum various analysts who fall at various points in between the three levels.
Just as there are degrees or levels of asymptotic analysis, there are degrees or levels of the asymptotic moderate Muslim: some criticize Islam to a limited extent (Mustafa Akyol, Irshad Manji), others go a bit farther (Fouad Ajami, Kanan Makiya), and others still go much farther but never quite seem to make the leap to the logical conclusion (Naser Khader, “Tom” Haidon).
To return to our representative asymptotic moderate Muslim, Naser Khader: He has gained fame in Denmark and somewhat less so throughout Europe for his apparently unflinching and no-nonsense criticism of his fellow Muslims. The anti-jihad blog Gates of Vienna (GOV) recently presented an article about Khader’s latest exploit, harshly criticizing a notorious Danish Muslim, Pakistani-born Bashy Quraishy. Much of what Khader says sounds very appetizing to the anti-jihadist. He seems to sound all the right notes—at least, he does to the undiscerning reader. What surprised me recently was how undiscerning certain readers at GOV are, as evidenced by their flabby endorsement of him (scroll down to the comments of that article and read the responses of two otherwise strong anti-jihadists, ConservativeSwede and Henrik, not to mention the uncritical presentation of the article by the staff at GOV).
One can glean a litany of those right notes from this speech Khader made at the International Humanist and Ethical Union in Geneva (a speech approvingly linked by the aforementioned Henrik). As I noted in a comment at GOV, Khader is either mentally delusional about Islam, or he is cleverly lying about Islam. The third alternative—that he is ignorant of Islam—is exceedingly unlikely.
Why do I say this about Khader? For the following reasons:
1. He criticizes Islam and Muslims in harsh terms, as regressive, barbaric and unable to assimilate into the modern world.
2. He simultaneously extols an implicitly “true” Islam that he thinks is perfectly capable of assimilating into the modern world.
As we who have studied Islam all know, there is no Islam—whether “true” or not—capable of assimilating into the modern world. All of Islam—from its beginnings with Mohammed clear thorugh 1400 years of history to the present—is an unassimilable mass of evil, unjust and dangerous ideology and sociopolitical culture.
The only way Khader can be saved from the stark contradiction his propaganda embodies would be that he is ignorant of Islam. This redemption of Khader from his own contradiction, however, founders on a few problems:
a) If he is sufficiently ignorant of Islam to extricate him from his #2 position (rendering him naively sentimentalist about a vague “cultural Islam” of his childhood), what is to say his ignorance does not bleed over to jeopardize his convictions about the faults of Islam that substantiate #1?
b) And if he is really essentially ignorant of Islam, how does he know that the minority of Muslims he condemns, along with their “false” Islam, are really going against “true” Islam?
c) Furthermore, if he is really essentially ignorant of Islam, how then can we believe his claim that the majority of Muslims are “moderates”? For him to be able to assess this, he would have to have sufficient knowledge of Islam to compare and contrast the good moderate version with the bad extremist version. But if he has this amount of knowledge, then his supposed ignorance of Islam cannot be adduced to save him from the two alternatives of mental delusion or taqiyya.
d) Beyond these elementary logical problems, there are certain facts of his biography, which reveal a rather extensive familiarity with Islam both doctrinally and socioculturally—and which therefore vitiate the claim that he is sufficiently ignorant of Islam to save him from his own contradiction. These are examined by my analysis of this biography of Khader:
From this Danish blog, here are some apparent facts about Naser Khader, which I shall parcel out and enumerate in 12 points:
1) Naser, the oldest of five siblings, proved himself a gifted scholar. He did well in school and impressed people in the mosque.
2) The boy often went to the mosque with his grandfather, who was the second-most important man in the mosque outside Damascus, after the Imam.
3) It impressed the men at the mosque that Naser rapidly learned whole sections of the Quran by heart. He attended the Friday prayers, went to the Quran-school, prayed five times a day and fasted all through the month of Ramadan.
After his family emigrated to Denmark when he was age 11, the blogger quoted above notes:
4) The spiritual base for the family was still Friday prayers at the mosque of The Islamic Community.
Then he goes on to note:
5) . . .as Naser entered his teenage years, a change came over his way of perceiving at the world. He would sit for hours reading Danish litterature, learning how Danish society had evolved through the ages to finally reach the stage of modern democracy. ...he was introduced to the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who said: "God is Dead", and the Danish Kierkegaard with his "Either, Or" of the the duty of each single man to choose his own way in life, [and so] Naser decided: He would no longer practice Islam.
Later, the blogger notes:
6. He was especially struck by the fact that most Danes’ knowledge of Islam was almost non-existant.
7. Therefore Khader published the book "Honour and Shame" in 1996. Here he tried to give an introduction to the central tenets of Mid-Eastern culture which were based partially on ancient culture and partially on Islam.
Then the blogger notes:
8. Now, having put aside Islam, Naser Khader began to call himself a "Cultural Moslem". He acknowledged his cultural heritage, but only practiced it to the degree that he would participate in prayers at funerals.
The blogger then notes that, after the cartoon controversy:
9. [Khader] had to stand up to the Imams. In his view, the Imams don’t represent the Moslems of Denmark at all. They may speak for a few thousand, but there are 200000 Moslems in Denmark.
10. He decided to form the Democratic Moslems to show that the majority of Moslems in Denmark want democracy.
The blogger then quotes Khader from an interview he had with him:
11. “My modest hopes are to create the determining factors needed to create a reformation and enlightenment for Islam. That may sound ambitious. But the people who are needed to create the conditions needed for that are us—the Moslems of the West. My ambitions are—apart from making integration less painful—to show that Islam and democracy can be made to be compatable.”
12. “I think I am fighting my mother’s fight. She’s a Moslem, religious, who prays five times a day and wears a scarf. But she believes in Danish democracy. In that way she is a lot like many of my friends—Moslems with their hearts, but not Islamists or Extremists. I feel I am fighting a fight for the majority of Moslems. Islam was once a religion which was about the personal relationship of man to Allah. But some Imams have intervened, like the publicans of the Bible and have taken for themselves the power of Allah.”
Facts #1-4 (as well as #6 and 7) indicate that Khader is not ignorant about Islam and indicate that he has had years of study and contact with Islam through a) Muslim communities both in Syria and in Denmark, b) family, c) mosque sermons, d) personal study of the Koran and other related materials.
Khader also seems to have extensive familiarity, experience and knowledge of Danish Muslims (cf. #9, 10 and 12)—enough to make the sweeping claim that the “majority” of them are moderates like him. Either the majority of Danish Muslims are all ignorant of Islam like Khader, or Khader does not really know the Islam of the majority of Danish Muslims, or Khader is lying about this.
His apparently extensive familiarity, experience and knowledge of Danish Muslims (cf. #9, 10 and 12) also undermines the theory that he is ignorant of Islam.
As for Khader’s degree of “Islamicity”, we see from #8 that he has followed that path of incoherent twilight ambivalence—the “Cultural Muslim”—about which Hugh Fitzgerald has written aptly:
It is precisely those intelligent and charming and very-close-to-being-right-but- refusing-to-deal-with-Islam Muslims, the kind who if asked will tell you that “well, I'm a cultural Muslim” or “culturally, I come from a Muslim backround” or “there is much I find of great interest and which I am sympathetic to in Islam” (without more) and who, of course, are then part of the problem. Why? Because Westerners, Americans in particular, are innocent. They do not wish to investigate the tenets of Islam. They would prefer to believe that those tenets are ignored by most Muslims, and that they can go on ignoring them. They would prefer to believe that the history of Islam is not what it is.
When on television Kanan Makiya begins to express his affection for his pious Muslim grandmother, who wouldn't hurt a fly, we are sympathetic. We understand. We are perfectly aware that there have always been pious Muslims intent only on the rituals of worship. Ibn Warraq never fails to remind people of his own family, and of his own gentle, pious brother. But when that leads people to shift their attention away from Islam, to substitute the unrepresentative from the representative, to substitute wish for reality, it is a menace to us.
Meanwhile, Khader’s points #9-12 (as well as #6) shows that he is a true believer in the Myth of the Moderate Muslim—worse yet, the myth that the moderate Muslim is the majority, and that the extremists are the minority. Closely related to this is his constant implication that “true” Islam is good and harmless. But this brings up the screamingly obvious question, if “true” Islam is so good and harmless, why has he distanced himself from Islam over the years to the point where he is virtually (but not quite) an ex-Muslim?
One cannot expect coherence from Muslims like Khader—either because their reason is deformed, or because they are lying while trying to articulate the impossible and the preposterous. (One acutely senses an eery compos mentis from the repeated condemnations of Islam and Muslims by the aforementioned “Tom” Haidon juxtaposed simultaneously with defenses of the Islam and the Mohammed he, as an Islamic convert, follows.) Either way, Muslims like Khader are purveying the notion that most Muslims are harmless, and thus they are reinforcing the PC MC mindset that sees nothing dangerous about admitting thousands, yea millions, of Muslims into the West. Among these thousands, even millions, there will be innumerable Muslims who will form underground terror cells and who will spend years planning horrific attacks on us.
Khader is doing his small part to enable them. And so are the gullible, equally asymptotic anti-jihadists who do not condemn him for his incoherency and demand that, as a grown man in the modern West, he come clean.
Time to throw away the term "moderate Muslim"
The "Moderate Muslim" cont.