In the Wall Street Journal.
Excerpts from the 6 participants:
Anwar Ibrahim (“The Ball Is in Our Court”):
… Muslims must do more than just talk about their great intellectual and cultural heritage. We must be at the forefront of those who reject violence and terrorism. And our activism must not end there. The tyrants and oppressive regimes that have been the real impediment to peace and progress in the Muslim world must hear our unanimous condemnation.
Bernard Lewis (“A History of Tolerance”):
For the moment, there does not seem to be much prospect of a moderate Islam in the Muslim world. This is partly because in the prevailing atmosphere the expression of moderate ideas can be dangerous—even life-threatening….
But for Muslims who seek it, the roots are there, both in the theory and practice of their faith and in their early sacred history.
Ed Husain (“Don’t Call Me Moderate, Call Me Normal”):
Normative Islam, from its early history to the present, is defined by its commitment to protecting religion, life, progeny, wealth and the human mind. In the religious language of Muslim scholars, this is known as maqasid, or aims. This is the heart of Islam.
I am fully Muslim and fully Western. Don’t call me moderate—call me a normal Muslim.
Reuel Marc Gerecht (“Putting Up With Infidels Like Me”):
Tolerance among traditional Muslims is defined as Christian Europe first defined the idea: A superior creed agrees not to harass an inferior creed, so long as the practitioners of the latter don’t become too uppity. Tolerance emphatically does not mean equality of belief, as it now does in the West.
Tawfik Hamid (“Don’t Gloss Over The Violent Texts”):
Radical Islam is not limited to the act of terrorism; it also includes the embrace of teachings within the religion that promote hatred and ultimately breed terrorism. Those who limit the definition of radical Islam to terrorism are ignoring—and indirectly approving of—the Shariah teachings that permit killing apostates, violence against women and gays, and anti-Semitism.
Moderate Islam should be defined as a form of Islam that rejects these violent and discriminatory edicts….
Moderate Islam must not be passive. It needs to actively reinterpret the violent parts of the religious text rather than simply cherry-picking the peaceful ones….
Akbar Ahmed (“Mystics, Modernists and Literalists”):
Having studied the practices of Muslims around the world today, I’ve come up with three broad categories: mystic, modernist and literalist….
Muslims in the mystic category reflect universal humanism, believing in “peace with all.”…
The second category is the modernist Muslim who believes in trying to balance tradition and modernity….
The literalists believe that Muslim behavior must approximate that of the Prophet in seventh-century Arabia. Their belief that Islam is under attack forces many of them to adopt a defensive posture. And while not all literalists advocate violence, many do. Movements like the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and the Taliban belong to this category.
Ahmed says he wants accurate categories and indicates that “moderate” isn’t such a category. I’d need to hear more about that to understand, because it seems to me that there are ways of being moderate or extreme in all 3 categories. Do you really want to say that it’s taking texts literally that is the problem? Would that extend to other religions (and to other texts, such as, for example, Constitutions)? And aren’t there also ways of being “modernist” that can lead to trouble? Didn’t history’s worst fascists meld tradition and some concept of modernity? I don’t mean to say that there’s no insight to be gained in Ahmed’s 3 categories, only that their existence doesn’t convince me to stop caring about moderation.