Which Moderates are True Moderates?
But what we do know is that for Islamists, terror is just one tactic in their arsenal. It is often counter-productive, as the host country tends to get rattled when their citizenry are blown up. So leaving terror aside, how do we spot true from faux moderates? Descriptions don’t help, as Islamists often claim they are democratic and support our western values, just as Hamas supporters will march under “peace” banners.
“I'd like to make that distinction between Islam the faith and Islamism, the political ideology set up in its name. Just as we don't blame the Catholic Church for the IRA or ETA violence in Spain we don't blame Islam the religion with a 1,400-year track record of creating civilisations from Spain to China to the Middle East for what going on now.
What we blame is the marrying of an Islamist ideology set up in the 1950s in Egypt and later in Pakistan with what you correctly identified as Wahhabism….Hizb ut-Tahrir is one manifestation of that Islamist ideology based on a warped reading of text and under heavy Marxist influences…. The good news is there are lots of people leaving these organisations now…. we blurred the lines between genuine religion ie Islam and perversion of it, ie Islamism married to jihadism."
“I was fortunate in that I was raised as an orthodox Muslim so, I knew there was an alternative way of being Muslim without being an Islamist. My parents were telling me, "We raised you as a decent human being as an orthodox Muslim as someone should contribute… That was backed by the fact that I saw a murder… on my campus directly as a result of extremist ideas. But backed up with all of this was exposure to genuine religion, that we may call orthodox Islam where there is a traditional of plurality, a tradition of acceptance of the other, there is a traditional of spirituality, of honouring fellow human beings. Enobling and being merciful and compassionate... My belief is that that's the sort of exposure we should be given to genuine authentic religiosity, and thereby chasing after and flushing extremists who operate in our name." (source)
So how to spot the lawful Islamists?
With some, the thin veneer is obvious to all except the truly gullible, as their associations, words and actions belie their self-described moderate label. Waleed fits this pattern, as he is involved with Islamic Council of Victoria, which is linked to CAIR, the US terrorist supporter, also the student group FAMSY which reglarly invites Muslim Brotherhood members to speak on campus. Moreover, he never misses an opportunity to demonise the West and excuse the worst excesses of the Islamists. Yet the gullible amongst us accept his claims of being the voice of moderation, and he is feted in the academic circles, lectures at Monash on Global Terrorism and has interfaith “dialogue” with progressive Jews and Christians who regard him as the apotheosis of Moderation.
Kara-Ali is more problematic. The Islamists attack his brand of Islam, as it certainly seems much more tolerant and compatible with our own values. So is he a moderate?
Irfan Yusuf, a Sydney writer and associate editor of altmuslim.com, doesn’t think so, describing him as “a representative of the Lebanese Sunni Muslim sect known as the al-Ahbash”. Irf attacks his claim there are ideological sleeper cells in Australia, and add “Kara-Ali’s own sect, the Lebanese al-Ahbash, has two of its senior leaders about to face trial in Lebanon… were found by an independent UN Report to have been involved in a plot to assassinate former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. That plot involved the use of suicide bombing.” and:
“Given the strong relations between the al-Ahbash and Syria, one wonders whether Mr Kara-Ali will come clean on his sect's links to other pro-Syria groups in Australia, including Hezbollah.” and “Like Kara-Ali, I have strong theological objections to Wahhabism. Unlike Kara-Ali, I don't try and bring overseas sectarian conflicts and impose them here in Sydney.” (source)
So is Irf a moderate? Well, he has attacked Ayaan Hirsi Ali, saying:
“Many Muslims have attacked Ayaan for her ignorance of Islam as well as for her links with far-right groups in the Netherlands” and makes it clear he considers her a fraud:
"I must say I have my own doubts about her claims.”
“Ayaan’s most unusual claim is that the dominant strand of Islam in Indonesia is wahhabism, and that Saudi Arabia funds the majority of Indonesian religious schools. I asked her if she had been to Indonesia.
She replied: “Do I have to go there to know a self-evident truth?” When I asked for evidence for her claims about Indonesia, it was clear she was the one conducting the witch hunt of the world’s largest Muslim country. Ayaan is happy to make sweeping statements about a diverse range of societies whose only common feature is some element of Islam. She has not travelled through Muslim countries and met Muslim communities.
Malaysiakini.com June 26, 2007.
“Unfortunately, by hosting such a Muslim-hating propagandist, the JNF is disrupting the good work which other Jewish organisations are doing toward building bridges with members of the Islamic and other faiths,” (source )In today’s Al Age, Irf writes about British Muslim Ed Husain's autobiographical The Islamist, detailing his experiences with Hizb ut-Tahrir. Irf observes:
“HT is the closest Muslim thing to socialist groups congregating on our campuses. In Australia, it would be lucky to have 100 core members, yet calls continue for the group to be banned. Its goal is preparing Western Muslims for what it believes to be the inevitable re-establishment of the caliphate — the Muslim theocratic state. How? By handing out pamphlets and holding conferences about the inevitability of the caliphate."
So it seems Irf thinks HT is harmless, a bit like the loopy socialist groups that one finds on campus.
In my day, we weren't worried about re-establishing caliphates. My generation of political Islamists were too busy supporting jihad in Afghanistan. Unlike HT's caliphate, our jihad was backed by the US.
Today, Saudi Wahhabist Islam is attacked by conservatives. Back then, these same conservatives regarded it as an excellent antidote to the less desirable revolutionary Iranian Islam of Ayatollah Khomeini.
Yes Irf, it’s all the fault of the US – gee, I think I’ve heard that one before.
“I was accustomed to mixing religion with politics. I'd spent six years at an Anglican school whose chaplain couldn't hide his admiration for Fred Nile's Festival of Light.”
Yes, Irf, we know there are Christian fundamentalists as well, but they are not slaughtering non-Christians in the name of religion.
Irf reveals how he wanted to fight with the Afghan mujahideen and approached Sheikh Fehmi for help, but how the good sheikh warned him off, saying if you die to be glorified, you will go to hell.
So it seems you have to fight jihad for the right reasons!
From his encounter with Fehmi, Irf learned 2 lessons.” First, the best antidote to fringe political Islamism for young Muslims is a good dose of mainstream orthodox Islamic religion.
Second, this mainstream religion is taught by mainstream Australian imams and in mosques across Australia roles of sheikhs Fehmi and Na'eem.” (source )
Sheikh Fehmi has long been hailed as a moderate, that is, until he came out in support of Hezbollah!
Kuranda Seyit, founder and director of the Forum on Australia's Islamic Relations, could be a moderate.
Aside from the fact he wants to abolish Christmas and doesn’t like Cardinal George Pell, who he sees as a symbol of ‘Western hegemony’, he is Executive Director of the Forum of Australia’s Islamic Relations (FAIR), whose aims and objectives include:
- To defend the rights and freedoms of all Australians to practice their religion openly and without fear of persecution or discrimination
- To protect our civil liberties and promote an open and harmonious society
- To educate the community about the differences and similarities between various religious communities and to eradicate ignorance and intolerance towards any one religious group
- To promote inclusiveness and participation between various inter-religious and ethnic groups
- To ensure accurate and ethical media reporting of events concerning the Islamic community and to provide an avenue of complaint in the case of a breach in the code of practices and ethics in the print and broadcasting media
- To provide appropriate and adequate representation for the grassroots Islamic community and to have a strong unified voice
- To enter into inter-community and inter-faith dialogue and have active involvement with the public in general utilising existing inter-faith groups and organisations
- To promote Islam within the community
He doubts Kara-Ali’s report that up to 3000 young Muslims in Australia are vulnerable to radicalisation:
“Do we really believe that 3000 people are in sleeper cells awaiting the green light from Osama bin Laden?
… while there are Muslims with extreme ideas in Australia, by and large they do not advocate violence or any form of terrorism… we can definitely tone down the fear-mongering rhetoric which does little for the average Mohammed and Fatima who have to live with the stares and the taunts on a daily basis. The very grave issue of over-stating the facts, particularly if it can create a negative backlash against Muslims, must be addressed. It is simply not acceptable to make unfounded statements that create fear or suspicion of the Muslim community.”
No Kuranda, far better to face wholesale terror attacks than to be wary of Muslims! Our Islamophobia is the problem, not their potential for terror.
“Muslims in Australia cannot be compared to the British model. In some British cities… Muslims live in marginalised ghetto-like suburbs which provide deep cover for dissent and rebellion.”Oh, so it’s because they are marginalised and disadvantaged – NOW I understand!
“In Australia we do have nutcases and radicals who preach that we should protect ourselves and our children from the evil influences of a non-believing society. They are relatively harmless, albeit distasteful.”Yes, we’ve seen examples of these relatively harmless nutcases in Bali, New York and London!
In terms of numbers they are significantly small and only a tiny percentage within that tiny percentage have the potential for extreme violent behaviour.
Yes, but you only need a tiny percentage to cause carnage, Kuranda!
“Australia does have one great tradition that transcends all religious boundaries, and that is the freedom to believe what you want and to live your life the way you want as long as you don't try to stuff it down others' throats.Yes, Kuranda, I do think so, but do you?
A great motto to live by, don't you think?”
Daniel Pipes points out that generally in the US, the right accept as moderates only those Muslims who actively oppose the Islamist goal of imposing Islamic law worldwide.
“just because Muslim organizations or individuals denounce terrorism or work through the system does not make them… either moderate or mainstream” The left, on the other hand, usually distinguish between violent Islamists, which they reject, and political ones, which they accept.
We need a checklist! Luckily Pipes has compiled one. He emphasises that “the questions need to be specific, as vague inquiries ("Is Islam a religion of peace?" "Do you condemn terrorism?") have little value, depending as they do on definitions (of peace, terrorism).”
So here is his list:-
1. Violence: Do you condone or condemn the Palestinians, Chechens, and Kashmiris who give up their lives to kill enemy civilians? Will you condemn by name as terrorist groups such organizations as Abu Sayyaf, Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya, Groupe Islamique Armée, Hamas, Harakat ul-Mujahidin, Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, and al-Qaida?
2. Modernity: Should Muslim women have equal rights with men (for example, in inheritance shares or court testimony)? Is jihad, meaning a form of warfare, acceptable in today's world? Do you accept the validity of other religions? Do Muslims have anything to learn from the West?
3. Secularism: Should non-Muslims enjoy completely equal civil rights with Muslims? May Muslims convert to other religions? May Muslim women marry non-Muslim men? Do you accept the laws of a majority non-Muslim government and unreservedly pledge allegiance to that government? Should the state impose religious observance, such as banning food service during Ramadan? When Islamic customs conflict with secular laws (e.g., covering the face for drivers' license pictures), which should give way
4. Islamic pluralism: Are Sufis and Shi'ites fully legitimate Muslims? Do you see Muslims who disagree with you as having fallen into unbelief? Is takfir (condemning fellow Muslims with whom one has disagreements as unbelievers) an acceptable practice?
5. Self-criticism: Do you accept the legitimacy of scholarly inquiry into the origins of Islam? Who was responsible for the 9/11 suicide hijackings?
6. Defense against militant Islam: Do you accept enhanced security measures to fight militant Islam, even if this means extra scrutiny of yourself (for example, at airline security)? Do you agree that institutions accused of funding terrorism should be shut down, or do you see this a symptom of bias?
7. Goals in the West: Do you accept that Western countries are majority-Christian and secular or do you seek to transform them into majority-Muslim countries ruled by Islamic law? (source )
I have reviewed a few of the players on the Australian Islamic landscape, and as you can see, it is difficult to draw any conclusions.
First, my own observations:-
1. It’s time to start putting the blame where it lies. On Islam.
EXAMPLE 1 Bnai Brith, a Jewish organisation held a meeting to raise awareness of the tragedy of Darfur, to which all funds raised would go to Oxfam. No-one denies the horror of Darfur, but it is a horror inflicted by Arab Janjaweed militias (Yes, that’s right Arab MUSLIMS) on Black Africans who are mostly Muslims. So what does that tell you about Islam? Clues: Arab supremacism, racism against blacks. Oxfam is notorious for supporting Palestinian Islamists and criticising Israel’s attempts to defend itself against their jihadi intentions, so why does Bnai Brith give money to them? Is there a guarantee it will go where it is intended? Should they not instead be supporting those who want to defend Israel which is under existential threat?
EXAMPLE 2 The recent failed terrorist attempts in London/Glasgow and maybe even Australia, were not the fault of our greed and imperialism (sorry Wally!), nor the result of poverty, disempowerment and victimisation.
What turned doctors, committed to save lives, into potential mass murderers? The answer is jihad, espoused by the Qu’ran and hadiths.
2. It’s time to get tough on Islam and hold it accountable. “No fear, no favour and no funding” should be our motto. Islam can exist as a private religion alongside others, but given no special privileges and enough of educating us about Islam. If they want to talk about their 5 pillars or their noble Mohamed, let them do it in private, but not at our expense. And certainly no more sending them into schools to lie to our children. I don’t care what religion people follow – they can dance naked at midnight for all I care – but no need to tell us all about it.