Some useful thoughts from Barry Rubin:
4.There are no moderate Muslims — is it a myth created by liberals?
Funny, I know a lot of them and they don’t seem a myth to me. But they are about 1 percent, have little power, and Western governments show no sympathy for them. Again, the problem is NOT that no moderate Muslims exist. The problem is: A.) Radicals are portrayed as moderates repeatedly in the West or pretend to be such; and B.) the number of moderates is very limited, they have little influence, and they are constantly intimidated.
But there are millions of anti-Islamist Muslims all over the world. They may be traditionalists, they may be nationalists, and they may be moderates. Yet their interpretation of Islam is different from that of the Islamists. We should remember that it wasn’t long ago when revolutionary Islamists were viewed as virtual heretics. The fact that Islamists draw on normative Islam doesn’t prove that they have the only or the correct interpretation of Islam.
It is ridiculous to claim that radical Islamists aren’t “real” or “proper” Muslims. But it is equally ridiculous to claim that all Muslims must be Islamists or they aren’t following their religion.
There are three camps in the West in understanding this issue:
* Islamists represent the “right” interpretation of Islam and thus there cannot be moderate Muslims. This is the view taken by many on the “anti-jihad” side. It isn’t wrong because such a view is “bigoted” or isn’t helpful tactically. It is wrong because it doesn’t correspond to the facts and realities.
* Islamists have hijacked the real Islam which is a religion of peace. That is the position of “politically correct” people, the idea that dominates Western governments, the mass media, and academia. This view is equally ridiculous. Islamists can cite the Koran, the hadith, and many other sacred writings to justify their positions. They didn’t make this stuff up. Violent jihad, treating non-Muslims as dhimmis, and antisemitism are not new ideas which emerged from the minds of a tiny minority.
* There is in Islam, as in other religions, a struggle over interpretations. Different sides can cite texts and precedents. Were the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, and the worst excesses of the past the “real” Christianity? Of course not. And Christianity changed over time. Many debates and battles took place. The problem with Islam is not its “essence” but its place on the timeline. In Western terms, the debate in Islam is in the sixteenth or seventeenth century, with powerful forces wanting to return to the seventh century.
My view, the third one, can be summed up as seeing two people fighting over control of the steering wheel in an automobile speeding down the road. Both can claim ownership of the car. As an anti-Islamist Iranian intellectual once put it, the minute someone says that Islam must be interpreted in any one way they are wrong.
There’s a lot more to read there, and no just on Islam.