Isn’t it confusing when jihadists declare themselves to be the true Muslims but our pleasant Muslim neighbour tells us, over a beer, that he represents the true spirit of Islam.
Who is correct?
Having read the Qur’an and the context for its more controversial passages, provided in the canonical Hadith, I have come to the conclusion that we urgently need to categorise our Muslim neighbours. Of course, Jews and Christians have ‘reformed’ and ‘liberal’ designations, respectively, and these terms are openly used to identify their beliefs and, more importantly, disbeliefs. But progressive movements in Islam, such as the Quilliam Foundation or the Muslim Reform Movement, are all but invisible and, more importantly, they do not claim to be liberalising, they claim they are the real Muslims.
Yet, it is obvious, even from a casual read of the Qur’an, that ISIS is very conservative and most Muslims in the West are very liberal. Why, then, was Newt Gingrich lambasted as a witch-hunter for proposing, on Fox News, that the state identify those citizens whose beliefs require them to be at war with Western civilization? Why is no one, Muslim or otherwise, welcome to categorise the Muslims?
Liberalising movements haven’t had a rich history in Islam and it is easy to see why. During the ‘golden age of Islam’ under the liberal Abbasid Caliphate, Persian philosophers were able to pick up where the Greeks left off, coming close to developing the scientific method and writing critically of the Qur’an.
This was ended, however, by grand visier Nizam al-Mulk, who imposed systems of education based on a Qur’anic understanding of the natural world. Al-Ghazali’s The Incoherence of Philosophers was deemed to lay all opposition to rest. Fast forward to now and those leaders of critical, liberalising movements in countries under Sharia are still murdered.
This hasn’t developed a light-hearted attitude to the use of the words ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’ amongst Muslims anywhere in the world. Even as the liberal Muslim sips on her beer, head uncovered, joking about the time she accidentally ate pork and liked it, enjoying the freedom she has in the West, don’t dare call her liberal. She’ll shake that bottle at you and tell you Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance and that she is a true Muslim, as though the utterance of the word immediately condemns her to the flames of Gehenna.
Liberal Muslims will not accept this label and they do not associate with any liberalising/reformist movements, so the majority of people, including Muslims, assume Islam is peaceful and that the Qur’an must preach peace, without ever bothering to read it or study it in any depth. Western politicians echo this with the confidence of theologians, securing the Muslim vote – Islam is peace and the jihadists have got it all wrong. So, rather than helping us, our liberal Muslim neighbour is, unwittingly, a big part of the problem.
The young, often intelligent men who become radicalised do so because they actually read the Qur’an and the commentaries for themselves, concluding that most Muslims are inconsistent. They believe that most have been deceived in a great cosmic battle between good and evil, bewitched by the pleasures and amusements of the Western lifestyle and therefore doing nothing to oppose atrocities in the Middle-East.
The more consistent, conservative movements, however, are often sidelined as salafi, wahabbist or Islamist, but such terms are confusing. The president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan is often called an Islamist and yet, for all his faults, shows no open intention of changing the constitution to impose Sharia Law, nor did he encourage Egypt to adopt anything other than a secular government, following the 2011 revolution.
Clearly, these terms are not sufficient.
Furthermore, they lead one to believe that conservatives are fringe groups out there, somewhere far away from Western city streets, for Francois Hollande to seek and destroy. But, the danger is closer to home and has been for a considerable time. Even before the mass-immigration of Afghani, Middle-Eastern and African Muslims (whom we wrongly assumed to all be Syrian refugees), the statistic of British Muslims who, for example, sympathised with the 7/7 bombers was between 20 and 25%.
No, these conservatives are not on the fringe and they are not abroad, and their beliefs designate whether they are, overtly or covertly, in a state of war with the West.
We need a term to identify, in black and white terms, who they are, whether individual Muslims like it or not.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a strong libertarian who believes private property rights are to be violated by no one, least of all by the state against those who have certain religious beliefs. But, we are talking about a politico-religious ideology which pits individuals against other individuals with goals to harm their person and property.
To fellow-westerners who find this concept offensive, I would ask: how can you remain unmoved by this threat? Even if you have no care for our classical liberal heritage, do you have no concern for future generations, none even for yourself?
As a libertarian, a proud Western gentleman and a father, I cannot stand any person in my community who is at such enmity with our ideals. I want to note those at war with me, my family, friends and ideals. I am confident that most Westerners feel the same and would indeed ostracise those antagonistic individuals from our communities if given the chance.
But what terms to use?
I think Newt Gingrich got something right – the crux of the matter is Sharia. The true principle of Sharia Law is that it should be above all other law, i.e. there is no rule of law but rather the rule of the Qur’an.
Without the classical liberal principle of the rule of law, we cannot hope for the future development of liberty in the West with the security and certainty of our private property rights. Therefore, if a Muslim ideally wants Sharia Law to govern the state, then the term ‘conservative’ is suitable; if not, the term ‘moderate’ has already been bandied about by political commentators and may not stigmatise as readily as ‘liberal’.
Whether our Muslim neighbour, who drinks, doesn’t attend a mosque and plans holidays rather than pilgrimages, approves our necessary use of these terms or not, is neither here nor there.
We will know friend from foe and take the security of Western Civilization into our own hands.