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Islamic Moderates and Extremists

Eugene Volokh has an important post on Islamic extremists and moderates. One of his basic points is that there are many millions of Islamic extremists in the world today—people who believe in the death penalty for apostasy and for people who leave the Muslim religion. Such people, whom he numbers in the tens or perhaps hundreds of millions, are “a deadly enemy to Western democracies and to our most fundamental values.”

At the same time, Eugene also notes that there are Islamic moderates, who presumably are a large group as well. These moderates are the allies of the West, both because they provide intelligence and other support to the West in its fight against the extremists and because moderate Muslims are the primary competitors with Islamic extremists for adherents.

These facts, which seem obvious once one states them, have two important implications. First, it is both false and unwise for the West to make negative statements about Islam generally, such as Islam is a religion of war and violence. This is not true of large portions of Islam and it will only weaken and alienate the Islamic moderates who are our allies.

By the same token, however, it is both false and unwise for the West to attempt to suggest that all of Islam is benign, as with statements that Islam is the religion of peace. Such statements are clearly wrong about the Islamic extremists. And they suggest that the West does not recognize that a portion of Islam represents our enemy.

One interesting matter involves people who demand that moderate Muslims condemn (and in some cases combat) the extremists. It is certainly understandable that non-Muslims might feel uncomfortable about Muslims who do not condemn attacks made in the name of Muslims. But such demands are problematic both because they risk alienating the moderate Muslims and because of the risks involved for moderate Muslims in openly and directly confronting the extremists—risks that many in the West, who have far less to worry about, are unwilling to incur.

Reader Discussion

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on January 12, 2015 at 13:42:18 pm

It is NOT a question of moderates, extremists, radicals or other schisms within the Muslim Faith (cf. "Islam") and the umma. If those adherents wish to incorporate themselves into "our" social order for benefits they seek then their admissions must soon be determined by their willingness to confront and cleanse the dogmas of that Faith that have been attached since the age of the Jurists. If they are too uncomfortable or afraid to cleanse their Faith as Christians (and others) have had to do the time is at hand for their entries into our social orders to be restricted or end.

The fact that is tough and dangerous for them to do so is a matter of relative human values which are essential to our civilization - which has its own fragmentation issues. There must be an examination of what is essential to Faith and if they continue to regard the dogmas that have lead to these conditions as essential, they do not belong among us, but among their own kind only.

Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has made the case abundantly clear. Reform or retreat and preserve that primitive culture elsewhere.

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R Richard Schweitzer
on January 12, 2015 at 14:38:32 pm

"One interesting matter involves people who demand that moderate Muslims condemn (and in some cases combat) the extremists. It is certainly understandable that non-Muslims might feel uncomfortable about Muslims who do not condemn attacks made in the name of Muslims. But such demands are problematic both because they risk alienating the moderate Muslims and because of the risks involved for moderate Muslims in openly and directly confronting the extremists—risks that many in the West, who have far less to worry about, are unwilling to incur."

Substitute the word *german* for Muslims and place in the context of 1930's Europe - does this put a different spin on it?

No, there is a price to be paid for membership in Western society - that is this: you give up your atavistic practices, primitive belief systems, predilection for fanatical literalism, confront AND accept your new societal reality or return to those distant times of medieval, nay, pre-medieval barbarism.
Simple and direct, notwithstanding the numerous *apologia* propagated by those who themselves are unable to find value or discharge their own obligations to this society.

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gabe
on January 12, 2015 at 17:11:15 pm

Ah, the rival schools of libertarianism. Does libertarianism mean people are free to do as they deem best, provided they do not harm others? Or does libertarianism mean that we can dispense with state coercion only to the extent that we instill self-coercion -- e.g., that no one is drafted, but EVERYONE has a duty to take up arms during an emergency, even at their own peril?

I'm a bad libertarian. I say people are free to do as they deem best, provided they do not harm others -- and provided they pay the prescribed taxes for forces designed to maintain society. We then let the socially-financed forces do the work of subduing the sociopaths.

In short, moderate Muslims have no duty to speak for me, nor I for them. We each may speak as we deem appropriate, and I hope we do -- but this is just a hope, not a requirement of citizenship.

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nobody.really
on January 13, 2015 at 11:07:09 am

"... but EVERYONE has a duty..."
and

"... moderate Muslims have no duty to speak for me..."
together make for a contradiction and perhaps not just a bad libertarian but a bad liberal (classic sense).

Why the duty for the former but not the latter. Yes it is a hope for each case, but.....

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gabe
on January 13, 2015 at 16:27:35 pm

“… but EVERYONE has a duty…”

and

“… moderate Muslims have no duty to speak for me…”

Why the duty for the former but not the latter?

You have correctly identified an inconsistency. I'm articulating three inconsistent visions of libertarianism:

1) hedonism,

2) self-imposed rectitude, and

3) "checkbook libertarianism," in which all social duties are reduced solely to the duty to pay taxes; we owe no duty to perform personal services for society.

People who argue that moderate Muslims have some kind of duty to speak out against their more radical brethren --- that is, they have a duty to provide personal services for the good of society, whether or not they have agreed to accept this duty, and whether or not they get compensated for performing this duty -- seem to embrace the Self-Imposed Rectitude school of thought. and have rejected the other schools. As of today, I favor the Checkbook Libertarianism school.

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nobody.really
on January 13, 2015 at 16:38:27 pm

"Maybe most Muslims are peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible."
-- Rupert Murdoch

"I was born Christian. If that makes Rupert Murdoch my responsibility, I'll auto-excommunicate...The Spanish Inquisition was my fault, as is all Christian fundamentalist violence. Oh, and Jim Bakker."
-- J.K. Rowling

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nobody.really
on January 13, 2015 at 16:40:41 pm

Rectitude is, perhaps, a bit harsh in this regard.

Are there not some common *binds* or obligations that all who enter a society, or at least persist in remaining, owe to the greater society. surely, you accept this premise, if as you say, there is a binding obligation to pay taxes. If so, why not accept that just as there is a need for some minimal financial support (obligation) to the society in which one resides, there is also a minimal expectation that one will neither actively work to the detriment of that society or refuse to "call out" those that do so. I do not think that this should violate any conscience rights - unless, of course, one's particular brand of hedonism calls for ritual slaughter.

Moreover, without some self-imposed constraints (rectitude, as you may argue) the *city* is not possible.
just saying!!!

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gabe
on January 13, 2015 at 16:47:33 pm

Ah, but the difference is that Christians have historically self corrected and / or presently call out the looney tune fringe that may from time to time pop up. I guess they should be criticized for their *self-imposed rectitude."

Lastly, if you check your history, you will find that the Spanish Inquisition was not engendered by the religious authorities but rather by the civil authorities under cover of religious authority. The clergy (such as they were in those days) after initial resistance were either compelled to go along or saw advantage in continuing it. ( I sometimes have a hard time viewing many of these folks as *churchmen* when all too often they were appointed by the Crown, had their offices purchased for them (gee sounds like the US Senate), etc. and were essentially a part of the civil order.
Then again, it was 500 years ago. Da ya think that should be factored in?

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gabe
on January 13, 2015 at 18:46:24 pm

Then again:

Where would these little vignettes fit into your scheme?

http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/396232/backing-bill-maher-understanding-pyramid-support-jihad-david-french

Perhaps, we DO NEED a little more *self-imposed rectitude* as your checkbook approach (silence) may lead to this.

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gabe
on January 14, 2015 at 08:42:39 am

In germany we currently have lot of people who demonstrate against the islam (this startet before hepdo). That would be okay if these people know what they talk about... but they don't. Stupid people are everywhere.

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Schachbrett
on January 15, 2015 at 13:54:26 pm

Well said. This strikes me as spot on. Thus, contrary to what Richard argues, moderate muslims are under no special burden to clense their faith of extremists. Rather, they are responsible for their own choices and behaviors, just as am I.

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Kevin R. Hardwick
on January 15, 2015 at 13:59:05 pm

I should add that those of us who care about maximizing human liberty (ie., those of us committed to liberalism, properly understood) do share an obligation to condemn anti-liberal extremism. But there is no special obligation here--it applies equally to all liberals, whether they are muslim or not.

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Kevin R. Hardwick
on January 15, 2015 at 15:07:12 pm

So then they do have an obligation (not necessarily a *special* one) to speak out against extremism?

Perhaps, it would be prudent for them to do so - or are we to accept Nobody's contention that they are under *special* pressures to not do so. If this is the case then we are either confirming that Islam is *intolerant* or that it thus becomes more *special* for the average Muslim to speak out against this because failure to do so is "assent by silence" as Thomas More argued at his trial.

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gabe
on January 15, 2015 at 18:03:21 pm

Are there not some common *binds* or obligations that all who enter a society, or at least persist in remaining, owe to the greater society. surely, you accept this premise, if as you say, there is a binding obligation to pay taxes. If so, why not accept that just as there is a need for some minimal financial support (obligation) to the society in which one resides, there is also a minimal expectation that one will neither actively work to the detriment of that society....

Well, actually, I don't – at least, I don’t assume it to be true.

I harbor a hypothesis – merely one of many -- that maximal stable autonomy can be maintained in a society that does NOT expect individuals to comply with the laws without external coercion. That is, the maximally free society would be built on external coercion. We would pay our taxes under threat of punishment for not paying – and we would be freed of the delusion that we were NOT under the threat of punishment for not paying. If you know that I will be unlikely to provide my share of the resources necessary to maintain society unless you coerce me to do so, then coerce me – but at least show me the respect of being honest about this state of affairs. Let us not make a naïve worship of government, but neither let us descend into childish petulance at the observation that government is conducted by men who are every bit as fallible as ourselves. Is candor too much to ask?

… or refuse to “call out” those that do so.

Seriously? You’re suggesting that everyone who encounters a gang of homicidal maniacs has a duty to say, “I HEREBY CALL YOU OUT AS A GANG OF HOMOCIDAL MANI—“ before getting gunned down? Hey, perhaps such altruism would be socially optimal. But I can’t say that I know of anyone who actually behaves with this degree of indifference to self-interest. Even altruists tend to pick their battles.

[W]ithout some self-imposed constraints (rectitude, as you may argue) the *city* is not possible.

I suspect this is true; I’ve probably argued that it is true – but I don’t know it to be true.

Big questions, my friend.

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nobody.really
on January 15, 2015 at 18:27:27 pm

" the maximally free society would be built on external coercion.." - see Machiavelli, Discourses on Livy. He, in fact, argues this case.

I agree that it is the more honest approach.

Your example about the homicidal maniacs is interesting. Yet, prudence would dictate that you wait until they leave the "hood" before you criticize them - but criticize them you should! Choose the battlefield - if the battle has been chosen for you. It is after all what we have typically expected of those of the Christian faith - and in fact do we not have many Christian followers who do precisely this - call out the face of power.

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gabe
on January 16, 2015 at 00:33:19 am

Gabe--

I guess I think Tocqueville's understanding of public opinion has some validity--to the extent that the weight of public opinion influences belief and then behavior, those of us who care about the conditions under which liberty thrives have some obligation to work to create them. If all it takes for me to enjoy liberty is to attend properly to my own choices, then there would be no obligation here. If living in a free society requires something more from each of us, like for example contributing to public opinion, then enlightened self-interest, if nothing else, suggests we should do that. It seems clear to me that living in a state of anarchy would have Hobbseian consequences, and thus that I have some obligation to work to sustain a liberal regime. But this is not a religious obligation. I do not think membership in a religious faith places me under any extra obligation to condemn the viciousness of people who purport to share my faith. I think the obligation stems from my commitment to liberty, not from my commitment to (for example) Islam.

I am not sure I am properly responding to your comment?

All best,
Kevin

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Kevin R. Hardwick
on January 16, 2015 at 00:41:34 am

Gabe--

Speaking as an historian now, I would argue that the distinction between civil and religious authority was no where near as clean cut as you imply here, for the case of those 15th or 16th century polities that today comprise Spain or Italy. The inquisition enjoyed both civil and religious support, as did just about every other functioning institution in those societies.

I do not think this really detracts from your larger argument. But I also do not think you need to look quite so far back in time to find examples of Christian-sanctioned illiberalism.

All best,
Kevin

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Kevin R. Hardwick
on January 16, 2015 at 09:18:27 am

So then they do have an obligation (not necessarily a *special* one) to speak out against extremism?

Perhaps, it would be prudent for them to do so – or are we to accept Nobody’s contention that they are under *special* pressures to not do so.

??? Not sure what I said that led to this statement. To clarify, are you speaking about nobody,really, or really speaking about nobody?

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nobody.really
on January 16, 2015 at 10:25:02 am

Kevin:

You are correct with respect to the more recent (historically speaking) instances of illiberalism.
My point (which in my usual shorthand left out a bit too much) was this:
That so much of what the Church(es) was criticized for with respect to excess, corruption, etc. was in part conditioned upon the fact that they were subordinate to the civil authority. Yes, they actively participated in these abuses - yet they did self correct and an argument can be made that at least in theory (if not practice) the Church did seek separation (Render unto...). This is manifestly not the case with Islam, neither today nor at its founding. Indeed, it was always an integral part of the civil (such as it was / is) society and gained sway over vast swaths of the Mediterranean as a consequence of such affiliation. This is true today with numerous Muslim countries being ruled by Sharia, etc.

The point is that if Christianity can self correct - so too should (can?) Islam and that reform must come from within. It is fairly obvious given recent events that Islam will not countenance any critique from without.

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gabe
on January 16, 2015 at 16:04:09 pm

[…] Islamic Moderates and Extremists […]

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More on Extremist and Moderate Muslims - Freedom's Floodgates
on February 09, 2015 at 01:21:54 am

Eric Gonchar

Islamic Moderates and Extremists | Online Library of Law & Liberty

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Eric Gonchar

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.