Amen, Mark. Even more than the contradictory sentences, I’m struck by the contradictory clause: “At a time when Islam is under siege from Muslim extremists …” The problem for Esposito, Voll and other self-styled moderates is that they know they can’t say, “At a time when Islam is under siege from Muslim heretics.” The Muslims in question are adherents of an extreme form of Islam. They are not heterodox. They simply don’t buy the moderate mush that the Qur’an and the Hadith do not mean what they say, or that Muslims are at liberty to ignore them.
We keep looking past this at our peril. Does anyone ever notice that the Muslims we consider our allies are either former Muslims (see, e.g., Ibn Warraq), secular Muslims (people who maintain a cultural affinity to Islam but don’t care much about doctrine), or well-meaning reformer Muslims who either forthrightly acknowledge that Islam must be changed fundamentally (see, e.g., Irshad Manji) or rationalize that Islamic scripture does not have to be taken literally and that the bellicose passages are somehow limited to the circumstances of the Seventh Century (rationalizations that are not very compelling no matter how much we want to believe them)? No doubt these groups make up hundreds of millions of people; but they have little influence with extremists — who themselves make up not a fringe but, at the very least, tens of millions of people.
A summation by the courageous former Muslim, Ayan Hirsi Ali, ”My View of Islam (on holy war, apostasy and the rights of women),” should be required reading on this topic. (Esposito and Voll would go in her fifth category.) It would be a much better use of our time than listening to blather about how a teeny-tiny group of terrorists has hijacked a noble religion of peace. In the interim, the problem is not going away: What Islamic extremists are extreme about is Islam.