Since Andy asks, I agree with him: I think that, with the greatest respect to one of the most important voices in this debate, Fouad Ajami makes my point for me – that there are millions of “moderate Muslims”, but no moderate Islam in any meaningful theological sense.
Furthermore, when Fouad cites his own background – “I was born a Muslim to a Muslim secular Shia family” – many Muslims of his generation, especially educated women, could tell similar stories. But in recent decades moderate or syncretic local variants of Islam have retreated in the face of a far sterner pan-Islamism almost everywhere on the planet. It was easier to be a “moderate Muslim” in Pakistan in 1950 than in Pakistan in 2010. Same with Yemen, Iran, Central Asia, the Balkans, not to mention Yorkshire. If we were to restore the condition of global Islam as it existed when Fouad was born, it would be an immense improvement. But how?
As to Andy’s musings on the contradictions of being a “secular Muslim”, that’s actually a pretty good term for the executives of Comedy Central, the publishers at Yale University Press, the custodians at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Academy of Pediatricians, etc. They don’t go to Friday prayers (yet) but they accept that the strictures of Islamic law are now universal – no pix of the Prophet, a little bit of FGM never hurt anyone, etc. “Secular Muslim” seems as useful a term as any.