Politics & Policy

Your Honey or Your Lyin’ Eyes?

The myth of a vibrant "moderate Islam."

So here we are again, a dazed planet brushing ourselves off and surveying the wreckage from the worst spree of Islam-inspired rioting, bombing, murder, and mayhem since … well, since the last one. And the one before that.

The ongoing one is over offensive cartoons published by an obscure Danish newspaper. That’s a step down from the one over a tall tale about Koran-flushing in a Guantanamo Bay toilet. Not to mention the one over infidel troops stationed (to protect Muslims) in the Land of the Two Holy Mosques, the one over the Occupation, the one over the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the one over the Crusades, and the one over that time in 680 A.D. when some scion of monkeys and pigs allegedly spied a bare ankle under someone’s sister’s wind-swept chador.

You get the idea. The cartoon caper, though, has been singular–there hasn’t been such an outpouring on the “Arab Street” since that heroic martyrdom operation against the Great Satan a little over four years ago.


This latest round was instigated by Old Reliable himself, Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, a Qatar-based firebrand who is president of the International Association of Muslim Scholars and heads up something called “the European Council for Fatwa and Research.” Among his other sidelines, Qaradawi is also what’s known as the “spiritual leader” of the Muslim Brotherhood–Egypt’s 80-year-old font of terror ideology whose past members include al Qaeda honcho Ayman Zawahiri, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, jihadi extraordinaire Omar Abdel Rahman (the “Blind Sheikh”), and terror financier Abdurahman Alamoudi. Reminiscent of Michael Corleone’s protestations to Kaye, the Brotherhood claims it is going legit any day now, so naturally it has become a favorite Islamic organization of the State Department and the CIA, at whom it bats one winsome eye while winking at suicide bombers with the other.

Months after the original, uneventful publication of the cartoons, Qaradawi used his ready platform at al Jazeera to issue one of those fatwas he’d researched at that European Council of his. This one called for a “Day of Rage.” It worked so well that, by the end of last week, the media were reporting, with a straight face, that Qaradawi was now “condemning” the savagery he’d quite consciously started. (See The Muslim Brotherhood Playbook, p.1.) The poor, misunderstood imam, it seems, had only meant to provoke “logical” rage, like boycotts of Havarti cheese and the like. After all, he’s a “moderate” who opposes violence … whenever he’s not stirring it up.

Qaradawi, it turns out, is not just a moderate. He is, in addition, “a respected scholar and religious leader worthy of the deepest respect.” Says who? Says the State Department, that’s who.

It was only last October, you see, when Alberto Fernandez, newly minted by Secretary Condoleezza Rice as director for public diplomacy at State’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, made one of his obligatory “live dialogue” appearances on Islamonline.net. After cooing about the new Iraqi constitution, taking pains to stress that it expressly “recognizes the role of Islam” (thanks in no small part to State’s labors), Fernandez proceeded straight to the required gushing over Qaradawi.

But wait a second. Hasn’t Qaradawi has been banned from the U.S. for promoting terrorism? Surely the State Department can mount a full-throated defense of that, right? After all, isn’t our moral compass supposed to be the Bush Doctrine–the one that says “you’re either with us or with the terrorists”? Is it really that hard for State to say Qaradawi is a disgusting character promoting a noxious agenda, rather than a model of moderation?

Apparently. Such a choice, our chic-sensitive public-diplomacy pirector opined, was “for the Muslim Umma to decide.” As for the rest of us, Fernandez would brook no denying that it is “important to listen to intelligent and thoughtful voices from the region like Sheikh Qaradawi, … an important figure that deserves our attention.”


He certainly does. For, just a month after Fernandez’s paean, this important figure proved his mettle yet again. This time, it was at December’s international conference commemorating Al-Quds Day.

Al-Quds, you should understand, is the Muslim Umma’s name for Jerusalem, and the Umma’s plan is for it to be everyone’s name for Jerusalem–that is, once Ahmadinejad and Iran’s mad mullahs, Syria’s latest Assad, Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, al Qaeda, and all the other outfits patterned after those nonviolent fellas at the Muslim Brotherhood finally manage to wipe that nagging blight known as Israel off the face of the map (revised maps already being in Umma-wide circulation).

The three-day confab to mark Jerusal–er, I mean, Al-Quds Day, was held in Yemen, a country Secretary Rice recently praised for its “strong cooperation” with the U.S. in the struggle against terrorism. That may seem a tad embarrassing now that Yemen, besides hosting nasty conventions, has just allowed the escape of several notorious terrorists whom it steadfastly refused, for years, to extradite to us–including Jamal Badawi, the murderer of 17 American sailors in the October 2000 bombing of a naval destroyer, the U.S.S. Cole–an act of war that took place right in the strongly cooperative bosom of Aden harbor.

In any event, there was Qaradawi, shoulder-to-shoulder with Al-Quds concelebrants Khaled Mashal (Hamas’s top gun), Ali Akbar Mohtashemi (a key Ahmadinejad adviser), and other intelligent and thoughtful Muslim leaders. To the throng in attendance, and the millions tuned in on al-Manar (Hezbollah’s own satellite television network), Qaradawi brayed: “There is no choice but to wage jihad and resistance.”

This called for some quick lip-service to the moderate party line that there are “different kinds” of jihad. (Jihad being an Islamic tenet, moderates must offer some connotation of it besides the entirely accurate “holy war,” and the media have dutifully lapped up the ennobling “struggle to please God” treacle on which they’ve settled.) But Qaradawi promptly got back on-message, clarifying that he was most certainly speaking in this instance of the “armed” kind of jihad. And not just in al-Quds. Long an unabashed enthusiast of the shaheed cult (which involves the strapping of explosives to children and other “martyrs” who are then loosed among civilians), the sheikh exhorted his listeners that the fighting must continue “in Palestine, in Iraq, in Lebanon, and in every country that has been conquered by foreigners.”

Little wonder that the moderate, influential Muslim Council of Britain refers to Qaradawi as “a voice of reason, understanding and wisdom.” Indeed, with moderates like these abounding, how surprised should we be to find Secretary Rice herself–while very publicly hosting an Iftaar dinner to mark the end of the “holy month” of Ramadan–bestowing a federal promotion on the Muslim Umma, whose creed, she announced, is now the “religion of love” as well as the firmly entrenched “religion of peace.” (The ACLU was evidently unavailable for comment.) “We in America,” Rice effused, “know the benevolence that is at the heart of Islam.”


At least we say we do. And we repeat it with all the sincerest, heel-clicking fervor of Dorothy’s chanting “There’s no place like home” while she hopes against hope that all will be well when she opens her eyes. We all want to believe there is a vibrant “moderate Islam.” Not just the State Department, the CIA, the Bush administration, the European Union, and the West, but all people of good will.

Nonetheless, the contemporary vision of “moderate Islam” as a meaningful force for good is a mirage. Certainly there are moderate Muslim individuals. Large pockets of them, there and there, who have assimilated to the modern world and want only to live in ecumenical peace. But many of the people we call “moderates” are flat-out phonies, the bag-men who rise on the shoulders of the leg-breakers.

The authentic moderates, meanwhile, tarry in muted resistance to the domineering strain of their faith. The strain we like to tell ourselves is a mere fringe. The strain that has just managed, yet again, to unleash untold thousands (not handfuls of militants, but transcontinental thousands) to maraud over a trifling affront. The moderates must carry on by pretending, much like the State Department pretends, that the commands of their scriptures–toward brutality, beheading, conquest, death to unbelievers, eternal damnation to apostates, the subjugation of women, the dehumanizing of non-Muslims, and so on–either do not exist or have somehow been superseded (even though the Koran is said to reflect the words of Allah Himself, and even though much in it of a threatening nature actually comes later in time than the passages bespeaking moderation and tolerance).

Meanwhile, as we prepare to spend yet another $120 billion on a novel brand of democracy building–one which establishes Islam as Iraq’s state religion and enshrines the inequities of sharia as a source and measure of its fundamental law–our wildly premature birthing of the nascent Palestinian “democracy” has just resulted in the rise to power of Hamas, an entity the U.S. officially designates as a terrorist organization. (To be fair, its competition was Fatah, an entity successive U.S. administrations spent the last dozen or so years deluding themselves was not a terrorist organization. In the event, these legatees of Yasser Arafat were, of course, the “moderates.”) This result means that if American citizens did what our government is right now continuing to do–namely, contributing funds we well know Hamas will soon be controlling–they could be indicted under our antiterrorism laws. There are, as we speak, several defendants under such indictments in this country.

All of this intellectual and moral confusion–the disintegration of the Bush Doctrine, the compromising of our conception of democracy, the strange deference to charlatans spewing seventh-century venom, the pressure on our government to violate the very laws it enacted to choke off the funding that underwrites our enemies’ butchery–all of it is based on a single conceit: That there is a flourishing moderate Islam. One worth looking beyond all the menacing verses and countless atrocities to find.

Okay, where is it?

Andrew C. McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.


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