Moderate or "moderate" Islam?
Who's liberal enough?
Ross Douthat writes a thoughtful piece at the NYT Blog on how to understand and engage with Muslim critics of radical Islamism. He rejects those Western thinkers who limit the category of “moderate Muslims” to those, like Ayaan Hirsi Ali or Irshad Manji, who endorse Western liberalism absolutely and without qualification. He writes:
This school of thought strikes me as misguided. Manji and Hirsi Ali are brave and admirable, but what they’re offering (Hirsi Ali especially) is ultimately a straightforward critique of Muslim traditions and belief, not a bridge between Islam and the liberal West that devout Muslims can cross with their religious faith intact. If such bridges are going to be built, much of the work will necessari
ly be done by figures who sometimes seem ambiguous and even two-faced, who have illiberal conversation partners and influences, and whose ideas are tailored to audiences in Cairo or Beirut or Baghdad as well as audiences in Europe and America. That’s how change — religious, ideological, whatever — nearly always works.
On the other side, Douthat is clear that making “these kind of distinctions doesn’t require us to suspend all judgment where would-be Islamic moderates are concerned” and that ” forays into more dubious territory should be greeted with swift pushback, rather than simply being accepted as a necessary part of the moderate Muslim package.”
I discussed similar issues here.
Image by Flickr user Paul Lowry used under a Creative Commons Attribution License