A reader who read "The Myth of the 'Moderate' Muslim," and agreed with most of my main points in it, remarked: "I still can't bring myself to close the door on Islamic reformation, as you apparently have."
I've closed the door on such a reformation, unless, as I state in my "Moderate Muslim" article, someone steps forward to eviscerate the creed. Now, as far as the "taming" of Christianity is concerned, one should keep in mind the Old Testament and the New. The Old is as bloody-minded as the Koran is now; the New, dominated by Christ, the code of self-sacrifice, indiscriminate forgiveness, and so on. There is no such division in the Koran, and won't be, until and unless someone creates one, lifting out and rendering "benign" the least belligerent elements of the existing Koran to create a "New Koran," one that is as "passive" and un-in-your-face as the New Testament is, as an alternative to the "Old Koran."
However, it beggars the imagination how anyone could ever give Mohammed, the central figure and chief prophet of Islam, a moral "make-over" that approximated Christ's persona as a humble, kindly, passive savior and preacher of neighborly love. Mohammed is the Attila of Allah, all fire and sword. It would be as absurd to attempt such a transformation as to attempt to recast Hitler as an exemplar of St. Francis of Assisi. The instances of Mohammed's examples of "tolerance" and "peaceful coexistence" are practically nil.
That is the only way Islam can be salvaged and "tamed." However, as I remark in my article, it would no longer be "Islam," but instead an insipid, watered-down shadow of its former self. It is unlikely to happen any time soon. The man who would propose it probably would invite a fatwah and the attentions of the Islamic religious police.
Islam now is both a theocratic system and a political goal. Its proponents refuse to separate the two agendas; in fact, cannot separate them without committing apostasy. The religion and the politics are one and the same. This explains their push to have Sharia law "coexist" with secular law in Western countries. If Western judges and legal philosophers concede that Sharia is just as legitimate a legal system as the secular, we are doomed.
Imagine the disaster if agents of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran, managed to sneak a nuclear device into midtown Manhattan and explode it. That would be the physical destruction of the city and its inhabitants. Now imagine the disaster if loyalty to value-negating multiculturalism permitted our courts and the legal profession to proclaim that Sharia law must be "respected" and granted supreme authority over all American Muslims. That would be a philosophical disaster and a greater mortal blow.
Sharia law is a primitive, anti-conceptual, concrete-bound religious system of Islamic jurisprudence, weighted heavily in favor of the Muslim male. What is permitted by it? Murder, rape, assault, mutilation, blood feuds, looting, and slavery -- all crimes that can be allowed or mitigated by Muslim judges, mystical "experts" who rely in their adjudication on the Koran, the Sunna from the Hadith, the ijima, and other murky sources and authorities. Virtually everything that Western law treats as a crime against individuals is not a crime in Islamic law. Westerners who do not believe in Sharia law, or more likely have never even head of it, have been judged and executed by both Muslim judges (the "witch doctors") and their counterparts, the terrorists (the "Attilas").
Omar Ahmad, an official of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the leading Islamic organization in the U.S. and an advocate of "respect" for all things Islamic, once stated, "Islam isn't in America to be equal to any other faiths, but to become dominant. The Koran, the Muslim book of scripture, should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth." The website containing that statement, violent quotations from the Koran, and particulars of the Islamic agenda of conquest (not assimilation), has been taken down, very likely because it was too blatant a confession of Islamic means and ends.
This is a disaster waiting to happen, and multiculturalism has prepared the new "Ground Zero." The twin towers of freedom of speech and free minds are smoldering. Will they collapse? It is certainly a "clash of civilizations" we are witnessing today. Only our political leaders, the news media, and most of our intellectuals are oblivious to it. Most of them are too busy advocating their own brands of totalitarian submission.
Onkar Ghate, a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute, in an Op-Ed deftly connected the principal dots between the Christian injunction to "love our enemies" (that is, not pass moral judgments on them, and to speak no evil of evil men and evil ideas) and the failure of our government and news media to come to the defense of the Danish cartoonists. ("The Twilight of Freedom of Speech").
Aiding and abetting in that betrayal of the Danes and of America itself is the not-to-be-questioned "faith" of multiculturalism, which imbues its religious and secularist adherents with the "virtue" of turning the other cheek. Since the cartoons that mocked Mohammed were claimed to be offensive to Muslims, the White House and State Department with abject humility practically apologized for them, while the news media issued grave disclaimers and ostensively took no sides on an issue that not only affects them, but the efficacy and meaning of the First Amendment. "Your most cherished beliefs have been insulted and ridiculed by irresponsible persons, and we are sorry for that. Please accept our apologies. We beg your forgiveness."
Self-censorship of that kind will ultimately foment a move for the overt censorship of those who refuse to turn the other cheek and exercise their right to speak out.
The reader also wondered about the "more secular Muslims living and working in capitalistic Western countries" who "probably fall into a non-fundamentalist category." These are the very same "silent" Muslims who let the killers "misrepresent" their creed. They are silent either from fear of retaliation or because they agree with the killers but are too timid to say it outloud. Their brothers in Paterson, New Jersey and in Brooklyn danced in the streets and passed out candy when the WTC was attacked, celebrating the event with the same gleeful fervor as their brothers in the Arab countries.
If one wanted to witness a grotesque instance of men celebrating the destruction of the good because it is good, the "Arab street" here and abroad provided it on 9/11. One needn't be a fundamentalist to be a mute follower or silent sanctioner.
I contend that the more civil, "secularized" Muslims are between that rock and a hard place I mention in the article. It's either/or for them. They either discover reason, individualism and genuine freedom, and repudiate Islam, or they remain passive ciphers and objects of suspicion by the rest of the population. Just as Christians cannot remain loyal to reality and ghosts at the same time, and must ultimately choose between them (but most of them don't), so it is for Muslims.
I'm sure there are many former Muslims who left the mosque, but we won't hear much from them for the reasons I cite in my article: they would become the targets of death squads or some other form of persecution. Salman Rushdie is the most notable example. There are no alternatives for them. All one can do at present is introduce Muslims to Objectivism, but what would that accomplish, if they fear reason, dismiss it as "godless", or claim it is a handmaiden of faith? Most Christians do. And most Muslims sense better than many Christians that God and reason are antithetical.
The reader asked: "If there are no and can be no moderate Muslims, what do you propose doing about the Muslims who do exist?"
I don't think it's a question now of what we do with them. It's a question of what they're doing about us. They know the nature of their enemy, our own leaders and intellectuals. They're determined to push this clash of civilizations to its limits. If we had the power to "do something about them," the first step would be to proclaim without apology or hesitation that this is a Western country that upholds reason, individual rights, freedom of speech, and capitalism, and plays no favorites in religion. Obey our laws, or face prosecution.
You would tell them: If you conspire to overthrow our government, you will be charged with treason and made to bear the consequences. If you do not like those terms, then relocate to a country that is more conducive to your philosophy of existence, such as it is. Just don't attempt to impose it on free men, who will fight back if they are not disarmed by censorship, ignored or excoriated by the news media, or made sitting ducks by the likes of our contemptible State Department.
Muslims, or those among them who secretly doubt the morality of their creed, must consider becoming independent individuals who hold reason as man's only means of survival and happiness. I don't say it's impossible, but at the present, the odds are against it. Islam is scoring victory after victory -- by default. Islam seems to be efficacious; why shouldn't the rank-and-file Muslim side with the odds-on winner? What could ignite a magnum of introspection and questioning among Muslims would be a resounding defeat at the hands of the West (such as nuking Iran's nuclear facilities now). At the current pace of events, and given the cowardice and virtual submission to Islam of our political leaders, that isn't much in the cards, either.
Many Objectivists have had religious backgrounds. But they discovered the value of free minds, individualism, and freedom of speech -- or the right to challenge any idea or belief -- and made a break with their past. The key element was in their valuing these things as attributes of living happily and successfully on earth.
Imagine how much more oppressive and thought-suffocating Islam and a Muslim household in a Muslim "ghetto" (and a self-created ghetto, at that) must be compared with the average Catholic (or Protestant or Jewish) household, and try to project the level of independence and commitment necessary to abandon that environment. A Muslim wrestling with his honesty and secret convictions would risk ostracism, banishment, or much worse, murder or mutilation, if he let them be known. No doubt everyone has heard of the Mafia "code of silence" and "loyalty to the family," which is supposed to be an ethical guide to good gangster behavior. Break the code, betray the "family," and you die.
Islam is one humongous moral Mafia that relies on submission, faith, fear and force to keep its followers in line and to prosecute its jihad. And its "godfather" is Mohammed. It was not a coincidence that in my original article I drew an analogy using Coppola's Don Corleone and the obsequious mortician. It concretized the essential relationship between Islam and its followers.