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Can One Separate “Moderate” from “Muddled” or “Mendacious”?

2010/08/24

[UPDATE:  To protect the character reputations of various people who might look askance at the writing below, I’ve “altered names to protect the innocent” as it were. – Ed.]

[UPPERDATE: Steven Givler has related thoughts on the GZM debacle, here. – Ed.]

There is a lot of talk in media about “moderate Muslims” and of the fierce moral urgency to reach-out to them.  Who are they?  Better, as a group, do they even exist?

I wish that the “moderates” would reach out to us.  By “moderates” I mean the Moderns: Muslims who openly and proudly reject the jihadist manifest destiny of the Koran, Muslims who philosophically reject the idea of dhimmitude and slavery and forced conversion, those who view the fair sex rather more fairly than those who espouse Sharia.  We have a few extraordinary individuals who have come forward at serious risk to their own lives.  Do they have genuine broad-based support within an organized Muslim faith?

“Moderate” as an adjective tosses in all sorts of expectations of relatively harmless “non-extremist” attitudes and “open-minded” readiness towards “dialogue” – along with all sorts of related kumbayanic drivel.

Pardon, please, a few over-simplifications in the following… the arrow may be a tad crooked here, but it shall land on-target.

Let us consider an hypothetical community, the Mythos – of whom the majority are pious, including it’s temple priests and scholars – who hold daily to the faith’s ancient written laws.  There is also a visible minority within the Mythos stream, visible by behavior, whom we shall, for our purpose here, describe as “moderates.” As viewed by their neighbors, especially Western-educated Jews and Christians, Mythos “moderates” are those who drive or smoke or open their shops on their Sabbath, who eat illegal foods and so-on.

For Westerns, the expectation is relatively straight-forward.  In Judaism, there is the Reform Movement and it’s authorities that believe the biblical Commandments are generally optional, useful mostly for continuity of tradition.  With important differences, Christianity’s Reformation yielded liturgical and ideological traditions that moderated or transformed much of the ritual and theology of the Catholic Church.  The Western Moderate, thereby, has a distinct set of ideological bases from which to operate.  This does not hold for the Mythos tradition.  There’s the point.

The key to understanding the Mythos “moderate” lies in understanding his expectations.  The Mythos “moderate” knows – and admits – that rather he is “muddled.”  When he wishes to marry, there is only a traditional high-priest for the ceremony.  He will do it right, according to accepted tradition.  Next week, he’ll drive to work again on his Sabbath, but there is no compromise this week for the wedding.  Unlike his Reform Jewish neighbor, who sees no problem whatsoever driving to work on the Sabbath, our Mythos “muddled” believes he’s breaking tradition and law and simply chalks it up to some existential debt.

What then of this “Moderate” Mythos, what is the appropriate expectation on the part of Western civilization?  I suggest that the use of the term moderate is flat-out classical cognitive dissonance.  Mendacity, spin, bravo sierra… Mythos are not ideologically moderated.  When push comes to shove, the default position is the Tradition.  If that Tradition is sympathetic to Western civilization, fine.  What if, on the other hand, the default position is definitively Barbaric and un-civilized?

To the original questions, not being Muslim – and not having been born as one – I am not free to project either the Western Christian or Reform Jewish understanding onto apparently “moderate” Muslims nor can I apply the Mythos paradigm.  The Reform model would apply if, in fact, a branch of Islam emerges that offers vigorous intellectual and spiritual debate to their traditional brethren, one completely in-sync with Western values.

What if the Mythos paradigm is more like the operational norm?  If this is the case, no “moderate” or ideological challenge stands – and that is a worisome thought.

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