If Not Now, When?

September 27, 2008

Some people say that Sharia is not an important issue for them, because Muslims are such a small minority (less than 1 percent in the US) that they have no political power anyway. Why get all worked up about an issue that isn’t much of an issue in the foreseeable future?

For those who think this way, I have two questions:

First, at what percentage do you think the Muslim population should be before Sharia becomes an issue that’s worth paying attention to? 5? 10? 25? 40? Pick one or name your own.

Second, what’s one example of a country in the world today that has the percentage Muslim population you’ve named (or higher), which includes a substantial Islamic orthodoxy, in which the Sharia issue shows signs of being resolved in favor of individual rights and freedoms? Here are some indications the country you choose will likely reach a favorable resolution:

  • There is a free and open discussion on the subject of Sharia involving all parties: Islamist Muslims, secular Muslims, non-Muslims, and ex-Muslims.
  • There is an absence of violent intimidation, and an absence of calls for censorship of the discussion of any aspect of Sharia.
  • The Islamist Muslims show signs of being swayed by the arguments against Sharia made by secular Muslims, non-Muslims, and ex-Muslims.
  • There is no sign of existing accommodations for Sharia that have already been implemented even though the Islamists are in the minority.

I’d love to see answers to those two questions by any Sharia procrastinators. Please ask your friends and family and leave a comment.

I don’t know of any country in the world with a substantial Muslim minority that fits the description above. Even in the US, with its tiny Muslim population, we have publishing decisions effected by violent intimidation, calls for censorship, exclusion of secular Muslim voices, fearful ex-Muslims, and accommodations for Sharia. The percentage of Muslims in this country, while small, shows no sign of becoming smaller, so the easiest time to deal with the issue of Sharia is right now. If we don’t deal with it now, how would waiting make it any easier?


Does The Democratic Party Want the Jihad Sympathizer Vote?

August 27, 2008

Ingrid Mattson was invited to speak at the Democratic Convention in Denver. She is president of the Islamic Society of North America, a large organization linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is waging “a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and Allah’s religion is made victorious over all other religions,” according to the MB’s own words. The ISNA was also named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas terror funding case last year.

Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch lists 17 specific items which show Mattson to be a Jihad sympathizer and an Islamic Supremacist, each backed up by quotes and sources. I consider this post by Spencer to be a must-read article. I’ll just summarize two of his 17 points here:

First, Mattson praises the Jihadist, Maududi: “…. So far, probably the best work of Tafseer [Quranic commentary] in English is by Maulana Abul A’la Maududi.'” Spencer gives several examples of Maududi’s own writing which show Maududi fully supports offensive Jihad warfare and the worldwide imposition of Sharia. Here’s just one of those examples, from Maududi’s Jihad in Islam, page 9:

“Islam wishes to destroy all States and Governments anywhere on the face of the earth which are opposed to the ideology and programme of Islam regardless of the country or the Nation which rules it. The purpose of Islam is to set up a State on the basis of its own ideology and programme, regardless of which Nation assumes the role of the standard bearer of Islam or the rule of which nation is undermined in the process of the establishment of an ideological Islamic State. It must be evident to you from this discussion that the objective of Islamic ‘Jihad’ is to eliminate the rule of an un-Islamic system and establish in its stead an Islamic system of State rule. Islam does not intend to confine this revolution to a single State or a few countries; the aim of Islam is to bring about a universal revolution.”

Here’s an even fuller expose of Maududi’s writings.

Second, a number of self-identified Muslim reformers and moderates have jointly criticized Mattson and ISNA. Here’s an excerpt from their statement, in which they take exception to the URJ (Union for Reformed Judaism) collaborating with ISNA:

ISNA… has a long history of association with extremist trends in Islam. ISNA has served as a front group for Wahhabism, the official sect in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia; the jihadist ideologies originating in Pakistan with the writings of a certain Mawdudi and the Deoband schools in that country — the latter of which produced the Afghan Taliban, and the Ikhwan al-Muslimun, or Muslim Brotherhood.

Ingrid Mattson, president of ISNA, revealed the style of radical rhetoric with which the organization is saturated ….

…. [The] noble goal [of furthering interfaith civility and cooperation], to which we as Muslims are called by our revelation and our traditions, cannot be served by flattery toward groups like ISNA, in which radicals are camouflaged as moderates.

…. We fear that heedless acceptance of ISNA as an ally of URJ does harm to both our communities, by legitimizing a radicalism that, regardless of ISNA’s rhetorical claims, is fundamentally hostile to Jews and suppresses the intellectual and social development of Muslims.

Nawab Agha, president, American Muslim Congress
Omran Salman, director, Aafaq Foundation
Kemal Silay, president, Center for Islamic Pluralism
Stephen Suleyman Schwartz, executive director, Center for Islamic Pluralism
Salim Mansur, Canadian director, Center for Islamic Pluralism
Jalal Zuberi, Southern U.S. director, Center for Islamic Pluralism
Imaad Malik, fellow, Center for Islamic Pluralism
M. Zuhdi Jasser, president, American Islamic Forum for Democracy
Sheikh Ahmed Subhy Mansour, president, International Quranic Center

So, my question is this: It would not have been difficult to vet Mattson before giving her such a prominent role at the Democratic National Convention. Since this vetting either was not done or did not result in her exclusion, it seems likely that one of the following must be true:

  • The Democratic Party does not know about the Islamic Jihad and Islamic Supremacy.
  • The Democratic Party does not care about the Islamic Jihad and Islamic Supremacy.
  • The Democratic Party wants the votes of Jihad sympathizers.

In fairness, some Republicans have, in the past, been equally clueless about Islamic Jihadists and Islamic Supremacists. However, the biggest gaffe in this election has been committed by the Democrats, at their most prominent event of the election cycle. This is an opportunity for the Republicans to distinguish themselves relative to the Democrats. I’d love nothing better than a little partisan competition to see which major party can best protect the country from those with the viewpoint espoused by Mattson. Ultimately, we need to have both the Republicans and Democrats on board to be successful in defending our way of life against both Jihadists and peaceful Islamic Supremacists.


Would It Be Wrong to Reject a Muslim Presidential Candidate?

July 8, 2008

Many people believe Barack Obama is now or once was a Muslim. Setting aside, for the moment, the question of whether or not there’s any truth to those rumors, what if a Muslim did run for President? Would it be appropriate to elect a Muslim President of the United States at this moment in history? Various commentators have expressed dismay at the notion that a Muslim could be rejected for the office of President based on his religion. Recently, for example, Colbert King of the Washington Post wrote:

What will they [orators 150 years from now] say about our professed fidelity to religious freedom when they find out that many of the Americans who thank God for their religious liberty are also ready to turn their backs on a candidate if they think he is a Muslim or Mormon?

This clearly implies Mr. King believes that to turn our backs on a Muslim presidential candidate would be religious bigotry.

Let’s interject some common sense here. We have been attacked by Muslim Jihadists, and are in the midst of an ongoing conflict with Islamic Jihad. Even if there was no inherent conflict between certain Islamic doctrines and our Western values, this would not be an appropriate time to elect a Muslim to the Presidency. I have no objection to electing a Japanese-American as President at this time, but it would not have been appropriate to do so in the context of WWII. This is not bigotry, but simply acknowledgment of a basic principle: when an individual is a member of two groups, and there is a conflict between those groups, we cannot be completely certain where his loyalties lie. Maybe we can be certain enough to be the individual’s friend, but not certain enough to elect the individual President. The stakes are just too high.

In addition, a significant number of Muslims believe that Islam ultimately requires the removal of non-Muslims from power and implementation of Sharia law worldwide. There is considerable evidence that this agenda is being advanced by stealth. Sharia is in conflict with our Constitution, violating such principles as freedom of speech and press, freedom of religion, equality under the law, and more. This conflict would need to be decisively resolved, such that Sharia would no longer be considered a valid source of law by mainstream Muslims, before it could be appropriate to elect a Muslim as President of this country.

Is Obama, in fact, a Muslim?

From the evidence I’ve seen, I think it’s virtually certain he was raised as a Muslim, at least for a period of time. Taking into account his Muslim background, there is also a small chance he remains a closet Muslim, as we can’t read his mind to find out what he really believes in his heart. For a Muslim to deceive non-Muslims (taqiyya) in certain circumstances gets the green light by Sharia law. For example, according to Imam Abu Hamid Ghazali as quoted in Reliance of the Traveller, a classic book of Islamic law, lying is permissible to reach a permissible goal that cannot be reached by telling the truth. If, for example, a Muslim believed that he would have to lie about his faith in order to be elected President, lying in this context would be permissible according to Ghazali.

Of course, just because lying can be justified in Islam does not mean that Obama is a closet Muslim. Not all Muslims practice taqiyya, and non-Muslims can also be dishonest. However, since it appears Obama has been dishonest about his Muslim upbringing, is it wise to trust his honesty regarding his current religious beliefs? And, given that there’s probably a small chance Obama is a closet Muslim, would it be responsible for us to risk it? That’s a judgment call each of us can make, but it certainly is a legitimate consideration that has nothing to do with bigotry, and everything to do with national security.


Ground Rules for the Religious Pluralism Club

June 26, 2008

On a regular basis of late, Muslim spokespeople have called for “interfaith dialog”. They evidently want Islam to be viewed as a mainstream religion in a pluralistic world. This fits with a general desire for Islam to be respected by non-Muslims. It’s true that mutual respect is a desirable thing; however, for this to happen, I think it’s important for religious leaders to establish ground rules. Every community needs ground rules so that members can get along with each other, and a pluralistic community of religions is no exception. Here are five simple rules I would propose, based on fairness, which I believe are reasonable prerequisites for joining the club of religious pluralism:

Religious Pluralism Ground Rule #1: Anyone Can Leave Any Religion

Oops, it appears that Islam is starting off on the wrong foot by breaking one of the very most important ground rules for fairness amongst religions. According to Sharia, the punishment for leaving Islam is death for men, and either death or life in prison for women (depending on the school of Sharia). Although few Muslim countries today enforce this punishment, vigilante enforcement is such that apostates from Islam fear for their lives, even in the United states. As long as this is the case, Islam is a religion that people can enter but cannot leave without risk. Why should other religions accept Islam when Islam traps its believers, including converts from other faiths, like flies on flypaper?

Religious Pluralism Ground Rule #2: Anyone Can Promote Their Religious Beliefs to Anyone Else

Unfortunately, things don’t get any better for Islam here. It naturally follows that if Muslims are not allowed to leave Islam, non-Muslims are not allowed to do anything which might persuade Muslims to leave Islam. Christian missionaries throughout the Muslim world face persecution. In “moderate” Turkey, missionaries are sometimes arrested or deported, even though missionary activity is ostensibly legal. Niyazi Guney, Turkish Ministry of Justice director general of laws, has commented that “Missionaries are more dangerous than terror organizations.” Even in the West, police have been known to support Sharia rules banning non-Muslims from proselytizing Muslims though there is no legal basis for it. For example, in Britain, a constable told two preachers they couldn’t preach in a Muslim area. In the US, a Christian preacher at UC Irvine was assaulted by Muslim students, while campus police did nothing.

Even simple religious expression that falls far short of missionary work is banned for non-Muslims under Sharia. Displaying religious symbols and building new places of worship, for example, are forbidden for non-Muslims.

Meanwhile, under Sharia, Muslims are free to promote their faith to non-Muslims all they want, as well as building mosques and displaying Muslim religious symbols, which clearly violates the fairness principle.

Religious Pluralism Ground Rule #3: Anyone Can Criticize Any Religion

Hmmm…. Islam just gets further in the hole with this one. As noted by Robert Spencer in this must-read article, the Organization of the Islamic Conference is making a concerted effort, and a successful one, toward shutting down all criticism of Islam. Add to this the efforts of organizations such as CAIR, the MSA, and the MSU, to name a few, and it’s easy to spot a trend.

I would also note that mainstream, traditional interpretations of the Quran are severely critical of non-Islamic faiths, including polytheism, Christianity, and Judaism. In addition, any religion with a prophet after Mohammed is widely regarded by Muslims as blasphemous, based on mainstream interpretations of Quran 33:40. How can it be wrong for Islam to be criticized, when Islam’s holy book defames non-Islamic religions? So long as Islam keeps the Quran (and traditional interpretations thereof), fairness dictates that criticism of Islam must be allowed.

Religious Pluralism Ground Rule #4: Religions May Not Impose Their Rules by Force of Theocracy

In the past, Christianity was a misbehaver on this one, but this is the twenty first century. No major religion today other than Islam has a political agenda to rule the world. The rules of Sharia are incompatible with the US Constitution and basic norms of individual rights and freedoms in the West. Sharia includes laws which explicitly discriminate against other religions, such as valuing the legal testimony of a non-Muslims as half that of a Muslim. The barbaric punishments prescribed for certain crimes also comes off as unfriendly. Is it any wonder, then, that representatives of Islam have trouble gaining respect from non-Muslims?

Religious Pluralism Ground Rule #5: Religions May Not Support Holy War

Yes, it seems people get really annoyed when they or their loved ones are killed for being infidels. That’s just not a good way to get along with others–it makes people testy. Of course, the majority of Muslims have no interest in participating in Jihad warfare. However, Jihad warfare remains, to this day, very much a part of Islamic theology. Where are the mainstream Muslim organizations who denounce Jihad warfare under any circumstances and refute the theological justification for Jihad warfare on Islamic grounds? There do not appear to be any at all. Support for Jihad warfare amongst everyday Muslims remains uncomfortably high, as well.

Conclusions

Only Islam violates all five of these rules for respectful relations with others. Although there are individual Muslims who do want to follow these ground rules, they are not the ones who are “driving the bus” of Islam. Those who call for religious dialog can start by challenging the Muslim world to follow the same general ground rules that other religions today generally follow.


Do Blasphemy Laws Really Protect the Best Interests of Muslims?

June 8, 2008

We have witnessed a series of Muslim outrages over Westerners’ remarks or art about Islam. To name a few, there’s the movie Submission, the Danish Mohammed cartoons, the Pope’s quotation of Pope Benedict XVI, and recently, the movie Fitna. These outrages are always followed by (or even, as in the case of Fitna, preceded by) calls for self-censorship and/or hate speech laws.

Self-censorship, typically called ”showing respect for religion” or “responsible free speech”, in this case basically comes down to a voluntary internalization of Islamic blasphemy laws. Who decides what kind of speech regarding Islam is “respectful” or “responsible”? Why, that would be Muslims.

Hate speech legislation, or laws against “defamation of religion”, basically comes down to a government’s official adoption of Islamic blasphemy laws. Who decides what speech regarding Islam is “hateful” or “defamatory”? Why, that would again be Muslims.

It’s difficult to imagine how anyone could think Muslims should determine what non-Muslims can and can’t say about Islam, any more than Christians, Republicans, Democrats, Communists, or any other group of people should decide what non-members can and can’t say about their ideology. This notion is indefensible on its face, and to even consider going down that road is to take the fist step toward a theocracy.

Muslims don’t get the notion of what constitutes an outrage out of thin air, but from centuries-long traditions of dhimmi laws, subjugating non-Muslims under Islamic rule. Just one small part of this subjugation is controlling non-Muslims’ speech. Andrew Bostom notes, following Muslims’ outrage over the Pope quoting Pope Benedict XVI:

The ultimate source of the convulsive reaction to the Pope’s speech is the Islamic belief that spiritually and physically debauched infidels have no right to express opinions—least of all negative opinions—regarding Islam’s sacred text, the Koran, the Muslim prophet, Muhammad (Ecce Homo Arabicus), or the sacred Islamic Law (Shari’a), which includes the permanent institution of jihad war.

Such deep-seated intolerance has always predominated under Muslim rule….

Blasphemy laws and their first cousins, heresy laws, are currently used to persecute religious minorities including Christians, Hindus, and Bahais. Accusations of blasphemy can also provide cover for the murder of non-Muslims in Muslim countries.

Many observers have commented about the dangers to non-Muslims of restricting our speech concerning Islam in the West.

Islamic Blasphemy Laws Are Bad for Non-Muslims. But Are They Good for Muslims?

It may seem as though blasphemy laws are bad for non-Muslims, but good for Muslims. However, the question is: Which Muslims? Unorthodox Muslims are among the primary victims of blasphemy laws. For example, in Muslim countries, the peaceful Ahmadiyya sect is typically deemed heretical and is stifled, even in a “moderate” country like Indonesia. Other “heretical’ sects are persecuted elsewhere in the Muslim world, such as the Alevis in “secular” Turkey. Then there are the well-known conflicts between the Sunnis and Shias, much of which is kept alive through charges of blasphemy. Pretty much any Muslim sect can be considered heretical by other Muslim sects.

In addition to heretical sects, individual Muslims are punished for blasphemy. Arifur Rahman, a 20-year-old cartoonist in Bangladesh, was recently sentenced to six months amid public demonstrations calling for his death. He wrote a cartoon making fun of a local custom involving the name “Mohammed”. Parwiz Kambakhsh, a 23-year-old Afghan student journalist, has faced the death penalty for downloading and distributing articles that were said to question some tenets of Islam. (So far as I know, he is still in prison pending final appeals.) Street thugs sometimes mete out punishment vigilante-style: Naguib Mahfouz, an Egyptian novelist, was stabbed in the neck by a Muslim who was angry at his portrayal of God. Jawaad Faizi, a Pakistani journalist in Canada, was beaten for criticizing an Islamic organization. Mohammed Ahmed Mohammed Taha was kidnapped and killed in Sudan for publishing an article which he personally disagreed with, questioning the ancestral lineage of Mohammed. These are just a few examples.

Muslims who choose to leave their religion, even in the West, had better keep quiet about their thoughts on Islam. Just ask Salman Rushdie.

Muslim and ex-Muslim reformers are often hurt by blasphemy laws and Muslim vigilanteism. Rashad Khalifa in Tucson, Arizona, founder of the “Submitters” sect, was declared to be an apostate due to his blasphemous ideas and assassinated. Farzana Hassan Shahid, president of the Muslim Canadian Congress who receives death threats from other Muslims for her views, explained: “There is an underlying fear all the time…that uneasy feeling is part of my daily life. I have been declared an apostate twice, for opposing the Sharia [Islamic law]….” Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the well-known Somali ex-Muslim, wrote “…the reformists are shunned by their families and communities and live under the constant fear of assassination.”

Of course, blasphemy laws and fear of vigilante punishment also cause immeasurable harm to all the unorthodox Muslims we don’t know about because they dare not speak or publish their views freely.

Islamic blasphemy rules for non-Muslims are somewhat different from those for Muslims, because non-Muslims endure the added element of dhimmi subjugation, as noted above. Certain things could be considered blasphemous for non-Muslims to say, but not for Muslims to say. Nevertheless, all Islamic blasphemy laws share a common assumption: the Islamic orthodoxy gets to regulate what people can and can’t say about Islam. Any time the West gives any credence to this assumption, we strengthen and legitimize it.

So even if, in a fit of madness, we non-Muslims cared nothing about our own interests and only about the interests of Muslims, we would still need to decide which Muslims’ interests would be important to uphold. It would be absurd to throw the peaceful Ahmadis and reformers under the bus, to “respect” the religious thought police who would persecute them. Given the harm caused to unorthodox Muslims by blasphemy laws, we should think twice before adopting them ourselves. We may not be able to do a lot for the Ahmadiyya sect in Asia or for young cartoonists like Rahman, but at least we can set a good example by protecting freedom of expression in the West. If we do not protect it here, freedom of expression may well disappear from the world.


How Can We Screen Out Jihadist Immigrants if Muslims Themselves Can’t Tell the Difference?

May 26, 2008

According to an article in the Orlando Sentinel, some immigrants to the US from Muslim countries are frustrated that their citizenship applications are taking so long. Some are even suing the federal government. They believe their civil rights are being violated if it takes longer for them to gain citizenship than it does for an immigrant from a non-Muslim country. The immigration authorities take longer with Muslim applicants so that a thorough background check can be performed.

It is common sense that for would-be immigrants, US citizenship is not a right but a privilege. Immigration, within certain limits, is good for this country. However, it does not make sense to bring in immigrants from demographic groups that have a higher risk for committing acts of terrorism, or crimes of mass destruction, unless there is a reliable way to distinguish between those who are potentially violent and those who are not. Screening out potential Islamic terrorists protects all people in this country, both Muslim and non-Muslim. A background check is the least we can do; but is it enough?

Is There a Reliable Way to Screen Out Potential Jihad Terrorists?

Robert Spencer and others have stated many times that there is no reliable way for immigration authorities to tell the difference between potential Jihadists and those who will never participate in Jihad. They are correct, and here’s more evidence:

Even Muslims Can’t Tell the Difference!

It would be reasonable to assume that Muslims, being intimately familiar with the various strains of Islam, could spot a potential Jihadist more easily than a non-Muslim, especially if they are close friends or family members. However, this does not seem to be the case in every situation.

Nail Bomber’s Muslim Friend “Stunned”: Nick Reilly, aka Mohammed Rasheed, a British convert to Islam, was recently arrested for attempting to detonate a nail bomb in a restaurant. Omar Siddiqui, Reilly’s friend and president of the Islamic Society at the local university said, “I believe the Islamic community will be stunned by what he is alleged to have done because he always seemed so calm and nice.” According to neighbors, Reilly had a screen saver of the twin towers coming down on 9/11.

Accused July 21 Bomb Suspect’s Sister “Surprised” He Had Jihad Book: When Adel Yahya was being prosecuted for his alleged involvement in the July 21 bomb plot in Britain, his sister Lina evidently knew nothing about a Jihad book he had in their home. Lina said, “This is a surprise. He’s never really had these sort of views.” (Adel’s jury failed to reach a verdict, after which he pled guilty to a lesser charge.)

SUV Jihadist’s Sister “Shocked”: Mohammed Taheri-Azar drove an SUV into a crowd of people on the UNC campus to “avenge the deaths of Muslims around the world.” His sister, Laila, describes her brother as “a kind, gentle and pure soul.” She says his actions are “as much a source of shock and distress to us as they are to you.” This is despite the fact that he admitted plotting the act for two years.

July 7 Bomber’s Wife “Had No Idea of His Plans”: Germaine Lindsay, aka Jamal Lindsay, was one of the bombers in the attacks on London’s public transport system on July 7, 2005. His own wife, Samantha Lewthwaite, a British convert to Islam who was pregnant at the time of the bombing, said, “He was a good and loving husband and a brilliant father, who showed absolutely no sign of doing this atrocious crime.”

So, since it’s apparent that Muslims who are close to the Jihadists can’t predict what they will do, how does anyone expect the immigration officials to do so?

By now, you may be saying, “Wait a minute. These people may have known more than they’re admitting.” This is true, but it doesn’t matter. If the Jihadists’ closest friends and family members could not tell they were Jihadists, that’s a good reason to stem the flow of Muslim immigration. If the Jihadists operate in a community that conceals their activities from the authorities, that’s a good reason to stem the flow of Muslim immigration.

Some Jihad plots are foiled due to Muslim informants, and they deserve credit for helping keep us safe. But not every plot is foiled by informants, and it only takes one successful plot to do a whole lot of damage.

How Do We Screen Out Peaceful Islamic Supremacists?

In addition, since our Constitution is not compatible with Sharia law, we should also be attempting to screen out Muslims who believe Sharia should one day be the law of the entire world. Our system of representative government with individual rights cannot be maintained if a significant portion of the population is hostile to our basic system, whether or not they are potentially violent. Since no one seems to be able to tell with certainty who is a Jihadist, how is anyone to tell whether someone is an Islamic Supremacist?

How Do We Screen Out Those Whose Children Will Be Islamic Supremacists?

In addition to the risks of terrorist immigrants and peaceful Islamic Supremacists immigrants, there’s also the risk of homegrown terrorists and peaceful Islamic Supremacists. More than once, moderate Muslim parents in the West have been appalled to find their children becoming more radical than the parents are. We already have this risk with the population we currently have. However, the larger our Muslim population, the more this risk grows.

I believe it would be good policy to drastically reduce or stop immigration from Muslim majority countries, as well as Muslims from Europe and elsewhere, until this threat has been dealt with successfully. If we allow any immigration at all from Muslim countries, we should give preference to peaceful religious minorities, apostates and heretics from those countries. This is not because all Muslims are Islamic Supremacists, nor will their children all be such. It’s because we have no way of knowing which are which.

Note that this policy protects not only non-Muslims, but also those Muslims already living here who value our way of life and don’t want to change it. Those are the Muslims we should be concerned about, not the ones who want to replace the Constitution with Sharia.


With Friends Like Esposito….

May 8, 2008

When a terrorist organization associated with millions of radicals declares war on our country, we might expect that our enemies will spread deceitful propoganda while our friends will put forward the most truthful information possible to aid us in understanding what we’re up against. Right now, it’s crucial we understand who the radical Muslims are, what they believe, what motivates them, and how many there are. It does not help for Western scholars and commentators to deceive us about these important topics.

As a case in point, John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed have coauthored the book, Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think, which reports on world-wide polling of Muslims done by Gallup. Gallup’s polling is described by Esposito and Mogahed as “six years of research and more than 50,000 interviews representing 1.3 billion Muslims who reside in more than 35 nations that are predominantly Muslim or have sizable Muslim populations. Representing more than 90% of the world’s Muslim community, this poll is the largest, most comprehensive study of its kind.”

What Is a Radical?

At a luncheon hosted by the Washington Institute, Dalia Mogahed made some interesting admissions. To be brief, it appears Esposito and Mogahed have cooked the numbers. To determine who was a Muslim radical, they used responses to two questions from Gallup’s polling. To be considered radical, a Muslim would need to answer both questions in a “radical” manner. They would have to say the 9/11 attacks were “completely justified” and they would need to have an unfavorable view of the US.

However, it appears the authors changed their criteria for what constitutes a radical from their original plan, in a way that skewed the data to create the appearance of less radicalism. In an article published before the book was released, they explain their criteria for who is a radical and who is a moderate:

”Note: Respondents who said 9/11 was unjustified (1 or 2 on a 5-point scale, where 1 is totally unjustified and 5 is completely justified) are classified as moderates. Respondents who said 9/11 was justified (4 or 5 on the same scale) are classified as radicals.”

Of course, this means the 3’s would be neither radical nor moderate, which is unexplained, but that’s not the worst of it.

In the recent Washington Institute luncheon, Mogahed tells another story. For the book, only those who said the attacks were “completely justified” (the 5’s on the 5-point scale) are classified as radicals, which accounts for 7% of the Muslims surveyed. Those who said the attacks were “largely justified” (the 4’s on the 5-point scale) are now classified as moderates. They accounted for another 6.5%. Another 23.1% said the attacks were “in some way justified”. These are, presumably, the 3’s. So, altogether, 36.6% thought the attacks were justified to some degree. Of these, 13.5% (176 million people) would have been called “radical” by their original definition, and only 7% (91 million people) by their final definition. None of this 36.6% would have been considered “moderate” by their original definition, and 29.6% (385 million people) by their new definition.

Even Mogahed, co-author, admits at the luncheon this is not accurate: “Yes, we can say that a Four is not that moderate .  .  . I don’t know. .  .  .You are writing a book, you are trying to come up with terminology people can understand. .  .  . You know, maybe it wasn’t the most technically accurate way of doing this, but this is how we made our cluster-based analysis.” This is an astonishing admission from a co-author.

Here are the numbers (as best I can know them) in chart form. I have not found any report of the distinction between 1’s and 2’s, so I’ll lump them together as Esposito and Mogahed did in their earlier article:

Scale Number Response Original Classification Final Classification Percent Number of Muslims
1 & 2 Attacks Unjustified Moderate Moderate 63.4% or Less 824 Million or Less
3 Attacks In Some Way Justified Neither Radical Nor Moderate Moderate 23.1% 300 Million
4 Attacks Largely Justified Radical Moderate 6.5% 85 Million
5 Attacks Completely Justified Radical Radical 7% 91 Million

What About Undecided Muslims?

Since Esposito and Mogahed did not provide complete polling data in their book, and some information is also missing from the luncheon report, there are still some unknowns. Normally, polling data includes some percentage of respondants who don’t know or are undecided. Where are these people accounted for in this study? Are they left out of the numbers altogether? Or have the authors assumed that those who haven’t made up their mind about this question are all “moderate”? Because we do know the numbers have been cooked in other ways to create the appearance of fewer radicals and more moderates, it’s possible that either the 1’s or 2’s are actually undecided, yet are counted as “moderate”. This is pure speculation, of course. It would be helpful if we knew exactly how the 1’s and 2’s responded to the question, and how many there were.

Evidently, although Esposito and Mogahed have reported a specific percentage of radicals (7%), they have not reported anywhere the actual percentage of people they call “moderates”. The closest they come is a statement that “about 9 in 10 Muslims are moderates” (p. 97). The media has been assuming that everyone not counted as radical is moderate, which would be 93%. But because the undecided Muslims are not accounted for, we can’t make this assumption.

It would also be very interesting to know what percentage of persons approached by pollsters refused to participate at all. It would be a very different scenario if it was 5% or if it was 50%. It’s quite possible there could be a higher percentage of “radicals” among the non-responders than among the responders.

What About Peaceful Islamists: Aren’t They Also Radical?

Here are some things most sane Western people would consider to be “radical” under ordinary circumstances:

  • Supporting a requirement for women to wear an oversized pillowcase in public
  • Supporting enormous legal disadvantages for women
  • Supporting stoning for gays and adulterers
  • Supporting the death penalty for people who leave a certain religion, or criticize that religion
  • Supporting extreme systematic persecution for religious minorities
  • Believing that Jews are descended from apes and pigs
  • Denying the Jewish Holocaust
  • Believing 9/11 was orchestrated by the US government

However, all of the above could describe a Muslim, and he could hate the US to boot, yet he would still be considered “moderate” by Esposito and Mogahed, so long as he only thought the 9/11 attacks were “largely justified” (but not “completely justified”). Of course, there are Muslims who do not have any of the views listed above, but those who have several of these radical views should certainly be considered “radical”.

Additional Inaccuracies

Here are some additional inaccuracies in the book, pointed out in The Weekly Standard:

”Take the very definition of ‘Islam.’ From Karen Armstrong to Bernard Lewis–and that’s a pretty broad range–virtually every scholar of note (and many who aren’t) has translated the term ‘Islam’ as ‘submission to God.’ But ‘submission’ evidently sounds off-putting to the American ear, so Esposito and Mogahed offer a different, more melodious translation–’a strong commitment to God’–that has a ring to it of everything but accuracy.”

”Twice… they cite as convincing evidence for their argument poll data from ‘the ten most populous majority Muslim countries,’ which they then list as including Jordan and Lebanon, tiny states that don’t even rank in the top 25 of Muslim majority countries. Twice they say their 10 specially polled countries collectively comprise 80 percent of the world Muslim population; in fact, the figure is barely 60 percent.

General Vagueness

Here’s a description by Hillel Fradkin of the lack of specificity in the book:

”So who does speak for Islam? Apparently, Esposito and Mogahed do. For the book does not actually present the poll. It provides a very small and partial account of the responses to some questions, but fails to include even one table or chart of data. It does not even provide a clear list of the questions that were asked. The appendix, where one might expect to find questionnaires, charts, and tables, provides only a short narrative discussion of Gallup’s sampling techniques and general mode of operation.”

What Is Esposito’s Agenda?

John Esposito’s bio is worth reading. He clearly has the credentials to indicate a supreme mastery of his subject, and he is one of the most influential experts on Islam today. He knows what he’s talking about. Therefore I cannot escape the conclusion that the obvious flaws in his reporting of Islam indicate not honest mistakes, but deliberate deception to further an agenda. In fact, his agenda is not well-hidden.

In an excerpt of their book, Esposito and Mogahed write:

”Did Muslims react so strongly [to the Mohammed cartoons] because they did not understand or believe in freedom of speech? Gallup’s data, which demonstrate Muslim admiration for Western liberty and freedom of speech, indicate otherwise. The core issues of this apparent clash, or ‘culture war,’ are not democracy and freedom of expression, but faith, identity, respect (or lack of it), and public humiliation. As France’s Grand Rabbi Joseph Sitruk observed in The Associated Press in the midst of the cartoon controversy: ‘We gain nothing by lowering religions, humiliating them and making caricatures of them. It’s a lack of honesty and respect.’ He further noted that freedom of expression ‘is not a right without limits.’

This is not a neutral statement, but one reflecting bias against freedom of expression. Evidently, the authors favor letting Musims decide what non-Muslims can or can’t say about Islam. Since Islam has a political side to it, this is equivalent to letting communists decide what can or can’t be said about communism. This has already been tried, with unfavorable results.

Another excerpt reveals another bias. This one addresses the fact that in most Muslim countries, a majority want Sharia to be at least one source of law: “Ironically, we don’t have to look far from home to find a significant number of people who want religion as a source of law. In the United States, a 2006 Gallup Poll indicates that a majority of Americans want the Bible as a source of legislation.”

This implies equivalence between American Christians who want the Bible as a source of law, and Muslims wanting Sharia as a source of law. Anyone making such an equivalence would need to account for the following facts:

  • Ex-Christians in America are not afraid to speak out about why they left their religion in fear for their lives; ex-Muslims are, even in America.
  • There is no world-wide Christian movement that’s for stoning for adulterers and gays; for the testimony of women to count half that of men; for the removal, by force if necessary, of all non-Christians from power; for non-Christians to pay an extra tax in lieu of being killed; etc. There is a world-wide Islamist movement promoting all this and more, substituting the word “Muslim” for “Christian”.
  • There are no large demonstrations of Christians calling for the death of anyone who has insulted them; there are such large demonstrations of Muslims.

These facts indicate that, regardless of Esposito’s ability to cook numbers, there is a vast gulf between the current state of Christianity and Islam. All of the examples above are examples of Sharia. There are also other indications of Esposito’s agenda.

John Esposito is the founding director of the Prince Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, which has received “$20 million of funding from Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal”, as noted in Martin Kramer’s Sandbox Blog. Are the Saudis getting their money’s worth?

It’s understandable that our enemies would paint a deceptive picture of Islam and of the Muslim world. But what’s John Esposito’s excuse?

Disclaimer: I have not read the book in question, and am relying on reviews here, as well as excerpts published by the authors. If I have made any error resulting in any inaccuracy, I welcome corrections, so long as page numbers (or links) and quotes are included.