The war between “moderate” and “fundamentalist” Muslims

Raja Petra Kamarudin

Last week, the Malaysian authorities confiscated the book ‘Hadharah Islamiyyah Bukan Islam Hadhari’ written by the President of the Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS), Ustaz Haji Abdul Hadi Awang. I have not read the book yet so I do not know what Hadi wrote. And I don’t think those who confiscated the book know either; but this did not stop them from doing so.

What is most interesting about this whole episode is the hypocrisy demonstrated by those in power, all in the name of Islam. Whether they are aware or not, the various acts executed and statements made in the name of Islam over the last couple of months just deteriorates further the already suffering image of Islam. They say and do one thing one day, and another the next. Not only those not of the Islamic faith, but Muslims themselves are getting extremely confused as to what Islam really represents.

In the first place, is there such a thing as “moderate” and “fundamentalist” Muslims? Do these two categories of Muslims really exist? If they do, why then did Prophet Muhammad not clearly spell it out and why is there no mention of it in the Koran? All the Koran says is there are believers and non-believers. And Prophet Muhammad taught the world only one form of religion, Islam. There was no such thing as Moderate Islam, Modern Islam, Progressive Islam, Hadhari Islam, Extremist Islam, Radical Islam, Militant Islam, and so on. When did all these various forms of Islam emerge and who invented them?

Will the real Islam please stand up! And what about all those other ‘non-real’ forms of Islam? Can we assume then that these are deviant forms of Islam introduced by the Devil as what is mentioned in the Koran that the Devil will embark on a mission to mislead all children of Adam?

I am getting extremely sick and tired of all those, who think they know best, telling us what kind of Muslim we should be. I am also getting extremely sick and tired of those who decide on our behalf what kind of Muslim we should be. And I am getting perturbed by those who decide on our behalf which school of Islam we should follow. Can you imagine the British, German, French, Italian or United States governments passing laws that makes it mandatory for all the Christians in that country to follow only the Catholic or Protestant or Presbyterian, etc. churches, and if they follow any other church other than the government-approved church they would then be arrested and detained without trial under the Patriot Act?

Abid Ullah Jan has addressed this exact issue in his article ‘Islam and the war between two Americas’ which goes as follows:

Did you ever think, who frequently use the terms “moderate” Muslims and “moderate” Islam? “But this has nothing to do with the war between two Americas,” someone might argue.

These terms and the war between two Americas seem un-related. But it is time we understand that these terms are the product of the extremist trends sweeping the United States these days.

The inventors, promoters, subscribers and supporters of these terms together constitute just a fraction of all the Muslims and non-Muslims.

This vocal and influential minority justifies its words and deed with the attractive slogan of fighting extremism in the Muslim World. However, in fact, this minority is the product of extremism in the US itself. To demystify the myth of “moderate” Muslims and Islam, we need to understand the ongoing war between two Americas: First, there is the America which lives by the great ideals of justice.

Second, there is the America which has succumbed to self-interest groups. The promotion of “moderate” Muslims is part of this extremist tendency sweeping the United States. Fighting extremism in the Muslim world is a perfect ruse to justify and further consolidate the extremist America.

For the extremist America of self-interest groups, there are many voices in the United States, including Daniel Pipes and other such neoconservatives, who are using any means necessary to sacrifice the well-being of the United States for the promotion of the State of Israel.

These individuals would never regard any Muslim as a moderate, unless he or she publicly supports the state of Israel. Look at their track record. All other factors are irrelevant.

The distinction between “moderate” and “radical” is not one that is defined by their adherence to Islam but how much they are a threat to the interest of the extremist America and Israel. For example, a devout man who is fervent in all his personal rituals but do not have any participation in the political affairs of his oppressed nation would be a “moderate”.

In contrast, even a ‘half’ or non-practicing Muslim with zeal to voice his opposition to the direct and indirect occupation of his people and land would be classified as a radical. In the current political context, a “moderate” is one who is passive like the devout man or active (like the neo-mods of Islam) who openly promotes the US agenda, using Islamic interpretation or the so-called ‘Ijtih d’ as a cover. This, to most Muslims, is like a see-through dress!

Hence the distinction is not one of academic but purely political, driven by ulterior motive and sustained by Islamophobia. The phobia can be judged from the fact that even legal activities of Muslims, labeled as Islamists, are now presented as a “challenge” and, hence, unacceptable and threat. The extreme of hatred is evident from first dubbing Muslims as “Islamists” and then equating them with Nazis. This extremism goes on to consider Islam as an evil and calling Mohammed (PBUH) a terrorist.

Another manifestation of this extremism lies in leading newspapers like the New York Times’ attempts at making its readers believe: “Red Menace is Gone, But Here is Islam,” and the Los Angeles Times making the public read: “Islam’s outdated domination theology” needs to be defeated to “give peace a chance”.

This extremist trend considers extremist as moderation. For example, if someone decided to suspend the Hudud (penal code), he becomes “moderate” and “enlightened” in the view of Islamophobes (best described by the term anti-Islam, fanatical Nazis). In fact, such a Muslim is not a moderate but an extremist.

Those who support these Muslim extremists are Nazi 3/4 a suitable title for them since Nazism evolved in European culture and non-Muslims practiced it. Nazism, fascism, communism, etc., are totally alien to Islam. They are Nazi by their open double standards and intolerance of others, this is why they have an election with party and one single agenda then calls it democracy!

To the contrary, so-called extremism in the Muslim world is not the result of Muslims’ faith or baseless invention of “extremists”. It is a function of the oppressed and dispossessed for lack of a central authority to control and channel the energies of these people into productive activities. It is naive to suggest that a few ill-informed “moderate” individuals or puppet regimes, such as that of dictator Musharraf, can emulate the abilities of an entire central authority, i.e. the Islamic State.

The “moderates” who are confused in their thoughts get further confused about their identity when argument from some leading self-proclaimed “moderates” is rejected as “reformist apologetic” and the others are called “radical”. To the contrary, those who are shunned even by the self-proclaimed “moderates,” are presented by the American extremist as a “practicing Muslim”.

In fact, these highly praised “practicing” Muslims believe that “an uncritical acceptance of the Koran as the final manifesto of God” is one of the “disturbing cornerstones of Islam”.

It is ironic that these “moderate” and “practicing” Muslims like Irshad Manji turn around and call other self-proclaimed “moderates” as “so-called moderates” and equate them with “fundamentalists” for sharing a “sense of spiritual supremacy” with other “fundamentalists”.

Two opposing factors clear this confusion. The first is the clear commands for Muslims to be moderate by default. Being moderate is a prerequisite. It is not an identity label for a specific kind of Muslims. Accordingly, the most perfect moderates are those who most seriously live by the Qur’an and Sunnah. Accordingly, Muslims cannot be part time or partial Muslims to be moderate by virtue of rejecting part of the Qur’an and accepting part of it (Al-Qur’an 2:85).

The second factor is in total contrast to what the Qur’an says the Muslims should be. This factor is the insistence on the part of the American extremists, the standard-setters for “moderates” that strong belief in the totality of the Qur’an makes Muslims “Islamists,” and “extremists”. Accordingly, the most partial believers of the Qur’an become the most perfect “moderates” because promoters of “moderate” Muslims believe they “are absolutely at war with the vision of life that is prescribed to all Muslims in the Koran”.

“Moderates” are thus required to totally reject parts of the Qur’an, such as rejection of the clear commands about inheritance (Al-Qur’an 4:11-14, 4:33, 4:176), court testimony (Al-Qur’an 2:282) and even Riba (Al-Qur’an 2:275-76, 278-79; 3:130; 4:161; 30:39). The extremist Americans publicly say that “the fundamentals of Islam are a threat to us”. The covert Islamophobes (read anti-Islam Nazis) keep this little secret to themselves for the sake of diplomacy. It clearly shows that the extremists do not want the “moderates” they support to follow fundamentals of Islam.

The above examples lead us to see the self-proclaimed “moderates” in the following forms:

1. Benighted opportunists, the neo-mods of Islam, who exploit Islamophobes’ agenda to their advantage. These include dictator Musharraf in the circle of dictators to others in journalism, academia and politics.

2. Secular Muslims, who have successfully reconciled themselves to relegating Islam to a private affair and leaving the public affairs to the state to conduct without being informed by any revelatory law (i.e. the Shari’ah). Most of these had no problem at all in embracing communist ideology.

3. The rejectionists: Those who are close to atheists in rejecting the major aspects of Islam in the name of moderation.

The so-called “moderates” have mostly misunderstood Islam. Their version of Islam involves an ill-conceived and un-Islamic mixture of worshipping activities, rebellion against the sovereignty of Allah, acceptance of western transactional laws, godless standards of freedom, transactional conventions (not allowed under the Shari’ah) and attempts at reducing Islam to yet another church (Mosque) confined religion.

Due to elite Islamophobes’ public denial of their fear of the rise of Islam, the “moderates” are in a difficult position:

(a) If they express their love for Islam or reject any standard or moderation set by Islamophobes; they thus become suspect; resulting in boycotting them like Tariq Ramadan, despite their claiming at the top of their voice that they are “moderate” and they want a moratorium on Hudud laws.

(b) If they do not express their love for Islam and or do not work for its cause, they are unlikely to receive much credence in the Muslim community.

The new standards for “moderation” are making their lives even more difficult because rejecting part of the Qur’an throws them out of Islam right away, let alone their dreams of ruling the Muslim world. But at the same time, there are yet more serious opportunist Muslims who are ready to accept even those pre-conditions that demand them to reject parts of the Qur’an.

Thus the struggle between the America of ideals and the extremist America is making life hard for Muslims all over the world. Non-Muslims are not immune to the wind they are sowing. For global peace and security, it is imperative that both Muslims and non-Muslims understand the extremist face of America and the minority of extremist that is driving the world to a crisis of unprecedented levels.