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“Moderate Islam” Isn’t Working – Cheryl Benard (National Interest via Daily Alert)

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Dec. 25, 2015

“Moderate Islam” Isn’t Working – Cheryl Benard (National Interest)

  • Over the past decade, the prevailing thinking has been that radical Islam is most effectively countered by moderate Islam. As director of the RAND Initiative for Middle Eastern Youth, I was an early proponent of this approach.
  • It assumed, first, that because of a lack of education, or poverty or other handicaps, many Muslims had developed an incomplete or incorrect understanding of their own religion; and second, that the extremists were so much louder and had backing from various sources, and therefore were gaining larger audiences. The task therefore was to help moderate Muslims spread the word.
  • With a track record of well over a decade, it does not seem as though this is working. Things are getting worse. We now have ISIS, a magnification of al-Qaeda, with vicious branches springing up in nearly every part of the world. We have thousands of radical recruits streaming into Syria from Europe and the U.S. We have Paris. We have San Bernardino. http://list-dailyalert.org/mail-jcenter/forms/optOut.asp?e=BBB8B6B2BF76A4A69EB1B4BC93AFBBB4B1A37395B5B8&p=20204&l=9&a=2
  • If we take a closer look at “moderate Islam” we find that one slice of it – the “aggressive traditionalist” slice – incites not violence against the West, but rejection of Western values, modern life and integration. It demands of its followers that they maintain emotional, social and intellectual separation. This describes Farook and Tashfeen in San Bernardino, who went to great pains to harden their hearts against the people in whose midst they lived.
  • What is the remedy? Several steps come to mind:
    1. Establish a vetting and a certification process for Muslim clerics in the U.S., as a requirement before someone can head a mosque, run a religious education or a youth program, officiate at religious ceremonies, or term himself an imam.
    2. Require new immigrants and refugees to formally accept some basic “rules of the road” that describe daily life and values in the U.S. This ranges from language acquisition to acceptance of women’s equality and non-segregation, and tolerance of (though not, of course, mandatory participation in) the modern Western lifestyle.
    3. Find ways for true Muslim moderates, progressives and secularists to have a larger voice in expressing the views and values of the community.
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