There is no question of the existence of Muslim moderates; what percentage of the total umma (the world-wide Muslim community) they may represent is a much debated, and, in my opinion, almost entirely pointless question.
I am all in favor of moderation and there is no doubt that many, if not most, Muslims are moderates.
Unfortunately, in the current climate, moderates simply don’t matter much.
The lacuna within the umma is not the absence of Muslim moderates, but rather the absence of anti-Salafist radicals: Muslims who are radically anti-Jihadi, anti-Islamofascist, and who are willing to fight: morally, verbally and even physically, to save their religion from dangerous and murderous fanatics who kill innocents in their name and in the name of their faith.
Simple indifference or equivocation is not enough. A lack of murderous intent is not enough. Given a choice between Osama bin Ladin and Hazrat Inayat Khan (an ecumenical and irenic Sufi sage whom I much admire), a lack of preference does not amount to moderation.
And even if a majority does prefer Khan to bin Ladin, if this majority does not contain a subset that is willing to actively combat the Salafists, it does not constitute a barrier to violence.
Saying that ‘Only a small minority among group X is radical’ is generally a truism, and also, almost entirely meaningless. Revolutions are led by radicals, and a violent and organized minority can easily overcome a majority that is factious, disorganized and disinclined to fight.
Consider: Hitler came to power with a minority of the vote and the percentage of the German public who were active Nazi Party members was never terribly large: less than three percent at the time of Hitler’s ascension and slightly more than ten percent at its peak. But the vast majority of the German people went along, or sat by quietly as the Nazis destroyed liberties, unleashed the Blitzkrieg on their neighbors and sent the Jews (and other ‘undesirables’) to the gas chambers.
Before 1917, membership in the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party was minuscule and, in spite of their name, the Bolshekivi were a minority within that party.
The pattern is similar for the Communist Parties in China, North Korea, and North Vietnam before they came to power. The radicals were a tiny minority but once they seized control, the entire population was mobilized for war.
America’s defensive war against Islamic terrorists has been continuously mischaracterized as an offensive ‘War on Islam’ within the umma. Given that the majority of Muslims in Western Europe consider themselves more Muslim than European, what will be the response of Europe’s Muslim communities if they are called upon by their Imams to engage in a religious war against their host countries? Would they actively resist such a call, or would the majority remain quiescent and allow the radical minority to fight?
Ironically, in the West, the fear (and denial) of this possibility tends to motivate a desire for a policy of appeasement in order to assuage the extremists and forestall a war. But the West’s odd cacoethes to appease the most militant and radical faction within a given group has, historically, had the unintended consequence of disempowering those within that group who may be most inclined to oppose the extremists. Palestinians who spoke out against Arafat and the PLO were eliminated. Legitimating Arafat made their opposition and their sacrifices meaningless. (And, of course, Hamas came to power by following Arafat’s example and killing Palestinians who opposed it (ironically Arafat’s successors in Fatah).)
Similarly, appeasement of the Soviet Union weakened resistance movements behind the Iron Curtain.
Today, equating criticism of Islamofascism with ‘Islamophobia’ undermines intra-Islamic opposition to violent fanaticism.
The West must resist the urge to appease Islamofascism and encourage resistance to it within Islam. We must speak out, not only against the radicals, but also against the so-called ‘moderate’ Muslims who, while disinclined to personally commit terrorist acts, nevertheless aid and abet the terrorists among them, morally equate Islamic terror with Israel’s existence or justify or deny the existence of Islamic terror. Claiming that Islam is a ‘Religion of Peace’ or that terrorism is ‘un-Islamic’ is meaningless if peaceful Muslims are unwilling or unable to prevent, or even oppose, Islamic terror.
The number of Muslims who personally volunteer to carry out suicide missions will always be small, just as the number of Japanese flyers who chose to be kamikaze pilots in World War II was always small. But this must not be construed as evidence that either the West, or the nonviolent subset of the umma, is in any way safe or secure. For the salient question now is not:
“How many among the Muslims are Islamofascists?”
“How many among the Muslims are anti-Islamofascists?”