Thursday, October 25, 2012

Whose Moderate Muslim?

 By Iain Buchanan
Who gets to decide what a “moderate Muslim” is? In this extended piece, Iain Buchanan argues that as the West demands Muslims fit themselves into its definition of the moderate Muslim, it ignores that it has itself failed to abide by its own standards. The way to initiate true dialogue between moderates, he says, is for the West to take steps to address its own failures.

This is a tiresome time for Muslims. Especially in the West. Collectively, they are seen as wild, narrow-minded, and unevolved; a relic society still stuck in the Middle Ages. They are the world's biggest troublemakers, a demographic time-bomb in the heart of Europe. So Muslims have a great deal to account for, a great deal to live down. Of course, there are many Westerners who are happy to accommodate Muslims in the world they both share -- even cheek by jowl in the same city or state. But there is a quid pro quo. To be accepted by civilised society, Muslims must declare their peaceful intentions, their integratedness, their moderation. "Moderate Muslims", as it were, must wear on their arms the badge of a yellow crescent.

But what, exactly, is a "moderate Muslim"? Our definition of what a "moderate Muslim" is will depend on our definition of many other things. Firstly, it will depend on who demands the definition, and what they want from it. Secondly, it depends on the definitions of the two extremes between which "moderate" sits. Thirdly, it depends on the qualities – social, political, ecological, religious – that are being calibrated and tested for "moderation". So it is, perhaps, a thankless exercise. There can be a great many definitions of just what a "moderate Muslim" is. And there will never be agreement between all these definitions -- or those who make them. After all, we make of words exactly what we want to make of them.

"Moderation", like honesty, should be a virtue we can all agree upon, whatever our religious calling. It is, after all, the mark of a good human being – treating others fairly, making modest demands on our fellow beings and on the rest of God's creation, whether it be the land we occupy, the trees we use, the creatures we eat. Moderate people do not exploit, over-eat, abuse living things, waste resources. Moderate people are sympathetic, understanding, and calmly disposed. Moderate people do not make war, torture, or oppress ...

We could go on. But it would be evading the real issue. And the real issue is not a question of moderate human beings. It is a question of moderate Muslim human beings – and a question, ultimately, of geopolitics. And, ultimately, the issue is the right of the Christian West to pass judgement on others, and to demand their submission to a view of the world that the Christian West holds. For the growing demand for Muslim moderation is not so much a Muslim initiative, for Muslim benefit-it is much more a reactive demand to Western pressure, which seeks definitions and undertakings that please the Christian West.

At a simplistic level, there seems little to argue about. Christian Westerners, for the most part, consider a "moderate Muslim" to be the kind of Muslim they can live with: one who is quiet and unassuming, loyal, predictable, law-abiding, unthreatening in any way. This sounds reasonable enough, at least within the Christians' own lands. But the world is much bigger than the Christians' own lands: there are Muslim lands, and the lands of many others, often with very mixed populations. And the Christians have long had a decisive (and often very destructive) presence in all of these lands – as well as an unfortunate tendency, still, to want their writ to run over every single one of them. And so, at the very least, if Muslims accept a Western-defined "moderation" for themselves, perhaps they should examine more carefully the credentials of their definers.

Historically, of course, there is a problem. Whatever Christianity is as a religion, its followers have all too often been anything but "moderate" in their dealings with one another and their dealings with everyone else. For well over a thousand years, Christian history has been defined by the unholy marriage of power and the Bible. All too often, the gospel of the poor and needy has been suppressed, and Christians have shown themselves to be brutal, greedy, and war-mongering – and have justified their actions on the basis of holy scripture. Perhaps this only proves that human beings devise their holy scriptures to serve human ends – and that those ends are sometimes good and sometimes bad. Or perhaps it demonstrates that, however virtuous and well-intentioned their scriptures, human beings will usually be led by their baser instincts, and will readily misinterpret the book they claim inspires them. Clearly, there is a disconnection between what people say they believe, and what they do. And that disconnection has been particularly strong in European (and Christian) history.

And the reason is not hard to see. Over the centuries, as European (and eventually American) culture came to dominate the world, its use of the Christian gospel as motif and justification expanded dramatically. As powerfully as its secular patrons, the Gospel came to represent the hegemony of an imperial culture over a diverse but subservient world. In profound and complex ways, the Christian gospel became so institutionalised, as part of the dominant culture, that it became hard to tell where the West's secular personality ended and its spirituality began. And this conflation has had the direst effects -both on the integrity of Western and non-Western cultures alike, and on the reputation of the Christian gospel itself. Above all, it is essential to recognise that, all too often, what is seen as the Christian way is in fact the way of Western culture – and what is seen as Western culture is often, in many a mangled form, the Christian way as well.

Read the article HERE

lain Buchanan is the author of Fatimah 's Kampung (Consumers Association of Penang, 2008) and The Armies of God (Citizens International, 2010).


Anonymous said...

as the WEST demands Muslims fit themselves into its definition of the moderate Muslim ???????

I think the Muslims did it to themselves. Also why pick on xtians when referring to the WEST

Anonymous said...

Unacceptable are the trouble makers Muslims who called themselves jihardist or Islamists,and their trysts with the fourty nine virgins in eternity.

smd said...

Off topic: Just to bring to ur attention on pg 30 of NST today (World Section). AP pic of Pilgrims praying outside the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Careless cropping...."sacrifice" of pilgrims heads!! BTW, why cant NST retain the correct spelling of MAKKAH, not Mecca!!!
Salam Aidiladha!!



thank you for alerting. let me check if the AP photo was sent that way or our subs cropped it.

Anonymous said...

ns 1.00 pm - always trying to pass the buck.....let me check...would have sufficed.

Christian and Secularism said...

Let me correct the writer's assumption and wrongful analysis of western civilisation.
Above all, it is essential to recognise that, all too often, what is seen as the Christian way is in fact the way of Western culture – and what is seen as Western culture is often, in many a mangled form, the Christian way as well."

The writer does not realised that the current secular western culture is a result of a thousand of years fight against catholic mythology.

The Church and the Monarchy were one institution one upholding the other. That is why european monarchies called themselves The Catholic Monarchy of Spain or Portugal etc.

This was a natural phenomena during the dark ages when mankind was fearful of the unknown and some are more cleverer than others.

Some can write while the peasants only know how to toil. But gradually, the european people realised there is no such thing as the Catholic god and the people who stood to gain was the priests and people in the monarchy.

As more and more europeans become literate and clever it become harder to keep the bluff. Even the King of England called the Pope bluff and formed his own Church.

Later europeans finally dismantled the monarchy group, in France the people guillotine them or in Russia shot them, such was the anger of the majority.

Thus democracy was born and everyone was equal with no such thing as appointed by God to govern.

But all religion teach good for mankind and common sense so that is why some Christian values still abound in western culture.

But dont be fool, in the US, current Christian issues like abortion, homosexuality still predominates the european mind.

If Obama lose, secularism will be reduced in the US. The Mormon bishop Mitt Romney will block abortion. So you see, Christianity influence is still a major thing in European psyche.

Even the european footballers still cross their hearts in homage to the dead Jesus Christ when they score goals but of course the low level of mentality they are, the more superstitious. They cannot believe they are earning so much money for kicking a ball so it must be due to Jesus.

Arabs and Islam is at a cross road. Moderate muslims is an oxymoron.

What you have is secular muslims like Turks who forced themselves to disassociate from the mythology of the Arabs.

Until the ARabs accept that their religion like Christianity is a product of human civilisation of that time, they will be fundamentalists.

The so called moderates are just not convinced enough or managed to use their cultures as a shield against total Arabised lifestyles, like the Malays who must speak Malay and practices Malay culture as provided in the Federal Constitution.