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September 20, 2004

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There is a standard pattern to this, to the extent that I even have a standard URL that I use. Nutjob "Why aren't these so-called moderate Muslims speaking out?" Me "They are. Here."

That is a genuinely new twist, though. Bah.

Murdering moderates is unfortunately nothing new in the Islamic world, or for that matter, by any fanatical group that seeks to purge dissidents from its own kind.

Its been a problem with Palestinians for generations. Imagine how effective a Palestinian with the politics and tactics of Ghandi or Martin Luther King might be, except that he/she would be murdered first by Hamas or other radical factions.

There are unfortunately a lot of moderate Islamic voices that use phrases such as America brought terror on itself because of its Israeli policies (which I think stink, by the way, since the Israelis are now simply the lesser of two evils) -- this is the voice of someone successfully cowed by violence that they voice appeasement to deflect the attention of the crazies that might kill them.

Islam is faced with a movement that would hijack what is good about it, and cannot simply sit on the sidelines hoping it will pass, which seems to be a common response to the problem. There is also a huge political dimension to the problem -- that oppressive governments have tacitly allowed the craziness to grow because it deflects attacks on themseleves. How short-sighted they were, given Osama's clear agenda against them.

But to blame the entire faith because it struggles with a fanatical murderous strain is pure prejudice. Looking for counter-fatwas as the alleged measure of whether or not the entire faith is corrupt is similar to wondering why cops aren't killing alleged murderers on sight in order to prevent crime.

But these critics keep demanding individual clerics with nowhere near the same resources we have to protect themselves should be speaking out, risking their lives. Maybe they should cut out the middle man and just commit suicide...would that be satisfactory?

I don't get it... aren't you just answering the "why don't they speak out?" question with "because they''ll get killed, duh?" Doesn't that mean you've conceded the point? Personally, I've heard enough from Muslims all over to be reassured, but the media hasn't been particularly good at letting that message out, and therefore perception of radicality being the norm persists.

Study Question

Must we insist that everything written on any possible subject makes simplistic and kneejerk criticisms of Bush?

don't get it... aren't you just answering the "why don't they speak out?" question with "because they''ll get killed, duh?"

It's not quite that simple. The answer is both "they are speaking out" and "it's dangerous for them to speak out." In other words, they're speaking out as best as the circumstances allow. Some are hiring body guards so they can continue to speak out. Others are being murdered.

Must we insist that everything written on any possible subject makes simplistic and kneejerk criticisms of Bush?

Is that in response to the post? I didn't mention Bush. Please clarify.

There are unfortunately a lot of moderate Islamic voices that use phrases such as America brought terror on itself because of its Israeli policies

That's a charge I've heard from Christians as well. Misunderstandings don't necessarily equal appeasement or cowardice.

Who is responsible for the mess in Iraq that led to the security nightmare by which a cleric entering a mosque can so easily be assassinated?

That's usually my response to messes...killing a bunch of innocent bystanders.

Not a good argument, Edward. There's probably a good argument in there somewhere, but this was not it. There wouldn't be a security nightmare without the "insurgents", and there wouldn't be a mess. If this were just a bunch of peaceful demonstrators we were having problems with, the potential for point-making on this would be pretty substantial.

In other words, they're speaking out as best as the circumstances allow.

I agree completely, glad that's clear. I do think actually, as this as all wears on, that many are coming to the conclusion that not speaking out is actually more dangerous.

Is that in response to the post? I didn't mention Bush. Please clarify.

Just seemed to me that the "Study Questions" were a dig at the Bush Administrations' handling of the security situation in Iraq, which deserves much criticism, but is rather tangential to subject at hand.

Just seemed to me that the "Study Questions" were a dig at the Bush Administrations' handling of the security situation in Iraq, which deserves much criticism, but is rather tangential to subject at hand.

You and Slarti are raising more or less the same point. Let me see if I can clarify why I feel this is important.

An implicit assumption about moderate Muslims not speaking out is that the environment in which they live is somehow similar to that in which we, who enjoy the freedom and security in which to speak our minds, are criticizing them.

This is especially hypocritical with regards to Iraq.

The usual dangers of speaking out because of the reach of the terrorists throughout the Muslim world, is magnified greatly by the added instability that our invading Iraq has resulted in.

In other words, our incompetence is actually making it even more difficult for moderate Muslims to speak out.

In other words, our incompetence is actually making it even more difficult for moderate Muslims to speak out.

So, your point is that moderate Muslims had an easier time speaking out when Iraq was ruled by Hussein? How would you know if this was true?

Picture moderate Muslims attempting to speak out against Hussein, while he was in power. Can you see this happening?

That's usually my response to messes...killing a bunch of innocent bystanders.

The slain cleric was not "an innocent bystander" in the sense that implies. While you and I would rightfully consider him innocent, his organization is not simply standing by. They are speaking out. The assassins are clearly sending a message through his murder that criticism of this sort among clerics has a very heavy price tag.

This is why those calls for fatwas are so misguided. They're essentially insisting clerics paint targets on their backs.

Now, maybe, once enough clerics were murdered, the average Muslims in the street would rally to support them and change things (but given the oppressive nature of the governments in the usual suspect countries, that is not likely), but to suggest/demand that as a gesture to ensure us Westerners that moderates are serious is asking for them to sacrifice themselves.

In Iraq, were we actually providing security, that would be one thing. Given that they're totally on their own securitywise, it's doubly ludicrous.

So, your point is that moderate Muslims had an easier time speaking out when Iraq was ruled by Hussein? How would you know if this was true?

For the love of God...

My point is that after we removed Hussein, Iraq SHOULD have been safer for moderate Muslims to speak out. After Bush claimed "Mission Accomplished," when we were responsible for the security of all Iraqis, the clerics should have felt free to help spread the messages of moderation that will help Iraq blossom into a stable democracy.

Our incompetence in providing the security has made that impossible.

The slain cleric was not "an innocent bystander" in the sense that implies.

I actually wasn't referring to the slain cleric, Edward. Hence the plural on bystander.

My point is that after we removed Hussein, Iraq SHOULD have been safer for moderate Muslims to speak out.

Is it your point that we're making it harder for them to? I'm confused. Do you blame the game wardens when the poachers hunt?

"An implicit assumption about moderate Muslims not speaking out is that the environment in which they live is somehow similar to that in which we, who enjoy the freedom and security in which to speak our minds, are criticizing them."

Hmmm, I don't make that assumption and I still sometimes wonder why moderate Muslims don't speak out more. Especially those who live in Western countries.

But it feels like you are missing the forest for the trees when you insist that moderate Muslim clerics can't speak out. The question arises in the context of Western questions about Muslim societies. One of the key questions is: How prevalant are dangerous (to the West) strains of fundamentalist Islam? Coupled with that question is: how many people subscribe to such strains, and how powerful are such strains in Muslim communities.

As that debate has developed, the conventional wisdom answer (especially among Middle East 'experts') has been along the lines of: Oh, it isn't a major strain, it doesn't represent much of Islamic thought, it really isn't that powerful.

This leads to the question: If they don't agree with these fundamentalist Islamic strains, and if such strains represent such a small percentage of the population, and if they aren't all that powerful, why don't more clerics speak against them?

You answer appears now to be: The strains are significant and powerful so the clerics are afraid.

Which makes sense to me as a legitimate answer to the question. But it tends to cast doubt on the conclusions earlier in the conversation. Perhaps such strains are non-miniscule and very powerful. Which means that a nice, narrow, precision set of strikes against tiny terrorist groups like Al Qaeda won't be enough to win the war.

You answer appears now to be: The strains are significant and powerful so the clerics are afraid.

My answer is that AQ can apparently come and go as it pleases in any country in the world, including the United States.

My point is that a cleric who issues a fatwa on bin Laden will be a marked man. That it need not be someone who lives in his city that murders him. But because of the reach of AQ, he'll never be out of harm's way.

But the clerics in your example were not killed by Al Qaeda (or at least I haven't heard even the slightest hint that they were). So something bigger than Al Qaeda is invovled in this question, right?

My example is meant to demonstrate that the threat is real. I don't know who killed him. I don't know that the kidnappers are connected to AQ, but it's safe to assume his murderers are connected to the kidnappers (at least one group of them). It's also safe to assume that whoever killed him were not simply passersby inciting to such violence through their culture or religion.

"It's also safe to assume that whoever killed him were not simply passersby inciting to such violence through their culture or religion."

What do you mean?

Don't you think it is rather likely that he was killed as part of religious conflict? Your whole argument is predicated on the idea that this wasn't a random mugging. Are you now backing away from the idea that he was killed for his views?

I'm going to interpret the above quote as "incited to such violence". (I make typos all the time, and I assume that happened here. If I'm wrong please feel free to tell me. I make the assumption only to speed up the question response process, I'm not trying to put words in your mouth. So if that isn't what you meant, it is very possible the following paragraph is totally off base.)

I'm not claiming it was some random person off the street who was incited by his culture and religion to kill a Sunni cleric. I'm suggesting that he was killed by an organization represented by specific persons who have been incited by their culture and religion. I suggest that there are a troublingly large number of such organizations in the Middle East. I suggest that they are troublingly powerful in the Middle East--in poltical, cultural and religious terms.

yes on the typo...thanks.

no on I'm suggesting that he was killed by an organization represented by specific persons who have been incited by their culture and religion.

It's best to assume given the available facts at this point that some group responsible for kidnappings (what the cleric was condemning) is responsible. For your statement to be true, the kidnappers would have to have been incited to those kidnappings by their culture and religion.

Culture is debatable. The history of kidnappings in political efforts goes back centuries in the Middle East.

Religion, however, is refuted by the fact that it's safe to assume the views of the cleric (who was speaking out against the kidnappings) better express the relgious beliefs of the populace on the subject than those of the kidnappers, whom the cleric was speaking out against, and who have political, not religious, goals motivating their crimes.

"Religion, however, is refuted by the fact that it's safe to assume the views of the cleric (who was speaking out against the kidnappings) better express the relgious beliefs of the populace on the subject than those of the kidnappers, whom the cleric was speaking out against, and who have political, not religious, goals motivating their crimes."

Why is it safe to assume that the cleric's religious beliefs more accurately reflect the views of the populace? I hope that is true, but do we know that to be true?

Why do you believe the kidnappers have merely political goals? That isn't what they seem to say.

Even if the kidnappers to not represent a MAJORITY Muslim view, is it not possible that they represent a VERY SIGNIFICANT MINORITY. Hispanic-Americans are a minority, but there are a lot of them. Non-Catholics are a minority of Christians, but there are a lot of them. These fundamentalist groups may very well be a large and very powerful minority of Muslims.

Why is it safe to assume that the cleric's religious beliefs more accurately reflect the views of the populace?

One assumes the same cleric is whom the populace turns to for religious guidance. I don't know many people who turn to kidnappers for religious guidance.

Why do you believe the kidnappers have merely political goals? That isn't what they seem to say.

I believe ultimately what's happening in Iraq is a power grap. Period. Poor and frightened populations will look to God during times of crisis, so I don't doubt the Iraqis are subject to all kinds of suggestions that play off their sense that God will protect them by those trying to grab power. In the mix, undoubtedly, you'll hear insurgents rallying the poor to the barricades via religion, but you don't hear Sistani supporting the violence. He stands to gain the most from a religious struggle. I don't think it is one.

The article you quote says:

"There have been tit-for-tat killings of Shiite and Sunni clerics in the past year, widely believed to be motivated by sectarian sentiments. However, the embattled police never thoroughly investigate such murders."

Sebastian: suppose, arguendo (I love using that word), that the cleric was killed by Muslim religious fanatics. It wouldn't follow that a large number of Muslims shared their views. Compare: a lot of doctors have given up performing abortions because they are afraid to. This is not because most Christians, or even a significant minority of them, think that killing doctors who perform abortions is justifiable, or even that harassing those doctors and their families is justifiable. Most Christians obviously don't think this, even if they do think that abortion is wrong. Unfortunately, it doesn't take all that many to scare people off.

OK, here's what I understand. Not being there, it's hard to swear it's true:

1. The kidnappers are trying to shake the US will, so they can pursue their power grab unhindered.

2. Coincedentally, (it is a 3-dimensional place, Iraq), clerics are targets of sectarian battles.

3. Some clerics (e.g., those in IAMS) are condemning the kidnappings (see #1) as sins/crimes.

4. Those clerics (see #3) are being assassinated by the kidnappers in relatiation for their condemnations.

5. The cleris in #2 may or may not fall into the same category as those in #3.

"Sebastian: suppose, arguendo (I love using that word), that the cleric was killed by Muslim religious fanatics. It wouldn't follow that a large number of Muslims shared their views."

By follow you mean an 'inevitable logical relation', right? Of course it doesn't inevitably follow, this isn't purely a logic puzzle. But if a large (albeit minority) of Muslims shared the fundamentalist view of the killers, it would explain why the worry that there are so many 'potential terrorists' just waiting to be stirred up by the evils of US action.

Bad things have happened to all sorts of people all over the world. Most cultures do not produce a large number of terrorists. The Middle East produces a fairly large number of two types of terrorists--religious terrorists (Al-Qaeda) and secular terrorists (Arafat and his ilk). That suggests that there might be something going on there other than a response to cultural suffering. Tibet has suffered far more than Palestine yet you don't see supporters of Tibet taking over airplanes and crashing them into the Forbidden City. Christians in China have suffered far more than Muslims in Indonesia, yet where do you find huge terrorists groups? I'm not blaming the religion of Islam, but I am suggesting that there is something going on in a large but hopefully minority sects of Islam that allows them to do things that we think are awful. It may or may not be related to the fact that Middle Eastern cultures seem ok with secular terrorists like Arafat. But it seems worth looking in to.

I posit that fundamentalist Muslims in the Middle East who are willing to support jihad against the West are a much large percentage of the whole than fundamentalist Christians who would support vigilante executions against abortionists. I suspect that is true because the number of Muslim clerics willing to openly preach in favor of jihad against the West is quite numerous, while the number of Christian ministers willing to openly preach in favor of murdering abortionists is quite close to zero (and I only don't state 'zero' because I'm sure there must be at least one crazy minister out there). The problem is one of religious culture. An American minister who openly preached that would be shouted down. The jihadist cleric has no such worry.

I posit that fundamentalist Muslims in the Middle East who are willing to support jihad against the West are a much large percentage of the whole than fundamentalist Christians who would support vigilante executions against abortionists.

Define "jihad against the West." It a large nebulous term with potentially many different levels/degrees. Preferably balance out your comparison with similarly detailed examples please. Support for execution of abortionist vs. support for ???

"1. The kidnappers are trying to shake the US will, so they can pursue their power grab unhindered.

2. Coincedentally, (it is a 3-dimensional place, Iraq), clerics are targets of sectarian battles.

3. Some clerics (e.g., those in IAMS) are condemning the kidnappings (see #1) as sins/crimes."

Also, I'm not sure that 'coincedentally' can be correctly applied here. On #1 the want to pursue their power grab unhindered. But there power grab is related to sectarian battles. That makes #2 not coincidental but rather a directly related fact.

"Support for execution of abortionist vs. support for ???"

Support for execution of abortionist nearly non existant.

Support for suicide bombings--wildly popular.

Any questions?

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