Friday, June 30, 2006

europe and the muslims

I was struck by this line in Christopher Caldwell's essay in the Times Magazine After Londonistan. It seems to me to go to the heart of the problem of defining what constitutes a "moderate Muslim". Is it someone who only disavows the means but not the ends of the radicals, the ones who succumb to calls for jihad? Or is it someone who disagrees with the extremists on the means as well as the ends? And if yes, the latter, then how much can they help in maintaining law and order, an important goal in its own right?
Strident political voices are not just admitted to conversation — they are the preferred voices, because they are seen as more "authentic." If the government's top priority is finding people with the street credibility to dissuade potential terrorists, then the ideal Muslim interlocutor is someone who shares the terrorists' goals while publicly condemning their means. Standing up for Holocaust victims and for fellowship among Britain's peoples is not much of a credential.
The question remains: what ends do most Muslims sympathize with generally? And the answers are not very helpful either:
Shariah does not quite command majority support among British Muslims. A poll in February in The Daily Telegraph showed that 40 percent of British Muslims favor the establishment of Islamic law — but only piecemeal, and under certain circumstances. Even in heavily Muslim neighborhoods, there is no great public clamor to ban alcohol — usually a telltale sign of pro-Shariah agitation. And Britain's relaxed laws regarding religious dress — more akin to the American model than to the French — have allowed it to avoid the controversies over the Muslim headscarf that have roiled the rest of Europe. But Mustafa's other claim — that the vast majority of citizens in heavily Muslim Whitechapel sympathize viscerally and overwhelmingly with the radical position on Israel and, more generally, on foreign policy — must be faced squarely. For Mustafa is unquestionably correct.
More reads: An essay in Foreign Affairs. Also this essay on Hamdan Vs Rumsfield which appeared a while ago. What a difference it makes, now that the Supreme Court has made its decision.

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