It’s often said that the vast majority of Muslims are moderate. But as the newspapers like to remind us about other matters, this is asserted “without any evidence.” In fact, what evidence we do have suggests that it’s a dubious proposition.
Where, exactly, do all these moderate Muslims live?
Would it be in Chechnya where authorities have set up concentration camps for gays? And where 800,000 Muslims rallied in 2015 to protest the Charlie Hebdo Muhammad cartoons? Try to get that many Muslims together for an anti-ISIS rally.
Would it be in Pakistan where 100,000 turned out for the funeral of an assassin? The assassin had murdered an official who had called for an end to the blasphemy laws. Numerous Islamist groups warned people not to attend the official’s funeral or even to pray for his soul.
Would it be in Saudi Arabia where amputations are conducted on a regular basis in public squares and where public beheadings are not uncommon? The last time that something like that happened in the West was during the French Revolution.
How about the West Bank? In the West Bank, streets, parks, squares, and schools are named after “martyrs” who are honored for having killed Jewish men, women, and children. In the West Bank, it’s considered cute to dress up three-year-olds in suicide bomb belts. Meanwhile, in schools and on government-run television, children are taught that killing Jews is life’s highest calling.
Maybe Morocco? The home of Casablanca and Rick’s Café? Sorry. An ADL global survey found that 80 percent of Moroccans harbor anti-Semitic views. Which isn’t that bad when you compare it with Algeria (87 percent) and Iraq (92 percent).
Could the blessed land of moderation be Afghanistan? Only if you discount the tradition of child marriage and the popular form of entertainment called “bacha bazi.” The bacha bazi are teen and preteen boys who are dressed as girls, forced to dance for men, and are then passed around for sexual purposes. As for government, the hardline Taliban who once ruled Afghanistan are likely to rule it again. They can hardly be considered moderates. On the other hand, they did try to do away with the custom of bacha bazi.
Egypt? There must be moderates in Egypt. Well, yes, there are. Egypt’s leader, President el-Sisi, has called for a reformation of Islam, and there are others of like mind. On the other hand, a 2013 Pew public opinion poll of Egyptians found that 70 percent supported whipping and amputation for thieves, 81 percent supported stoning of adulterers, and 86 percent supported the death penalty for apostates. President El-Sisi has his work cut out for him.
Turkey? For many decades, Turkey was indeed a more moderate Muslim nation. The burqa was banned and the imams were put in their place. Turkey’s current president, however, Recep Erdogan, seems determined to recreate the Ottoman caliphate in Turkey. He has, for example, built a 1,100-room palace for himself complete with guards in Ottoman-era uniforms. Recently, he has threatened to flood Europe with hundreds of thousands of Muslim refugees.
How about Iran? In Iran, large crowds led by Iranian officials regularly congregate to call for “Death to Israel” and “Death to America.” A great many Iranians, including all of the leadership, are awaiting the return of the Twelfth Imam, who disappeared in the ninth century and is believed to exist in an occult state. It is widely believed that the “Mahdi” can only be awakened from his trance by cataclysmic events. Which may be one of the reasons the Iranian leaders are so anxious to acquire nuclear weapons.
Indonesia? Barack Obama has fond memories of his schooldays in once moderate Indonesia. But times change. According to a Gatestone Institute report, Indonesia is waging jihad on Christian churches. Mobs of Muslims – sometimes several hundred strong – frequently attack and burn churches. In many cases, the police are complicit, and instead of arresting perpetrators, local authorities call for the demolition of more churches. Meanwhile, Islamic leaders issue text messages saying: “We will not stop hunting Christians and burning churches. Christians are Allah’s enemies!”
Iran? Syria? Libya? Somalia? Yemen? Where do the supposedly vast majority of moderate Muslims reside? Or do they reside only in the imaginations of hopeful Westerners?
Perhaps what people really mean when they say that the vast majority of Muslims are moderate is that the vast majority are non-violent. Like most people everywhere, most Muslims, one supposes, would prefer to go about their daily business rather than get involved in the bloody business of attacking and killing people and possibly being killed in the process. But this natural human propensity to avoid risky behavior should not be confused with moderation.
Moreover, the general inclination toward extremist beliefs and practices in Muslim societies makes it more likely that Muslims will turn violent when the time and circumstances are right. It’s a good bet that the individuals who make up the mobs of church-burners in Indonesia spend the majority of their lives in non-violent pursuits. They are peaceful until they are not.
It’s worth remembering that there have been numerous instances where once-friendly Muslims turned against their Christian neighbors in Indonesia, Syria, and Iraq once it became safe to do so.
The notion that the vast majority of Muslims are moderate needs to be taken with a grain of salt. It’s not based on any evidence and it creates a host of unrealistic expectations. Most of all, it leaves us unprepared for those times when, in obedience to their faith, once “moderate” Muslims turn immoderate.