Quantcast

«

»

May 01 2013

Why Moderate Muslims Matter

William Saletan makes a point that I have been making for years, which is that in our fight to remain safe from the attacks of Muslim extremists, our most important allies are moderate Muslims (who are often at as much risk from such attacks as we are).

A few days ago, Canadian police arrested two Muslim men for plotting an attack on a passenger train. The crucial player in the story was an imam in Toronto. The imam wasn’t a conspirator. He was an informant. According to a local attorney, the imam had noticed one of the men trying “to approach young Muslims” with extremist propaganda. Through the attorney, the imam alerted the authorities. They investigated the extremist and foiled the plot.

This happens a lot. After all, the best place to pick up early warning signs of Islamic terror attacks is in Muslim communities. That’s where jihadists do their recruiting. And Muslim parents don’t want their kids to be lured into jihadist violence, any more than you’d want your kids ensnared by a cult or gang. The people who are initially threatened by terrorists, and who are best positioned to catch them before they strike, are Muslims. We need their help. And we’re getting it.

The New America Foundation, in conjunction with Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Public Policy, keeps a running tally of post-9/11 cases in which Muslims have tipped off the government to terror plots. So does the Muslim Public Affairs Council. The MPAC list includes more than 20 cases. The NAF list has more than 40. Look through the cases, and you’ll see every kind of story. The wife who catches her husband shopping for military gear. The father who tells the Department of Homeland Security that his son is becoming dangerously radical. The mosque leaders who report a worshiper’s threatening behavior to the FBI.

The informers take risks. “I cannot give you my name because I fear for my life,” one writes. But they come forwardagain and again and again and again. They even contact the FBI when the suspicious character is its own planted impostor.

And that doesn’t count the thousands of Muslims who work daily with the FBI, CIA, NSA and military as translators, analysts and infiltrators. That’s why demonizing all Muslims is not just wrong but dangerous. We need them, badly.

15 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    Marcus Ranum

    Isn’t that a generic? The way to counter extremes is for the moderates to (literally) marginalize them. Extremists rely on disproportionate attention.

  2. 2
    democommie

    When a moderate moozlim comes to the bargainin’ table he’ll be eatin’ pork rinds, drinkin’ a Cap’n&Coke Slurpee, wearin’ a suede leisure suit and ridin’ a rainbow colored unicorn that poops Peacity Nuggetz (TM) for all!

    At least that’s what I read somewhere’s on the intertoobz.

  3. 3
    Bronze Dog

    Reminds me of one case years back where an FBI agent was trying to infiltrate an Islamic group to root out extremists. The group called the FBI, warning them about this new guy who was spouting alarmingly extremist rhetoric and looking for other extremists.

  4. 4
    Geds

    Marcus Ranum @1: Isn’t that a generic? The way to counter extremes is for the moderates to (literally) marginalize them. Extremists rely on disproportionate attention.

    I try to make this point on a regular basis to the crowd that lumps liberal Christians in with Westboro Baptist and the Taliban. There are people of good faith on the religious side and by saying that they’re just as bad as the extremists and it’s their fault the extremists exist is both wrong and a great way of making an enemy out of a potential ally.

    Moreover, the extremists generally hate the moderates of their own religion as much as, if not more than they hate their enemies. They will gladly go after the moderates given the chance and if there were not atheists/agnostics/nones tomorrow then the extremists will start eating their supposed co-religionists. Atheists represents an black and white enemy Other to them that can always be countered. Moderates represent an existential threat, a wolf in sheep’s clothing if you will. Someone who can hold and defend Belief X without turning it into a call for forever war on the culture front and get along and find common cause with those who don’t hold Belief X is extremely dangerous to someone who thinks that holding Belief X must mean holding Attitudes Y and Z and Behaviors A and B and you are either exactly like us or you are of the Devil.

    It’s pretty simple, really. It just requires a bit less tribalism.

  5. 5
    d.c.wilson

    Imagine what would happen if the life of some bigot like Pam Geller was saved through the actions of a moderate Muslim. Would she change her stance or accuse her benefactor of being part of the plot?

  6. 6
    tommykey

    Whenever I read the comments thread of any article that has to do with Muslims, they are filled with rants of “They all want to kill us!” or some variant of that theme.

    I detest Muslim fundamentalists and extremists as much as anyone else, but it is also my observation that the majority of Muslims in America are like the rest of us, they want to earn a decent living, raise a family, enjoy the right to worship the religion of their choice and all that. But according to paranoid wingnuts, they’re all sleeper agents just waiting for the right moment to murder us and impose a Muslim theocracy on the country.

  7. 7
    democommie

    @tommykey:

    I suspect that most muslims are like most christians, most other religionists and most non-believers in wanting to live their lives and be left to it. Having said that, if the muslims of today were the blessedly batshit to the degree of fundies in the U.S. we would be having a major war of some sort right NOW.

  8. 8
    vicarofartonearth

    And we have witnessed over the last fifteen years how well moderate Christians have curbed the followers of right wing Jesus. Why does the left have this myth that moderate religious people can keep their fellow fanatics in check. Has it ever worked?

  9. 9
    Chiroptera

    vicarofartonearth, #8: Why does the left have this myth that moderate religious people can keep their fellow fanatics in check.

    The only ones I’ve ever noticed who want the “moderates” to keep “their fellow fanatics in check” are the ones who want to lump the “moderates” and the “fanatics” in one big group of evil.

    What most on the left are saying is that individuals should be judged by their own individual actions. Moderates should be judged by how well they are willing to live in civil society and play by constitutional democratic rules, not by what the fanatics do, just like the more extreme parts of the religion shouldn’t be excused because there are decent people living according to the more reasonable moderate portion.

  10. 10
    iangould

    So, basically, Ed, we should refuse to vilify moderate Muslims for purely utilitarian reasons and not because it’s a shitty thign to do.

  11. 11
    tfkreference

    Yes, that’s the only reason. We should also wear only black or white – no shades of gray.

  12. 12
    Raging Bee

    Why does the left have this myth that moderate religious people can keep their fellow fanatics in check. Has it ever worked?

    Well, Ed just gave us a number of cases of it working. See also: Kitzmiller vs. Dover and a truckload of other freedom-of-religion cases brought by Christian plaintiffs against Christian bigots. See also: all the people who voted for Obama. You think we’re all atheists?

  13. 13
    Gretchen

    So, basically, Ed, we should refuse to vilify moderate Muslims for purely utilitarian reasons and not because it’s a shitty thign to do.

    That’s why demonizing all Muslims is not just wrong

    Reading. It’s a gift.

  14. 14
    birgerjohansson

    Bronze Dog,
    Isn’t there a century-old novel by Chesterton*, The Man Who Was Saturday or something. Everybody turn out to be agents.
    *the guy who wrote about Father Brown.

  15. 15
    =8)-DX

    Yeah I remember that one birgerjohansson. I also seem to remember it had a surreal grayish feeling and a bus, but that’s about as far as my memory goes =).

Leave a Reply

Switch to our mobile site