I found a blog post entitled Moderate in the Extreme, which, in turn links to an article at Christian Science Monitor entitled Why I am not a moderate Muslim (I linked here to the print version, the Muslim Matters link is to the HTML version -- in case that is significant).
If I understand this correctly, the key point seems to be summed up here:
The term moderate Muslim is actually a redundancy. In the Islamic tradition, the concept of the "middle way" is central. Muslims believe that Islam is a path of intrinsic moderation, wasatiyya. This concept is the namesake of a British Muslim grass-roots organization, the Radical Middle Way. It is an initiative to counter Islam's violent reputation with factual scholarship.
This was demonstrated through a day-long conference that the organization sponsored in February. The best speaker of the night was Abdallah bin Bayyah, an elderly Mauritanian sheikh dressed all in traditional white Arab garb, offset by a long gray beard.
The words coming out of the sheikh's mouth – all in Arabic – were remarkably progressive. He confronted inaccurate assumptions about Islam, spoke of tolerance, and told fellow Muslims an unpleasant truth: "Perhaps much of this current crisis springs from us," he said, kindly admonishing them. He chastised Muslims for inadequately explaining their beliefs, thereby letting other, illiberal voices speak for them.
I was shocked by his blunt though nuanced analysis, given his traditional, religious appearance. And then I was troubled by my shock. To what extent had I, a hijabi Muslim woman studying Middle Eastern/Islamic studies, internalized the untruthful representations of my own fellow Muslims? For far too long, I had been fed a false snapshot of what Islamic orthodoxy really means.
The sheikh continued, challenging Mr. bin Laden's violent interpretation of jihad, citing Koranic verses and prophetic narrations. He referred to jihad as any "good action" and recounted a recent conversation with a non-Muslim lawyer who asked if electing a respectable official would be considered jihad. The sheikh answered "yes" because voting for someone who supports the truth and upholds justice is a good action.
The sheikh, not bin Laden, is a depiction of true Islamic orthodoxy. The sheikh, not bin Laden, is the man trained in Islamic jurisprudence. The sheikh, not bin Laden, is the authentic religious scholar. But to call him a moderate Muslim would be a misnomer.
Please go to the links provided and read for yourselves what these people have to say. I think their message is one that needs to get out.
The viewpoint expressed in the passage that I cited is very interesting. It is a viewpoint that I very much respect -- very much! -- but one that I also disagree with.
The Koran, for anyone who is not aware, is put together in a way that I consider to be rather strange: With the exception of the first Sura ("chapter"), which is rather short, generally the longest "chapters" are first, and the shortest ones are last. I would expect a book like that to be organized historically, perhaps, with the earliest "chapters" first and the latest ones last. The latter is not the case, as the early chapters, when Mohammad (and I truly do wish Mohammad peace) was at Mecca, are scattered throughout, and the later chapters, when Mohammad was at Medina, are scattered throughout.
Consequently, I began reading the Koran, and thus began with the longest chapters first. Some of those chapters were written at the beginning of Mohammad's career, and some were written at the end of his career.
I must comment here that to properly understand the Koran, one is advised to read the traditions recounted in the ahadith (plural of hadith), which seem to provide background to what the Koran means by offering historical glimpses of how Mohammad lived.
(Those of you who know more about this than I do, or who are able to explain it better, feel free to leave a comment that will be greatly appreciated!)
Admittedly, I have not read all of the Koran, and only a tiny fraction of the volumes of ahadith.
However, I am most emphatically not "cherry-picking" verses and passages to read. I am taking them as they come.
My impression is that Islam is a belief system that lends itself to violent interpretation.
I believe the point that is made in the passage I quoted above and in the links is that such a violent interpretation is a perversion.
I am not going to argue in this post whether or not such a violent interpretation is a perversion; instead, the point I am making here is one that I have made elsewhere in this blog. Regardless of whether or not a violent interpretation is the correct interpretation, a violent and intolerant interpretation is very much the interpretation that is being propagated by powerful circles in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Those powerful circles are very well-funded with the world's petrodollars.
If forty percent of the world's known oil reserves were under Mauritania, instead of under Saudi Arabia, then the interpretation of Islam held by the sheikh mentioned in the quote would be the one getting the funding and getting spread.
That, however, is not the case. Radicalized Wahhabism has the backing of the petrodollars, bin Laden is the billionaire, not bin Bayyah, and the world faces on onslaught of Islamic conquest.
Make no mistake about it: If bin Laden, the radicalized Wahhabis, and the other Khawarij get their way, bin Bayyah will be takfir, and will suffer a fate perhaps worse than that of us kuffar.
Since MuslimMatters.org puts forth a view of Islam, I will link to them under "Islam: You Decide". Maybe I should link to them under "Islam as Seen by Apostates and Infidels", like I did to Tariq Nelson. Maybe I should put Tariq Nelson under "Islam: You Decide". I don't know.
This much I do know: To stop Islamic conquest, the civilized world needs to offer the Khawarij terrorists two choices: 1) renounce terrorism and violence, and live peacefully, or 2) die.
And if the terrorists refuse to live peacefully, then they need to die violently.