Moderate Islam? Toward a Litmus Test

Since the terror attacks in New York & Washington on September 11, 2001, we have been told repeatedly that Islam is a religion of peace. We have been told that the terrorists who attacked us on that day, and those of the same ilk who have attacked US & Western interests & allies since that time, are not representatives of true Islam, but participants in a perverse, twisted version of that great religion.

I want to believe this, I truly do.  But I’m starting to have doubts.

A historical analogy: In the mid 20th century, there were Southern whites who hated what the Ku Klux Klan did.  They hated the lynchings and bloodshed. But did they want to see segregation end, or equal rights for all races?  Did they want this outcome badly enough to act upon it, to take risks in furthering its cause?

They did not. This is the group that Martin Luther King Jr. takes to task in his Letter from Birmingham Jail. They opposed to the methods of violent segregationists, but passively accepted the segregationists’ goals.  Moderation equalled acquiescence.

I fear that the moderate Muslims we have been told to picture, waiting around the world to support the forces of pluralism and liberal democracy from the West, are in the end the same group that Dr. King took to task in Letter.

I fear that these moderate Muslims oppose ISIS and Al Qaeda, not because they disagree with the goals of a worldwide caliphate or support religious pluralism and the right of the individual to religious self determination, but because they don’t like the means the militant groups employ.  

Televised beheadings & suicide bombings are repugnant to them, to be sure. But so is a cafe advertising bacon on its sandwiches, or newspapers visually portraying Mohammed, or speech that insults Islam, or daughters that shame their families by dressing Western, or family members who leave Islam and convert to another religion. To quote Paul Harvey: “It is NOT one world.”

Maybe I’m wrong. I’d love to be wrong.

Can Islam be part of a pluralistic society, where the ideal is for all religions to be protected or not protected equally?

I think it can. 

Assuming it’s people want it to. 

I just fear that they don’t. Not enough of them, anyway. Please convince me otherwise. 


This past week, the great Jonah Goldberg wrote something like this: “Isn’t it time we quit trying to convince Muslims that the majority of them are moderate, and let the majority of Muslims convince us of how moderate they are?”

To that end, I offer the following set up affirmations. Perhaps these (or a similar set of affirmations) could serve as a litmus test for determining whether a Muslim is truly moderate.

A moderate Muslim should affirm that:

1. The intentional, direct killing of non-combatants is categorically unjustifiable & unacceptable.

2. The use of human shields to “protect” (or propagandize, post-retaliation) weapons, mortar sites, launch sites, ammo dumps, etc., is categorically unjustifiable & unacceptable.

3. National & local governments should be pluralistic, not favoring or protecting any one religious group over another. 

4. Laws cannot penalize, by imprisonment or confiscation, or the threat thereof, any religious group for its existence or for differing from the majority. 

5. Individuals have the inalienable right to choose their own religion, including converting away from the religion of their family & upbringing, without fear of legal repercussions. Government will use its power to protect this right.

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