Moderate Islam

Here's a summary of the key demand from a largely peaceful demonstration in London:

"Their freedom of speech should be restricted because it hurts our religion. At the end of the day everyone needs to respect others' religions. And we should strive for peace."

This is the voice of moderate Islam, and it's important to listen. The great problem we have is that an essentially fundamentalist faith, which resists the capacity for internal dialogue, which refuses to subject its holiest texts to dispassionate scholarship, which regulates all aspects of human life very aggressively, and which aims at the submission of other religions - this faith now has to reconcile itself with a Western world long since accustomed to complete intellectual freedom, brutal satire, free-wheeling debate and secular government. To make matters worse, at the same time, we have even more extreme versions of the same faith - the Islamists and their terrorist allies - who eagerly take advantage of the polarization and alienation that already affects many Western Muslims. If we defend our freedoms, we risk pushing the moderates into the hands of the extremists. If we sacrifice our freedoms a little, we legitimize the very arguments that make theocracy possible, and invite the terrorists to push for more.

Leave aside the issue of mob violence for a moment. No moderate Muslim or "sensitive" Westerner is defending that. What of the non-violent request: that one faith be granted its taboos, that Western culture must abide by them, that the law be reformed to protect religious faiths from blasphemy or offense? It seems to me that we should indeed avoid gratuitous insult of Islam, and Christianity, or any faith. But it is a complete delusion to believe that the major source of our problem today is something called "Islamophobia." No: the problem is terrorism and tyranny propagated under the banner of Islam. Without that, no Danish cartoon could have been conceived of, let alone published. That is the real and far more blatant blasphemy. If 10,000 angry Muslims had marched in London after the bombing of a major mosque in Iraq, I'd be impressed. But they didn't. Until they do, the West has nothing to apologize for. The Muslim world needs to take the beam out of its own eye, before it removes the speck from the West's.