Ronald J. Granieri contra Geert Wilders on Islam
I receive regular E-Notes from the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI), and since I am interested in Islam and Islamism, I was glad to receive an article by Ronald J. Granieri, "More Faith, Less Fear: Islam, Islamism, and the Future of the West" (August 2014), for based on a couple of previous articles I've blogged on, I expected a careful analysis on why the Dutch politician Geert Wilders is wrong about Islam, but I found Granieri's argument rather less than careful, as the following shows:
First and most obviously [concerning Geert Wilders' errors] is his characterization of Islam, which he claims is not a religion but a "political ideology," which he compares to Nazism and Communism. "Therefore, there is no such a thing as moderate Islam," he declares. "Sure, there are a lot of moderate Muslims. But a moderate Islam is non-existent." This simplistic assumption is flat out wrong. The vast majority of Muslims in Europe, just as the vast majority of Muslims in the world, are not intolerant Islamist radicals. Most of them are hard-working people with families who are simply trying to make their way in the world. That Wilders feels it necessary to characterize a religious community that has existed for 1500 years and that includes hundreds of millions of peaceful people who have never threatened anybody (Indonesia, for example, is the world's largest Muslim country, and currently threatens no one) as a relentless enemy of humanity, and that he wants to dismiss it as merely an ideology is the most stereotypical form of cultural arrogance and short-sightedness. Wilders even gets the basic definition of Islam wrong. He correctly identifies it as "submission" but the context he makes it seem as though that submission is of a political form, when actually what Islam is about is submission to God and God's laws. I know of no monotheistic religion that does not basically expect the same thing of its believers. It's also false to assume that there is no disagreement among Muslims about the practice of the faith, considering that most of ISIS's victims are fellow Muslims who do not happen to measure up to ISIS's particularly stringent dogma.Whether Wilders is right or wrong - and I disagree with Wilders' claim that Islam is not a religion - Granieri's argument above is so fundamentally flawed that any reader should be able to spot it immediately. Granieri quotes Wilders as saying that "Sure, there are a lot of moderate Muslims. But a moderate Islam is non-existent." Granieri says that this is "flat out wrong" and adds, "The vast majority of Muslims . . . are not intolerant Islamist radicals." But this misses Wilders' distinction between "moderate Muslims" and immoderate Islam.
What Granieri needs to demonstrate is that Islam is not immoderate. I think that Granieri intends to make this point by his remark that every monotheistic religion expects "submission to God and God's laws," but what he ignores is that submission to God differs in the various monotheisms, and he neglects to tell us what Islam considers God's laws to be. In Islam, God's laws are codified as sharia, and when I look closely at Islam's system of laws - including the rules governing warfare - I find much that is hardly moderate.
I thus found Granieri's article less than satisfying.