August 13, 2012, Jeanette Pryor Blog
Last night I began to read A Battle for the Soul of Islam by Zuhdi Jasser, a physician who founded the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. Jasser, a physician and former U.S. Naval officer, brings a great deal of clarity to a very sensitive and sometimes confusing question, the distinctions between Radical political and Moderate spiritual Islam.
There are many excellent books and documentaries about the real threat we face from Radical Islam including The Third Jihad, a film Dr. Jasser narrates, that exposes the systematic objectives of the Muslim Brotherhood for the radicalization of Islam in America. Jasser’s greatest contribution might be his clarifications concerning Moderate Islam.
Daily experience clearly shows a differentiation between radical and normal Muslims; those who seek to impose Sharia upon others through violence and those who go about their own lives without a desire to force this conviction upon anyone.
I had, before reading Battle, adopted too academic an understanding of this question. Many books about Radical Islam and Antisemitism in the Muslim world pore over the original texts and history of Mohammad’s life to document their essentially militaristic proselytism and misogyny.
Reading Jasser’s book and watching the Third Jihad, I realized that it is very easy, as it was for me in the past, to consider this in too academic a fashion. Authors I read concluded that since Islam appeared to be essentially violent or essentially political, then those Muslims who lived a purely spiritual form of Islam were not really Muslims, simply interpreting the faith to suit their own needs.
Even if all the scholarship in the world demonstrated that Islam has been more frequently interpreted in a legalistic or literal manner, it is not the texts or even the life of Mohammad that determine how Islam is lived, but the individuals who embrace it. You cannot, as I formerly and erroneously did, conclude that because texts and history are being used to support violence, there is no such thing as Moderate Islam. Just because exegetes can demonstrate the legitimacy of a radical interpretation of Islam, this cannot mean that Islam is itself a necessarily radicalizing philosophy since so many, like Jasser, find in Islam the inspiration for a life of service to others and respect for their fellow-man.
Jasser’s book implores fellow Muslims not to give the narrative of their faith to the terrorists or the academics, but to become the voice of the non-politicized true Moderate Islam that is lived everyday in the real world. In Battle for the Soul of Islam, the author advocates a form of Islam that would be a social organizing principle implemented through force. Since he rejects the idea and practices that enslave women to men or permit abuse, Zuhdi retains the humanitarian and charitable exhortations in the texts of his faith. This personal and non-coercive form of Islam, he states, is precisely what is meant by Muslims who consider themselves to be “moderate.”
Jasser speaks of “separation of mosque and state” as the defining element of moderate Islam, the forgoing of any attempt to use the government to promote the imposition of Sharia on others. This is profoundly different from Radical Muslims who dream of precisely that, to have all freedoms denied to those who do not wish to live according to Sharia. Because Jasser sees the daily machinations of political Islam in our country to slowly bend our laws to the process of social Islamization, he calls on fellow-Muslims who do not want this form of Islam to gain control of the public space.
Human beings and our ideas are complex, not easily reduced to definitions or clear-cut categorizing. I owe a great debt of gratitude to Dr. Jasser for his work because I have a better understanding of Muslims who do not wish to live a literal form of Islam and respect for the subjective desire they have to live a peaceful version of their faith.