“Moderate Muslim”

Indirectly via Unmedia, I found Daniel Pipes’s definition of a “moderate Muslim.”

Violence : Do you condone or condemn the Palestinians, Chechens, and Kashmiris who give up their lives to kill enemy civilians? Will you condemn by name as terrorist groups such organizations as Abu Sayyaf, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, Groupe islamique armee, Hamas, Harakat ul-Mujahidin, Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, and Al-Qaeda?

Sure, I have no problem condemning them. But, Mr.Pipes, would you acknowledge that Palestine, Chechnya and Kashmir issues are about more than just terrorism?

Modernity : Should Muslim women have equal rights with men (for example, in inheritance shares or court testimony)?

Why not? In fact, all women, regardless of religion or ethnicity, should have equal rights, regardless of the specific right, with men. Do you agree? Muslims definitely have a lot of problems in this area, but the problems are not confined to Muslims. Should we designate everyone, of any religion or ethnicity, who does not believe in equality as extremist? I think we should.

Is jihad, meaning a form of warfare, acceptable in today’s world?

In my opinion, it is the rare war that is right. Most wars are unjust and result in killing lots of people but without any redeeming value. Is jihad as a defensive war ok? If not, are you a pacifist? I am not a pacifist, but I abhor war. If other defensive wars are allowed, then why not a Muslim one (unless one is a pacifist, a position I respect)?

Do you accept the validity of other religions?

I accept all religions and none. How many Americans accept the validity of atheism or of Islam? Are those people extremists? What is meant by validity? Meriam-Webster defines “valid” as:

  1. : having legal efficacy or force; especially : executed with the proper legal authority and formalities <a valid contract>
  2. a : well-grounded or justifiable : being at once relevant and meaningful <a valid theory> b : logically correct <a valid argument> <valid inference>
  3. : appropriate to the end in view : EFFECTIVE <every craft has its own valid methods>
  4. of a taxon : conforming to accepted principles of sound biological classification

Which meaning is he referring to? How many religious people accept another faith as “well-grounded or justifiable” or “logically correct”?

Do Muslims have anything to learn from the West?

Yes. Everyone has something to learn from another. I am doing a Ph.D. here after all, ain’t I?

Secularism : Should non-Muslims enjoy completely equal civil rights with Muslims?


May Muslims convert to other religions?

Go for it. As an aside, I knew more atheists in Pakistan than I do in the US.

May Muslim women marry non-Muslim men?

Who am I to decide who a woman can or cannot marry? Mr.Pipes, if your daughter wanted to marry a Muslim guy, would you be ok with it?

Do you accept the laws of a majority non-Muslim government and unreservedly pledge allegiance to that government?

I accept laws everywhere. Regarding pledging allegiance, don’t all naturalized Muslim citizens have to do that when they became citizens? No born citizen is required to explicitly pledge allegiance. Why should it be any different for Muslims? Mr.Pipes, didn’t you just say something about equal civil rights for Muslims and non-Muslims (I hate that word)?

Should the state impose religious observance, such as banning food service during Ramadan?


When Islamic customs conflict with secular laws (e.g., covering the face for drivers’ license pictures), which should give way?

Same as when a Christian’s (or anyone else’s) beliefs conflict with state laws. Mr.Pipes, you would do well to read some legal history as you would find out that non-photo driver’s license cases started with Christians. And while I think Sultana Freeman was wrong in her interpretation, she still has both a right to her interpretation and a right to go to court.

Islamic pluralism : Are Sufis and Shi’ites fully legitimate Muslims?

Yes. What about Ahmedis or Nation of Islam? I think self-identification is the way to go. If Mr.Pipes says he’s a Muslim, I’ll accept his statement. Do all religions do that? Are Mormons Christians?

Do you see Muslims who disagree with you as having fallen into unbelief? Is takfir (condemning fellow Muslims one has disagreements with as unbelievers) an acceptable practice?

There are a billion Muslims in the world and 2 billion disagree with me. So obviously I can’t excommunicate them.

Self-criticism : Do you accept the legitimacy of scholarly inquiry into the origins of Islam?

Go ahead. I look forward to reading scholarly, non-polemical work in this area. And Mr.Pipes, what you do is definitely not scholarship.

Who was responsible for the 9/11 suicide hijackings?

According to all current evidence, Al-Qaeda was responsible. But the burning question is that was Kennedy killed because of UFOs? (via tm on Ideofact.)

Defense against militant Islam : Do you accept enhanced security measures to fight militant Islam, even if this means extra scrutiny of yourself (for example, at airline security)?

I thought you said something about equal civil rights for all, Mr.Pipes?

Do you agree that institutions accused of funding terrorism should be shut down, or do you see this a symptom of bias?

Accused? Or convicted? Accusations can be false, you know. Innocent until proven guilty and all that.

Goals in the West : Do you accept that Western countries are majority-Christian and secular or do you seek to transform them into majority-Muslim countries ruled by Islamic law?

I don’t particularly like the fact that the US is majority Christian. If it were up to me, I would convert everyone to agnosticism and atheism. Would you like that, Mr.Pipes? On the other hand, I don’t particularly care for anyone’s religion, so I respect your choice of religion.

And don’t some Christians want to run the US according to Christian morals or rules? Are they extremists too?

And while we are on the subject of religion, I live with three other guys: One each from the US, France and Iran. I am originally from Pakistan myself. Guess who is the only religious one in our apartment? A very nice and reasonable fellow, by the way.

It is ideal if these questions are posed publicly – in the media or in front of an audience – thereby reducing the scope for dissimulation.

I have publicly answered your questions, Mr.Pipes. Regarding dissimulation, I don’t believe in it and I don’t practise it. If you had done your research, you would know that dissimulation in the Middle East (and probably elsewhere that I am not familiar with) has been practised by small, persecuted communities or sects.

And for the record, I am not a moderate Muslim, whatever that means. I am a secular Muslim.

By Zack

Dad, gadget guy, bookworm, political animal, global nomad, cyclist, hiker, tennis player, photographer


  1. Good responses.

    I’ve always thought that “secular Muslim” was kind of a contradiction in terms since being a Muslim is a religious identity. In practice, of course, there are many people who are non-practicing Muslims but for me as a convert, if I became secular or non-practicing, I’m not sure on what basis or how I would continue to identify myself as Muslim. Presumably I would revert to being an agnostic.

    Sorry for going off on such a tangent. The major problem I have with people like Pipes is that they strike me as dishonest, as your response has pointed up.

  2. “…would you acknowledge that Palestine, Chechnya and Kashmir issues are about more than just terrorism?”

    What is the situation in Kashmir about?

    I’ve been wondering about Kashmir ever since I heard an Indian ambassador claim that militants were killing Hindu civilians simply to drive them out leaving a Muslim majority – ie for no other reason than ethnic cleansing…

  3. No, joshua, the Indian government is full of hindunazis and pakistan is a peace loving nation (and our allies).

    Re: Israel – all sharon’s fault. palestinians are peace loving people and it’s those nazi jews fault. palestinians are treated worse by those zionazis than people treated in jordan or syria or Iran or pakistan or Sudan or Nigeria or anywhere else. It’s all bushitler and the ziocon sharon’s fault.

    The amount of people that the zionazi likudite have killed is a lot less than the amoung of muslims Assad killed at Hama, but this annoying fact shouldn’t divert us from our hatred of the zionazi regime and the zioneocons in washington and israel. Daniel pipes is a zioneocon tool. There is no such thing as antisemitism in the muslim community, because all muslims are moderates.
    All those zioneocons stole the palestinian lands

    Daniel Pipes (an orientalist unlike the great edward said or karen armstrong – real scholars who expose the orientalist ziocons) should get off his high horse (funded by zioneocons at AIPAC – a powerful likudist jew-lobby) and start criticising christian extremists like bushitler or the KKK.

    it’s going to be a hard to vote for muslims in 2004 between zioneocon Bush or Howard dean (sharon’s man).

    Damn those hinjoos! why are those hinjoos so violent against the muslim race? it’s those g-d damned hindunazis saffronists/likudists alliances that are so racist against peace loving muslims.

  4. That’s hilarious AJ. Really. Don’t you have some penis enlargements or “money from home” schemes you want to tell us about?

    Mr. (Dr.?) Pipes is a strange one. He talks in such measured tones, and with such intellectual language that sometimes it takes a while to realize he’s often saying the same thing as Pat Robertson. I’m not saying he never makes a good point he often does, but in the next breath he can advocate scary policies with a straight face.

  5. Joshua: Relax and have some patience. Let me celebrate thanksgiving. I’ll reply to you in a post on monday when I get back to school. Right now, I want to enjoy a long weekend with my family.

  6. 1. The amount of people killed by Assad is larger than the combination of those a) palestinians killed by the Israelis b) afghanis killed by Americans c) Iraqis killed by Americans. Collateral damage is not the moral equivalent of deliberate massacre. This should be self evident. It should also be noted that the Kuwaitis booted 500,000 “palestinians” after the first gulf war. It should also be noted that the world doesn’t revolve around Israel. There are ethnic-religious-political tensions all across the world. Israel treats the Palestinians better than several other countries treat their citizens – I’ve mentioned above which other countries.
    2. The Hindu population in postpartition Pakistan and Bangladesh has plummetted. I think we all know why. This tends to bring out the emotion from Indians and specifically Hindus.
    3. Pakistan is a military dictatorship. It is not morally equivalent to India, which is a democracy. Pakistan treats ethnic/religious minorities poorly.
    4. The PLO (and Arafat) was one of the biggest terrorist supporters. They were working closely with communists across the globe during the Cold War. This means that the PLO was not just an enemy of Israel, but also America. The PA and Fatah both have members who are enemies of America.
    5. Pakistan attacked us on 9/11 (ISI). It purged some of its members of Taliban elements during our strike against Afghanistan. Pakistan is sponsoring cross-border terrorism. As some of my fellow Indians bloggers who are pissed about this remind me regularly.
    6. Geopolitical logic dictates that we take a hardline stance against Pakistan if we want to win our so called “war on terror”. Afghanistan is mostly secure, but Pakistan continues to obstruct our progress.

    How do you like that tone? I may go over the top sometimes, but it is driven by the ignorance of those who oppose me – the ones who say that a democracy (India) is the equivalent of a dictatorship (Pakistan).

  7. christ, did unmedia bleed over here or what???

    pipes is obnoxious (he sure has a double-standard when it comes to people disavowing assocations with non-american movements), but that doesn’t mean some of his questions aren’t without redeeming value.

  8. Pakistan is a military dictatorship. It is not morally equivalent to India, which is a democracy. Pakistan treats ethnic/religious minorities poorly.

    Actually states in South Asia treat their minorities pretty poorly; different states have different official positions on this, how it translates into reality is quite different. If states were all so wonderful towards their minorities then none of them in the region would face problematic insurgencies from so many of them.

    As an Indian, I am quite well aware of the differences in living in a democracy or a dictatorship; however democracy everywhere is very much constrained by forces working in the opposite direction and has to constantly struggle to deepen its foundations. It is an unfortunate truth that for all too many at the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid in South Asia, it makes little concrete difference to the harsh reality of their everyday experience, whether they live in a democracy or not. States are not moral actors, therefore to speak of moral hierarchies is incorrect not to mention inaccurate; in this particular context it just turns into a form of one upmanship, so frequently practised by relative advocates of states that have badly let down their own populations in so many ways.

  9. Note, I know nothing about Chechnia either, but I did read the following on http://www.regnumcrucis.blogspot.com recently: …ere underscores the fundamental difference between the Chechen jihadis and legitimate resistance (and Z, I would hold that the same thing is also true in Kashmir). This isn’t about a free and independent Chechnya or being able to have a country of their own, it’s about imposing their interpretation of the Sha’riah on Muslims (not Chechens), whether they want it or not. … When Khattab led his legions into Dagestan in 1999, they started killing Sufis and anyone else that they deemed to be insufficiently Islamic for their tastes. I don’t approve of Russia’s human rights abuses in Chechnya, but this is a pretty clear picture as far as what it is that they’re holding back.

    He may have been implying (in context) that the rebels do not have a legitimate resistance unless you consider ethnic cleansing and theocracy to be “legitimate”.

    Obviously I don’t know enough know whether this view is correct, but while this is about “more than terrorism” the additional background information actually underscores Pipes objections rather than undermining them.

  10. Daniel Pipes teaching people about schoalrship – interesting.

    It’s actualy an insult to associate Pipes with some well-known scholars by calling him an ‘Orientalist’; at least Goldziher, Schacht, Watt, Muir, et al. read the classical works (whatever “distortions” they might be accused of), instead of flicking through the latest copy of a newspaper from Saudi, to get a ‘scholarly’ insight into Islam (which is the impression Pipes gives me). Muir, Watt and Goldziher were quiet well read in the Arabic literature. I am unaware of Pipes’ knowledge of the Arabic literature.

    As a complete aside: from what I understand any legitimacy the Chechens had seems to have been hijacked by gansgters and warlords. You ought to know that back in the 19th Century, it was Sufis who were resisting Russian penetration into the region.

  11. Thebit, Pipes is a right wing nut… who may have picked the right fight.

    That’s one thing the war on terror has taught me, many who I used to trust completely (say Noam Chomsky) turned out on closer examination to be dishonest idiots who sounded like angels when they just happened to pick the right fight (against the war in Vietnam and against propaganda, ironically, in Chomsky’s case).

    Pipes strikes me as another asshole who just happens to be one of the few people who isn’t in a state of denial about just how dangerous the Muslim world is right now.

    I maintain that it should not be considered bigotry to say that a society is severely hostile and dangerous – America was a terrible danger to the American Indians and to African slaves, Germany was a terrible danger to Europe – these things happen.

    Pipes is an asshole, but most of his targets – pro-totalitarian apologists in academia for instance – are disgusting and since they seem to have a monopoly, a danger to education. Until (and unless) angels come along to take his place, we can be happy that we have an asshole on our side who was willing to stand up early.

    Anyway, I notice that Zack didn’t keep his promise and come back to support what he said either in the case of Chechnia nor in the case of Kashmir.

  12. Pipes is too PC, but atleast he’s better than left wing academic pomo professor who have hijacked our universities and teach that “zionism is racism” and that the US is too blame for every damn problem in the world. It’s better than the treacherous legacy left by the marxist historian Edward Said and other hardcore leftists/jew-haters/America-haters/terrorists sympathizers. His garbage psychotic writing appears in Al Ahram (egyptian newspaper) and is still used as propaganda to this day against Israel and the US in the middle east (and even in universities). The legacy of these pomo/relativists/deconstructionists should not be underestimated.

  13. Al-Muhajabah: Thanks. “Secular Muslim” is obviously not a contradiction for me.

    Kynn: A good one. Shows the problem with these sort of loyalty tests.

    Joshua: Kashmir post is up, as promised.

    Khattab and his ilk are definitely the problem. I was trying to say that the issue is more than these guys. After all, Chechnyan efforts against Russia go back to at least the mid-19th century.

    And about assholes being right, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

    AJ: I am going to ignore your rantings here.

    Wes: I agree.

    razib: Pipes could have framed this very differently and I would have agreed with him. However, his questions as framed are leading and smack a bit of HUAC as well.

    Conrad: Pakistan’s record on minorities is shameful. However, India’s is not stellar either and I am not sure these are quantifiable things.

    Thebit: Pipes’ Ph.D. (Harvard 1978) thesis was “From Mawla to Mamluk: The Origins of Islamic Military Slavery.” So he can be expected to know some Muslim hostory. However, he has made his name not as a scholar but as a polemicist.

  14. Wow! What loaded questions! I love to be a critic because I do it with all the honesty I really feel in my soul.

    I will tell you the kind of person he is..

    I’m one of those recent converts to Islam, a american-latino nevertheless. I know alot cultural and religious muslims from Iran, Iraq,Turkey, Pakistan, Saudi so I’ve heard alot of perceptions. I don’t know what kind of muslims Pipes talks too, but I’ve only heard fair,historically accurate perceptions similar or more liberal to what the writer replied with..even the non-practicing muslims I know, with their atheist behaviour still believe in equality, peace, and MOST of ALL truth. Isn’t that representative of core American values? Why are these forgotten in exchange of wealth and power? There isn’t alot of truth presented out there in the world, especially by the media about all this mess, most perceptions on muslims are flat-out lies! They attempt to spread racism and prejudice about a people that are trying to like life smoothly, love and just pray to God. They are trying make Muslims look like demons, to what? To show themselves as angelic? No, to hide their crimes and corrupt the world. To make money off of books and movies.If you listen to other world media, you will hear perceptions about this “christian american” country that you haven’t heard since the Patriot Act. They would be fair and honest too! Am I right? What do they actually say?

    And if they are to criticize the muslims behaviour, it has nothing to do with Islam the religion itself, but with power hungry muslim leaders that have such tyrannical and murderous behaviour.

    Wow, it’s shameful how ignorant Pipe is,real petty. He is seriously looking to fight, but with who ? Muslims who are peaceful but oppressed or how about with the common middle class college-educated American muslims that are here? Read a book or two, how evil it is of you to spread propaganda. There are bad examples in every religion, race,nation and government. If a muslim is not peace-loving, honest or fair, then they are not a muslim. And you are not a humanitarian if you wish to group us into a stereotype, take away our civil rights, and be such opportunistic for your own people. We are just all human living on the same planet. He is no scholar, and is definately bias for his own agenda.


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