Friday, May 28, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Zeyno Baran, The Other Muslims: Moderate and Secular

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Zeyno Baran, The Other Muslims: Moderate and Secular. (Palgrave-Macmillan), 190 p., $21.60
By Barry Rubin

This is a book people have been waiting for, Zeyno Baran’s, The Other Muslims: Moderate and Secular. What Baran, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, has done is to pull together ten essays by genuinely moderate Muslims in Europe and the United States about what’s going on regarding the internal struggle within Islam and what’s wrong with how the West deals with it.

She begins with this sentence: “The most important ideological struggle in the world today is within Islam,” that of moderate and secular Muslims versus Islamists. She defines moderate Muslims as those who want an Islam compatible with Western-style democracy and society.

Baran points out that many Western governments, media, and others make the mistake of putting the dividing point between those who are and aren’t violent, rather than between real moderates and Islamists who, even if they don’t favor or use violence at the moment, still seek to capture state power and create a theologically dominated society.

To prove that the West can co-exist successfully with Muslim populations is an important way to undercut the Islamists. In order to achieve this, however, the West has to win over its Muslims both for its own society and for a moderate approach.

While many might find this point startling, it is well known to those who understand what’s going on that a critical mistake is how Western governments, media, and other institutions in fact help the radicals and push Muslims into their arms. This is not primarily through discrimination or mistreatment—though that is at times a problem—but by classifying the radicals as “proper” Muslims and working with their institutions.

Indeed, this is how multiculturalism works in practice. The Islamists create and control the main institutions in their community. The West abjures acculturation or assimilation in favor of declaring these to be separate communities in which everyone must live according to the norms. The line is not set between moderate and radical but rather those who use violence and those who don’t, thus empowering radical Islamists who focus on organizing and indoctrination for the moment.

In an excellent essay on the situation in the United States, Hedieh Mirahmadi “Navigating Islam in America,” writes how the “gatekeepers who get to determine who participates in the debate about American foreign policy, law enforcement, and national security” persist in “cozying up to known Islamic extremists” while true moderates are cut out.

Yunis Qandil in “Euro-Islamists and the Struggle for Dominance within Islam” does a parallel analysis of conditions in Europe. Other chapters cover Italy and France, along with some very well written first-hand accounts.

One cannot help but notice the numerous, highly-organized, and well-funded (ironically, some of the money comes from Western governments) are the radical Islamists while the moderates are scattered, not well-heeled, and act mainly as individuals. It is a most uneven competition, a fact which in itself should play an important role in the outcome.

Still, that fact makes this all the more a book well worth reading, though some would prefer a fuller discussion of how moderates can justify their interpretations of key Islamic texts. Baran’s volume is full of graphic examples and details of how the Islamist power structure works and how easily Westerners are taken in by it.

For more information go HERE. The book can be ordered HERE.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). His new edited books include Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict and Crisis; Guide to Islamist Movements; Conflict and Insurgency in the Middle East; The West and the Middle East (four volumes); and The Muslim Brotherhood. To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

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