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Shi'a Pundit

Devoted to the viewpoint of Islam of Muhammad SAW and Amir ul-Mumineen, Ali ibn Abi Talib SA, in the Shi'a Fatimi Ismaili Dawoodi Bohra tradition.

January 23, 2003

relative numbers: an illusion of double standards.

Another polemical meme about Islam that I want to address is the idea that there are more Fundamentalist muslims (of both Types A and B) than there are Christians. The most egregious purveyor of this meme is Daniel Pipes, whose "estimates" (ie, inventions) claim there are 100 million Muslims who are in complete agreement with Al Qa'edas world view and half a billion all together who are at least sympathetic. Anyone want to hazard a guess at how many muslims Pipes would have had to poll for these numbers to be statistically significant within two standard deviations? Others have done a better job of illustrating Pipes' dishonesty than I have - my main point is that these flights of hyperbole dominate any attempt to have a rational discussion.

This may poison my image as a moderate, but I label Palestinian terrorists (whose actions I have explicitly condemned!) as a different category - they are not Fundamentalists at all since their primary motivation is NOT religious, it is political.

As for FB(C)s, I don't buy into the weak defense that KKK, militia, hate groups, etc are atheist/masonic or "nominally" Christian, since no such benefit of the doubt is extended to me and my faith. This is as disingenious as it would be if I claimed that Al Qaeda is socialist, that the Taliban were Keynisian supply siders, etc. Put another way, was not a single KKK member who ever lit a Negro church on fire or threaded a noose, a Christian? The bottom line is another double standard. Antimuslim critics are well-prepared to ascribe deep flaws in Islam by extrapolating from the violent actions of it's Type B adherents. The same behavior by Type B's who (even if nominally) adhere to Christianity, is excused and ascribed to political and cultural forces.

One of my best commentators, Deoxy, took issue with me on this point in the lengthy comment thread attached to the fundamentalism post:

Christian vs. Muslim: If the KKK gets counted as Christian (despite overwhelming Christian disapproval), then so do the Palistinians. I would say that the KKK in particular are MUCH more political than religious, more so than the Palestinians, easily. And few Muslims say that the Palestinian Type Bs aren't really Muslims (you seem to be a wonderful exception - thank you).

Suffice it to say that there are groups that say they are Christian or Muslim which really don't seem to be. The issue, I think, is that most of these groups on the Christian side are widely, publicly denounced as not Christian (so much so for the KKK, in fact, that most people I've ever had any discussion about it with seem to attribute the "christian" elements in the KKK to general culture, merely incidental and not inherently part of the KKK at all, or that their beliefes are absolutely wacked out and bizarre), while muslim groups like that (the Palestinian Type B groups, Osama bin Laden, etc) are denounced rarely and supported loudly and in significant numbers.

Deoxy parallels the arguments that Muslims have made in defending the accusation that they too are guilty by association, and likewise strives to minimize his connection to such extremism. I have great sympathy for his position. In fact, I share it.

But the truth is, that I have never claimed that Palestinian terrorists are NOT muslim. In contrast, Deoxy is trying to argue that the KKK and other hate groups are not Christian, that they can be neatly excluded from teh circle of Christianity by a clever little definition here, a technicality there - forming a hermetic seal about his fellow believers to insulate them from these raging Type Bs.

What I have claimed is that Pealestinian terrorists are not "Fundamentalists" because that term applies to people whose terrorist actions are motivated by religious dogma. The messianic Israeili settlers dreaming of Eretz (greater) Israel are motivated by pure religious dogma - they say that God gave them the land and therefore they have a right to it. Liekwise, the rationale for hate groups and the KKK is deeply steeped in religious lore, and they turn to the Bible for justification of their essentially religious interpretations of the white race as superior, and all others inferior.

While some Palestinian groups (notably, Islamic Jihad and Hamas) do invoke religious concepts in their terrorism, these are used as supporting rhetoric for the underlying cause - which is to fight against an occupation of land. The land itself is not particularly holy (apart from the Masjid al Aqsa compound, which is already under effective Muslim control most of the time). Contrast this with one of Osama bin Laden's stated objectives, to expel "crusaders" from the Arabian peninsula - which is a purely religious argument.

Surely these are subtle distinctions, but subtlety is not falsity. The bottom line is that the Palestinian terrorists use religion for recruitment in pursuit of their political goals. The KKK are pursuing a religious goal. Hence I cannot agree with Deoxy that the KKK are not Fundamentalists.

However, to be absolutely clear, I am not denying that Palestinians are muslim, though Deoxy is certainly trying to make the case that the KKK are not Christian. In this I think I am being more realistic and not trying to wish the problem away. Embracing teh fact that extremsts lurk among your own co-religionists is the first step in purging them.

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Nahj-ul Balagha

About Shi'a Pundit

Shi'a Pundit was launched in 2002 during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. The blog focuses on issues pertaining to Shi'a Islam in the west and in the Islamic world. The author is a member of the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community. Bohras adhere to the Shi'a Fatimi tradition of Islam, headed by the 52nd Dai al-Mutlaq, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin (TUS).

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