Are Moderate Muslims Irrelevant?

The Heritage Foundation recently hosted its Benghazi Accountability Coalition, where an audience member made the following statement:

As-salamu alaykum, peace to you all. My name is Saba Ahmed, I’m a law student at American University. I am here to ask you a simple question. I know that we portray Islam and all Muslims as bad, but there’s 1.8 billion Muslims followers of Islam. We have 8 million plus Muslim Americans in this country, and I don’t see them represented here. But my question is how can we fight an ideological war with weapons? How can we ever end this war? The jihadist ideology that you talk about, it’s an ideology. How can you ever win this thing if you don’t address it ideologically?

Panelist Brigitte Gabriel responded:

Great question. I am so glad you’re here and I am so glad you brought that up because it gives us an opportunity to answer. What I find so amazing is, since the beginning of this panel, which we are here about Benghazi attack against our people, not one person mentioned Muslims, or we are here against Islam, or we’re launching war against Muslims. We are here because four Americans died and what our government is doing. We are not here to bash Muslims. You were the one who brought up the issue about most Muslims, not us. And since you brought it up, allow me to elaborate with my answer.

Gabriel, who also goes by the name Nour Semaan, is the founder of the non-profit organizations American Congress For Truth and ACT! for America, aimed at counter-terrorism. Born in Lebanon to Christian parents, she survived the Lebanese Civil War (her home was destroyed and she was injured) and later cared for by Israeli medical personnel before moving to the U.S. She has since made a career of her anti-Islam position.

There are 1.2 billion Muslims in the world today. Of course not all of them are radicals. The majority of them are peaceful people. The radicals are estimated to be between 15 to 25 percent according to all intelligence services around the world.
That leaves 75 percent of them peaceful people. But when you look at 15 to 25 percent of the world’s Muslim population, you’re looking at 180 million to 300 million people dedicated to the destruction of Western civilization. That is as big of the United States. So why should we worry about the radical 15 to 25 percent? Because it is the radicals that kill. Because it is the radicals that behead and massacre.

As Laurie Goldstein of the New York Times observes, Gabriel has repeatedly stated that she discerns between moderate and radical Muslims, although Goldstein notes that in her 2008 book Because They Hate, Gabriel writes, “in the Muslim world, extreme is mainstream,” referring to a “cancer … called Islamofacism.”

Evidently for Goldstein, this demonstrates that Gabriel doesn’t discern so well, however it isn’t clear why. While she does use the clumsy term “Muslim World,” this term is used by Muslims themselves (ummah in Arabic). Also, polling data support the claim that extremism is mainstream in many Muslim countries, and references to “Islamofascism” clearly don’t include moderates. Nevertheless, Gabriel’s position has made her a hero to the right and a crypto-bigot to the left.

When you look throughout history, when you look at all the lessons of history, most Germans were peaceful. Yet the Nazis drove the agenda. And as a result, 60 million people died, almost 40 million in concentration camps. Six million were Jews. The peaceful majority were irrelevant.
When you look at Russia, most Russians were peaceful as well. Yet the Russians were able to kill 20 million people. The peaceful majority were irrelevant.
When you look at China for example, most Chinese were peaceful as well. Yet the Chinese were able to kill 70 million people. The peaceful majority were irrelevant.
When you look at Japan prior to World War II, most Japanese were peaceful as well. Yet, Japan was able to butcher its way across Southeast Asia, killing 12 million people, mostly killed by bayonets and shovels. The peaceful majority were irrelevant.
On September 11th in the United States, we had 2.3 million Arab Muslims living in the United States. It took 19 hijackers, 19 radicals, to bring America down to its knees, destroy the World Trade Center, attack the Pentagon and kill almost 3,000 Americans that day. The peaceful majority were irrelevant.
So for all our powers of reasons, and us talking about moderates and peaceful Muslims, I’m glad you’re here. But where are the others speaking out?

At this point, the audience erupts in applause.

And since you are the only Muslim representative here, you took the limelight instead of speaking about why our government, and I assume are you an American? You’re an American citizen?

Saba Ahmed confirms that she’s a U.S. citizen.

So as an American citizen, you sat in this room, and instead of standing up and saying a question or asking something about our four Americans that died and what our government is doing to correct the problem, you stood there to make a point about peaceful, moderate Muslims. I wish you had brought ten more with you to question about what, how we can to hold our government responsible.

The audience stirs with further applause.

It is time we take political correctness and throw it in the garbage where it belongs.

It’s a good speech, and great comparisons are made, but Gabriel didn’t actually answer the question, did she? Saba Ahmed’s question was:

How can we fight an ideological war with weapons? How can we ever end this war? The jihadist ideology … it’s an ideology. How can you ever win this thing if you don’t address it ideologically?

I recently published a post referencing this with a scene from Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies in which Tom Hanks’ character, a lawyer addressing the Supreme Court about the fate of a suspected Soviet spy, asks:

Shouldn’t we, by giving him the full benefit of the rights of the system that define our government, show this man what we are? Who we are? Is that not the greatest weapon we have in this Cold War? Will we stand by our cause less resolutely than he stands by his?

Also a student of law, Ahmed seems to suggest that we should counter Islamist ideology by standing resolutely by our own, better laws and ideals. Ideals that will promise freedom and democracy for ourselves and the world, not diminish our freedoms in the name of security or lead us to war in the name of fear. Ahmed adds:

As a peaceful American Muslim, I’d like to think I’m not that irrelevant. I’m deeply saddened about the lives that were lost in Libya and I hope we will find justice for their families. But I don’t think this war can ever be won by just the military.

Indeed it cannot. It’s a process that begins with each of us, with the individual decision to stand for peace on our own terms and in our own lives. As Gandhi said, “be the change you wish to see in the world,” and this should be true even if it means you’re left standing alone.

At this point, Panelist Chris Plante chimes in:

I think everyone agrees that it can’t be won by just the military. Can you tell me the head of the Muslim peace movement?

And Ahmed answers:

I guess it’s me right now.

They didn’t, but it would’ve been good if the audience had applauded this remark as well.


This piece originally appeared on Rational Consent.