If there is a civil war within Islam, why is only one side actually fighting?

It seems a popular refrain from progressive or “liberal” Muslims that there is a civil war within Islam fighting for its future direction; one group comprised of the progressives wants to modernize Islam without necessarily Westernizing it while the other group frequently talks about imperialist visions of restoring a caliphate centered on the Middle East and Islam established in every country.

Presumably, this civil war is only barely being constrained by the kings and otherwise near-tyrannical heads of state in the Middle Eastern countries (and Pakistan) who keep any dissent or non-orthodox thought as tightly controlled as they can.

My question is, if the militant fundamentalist Muslims are fighting against both their controlling leaders and the progressive Muslims, who are the progressive Muslims fighting? Are they even fighting at all? It seems like, at best, they’ve always been a minority and only seem to pop up in any substantial sense after a terrorist attack to jump up and down shouting that not all Muslims are terrorists. Good point, but it seems like the progressive Muslims aren’t even trying to fight the fundamentalists with ideas or guns (bombs, etc.).

If only one side is actually doing anything, doesn’t that automatically mean that the other side is destined to lose?


Here’s the link again:
<a href=“http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20050722/ts_nm/security_britain_cleric_dc” target="_blank">The militant fundamentalist side</a>

People who aren’t fanatics usually don’t act like fanatics. That’s why.

Lately I’m seeing an increasing number of moderate Muslims denounce terrorism publicly - not just leaders, but groups of people who think this killing is wrong, not justified (or permitted) by Islam, and that terrorism is bringing a harmful backlash against Muslims. That’s good, and it can only help.

Really? Some evidence of this point of view would be helpful.

Is there such an entity as “Islam”? I would regard someone who spoke of “Christianity” as though it were a discrete enitity as massively ill-informed.

Terrorists are not fighting a war. They are committing murder. They won’t take their fight to the battlefield because they’d lose and they’d only resort to terrorism all over again anyway. The Arabs were defeated by the Israelis and they should settle back and accept defeat with honor. Native Americans didn’t resort to terrorism when they lost America.

Being mostly dead, and otherwise at the mercy of the whites, it wasn’t much of an option.

They didn’t exactly have the same tools to do it with, either. Otherwise, they may very well have.

Although they were “beaten” by a kind of inadvertent bioterrorism. :wink:

Watching the Daily Show I heard Fareed Zakaria talk about how fundamentalists do horrible in elections in muslim democracies like Indonesia. I have heard the same thing about places like Jordan. Recently Iran had to disquality thousands of political candidates for their election because they were not fundamentalist enough. Of the remaining Iranian candidates I doubt any wanted to turn Iran into the Taliban.

So I dont think the average muslim wants to live in a 7th century caliphate. They may symapthize with terrorism, but they don’t want terrorists running their lives. I have heard similiar polls from the palestinians but can’t remember where I saw them. Even though palestinians tend to support and sympathize with people like Bin Ladin, they don’t want someone like him running their government.

Yes, there is an entity called “Islam” and its in the mind’s of the people attempting to enforce it.

Their spiritual rant should be: “Islam is the religion of peace and we’ll kill anyone who disagrees”.


Maybe an analogous “fight” will illuminate the situation for you: Consider the so-called “culture war” being fought in the United States. Those of us generally labeled liberal and progressive like the fact that we can watch gay-themed shows on television, buy pornography, wear (or look at) skimpy bathing suits at the beach, and so on. We don’t really think about the people at the opposite end of the spectrum, and how they feel “attacked” by the foregoing. We just frown in annoyance or perplexity when those folks “attack back,” picketing strip clubs or blowing up abortion clinics or packing school boards or whatever.

Progressive Muslims want to buy whatever books, wear the clothes, eat the food, listen to the music, etc., etc., that they want. They don’t think of themselves as attacking the reactionary conservatives. The latter, however, do seem themselves as being under attack, so they fight back. Same thing.

The question of who is “fighting” is simply a matter of perspective, I think.

I agree with almost every thread here and would add:

A. Modern/Civilized folks by definition wouldn’t resort to terrorist tactics and

**B. ** Even if they did fight : Who would they blow up? Mosques? I am not sure what the “target” is - liberal/progressive/secularist muslims are still muslims after all. It is partially the same problem faced by MI5-6 and the CIA. Killing muslims are hidden and opportunistic.

The fact that you do not see something being done does not mean it is not happening.

Looking at the headlines is misleading in these kinds of things, because there is a media bias for senationalism: acts that are destructive (blowing something up) are more interesting than acts that are constructive (building a new school), and sudden, dramatic events are more impressive than slow gradual progress. Ideological victories against militant Islam will be manifested as much in things that don’t happen: someone who decides to stop listening to one of the mullahs, not to send their kid to the madrassa, not to march in a “death to the infidels” parade.

I daresay that if you were watching the local news in New York in the 90s, you’d be under the impression crime was as bad as ever. Same syndrome.

Haven’t modern/civilized folks (nations) killed lots of civillians, even intentionally, in wars past? Such as in WWII?

While I don’t have a definitive link for you (given my apparent inability to figure out how to probably format the damn HTML lite code), see just about every interview with a Muslim or Arab scholar on the Daily Show (notably Fareed Zakaria as was previously mentioned).

Otherwise, see:




If it’s so goddamn obvious, then why does this idea of a civil war within Islam keep popping up? That certainly doesn’t mean it is in fact occuring, but one side (the militants) attempting to impose its own fundamentalist and puritanical ideas on every other Muslim while they passively keep on going with their lives does not make a civil war. What seems to be the crux of the civil war thesis is the interpretation and direction of Islam itself - moderate or fundamentalist.

Yes, the media is certainly imperfect and is doing a halfass job, but are a significant portion of moderates (including moderate imams and clerics) even trying to combat the fundamentalist interpretation of Islam? On the news every so often, an imam or two denounces any Islamic terrorist attack but you never hear anything significant about them challenging the interpretations of the fundamentalist side other than offering platitudes such as “Islam is a religion of peace.”

Read The Trouble with Islam Today by Irshad Manji and then get back to us. Irshad Manji dares to say things that others don’t. She is one brave woman. (You’re nobody until you’ve racked up at least one death fatwa. Imagine how many she’s collected by now.)

Because it’s a convenient, simplistic sound bite to summarize an extremely complicated and subtle issue that otherwise defies shorthanding?

Dude. Relax. It’s just an expression.

It’s not entirely false, however. A great many people in the Arab Muslim world (which extends from eastern Arfica to the Phillipines) are waking up to the threat. These butchers are losing support over much of that world. It is a war, but one of conflicting moral visions of the world.

And as the great mass of humanity realized that the moral vision of the fundamentalist/terrorists involves mass murder and wanton killing of random people, I believe they are coming to oppose it.

I am sick with jealousy.