In his seminal book "America Alone", Mark Steyn offered this definition of a "moderate Muslim":
He's a Muslim who wants stoning for adultery to be introduced in Liverpool, but he's a "moderate" because he can't be bothered flying a plane into a skyscraper to get it.
Ibn Warraq observed a similar trend: "There may be moderate Muslims, but Islam itself is not moderate."
The word "moderate," when used to describe Muslims, most often refers to the means by which they hope to achieve very extreme ends. Fundamentalist Islam is not moderate, though its followers may opt for moderate means of its imposition - i.e. something short of the indiscriminate slaughter of innocents.
But the means don't make the ends any less extreme. And so it is a bit puzzling when pundits refer to people who want adulterers stoned as "moderates." A refusal to take part in or condone terrorism doesn't make medieval (literally) religious practices any less extreme.
So when Americans are told that Islam is not on a collision course with western civilization, since most Muslims are moderates, they rightly have some reservations, given the horrific practices many "moderate" Muslims apparently endorse.
Observe: according to the Pew Research Center, the Los Angeles Times reported earlier this month (shockingly, to little media fanfare), "A majority of Muslims around the world welcome a significant role for Islam in their countries' political life." And what would that "significant role" look like? Hint: it would not look "moderate":
According to the survey, majorities in Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan and Nigeria would favor changing current laws to allow stoning as a punishment for adultery, hand amputation for theft and death for those who convert from Islam to another religion. About 85% of Pakistani Muslims said they would support a law segregating men and women in the workplace.
Muslims in Indonesia, Egypt, Nigeria and Jordan were among the most enthusiastic, with more than three-quarters of poll respondents in those countries reporting positive views of Islam's influence in politics: either that Islam had a large role in politics, and that was a good thing, or that it played a small role, and that was bad.
While the poll showed clear support for a number of draconian policies, it showed "mixed reactions," to use the Times's phrasing, to militant jihadist groups:
Despite an overall positive view of Islam's growing role in politics, militant religious organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah spurred mixed reactions. Both groups enjoyed fairly strong support in Jordan, home to many Palestinians, and Lebanon, where Hezbollah is based. Muslim countries that do not share strong cultural, historical and political ties to the Palestinian cause, such as Pakistan and Turkey, tended to view Hezbollah and Hamas negatively.
Al Qaeda was rejected by strong majorities in every Muslim country except Nigeria, which gave the group a 49% approval rating.
The Times neglected to mention that despite "mixed reactions" to Hamas and Hezbollah, their overall favorability ratings in the Muslim world have actually increased since 2009.
But the real takeaway is that a majority of Muslims believe in theocracy, but disagree on how to bring it about.
Going back to "America Alone", Steyn observed of the smug "CO-EXIST" bumper stickers - with each letter displayed as a different religious symbol - with which every coastal resident is no doubt familiar (emphasis mine):
Very nice, hard to argue with. But the reality is that it's the first of those symbols [Islam's crescent moon, displayed as the "C" in "CO-EXIST"] that has a problem with "co-existence." Take the crescent out of the equation, and you wouldn't need a bumper sticker at all. Indeed, co-existence is what the Islamists are at war with - or, if you prefer, pluralism; the idea that different groups can rub along together within the same general neighborhood. And even those who nominally respect the idea tend, on closer examination, to mean "pluralism" something closer to "subjugation." Take one of those famous "moderate Muslims": Imam Zaid Shakir, the subject of a flattering profile in the New York Times under the headline "U.S. Muslim Clerics Seek a Modern Middle Ground." Good for them, but what does a "modern middle ground" mean? As Imam Shakir - who grew up as Ricky Mitchell in Georgia and Connecticut - says, "Every Muslim who is honest would say, I would like to see America become a Muslim country. I think it would help people, and if I didn't believe that, I wouldn't be a Muslim."
I think he's right when he says honest Muslims want American to be a Muslim country. But they don't mean it in quite the same sense Christians do when they speak of America as a Christian country. By a "Muslim country," they don't just foresee a country with a majority of Muslim inhabitants but a country whose civil institutions are Muslim.
There certainly are Americans who believe that our civil institutions should be based exclusively upon the Bible and that the Law of Moses should be our sole judicial system. But they are not a majority in the United States, and certainly are not considered "moderate."
And yet, with very few exceptions, the same pundits who berated the George W. Bush administration (and continue to berate many of America's Christian leaders) for attempting to impose evangelical Christian values or policies on the nation in various forms are the first to jump to the defense of "moderate" Muslims who are open about their desire for an Islamic theocracy, but who don't advocate violence as a means to achieve it.
This willful blindness towards the consistent radicalism of so many of the world's Muslims seems to stem from the "America as oppressor" narrative of which so many liberals are so fond. But that narrative obscures the real victims of theocracy, and enshrines as "moderates" those with compunctions about slaughtering civilians, regardless of their actual political views.
We should all be glad that the Muslim world has some misgivings about militant jihadist groups, but let's not pretend that simply opposing mass murder makes you a political "moderate."