In Search of the Moderate Muslim
by Jon Gower Davies
London: The Social Affairs Unit, 2009. 192 pp. £10.
Reviewed by Denis MacEoin
Middle East Quarterly
Some analysts divide the Muslim population into two camps, extremists and moderates. That moderates make up the vast majority has become a linchpin of media reporting and government policy. Davies, a sociologist, self-described practicing Christian, and a critic of multiculturalism, sets out to define the moderate Muslim in this finely argued book. He explains that his search takes place in the context of an existential threat to Western civilization, by which he means Great Britain and its values of decency, fairness, democracy, and freedom.
"This book is not about Islam," he writes, "it is about Muslims. Islam is what Muslims do." With these five words, Davies distances his argument from theological claims and academic theory disconnected from historical or social reality. He argues that hard facts alone define Islamic moderation. How plausible, he asks, is "the claim that most Muslims are moderate? How plausible is our claim to moderateness? Can I rely on these Moderate Muslims to understand the nature of my moderateness? Can I rely on them to both understand and to defend my moderateness and my moderate world?"
Rather than indulge in fantasies about a Golden Age in Islamic Spain or accept the British government view that Muslim extremists rate as moderates so long as they do not engage in violence, Davies uses wide-ranging statistical analyses of those Muslim countries (chiefly Pakistan and Bangladesh) from which come the majority of Muslim immigrants to the United Kingdom. He finds failings of moderation in all areas of life and demonstrates that these are not countries or cultures in which moderation is a virtue. He concludes: "It is not surprising that moderate people like me see but limited potency in the Moderate Muslim."
By way of proof, Davies cites many indications of immoderation: a notorious statement by the secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, Muhammad Abdul Bari, that unless the British police and some sections of the media stop "demonizing" Muslims, "Britain will have to deal with two million Muslim terrorists—700,000 of them in London"; the Sudanese president's claim that British and Americans plan to restart the slave trade by kidnapping Muslim children; that 13 percent of Muslims polled regarded the 7/7 bombers in London as martyrs; that just under 33 percent of British Muslim students think that killing in the name of God is justified; and so on.
By dispensing with trite references to "moderate Muslims," Davies performs an important service. "While 'moderate Muslims' may well exist in large numbers," he writes, "they have not been tried and tested, not been shown to be effective."
 The Daily Mail (London), Sept. 11, 2006.
Related Topics: Moderate Muslims | Denis MacEoin | Fall 2009 MEQ
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