In an article I posted on FrontPage Magazine, in which I was at pains to suggest that from the standpoint of the ongoing war of Islam against the West—anyone who doubts this has not been paying attention—the distinction between Islam and Islamism is functionally moot, if not chimerical. I was by no means implying that “moderate Muslims” are in conscious league with their jihadist co-religionists. Rather, my argument was that “moderate Muslims” are essential to maintaining the vigor and power of a faith that is inherently militant and expansionist, and provide the medium their jihadist counterparts are able to exploit to their advantage. In other words, the contextual environment of “moderate Muslims” furnishes precisely the ambient culture in which those we call “extremists” can operate effectively, taking shelter therein when necessary and relying on the very existence of the unreformed, and possibly unreformable, faith they claim to represent.
The argument I am pressing is, obviously, prone to objections, many fanciful or irrelevant. Some of my critics will persist in their belief that Islamism is a perversion of Islam and that the core texts upon which the faith is predicated are subject to reinterpretation. But it is frivolous to dismiss the innumerable calls and injunctions to violence against the infidel enunciated in a holy book. The Koran is not regarded as a contingent and descriptive text, whose wider implications are basically ethical; it is eternal and unchangeable, hortatory and unforgiving, entailing a series of commands to wage endless battle in order to establish worldwide domination, a global Caliphate. To this species of critic, I would say that persistence in a demonstrable error or sheer doctrinal ignorance do not qualify as a valid objection.
More persuasive, at least initially, is the kind of historical and comparative insight proposed by one of the commenters to my original article, who uses the moniker “Visitor.” The two prior Abrahamic faiths, he points out, Judaism and Christianity, evolved over the centuries to become the less sectarian and more embracing communions we see today; surely in the course of time the same can be predicted of Islam, which will eventually detach itself from its early medieval gradients and adjust to the modern world. This is a strong argument on its face, but it neglects several crucial factors.
First, the Koran is categorically unlike the two Testaments in that it is not primarily a narrative and preceptual account aiming toward a condition of redemptive inclusivity. Despite the presence of Canaanites and Romans, the Testaments are not war manuals or piratical logbooks and neither are their talismanic figures desert raiders. Moses gave us the Ten Commandments and Jesus brought the Word of mercy. True, the Commandments have been regularly violated and mercy may be a rara avis among ordinary communicants of Judaism and Christianity, but this does not change the fact that such prescriptions are scriptural ordinances and are meant to be obeyed.