Islam's apologist legions counter-factually assure you that Muslims overwhelmingly reject terror. They intimate that violence is the only issue and that nothing "radical" is afoot as long as terrorism is not in the mix. Abdur-rahman Wahid, a globally renowned Muslim moderate whom we'll discuss momentarily, estimates--without offering any supporting data--that radicalism, or what he calls the "virulent ideology," holds sway over only 10 to 15 percent of Muslims. He cheerily posits that the remaining "85% to 90%" is comprised of the "traditional and sufi leadership and masses, who are not yet radicalized" (and notice the word yet, which tells you everything you need to know about which way even he knows the wind is blowing). Even if he were right about the comparatively paltry "radical" population, we'd still be talking about nearly 200 million people. But the problem is that Wahid is not right. As bracing as that huge number may be, he is low-balling. The actual numbers are closer to the opposite of the lopsided preponderance of ur-tolerant moderates he portrays.Now, really: just how comfortable are you really with large, concentrated numbers of Muslims--say, in Detroit--when you know that probably about a third of them think that "killing in the name of religion is at least sometimes justifiable?" I mean, really, let's just suppose that the situation is no more complex than hinted here, and that two-thirds of Muslims--that would be the perpetually-invoked "most Muslims," wouldn't it?--do not agree with that statement. Let's say that it's just forty percent of Muslims who want to see their country adopt Sharia law, and sixty percent don't.
In 2007, the University of Maryland joined with the pollster World Public Opinion to survey Islamic views. The poll included Muslims from the Middle East and North Africa to Southeast Asia, Arab and non-Arab. The results were jarring. Nearly two-thirds, 65.5 percent, said they would endorse the requirement of "a strict application of sharia law in every Islamic country." In fact, they said they would like to see all Muslim countries unified under a single caliphate, a position shared even by half of Indonesian Muslims. As we shall see, Islam in Indonesia is thought, with justification, to be among the moderate brands on the planet. Yet even there fundamentalism is on the rise, particularly in Aceh, where sharia rules and where the provincial parliament last year enacted the time-honored penalty of stoning to death for adultery. As the intrepid writer Sadanand Dhume observed, homosexuals and those who engage in premarital sex "drew a lighter rebuke...100 strokes of a rattan cane."
The 2007 poll figures match up with what related global polling suggests. In 2008, for example, 40 percent of British Muslims (i.e., close to a million people, including many British-born converts to Islam) favored the implementation of sharia in Britain--with 32 percent holding that killing in the name of religion is at least sometimes justifiable, 40 percent favoring a prohibition against mingling between the sexes, and 33 percent endorsing a global Islamic caliphate. In Pakistan, a plenary Muslim country of 175 million people, four in five favor strict enforcement of sharia (over half "strongly" so). Not surprisingly, in a 2007 poll, Pakistanis by a five-to-one margin preferred Osama bin Laden (at 46 percent approval) to then-President George W. Bush (9 percent)--bin Laden also easily topped Pakistan's then president Pervez Musharraf (38 percent).
That still leaves a darn lot of Muslim "extremists" to deal with, doesn't it?
Just how "extreme" is a point of view that claims a third or more of its target population? That is the dominant belief system of whole countries? With numbers like that, isn't it part of mainstream Islam?