Our Muslim presupposition
There is a widely shared complaint out there that moderate Muslims should condemn terrorism done in the name of Islam. The complaint has more or less upgraded itself into a mantra among conservatives.
But since when is moderation a good thing in religion? Compare this to Judaism or Christianity. Didn't God say He'd spit forth the lukewarm from His mouth? Didn't Jesus wish the world was on already fire with His message? It's zeal and commitment that God rewards.
Our complaint about Islam therefore introduces an unresolvable dilemma: we don't want to say Islam itself is a terrorist organization (per radio host Michael Graham) so instead we say that we want "moderate" (i.e. lukewarm or liberal-minded) Muslims to reform Islam, and to condemn terrorist acts done in its name.
But, at least in every other religion, a "moderate" is either a liberal or a lapsed disciple. In other words, someone who no longer acts according to what his faith teaches. I'd like a Muslim to correct me here, but it seems that the more a person immerses hmself in Islam and takes it on its own original terms -- whether Sunni or Shia or any other legimated form of Islam -- the more likely he'll be to endorse violent jihad.
One element that is carefully avoided in the discourse is the question of whether Islam is a false religion. It's the one unaskable question. I suspect I know why. People are afraid of a violent, retributive reaction. Which may help explain why President Bush feels the political need to overcompensate by referring repeatedly to Islam as a "religion of peace."
The presupposition we make is that Islam is one monolithic thing, with a single set of tenets overseen by something like a hierarchy that distinguishes between fake and authentic versions of Islam. None of this is so. Defining Islam singly is like trying to pin down a puddle of mercury. We ought to consider the problem as it is: The entire Muslim world is not governed by any individual imam or sheik, and therefore we can't expect any authoritative rejection of Muslim-inspired terrorism.
That leaves us with the thesis of these two men.