"So, the questions is whether a secular critique to Islam or a "moderate muslim" approach is better. Better for what?"
I suspect this may be a false dichotomy. My guess would be that secular critiques would be most likely to force greater moderation in religion, which would in turn allow for bolder critiques. Of course, I would observe that (at least in my interpretation) the original article had a slightly different point to the one here construed; which was more about internal tensions in Western society than the question of 'reforming' Islamic states.
Of course, regarding Islamic moderation, I am somewhat biased; since I have long maintained that if I were to be religious at all I would have to be a fundamentalist. I've never quite seen the point of religious moderation; if one is to believe, it seems a somewhat ridiculous exercise to select what you want to believe from a supposedly holy book, accepting some doctrines and not others. At least fundamentalists are consistent.
The practical chances of a particular approach also depend on factors such as the cultural nature of religion. It is not enough to convince some persons through rational discussion, because such beliefs are intertwined with their way of life. However, the existence of various breeds of "moderate muslims" (as well as the whole history of the emergence of various christian dogmas) should be an indication that life changes people and societies, whatever the holy books say. Such things have happened to our own cultures in the past.
"A "moderate muslim" approach seems somehow lame when coming from Blair or from someone whom the muslim people have demonized, but I think it is perfectly valid when coming from inside a muslim society. The same is true of a secular approach coming from inside a muslim society and not from its "enemies"."
I had a conversation with an Iranian on this list a long while ago who very strongly believed that to be the case; not adopting western norms but adapting them within a different cultural context.
"Finally, there is the issue of distribution of power and wealth in an Islamic state, which is deeply conservative."
One of the advantages of a democratic approach is that it does allow for a non-violent manner of deposing deeply unpopular governments; since this does not exist in most of the Islamic world the only medium for change is often a violent one (in spite of Joe's comments on Iran, the conservatives still maintain the status quo even without popular mandate). Bear in mind that Islam is also a social system which lacks any state/church division; in other words, social organisation is not supposed to change and evolve, it is supposed to be immutable and fixed.
---- This message was posted by kharin to the Virus 2002 board on Church of Virus BBS. <http://virus.lucifer.com/bbs/index.php?board=51;action=display;threadid=26302>
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