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I have been studying and thinking about Islam for almost half my life. I got a slight head start on much of the rest of the world thanks to a Sufi Muslim friend. From her I learned, in those pre-9/11 days, about the horrors of the Wahhabis and the Salafis, the Deobandis and the Khomeinists. And I heard about one thing in particular which I have since observed: how moderate movements in Islam have repeatedly lost out to the hardliners and how some of the most enlightened people you might meet can be trampled over by the most barbaric. It was a timely lesson. In the struggle for an enlightened form of Islam one can find many Muslim allies. But their organised history is one of repeated failure.

Confronting hatred: The author (grey suit, left) and Islamist preacher Anjem Choudary (centre) clash outside a debate in 2009

If the discussion about the future of Islam once used to be confined to an exotic theology, it no longer is. The future of Islam and the future of the West are now inextricably linked. If disentangling them was ever possible it is almost certainly not now. What happens to Islam will affect what happens to Europe.

Before travelling over some of the possible paths it is worth remembering one key fact — as Bernard Lewis among others has said — there are essentially three Islams. There is the Islam of the Koran, Hadith and life of Muhammad. Then there is the extrapolation of this into the system of law known as sharia. And then there is a third Islam — Muslims themselves, what they do and how they live.

Even the briefest period spent studying the first two Islams should lead anyone — especially anyone brought up in another religion, let alone none at all — to worry. The traditions and the foundations on which the religion of Islam is built are deeply troubling — filled with imprecations to violence, oppression and conquest. Sharia, built upon these foundations, is a system of rules which would make any modern citizen shudder. It is very hard to see how this system of laws can be reformed in a way that remains true to their sources without going so far away from them as to cause the centrality of those sources to crumble. These are serious and profound negatives, to which I will return. But they are balanced by one very significant positive which must always be borne in mind: what Muslims actually do.

Anybody living in a Western society who troubles over Islams One and Two may find Islam Three to be slightly baffling at first. Later they should find it a considerable relief, because although an undoubtedly large number of people exist who would wish to follow the violent and supremacist demands of Islams One and Two, a far larger proportion —indeed, as is often but necessarily said, the vast majority — do no such thing. They do not chop people's heads off or "slay the infidels wherever they find them". They just get on with their lives like the rest of us. They are parents and children, doctors and neighbours, chiropodists and friends. They are people who live with the inheritance of Islam One and Two lingering to various extents in the background of their everyday lives, and upon the memory of this tradition they build their family lives, weeks, calendars and some or a lot of their moral outlook. In other words, Islam Three is all around us. It is also Islam's — and our — only hope.

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January 13th, 2015
2:01 PM
Multiculturalism is complete, total and utter nonsense. Islam and the West are two scorpions in a bottle.

Charlie South
January 25th, 2014
1:01 AM
A main aspect is resentment.The World is increasingly being dominated by the ability to develop new technologies and catch up with and use existing ones. India and China have developed little new technology but they have learnt and developed their technological base at an incredible rate. The muslim World is falling being not only the west but also China and India. The software in India is largely developed in Bangalore, which is within the Hindu heartlands. The arabic world, excluding oil exports less than Finland and in one year over 5,000 patents were granted in Israel and only 50 in Iran. If one considers the boundary of knowledge to be flexible then it can expand to hold new discoveries. In 1400 the doors of ijtihad were closed in Islam. one cannot have closed mind,stop deductive reasoning based on observation and measurement and develop new technologies. If one closes the female form in a shroud one cannot produce an athlete or ballerina. If one looks at womens' athletic performances they have greatly improved in the last 70 years. Very few books are translated into arabic yet many are translated into English which enables new ideas to be discovered. The reality is that aggressive Islam is based upon a lack of faith in their abilities .If they had the ability, then Pakistan and Bangladesh would out perform India and China in learning new technologies and catching up with the west. In about 1260, roger Bacon wrote about the difference between Faith and Reason and started the British on the path of empiricism- examination of the facts. In 1258 the Mongols sacked Baghdad, destroyed The House of Wisdom and Islam stopped evolving with regard to science and technology. Both India and China are developing because they have opened their minds.

January 6th, 2014
5:01 PM
Hegel. I would be quite happy to write an article for the magazine. I think you would find it very interesting and informative.

hegel`s advocate
December 9th, 2013
9:12 PM
I actually agree with Anonymous about Islam. Comments here are serious and part of D Murray`s article. So unless Anonymous has an article for publication on the subject (and I don`t) then keep the comments flowing. I`m sure Mr Murray is pleased his article has initiated discussion here.

December 7th, 2013
1:12 AM
What Muslims do is the problem. Notwithstanding how admirably kind and well-meaning and non-violent many may be, ALL Muslims give reverence (knowingly or otherwise) to the memory of a mass murderer, rapist, liar, thief, pedophile, bigamist, sadist warmonger. And to his manual on how to conduct aggressive jihad against the unbelievers. Sorry, the only solution to the uncivil aspects of Islam is the recognition that it is not so much a genuine religion as a hoax scam founded by a vile man for his own selfish aggrandisement. It belongs only in the history books and museums along with Zeus and Jupiter. Fortunately such groups as Council of Ex-Muslims are growing and that is the way forward. In my experience most people who call themselves Muslims are profoundly ignorant of what they think they believe anyway. And actually have Christian vales. So the End is Nigh for this terrible mistake of history.

December 4th, 2013
5:12 PM
Hegel. This article offers nothing but despair, and is unable to articulate a meaningful solution to the problem it purports to identify. Is this really the apex of Murray's thinking in respect of Islam? It lacks scholarly depth, exhibiting no real engagement or understanding of the subject matter, whilst also lacking any evidence of engaging with Islam except through the prism of secondary experience. There are very many critiques to be made of Islam, Islamism and Islamic Fundamentalism, but but it remains notable Standpoint continues to articulate a populist and superficial discourse, as evidenced by the individuals given space in support of this narrative.

hegel`s advocate
November 26th, 2013
2:11 AM
Anonymous is jealous. Who`s paying Anonymous to play total mediocrity ? with Islamist suicide bombers attacking and killing people in the Iranian embassy Douglas Murray`s article is more relevant than ever.

November 24th, 2013
6:11 PM
Oh Douglas, is this really the best that you can produce after '[...] studying and thinking about Islam [...] for half (your) life'? And how much did The Hertog / Simon Fund for Policy Analysis pay for this sloppy mess?

November 20th, 2013
12:11 AM
In our equalist society arguments over the "veil" would come into sharper focus if more young males, especially those of the working (or non-working) class, realised they also had the right to wear a veil, or "ski mask" to protect their modesty, or privacy, (or identity) when in public, or in the local off licence etc. Should they be refused service or custom, or be told to remove said item by police officer, would it not be a case for discrimination and a job for the a truly equalist society, of course.

November 16th, 2013
1:11 AM
The author refers to the migration of Muslims from the 'Indian subcontinent'. Perhaps a fiber split was necessary? Very clearly, there's a huge difference in approach to life and Islam of Muslims of the Indian origin and of Pakistani - for example. There are few names, if any, of the former kind to be found in discussions about Islamic dogmatism. The author would do well to consider this and its reasons in his future analyses.

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