The Seven Percent Problem

Over at Outside The Beltway (a web site I really need to write about soon, and not in a tremendously favorable way), James Joyner expounds on the Ground Zero mosque and the larger issue of radicals within Islam. And, I have to say, he makes a fundamental error in logic.

According to Joyner, the actual number of “radical” Muslims is only about seven percent. I don’t know if I buy that number, but I’m willing to accept it for the sake of argument. And, he says, the other 93% are being unfairly tarred and blamed for the misdeeds of that tiny minority. We shouldn’t judge the entire group for the actions of, essentially, one in fourteen.

The flaw in Joyner’s argument is one of the few things I actually learned about sociology and human nature and group dynamics. And that rule is, in any group that is not explicitly democratic, the most passionate members will wield influence far out of proportion to their numbers.

Think about any group you’ve ever been a member of. Haven’t there always been a few people who drive the action, who put themselves out front, who push and pull the whole group in a direction that the individuals might not fully embrace?

Now extrapolate that, and ratchet up the passion a zillion times. After all, these “fringers” are doing God’s work, striving to win their way into Heaven and punish those who are defying God’s will. They’re not just willing to kill and die to achieve their goals — they’re eager to.

And it’s a tossup who’s worst in their eyes — the West, or the moderates within Islam. The infidels and unbelievers or the apostates and heretics. Personally, I think they see the “traitors to Islam” as worse than the “enemies of Islam,” but it’s a tough call.

How do they keep the would-be traitors in line? Simple. Terror.

Those who would challenge the radicals within Islam are targeted and isolated, often even killed, along with their families and associates. It’s a simple matter of hammering down the nails that stick up. Squeaky wheels get greased.

So the nails learn to not stick up, and the wheels stop squeaking on their own.

Yes, the non-radical Muslims do vastly outnumber the radicals in their midst. But that isn’t really relevant, because the non-radicals have learned — the hard way, over decades and centuries — that the best way for them to survive is to go along to get along. To them, the radicals in their midst are a flamethrower with no off switch. The only thing they can do is to try to aim it away from themselves.

Perhaps there’s a way to cut off the fuel to the flamethrower. Perhaps we can find a way to excise the incredibly malignant tumor of radicalism from Islam, or — better yet — the Muslims themselves can bring about the change within their own ranks.

In the meantime, though, we have to deal with the reality of the situation. Like it or not, fair or not, the radicals are the “face” of Islam in the world today.

I understand and sympathize with the plight of the moderate Muslims. I agree that needs to be a “Reformation” of Islam, a maturing and mellowing of the faith like Judaism and Christianity underwent. And I hope that it comes soon.

In the meantime, though, I have to reject the calls for “patience” in the struggle. Because that “patience” is measured in human lives. Innocent human lives.

Primary Turnout Disparities Portend Possible Avalanche in November
"Now, we are really all Israelis"