We live in a society that places ever more importance upon respecting the way individuals self-identify.
If someone refers to herself as a woman, it’s not in our place to question her femininity simply because she lacks certain assets traditionally associated with being female, or because, as per our blinkered expectations, some of her anatomical appurtenances squarely contradict her claim to womanhood as we’ve been conditioned to define it.
And if someone is 90% one race and 10% another, the progressive and hence enlightened stance is to regard that person as whichever race he or she identifies with, not whichever race we may intuitively assign him or her based on percentages and stereotypes. (This goes so far that we’ve had a somewhat serious debate over whether an all-white lady ought to be granted her wish to be accepted as black because that’s how she views herself.)
Yet then we’re told that violent jihadists aren’t really Muslims no matter how much they profess to be.
But if they say they are—and assuming that self-identification is indeed to be respected—whence our authority to gainsay their claim?
Sure, these people pick and choose which tenets of Islam to follow and which to violate or ignore, but so do many “moderate” Muslims (i.e., the kind we like and feel safe around) whose adherence to Islam appears limited to observing Ramadan and abstaining from pork and hard liquor—the Qur’an surely looks a lot thicker than that.
Strictly speaking, you can’t be a “moderate” anything without violating or ignoring certain requirements the adherence to which would make you a full-fledged member of that group—otherwise, what, if not cafeteria-ism, is it that makes you a “moderate”? The question arises, if you’re a moderate, do you hold a legitimate claim at all to being that which you practice only moderately? If your diet includes vegetarian foods in moderation, does that make you a moderate vegetarian or not a vegetarian?
So why are we to recognize the claim to genuine Muslimhood of the so-called moderates but not the so-called extremists (who are themselves but moderates when it comes to following Islam) such that we presume ourselves entitled to declare the former practitioners of and the latter perverters of Islam?