"Do you believe in 'radical Islam'?" the famous Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders once asked me.
The occasion was a banquet last summer at the Reagan Library outside of Los Angeles where later that evening Wilders would receive a Hero of Conscience award from the American Freedom Alliance. I would have the honor of introducing him. "What did you say?" I could barely hear him over the speaker at the podium elaborating on the perils of, yes, "radical Islam."
"'Radical Islam,'" he repeated. "Do you think there is 'radical Islam,' or only 'Islam'"?
Me, I'm an "only Islam" kind of gal, as I told him. Who am I to argue with Muslims ranging from terror-cleric Abu Qatada to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan? Erdogan is particularly interesting as a democratically elected Islamic leader who eschews all word-modifiers of Islam including "moderate," the adjective the media often applies to his AKP political party. "These descriptions are very ugly," Erdogan said in 2007. "It is offensive and an insult to our religion. There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam, and that's it." Erdogan has also bluntly rejected descriptions of Turkey itself as an example of "moderate Islam," saying last April: "It is unacceptable for us to agree with such a definition. Turkey has never been a country to represent such a concept. Moreover, Islam cannot be classified as moderate or not."
I mention this now because after the fireworks over Scott Brown's U.S. Senate victory in Massachusetts have died down, we will have to return to the same, old, equal parts humdrum and deadly wrangle over how to think, talk about and grapple with Islam in what remains a post-9/11 world.
Two related events took place just as the Massachusetts miracle sucked the oxygen from non-election news excepting Haiti coverage. First, the Pentagon report on the Fort Hood massacre came out. It is 86 pages long and doesn't mention the words "Muslim," "Islam," "jihad," "Sharia" (Islamic law), "Koran" -- despite the fact that we know, among other things, that the killer, who initiated his massacre with a cry of "Allahu Akbar," was a Muslim inspired by Islam to perform an act of jihad as sanctioned by Sharia derived from the Koran.