What, exactly, is a “moderate” Muslim? That’s the question I asked three experts on a panel at this week’s Christians United for Israel Summit in Washington, D.C.

CUFI is an organization to gather Christians of all denominational stripes in support of the state of Israel. There was broad representation at the event – all the way from “Zionists” and pre-millennialists to Christians who simply believe support for Israel makes good political sense. It is the only true democracy in the Middle East, the first line of defense in the war on terror.

It was a well-organized event. The group clearly means business. But the repeated refrain that we are fighting “militants” and not “moderates” got me thinking. Experts, including several at the conference, have been telling us for several years now that our war is with the “radical faction” of Islam, that the so-called “religion of peace” has been hijacked by militants.

David Brog, executive director of CUFI, reiterated the point often. “We are at war with militants” he said. “Make no mistake about it; we are dealing with extremists.”

Frank Gaffney, one of the summit panelists and the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy, was the most explicit proponent of this view. Gaffney used Ronald Reagan’s strategy in bringing down the Berlin Wall as a model for how we should engage the Muslims today, saying that, like Reagan’s empowerment of natural allies within Communism, “we must empower our allies within Islam.”

Another guest panelist, Robert Satloff of the Washington Institute, basically said the same thing. Only he made the point even sharper, warning that “right now there are about 130,000 U.S. soldiers – boys and girls – fighting over in Iraq. However, if we don’t align [with the moderates] that figure will have to go up to 1.6 million in the years ahead.”

It was a somber point and well taken by all.

Both men assured us that we have a lot of “natural allies” in the Islamic world – although admitting they had only met a handful of them.

So here is the thing. I have also met a handful of perfectly civil Muslims. They are happy to live in the West. They have familiarized themselves with all the accoutrements of our society. They look the part and they speak the language. Some of them even practice law and have run for political office.

But these same people have told me in very plain terms:

  1. Suicide bombers are not terrorists, but martyrs for Allah;

  2. Everyone in the world should submit to Shariah law;

  3. Israel has no right to exist; and

  4. America has been a force of evil in the Islamic world.

None of these individuals would support the use of violence on a personal level – they said it is “not within them” to be violent (reassuring, no?). But they also said violence is “understandable” – given all that America has done!

With talk like that, the notion of “moderates” verses “extremists”– even at a summit of this caliber – begins to sounded a lot more like political correctness than honest to goodness truth.

I took the opportunity to raise this issue with the panel. “What,” I asked, “is a ‘moderate Muslim’ exactly?” It wasn’t a rhetorical question, and I wasn’t asking for simple assurances that moderates actually existed. I wanted to know more. Who are these people? What do they believe? And why, why, WHY has there been such a deafening silence from this supposedly large group of Muslims living in the “land of the free”?

And I wasn’t the only one who wanted to know. Everyone at the summit wanted a clear and unequivocal answer, because ever since 9/11 our experience with these so-called “natural allies” has been anything but favorable; if they haven’t been dancing in the streets in celebration of our demise, they sure have been silent – eerily silent.

Frankly, the response I received left me exasperated.

“You have to understand how difficult it is for these moderates to speak out,” one said. “They take great risk to their lives. It is a very difficult thing for them to do.”

Exactly what does that mean? Westerners don’t take great risks when they speak out? Americans aren’t losing lives because of this? The defenders of freedom aren’t being frightened on a daily basis because of the jihadists’ constant threats to annihilate us?

Just whom are they kidding?

But their response also begs another important question: How much good are these “natural allies” to our side if their fear paralyzes them to the point that they can’t even organize a simple protest against the so-called “fanatics” of their faith on this side of the Atlantic?

Personally, there was only one panelist at the conference that gave us the straight goods. Brigitte Gabriel, a dynamic and very well-spoken Lebanese-American woman, looked us all in the eye and, in response to my question, said very plainly:

“If there are moderate Muslims, they are irrelevant. They are either too small to matter or they are too afraid to be of any help!”

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Tristan Emmanuel, M.T.S., is the founder and president of ECP Centre – Equipping Christians for the Public-Square. He is the host of “No Apologies,” a weekly web-radio show dedicated to illustrating the absurdity of political correctness, and he is the author of “Christophobia: The Real Reason Behind Hate Crime Legislation” and “Warned: Canada’s Revolution Against Faith, Family and Freedom Threatens America.” Emmanuel writes as a Christian cultural apologist, defending the need for advocating and living out a comprehensive cultural Christianity today.

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