Monday, July 11, 2005

Radicals vs. Moderates

There is a new front in the war on terror. It is now the front of Radicals vs. Moderates. The moderates will win.

For far too long, moderate muslims have stood by wringing their hands as one psychopath after another declares that he is going in the way of jihad (or at least his version of jihad). The voice of moderates is being drowned out by the screaming rants of what I call the fascist faction of Islam. Make no mistake, these fanatics can and do kill everyone and anyone who does not fit their narrow view of piety. In Iraq, Al Zarqawi targets Iraqis more than Americans; the London bombs had at least one go off in a predominantly Muslim area; there were Muslims in Beslan, Madrid and on 9/11.
New York, Beslan, Madrid, now London. These cities are part of a bigger problem and the
problem belongs to each and every single Muslim out there whether anyone wants to
admit it or not. The problem is extremism and it is time that all self-righteous “moderate” Muslims take ownership and clean house. It has become an embarrassment to speak of
religion. Before all of you fanatics and not-so-fanatics out there condemn me for being honest; think about it. How many of you absolutely cringe when religion, comes up. How many of you rush to explain that the extremists are not the norm and that most Muslims are in fact very
moderate. How many of you hear how much more hollow that explanation sounds when some new beheading happens or some new travesty occurs? How many of you who wear Hijab feel like you have to justify yourselves when in fact, you should never have to justify anything about how you choose to worship.
In reality, London is just the last in a long long spree of murder and mayhem perpetrated by people who justify their actions by perverting passages in the Holy Quran and who say they are doing jihad. Everyone who knows the true meaning of jihad knows that what they are doing is out and out murder, it is not jihad.
Any of us who purport to be true Muslims have an obligation to step up to the plate and fight against terrorism and against racism in all of its forms. As a journalist (who most people don’t realize is a journalist), I hear the old tired line “well, we have been dying for years and
no one cares” and the other “well, they are Muslim so we have to support them”.
Uh, no actually we don’t. The Islam that I believe in had a Prophet who treated his POW’s and hostages humanely until their release was secured, he most certainly did not behead them. The Islam I believe in preaches tolerance and love and does not kill children. More and more, there is no tolerance and there certainly is not any sense of love.

What perhaps all the moderate Muslims need tounderstand is that when a Synagogue gets hit, we are next on the list. When the Mosque gets hit, the Synagogue is usually next. In other words, the racists are definitely equal opportunity. They hate all of us equally. It is no longer just about “Jews” or “Arabs”; it is about open season on all ethnicities that don’t fit what their idea of the norm is. That is why instead of all this asinine arguing over issues that are light years away from being solved by politicians who really don’t want them solved; we should be making joint condemnation statements about any and all racist acts. In the case of terrorist attacks, let us be honest, for each and every hit that a terrorist makes, our lives get just a little bit harder over here in the West. Those who cheered when the planes hit the towers did not think about the human deaths involved, nor did they think about the long-term consequences of such barbarity. More importantly, they did not think about the hit that Islam just took. All they saw was that the mighty military power of the U.S. got a whopping black eye. Well, to be sure, the U.S. got a black eye but guess what, so did Islam. All of a sudden, a religion that many had thought was innocuous, nice and had only a few crazies became quite literally the most talked about, written about and spat on religion in the Western world. Whole hours were devoted to the dissection of what people call “Radical Islamism” with little to no differentiation made between moderates and fanatics. People who had long since been regarded as radical right-wingers, who were known to have massive prejudices about Arabs, were suddenly touted as “Radical Islamism Experts” and “Middle East Experts” and featured on everything from CNN to Fox news to clips and sound bites on our own local networks. What did we do you ask?
We of the moderates? We did nothing. Instead of standing up and loudly condemning the terrorist acts, instead of the leaders of our community and the board of the mosque sending our
condolences to the people of 9/11, we had a few community groups try their best to dispel the image we got saddled with. It was not enough then, and it certainly is not enough now.
We should be at war. We being those of us who are moderates. The war? Definitely an intellectual one. We must ask ourselves if we are truly willing to give Islam over to the extremists. If we are, then we should continue to let sleeping dogs lie and ignore the build up
of tensions that have been occurring between moderates and fanatics worldwide.


Blogger Random Personae said...

I am an Atheist...and I commend you for your post.

It's so easy for the Western World to demonize all who believe in Islam, and avoid the bother of having to think avout this war on terror.

11:33 PM  
Blogger Vanessa said...

I agree with this post thoroughly. May I add a few points and possibly open a discussion? You are saying that becuase anyone is Muslim, they should fight against these extremists, or "terrorists" becuase what they are doing in the name of jihad and Islam is wrong. True. Then also, if Bush and Paul Martin are Christian, or if the military is mostly Christian, all Christians should be fighting to stop the atrocities these governments are commiting. (Because in certain countries religion and state are the same, and in others they are not, you can substitute whatever government party for the word Christianity).

I like the idea of responsible people belonging to a certain group working to take responsibility for what that group is doing and changing it. As the group of humanity, it is a problem for all of us, however. We should all be trying to change it.
*sigh* wishful thinking.

12:32 PM  
Blogger DaliWood said...

Fundamentalism is a cancer that infects all major religions, notably Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. I don't think it's an outgrowth of religion per se as much as it is a product of frightened, small-minded, intellectually timid people who want certainty and absolutes. They are deathly afraid of a chaos that they fear will overwhelm their minds through thought, so they run to the false comfort provided by fundamentalism. To sustain that comfort, they must accept totally, believe totally, and close their minds totally. Such monomaniacal approaches to religion often make them mean-spirited, even violent in advancing their agenda. The worst among them become Timothy McVeigh or a suicide bomber. They further sustain their belief system by twisting any idea, theology, or holy writing to fit their beliefs, rather than changing their beliefs to fit the theology.

Because religion didn't create the problem, it cannot address it well as a problem based in religion. It is a psychological and social disease, not misdirected faith. To tell the fundies You're not a Christian [or Muslim or Jew, etc. will not change them but it will help to change the perception of the religion by more thoughtful people.

You are definitely on the right track by calling for a stronger commitment and voice from those in a religion who have watched with dismay as their belief system was hijacked by thugs and murderers. And I agree with Vanessa that the Christians have done little to stop the dumbing down of a once-great religion by turning it into a mindlessly simple theology about "good" and "evil" which, they believe, must be the basis of all public policy. The moderates must stand up and be counted. They must say loudly and often, I am a Muslim, and the terrorists do not speak for me, act in my name, or represent the values of Islam.

Somebody asked me yesterday why I am not a Christian. I gave the briefest answer I could: Any religion represented by George Bush, Dick Cheney, Pat Robertson, and Jerry Falwell makes me want to vomit. I was told, predictably, that Those people don't speak for all Christians. I replied, Tell THEM that, not me.

4:32 PM  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

Thoughtful post, Amal. You're exactly right that extremist Muslims are a problem for all Muslims. That's especially true because the entire motivation for acts of murderous terrorism put forward by the terrorists themselves is Islam. Moderate Muslims do have to speak out against extremism, and some have done so. However, too often they qualify their objections with some sort of argument of moral equivalence. For example, a moderate Muslim might say that a suicide bomber was wrong to murder innocent women and children, but don't forget that Palestinians are oppressed. That isn't good enough.

Daliwood, your basic argument is flawed. You can't excuse murder and mayhem justified by Islam by saying that Christianity is just as bad. It isn't. And Timothy McVeigh wasn't motivated by religion, at least not to any significant degree. You've missed Amal's point, I think, which is that there is a battle going on inside Islam, and the large majority of moderates have to step up and condemn the few extremists without offering excuses for their acts of murder. She's right.

7:47 AM  

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