Muslims should be concerned about the western street
EVER SINCE 9/11, a dark view of Islam has been gaining currency on what might be called the Western street. This view holds that, contrary to the protestations of our political leaders — who claim that acts of terrorism are being carried out by a minority of extremists — the real problem lies with Islam itself. In this interpretation, Islam is not a religion of peace but of war, and its 1.2 billion adherents will never rest until all of humanity is either converted, subjugated or simply annihilated.There is more. It is the passivity in the face of the provocations that suggest that the majority of Muslims do not oppose the wickedness done in the name of their religion.
Is the war on terrorism really a "clash of civilizations"? The overreaction to Pope Benedict XVI's relatively innocuous remarks at the University of Regensburg on Sept. 12 would seem to lend weight to this alarming notion.
Where are the demonstrations in the Muslim street when the president of Iran denies the Holocaust and calls for the destruction of Israel? Or when Palestinian kidnappers force two Western journalists to convert to Islam at gunpoint? Or when Sunni terrorists in Iraq bomb Shiite mosques and slaughter hundreds of worshipers? All too many Islamic leaders prefer to harp on the supposed sins of the "infidels," however exaggerated or even fictionalized (no, the CIA didn't bomb the World Trade Center to create an excuse for invading Afghanistan), rather than focusing on the problems within their own umma (community).
And yet it would be a mistake to conclude that the woes of Islamic society today, serious as they are, are endemic to the religion itself.
It is true that, alone of the world's major faiths, Islam was founded by a prophet who used force to win converts. "I was ordered to fight all men until they say, 'There is no god but Allah,' " Muhammad proclaimed in his farewell address to his followers in AD 632.
The real enemy we face is not Islam per se but a violent offshoot known as Islamism, which is rooted, to be sure, in the Koran but which also finds inspiration in such modern Western ideologies as fascism, Nazism and communism. Its most successful exponents — from Hassan Banna and Sayyid Qutb to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and Osama bin Laden — are hardly orthodox interpreters of Islam. They are power-mad intellectuals in the mold of a Lenin or a Hitler. The problem is that the rest of the Muslim world, by not doing more to curb the radicals — whether out of fear or sympathy — lends credence to the most objectionable caricatures of their faith.