These days I seem obsessed with Islam and its intolerance. I see recent events in dire terms, signaling a move toward what might eventually become a World War of Religion that ultimately pits non-Muslims and Muslims against each other in violent confrontation.
Dan K. Thomasson, a Scripps-Howard News Service columnist whose work is published in the local newspaper, had a thoughtful column in this morning’s edition in which he discusses this issue. In it he recites the response of Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf to a question from NBC’s Tom Brokaw, who asked why there is such a violent reaction among Muslims to the now-infamous cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed, but no reaction when radical Muslims blow up mosques and kill fellow Muslims. According to Mr. Thomasson, Gen. Musharraf really didn’t answer the question, and could not answer it. The reply, he said, was “couched in the cautious rhetoric of a politician who is beset by his own religious-driven problems.”
He goes on to say that Mr. Brokaw’s question is precisely what most non-Muslims the world over puzzle about, and he offered, “ the answer actually would seem to be that radical Islamic preachers use any excuse whatsoever to encourage violence, particularly against societies that cherish freedom. Taken a step further, the implication is that Islam itself is a religion built on violence, not on free expression.”
That impression “is one that moderate, God-fearing Muslims the world over need to correct quickly if the millions of them who live in open societies around the globe are to fit into the polyglot religious cultures of the modern world,” Mr. Thomasson continued. “If they are citizens of democracies, then they must respect those institutions without violent disagreement.”
In conclusion he said, “American Muslims should lead the way in disavowing this behavior. Otherwise Muslim and violence become synonymous whether it is a fact or not.” That is certainly true.
However, there is a real question whether most American Muslims even believe that this violence is wrong. As evidence of this question I cite the experience of a close personal friend, who works closely with some Muslims. He recounts the experience of another of his co-workers, who is Hindu, attending a meeting with Muslim co-workers on the evening of September 11, 2001. His Hindu friend commented that the dark events of that day were not even discussed, let alone condemned by the Muslims in attendance.
My friend is convinced that most American Muslims, while not personally bent on violent behavior, do not condemn it when it is done in the name of Allah. If this is true among the American Muslim community at large, it seems my vision of a coming religious war may be accurate.
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