Home  > Historical Perspectives
Moderate Muslims must win (ISRAEL HAYOM OP-ED) David Keyes 05/16/12)Source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinion.php?id=1895 Israel Hayom Israel Hayom Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, was right to condemn a leaked Defense Department lecture on total war against Islam. An instructor of a now-scrubbed Pentagon curriculum taught fellow officers that “there is no such thing as ‘moderate Islam,’” and “it is therefore time for the United States to make our true intentions clear. This barbaric ideology will no longer be tolerated. Islam must change or we will facilitate its self- destruction.”

“It was totally objectionable, against our values, and it wasn’t academically sound,” Dempsey said on Thursday. Indeed, anyone who has studied religion knows of the many interpretations of Islam and the frequent gaps between scripture and practice. Literalism is a problem in almost any religion, and Islam is no exception.

The more than one and a half billion adherents of Islam cannot be lumped into a single category and entire religions should not be spoken about in such terms. It should go without saying that there are good and bad people in every religion.

The irresponsible views of a single instructor should not absolve the rest of us from serious discussion about fundamentalism and the importance of ensuring that moderate Muslims win the battle for hearts and minds. This is one of the most pressing human rights concerns of the 21st century.

Consider the following statistics. In 2009, the U.N.´s Human Security Survey conducted a poll of Palestinians asking “how a male family member would react if a female member committed an act he regarded as a violation of custom or tradition.” More than half responded with “Kill her” or “Hit her.”

In 2010, Pew asked Egyptians what the punishment should be for leaving Islam, and 84 percent said “death.” That is 84% of more than 80 million people. In Jordan, 86% agreed that death is the proper punishment for changing one’s mind about Islam. In Pakistan, the number was 76%.

Shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, Saudi intelligence conducted a poll, leaked by The New York Times, which found that more than 95% of Saudis between the ages of 25 and 41 sympathized with Osama bin Laden. Of course, Saudi intelligence can hardly be trusted on its own merits, but even if this number is off by a large margin, it is still terrifying.

In 2011, the Pew Global Attitudes Survey found that 34% of Palestinians had confidence in Osama bin Laden to “do the right thing in world affairs.” In 2012, 21% of Egyptians polled had a favorable view of al-Qaida, and two years earlier 49% of Nigerian Muslims admitted seeing al-Qaida in a favorable light.

There are, in other words, enormous segments of Muslim societies that harbor abhorrent, extremist and inexcusable views. How can 86% of Jordanians be convinced that it is never acceptable to kill a person for changing his mind about religion? How does one do this when it is widely accepted that the Islamic prophet Muhammad said, “Whoever changes his religion, kill him”?

These are difficult questions without quick fixes. The good news is that ideologies have changed before and once-fanatic groups have transformed. If large-scale war is to be avoided, the world must redouble its efforts to empower moderates and encourage liberal reformers within Islam. The rights and safety of countless Muslims and non-Muslims depends on this transformation.


Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY