Moderate Muslims must win (ISRAEL HAYOM OP-ED) David Keyes 05/16/12)
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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-
“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
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.
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