Brinkley: Muslims must stand up to extremists
Posted Oct 05, 2010
We are living the age of discontent—with Islam.
Government leaders and ordinary people around the world seem to be giving up on the view, oft-argued since 9/11, that Islam is not to blame for the violent acts of its militant miscreants. That is spawning an epidemic of attacks on Muslims, their religion, its icons, practices and customs.
We all know about the long and acrimonious debate over the Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero in New York. We saw the violence that erupted over that whacko preacher’s threat to burn Korans in Gainesville, Fla. He backed down, but then last week British police arrested six men who had burned a Koran and posted a video of their antic on YouTube.
Those were the most public developments, but consider some of the less-known incidents, all in the last week or so. The French Senate voted to forbid Islamic women to wear face-covering veils. Then, a few days later, the nation’s police chief warned of a “peak” terror threat from al-Qaeda.
In Germany, Thilo Sarrazin, the author of a new book that disparages Muslim immigrants, was forced to leave the board of the state’s central bank because of controversy over his anti-Islamic views. More than 4 million Muslims immigrants now live in Germany, and the book prompted a broad national debate on the issue. Resulting surveys showed that “many ordinary Germans support Sarrazin and his provocative ideas,” the news magazine Der Spiegel reported.
In Sweden, an anti-immigrant party particularly obsessed with Muslim immigrants won seats in parliament for the first time. One of its leaders proclaimed Muslim population growth to be Sweden’s greatest foreign threat since World War II.
In Tajikistan, the military blamed Islamic militants for an assault on a military convoy that killed 23 soldiers. Faridun Makhmadaliyev, a Tajik military spokesman, asserted that the attackers were “using the Holy religion of Islam as a guise to turn Tajikistan into an arena of civil war.”
Interpol, the international police agency, issued a stark warning about the proliferation of Islamic-extremist websites intended to recruit members for al-Qaeda and adjunct terror groups. Addressing a conference of police chiefs in Paris, Interpol chief Ronald Noble said his agency now counts many thousands of them. “The threat is global,” he warned.
In the U.S., the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported a 60 percent increase over the last few years in Muslim workers’ complaints about discrimination and mistreatment. “I’ve been doing this for 31 years, and I’ve never seen such antipathy toward Muslim workers,” Mary Jo O’Neill, a regional attorney for the federal agency, told the New York Times.
As if all of that were not enough, the Texas Board of Education passed a rule last Friday ordering publishers to keep “pro-Islam” textbooks out of the state. And early next month, Intelligence Squared, which puts on public debates about major social and political issues, is staging one on the question of whether Islam is a religion of peace.
This is becoming the greatest issue of our age. Moderate Arab commentators continue to argue that the religion is not to blame for the violence a few of its followers foment. Fouad Ajami, a Lebanese-American academic who frequently writes about these topics, put it this way: “Sly preachers and their foot soldiers ‘weaponized’ the faith.” In Egypt, writer Aijaz Zaka Syed complained, “it’s about time the world stopped blaming Islam and punishing Muslims for the violent actions of a group of fanatics.”
But that is becoming a losing argument. Most people know by now that imams in many Islamic states regularly preach jihad during Friday prayers, and their governments generally do nothing to stop them.
We are now seeing a highly visible effort by the Catholic Church—lame and years late—to crack down on pedophilia. But I see no similar effort in the Islamic world to quiet those imams who urge their followers to commit violence and terror in the name of the faith.
No doubt, the virtual entirety of the Catholic world, 1.1 billion people, opposes pedophilia. But has that quieted the acrimony? Hardly. And it is certainly true that the vast majority of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims oppose the violence instigated by some of their religious leaders. But until these Muslims step up and make a concerted effort to curtail the provocateurs, they will continue to take some of the blame. It’s just human nature.
Do something—or get used to it. Around the world, people have just had enough.
Joel Brinkley, a professor of journalism at Stanford University, is a former Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent for the New York Times.
Sophia A. writes: