In an recent opinion piece titled “Is it Islamic or Islamist?”, two professors highlighted the inherent confusion in the West when dealing with Muslims (Newsweek, November 1). The piece advocated a moderate stand toward Muslims in general, but more harshness toward fundamentalists. We’ve heard this before. The new insight of this piece was the ironic and/or ignorant fault lines in Western politics. Left-leaning politicians are “defending Islamism because they think that they are defending Islam,” they argue. “By defending radical Islamist movements, the left is helping only to give Muslims a bad name. … The right, on the other hand, often targets Islam while thinking that it is attacking Islamism.”
The point is definitely a valid one, especially given that Islam does not and cannot speak with a single voice. A fact that seems totally lost on one reader from Hawaii, who in his letter to the editor claims that “Islam claims moderation, but continues to welcome Islamists in its midst … Islam has [an] obligation to put its own house in order” (Newsweek, November 15).
I’m not saying moderate Muslims can’t do more to distance themselves from Islamists. The certainly can – and should. But despite what many xenophobic commentators would have us believe, Islam is not a single entity. Exactly like in Christianity, there are fractions, and no single leader. What if the same logic is applied to Christianity – no wait, that actually happens quite often. “You call yourself a Christian? But what about those crazy (x) who do the same?”
I will gladly disenfranchise myself from “Christians” that I don’t agree with. But that doesn’t really solve the problem of guilt by association, if people choose to narrow-mindedly group everyone together. Do we hate all Americans, because some Americans seem bigoted and self-possessed? Well, some Europeans do. Take a look in the mirror, folks.
But someone should do something. Someone should “put the house in order”. Really? Like in one person, with power to decide the fate of 1 billion believers? One person who dictates what they should all say, do, and believe? I’m sure Osama bin Laden would like the job. As for Christianity, the pope would be the obvious choice. But I don’t think even he would cherish that sort of power. Better leave it to the people to think for themselves.