I have a doctor who, several years ago, was instrumental in diagnosing a medical condition that was life threatening. We have been friendly ever since. On Friday, I had coffee with him at a cafe near the clinic where he practices.
In the many office visits with him over the last several years we have chatted about a number of things, briefly, as his schedule is always very full. A topic of particular interest was his religious affiliation and mine.
Early on I made it clear that I was interested in and respected Islam- a relatively rare sentiment among my fellow Christians here in Missouri. He was a leader in his mosque, more properly referred to as a masjid, as a member of its governing board, its Shura Committee, as I was a leader in my own mainstream Protestant Church.
Over coffee he told me that his mosque's iman, its "clergyman", had asked him to step down from his leadership on the Shura a couple of months ago and then last week that committee had asked him to take a leave of absence from the mosque entirely. Why?
The doctor has been outspoken about the need for American Mosques, American Islamic Lay and Religious Leadership, and American Muslims overall, to regularly and strongly denounce the practices of fundamentalist Islamic zealots worldwide, to critique their false understanding of the Qur'an, to boycott efforts to support any organization affiliated with the violence, and to actively work for peace.
My doctor friend is a modern man whose wife is an attorney and whose two daughters are prominent business leaders. His mosque reflects the spirit of modern Islam.The Shura has a mixed membership of men and women, belongs to inter-faith organization, and participates in community outreach. Its membership is generally well educated and professional.
In private, he assures me, the moque's member are clear that there is no support for what ISIS or other militant jihadists are doing. He told me that many in his mosque have told him that they despise what is being done in God's name but that they prefer to take a "more prudent" low key approach than the doctor suggests.
They warned him of the animosity that can come with criticism of anything Islamic even by those whose "faith" is largely a cultural association and secular or who were part of the modern practicing Islamic community. They also said that there was real fear of what actions might be taken by zealots against the critic, his family, his friends, or his mosque. Many spoke of grave concerns for those they loved who lived in the Middle East, Africa or Asia.
The doctor had apparently pressed his Shura and his Iman on the issue believing that his people had to publicly, clearly stop ignoring the obvious fact that the Islamic faith has a large, radical and violent contingent that is generally absent in the other great world religions. Yes, the Crusades were bloody, violent and directly connected to the Christian faith but they were 700 years ago. Yes, much of Europe experienced two centuries of war in the 17th and early 18th century where one of the significant motivations was religious affiliation. Yes, India, immediately following the British removal, was broken into pieces in a Hindu-Muslim civil war.
The most modern example of Christian religious warfare can be found in Northern Ireland's "Troubles" and in the struggle between Muslims and Christians in the Balkans. In both cases, the violence was widely condemned by most members in their faith communities.
The doctor made the point that the vast majority of Muslims are not radicals and despise Jihadism if only because they are more likely to be victims of it than other people. He also admits that the fears of retribution for public criticism are not absurd. I agreed. As a kid I recall my very Irish father complaining about the pressure put on those who would not support the IRA. His long time desire to become a Hibernian was thwarted by his "on the record" refusal to donate to Irish organizations associated with the waging of the civil war in Ulster.
What does it mean to be a moderate, modern Muslim in relationship to radicalism. Getting past both political correctness and "Islamophobia" is tricky. At my request, the doctor gave me a list two years of the characteristics he looks for in a moderate, modern Muslim....He said that they...The doctor noted that the vast majority of Christians don't get offended when someone slams Westboro Baptist Church for its "God Hates...." campaigns and picketing at funerals. They do not defend those who have murdered an abortion doctor, or claim that those who proclaim that God only loves white people in "God's name" are right because they are outside the mainstream of Christianity.
1) ...Oppose terrorist attacks on civilians anywhere in the world and condemn warfare as a tool of evangelization.
2) ...Believe that damaging a Quran or a cartoon of the Prophet is sacrilegious and deeply disturbingly, but it is not a legitimate reason to behave in a violent fashion.
3) ...Believe people have a right to leave the Islamic faith in peace without having to face legal repercussions, violence or even social exclusion.
4) ...Reject wife beating, forced marriages, clitorectomies and violence towards women while embracing education, opportunity, and an equal voice in Islamic community leadership.
5) ...Think women have just as much of a right to be as free as men, able to leave the house without a male relative, drive a car, have a career, live apart from men and family and allowed to FREELY CHOOSE whether or not they want to wear a Burqa or Hijab.
6) ...Reject anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and genocide against Israel while still demanding that the rights of Muslims in Palestine be clearly established and upheld in both Israel and a Palestinian state.
7) ...Embrace freedom of religious practice and participate in respectful, open efforts to find common ground with other enlightened religious groups
8) ...Are against the application of Sharia to contemporary society, regarding it as is a relic of a distant past, and as a violation of the principle of the separation of Church and State and the values inherent in modern humanism.
The doctor closed our conversation with these words (so striking that I asked him if I could write them down). "The thing is, my friend, that most of my fellow Muslims will privately agree to all of this but that is not enough. I know I made them very uncomfortable and, as a result, my fellow believers asked me to find another place to call my religious home- to get a "fresh start" they said. It is fine that religious leaders and scholars have issued fatwas, that regional and national councils have issued statements of condemnation, and that in polling Muslims by a wide, wide margin condemn terrorism in God's name in all forms, but until the ordinary believer becomes regularly and strongly outspoken our moderation will be understood as shallow."
A number of comments to my diary have said that the doctor's criticism is unfair as there are many examples of Muslim criticism of extremism or that he is taking his narrow experience of one mosque in one city and applying it globally. Let me then add this:
This essay in Time illustrates the issue (http://time.com/... )"Muslim religious scholars, intellectuals, activists, organizations, and countries have all condemned Boko Haram and the kidnappings in unison." The doctor would likely agree but he is speaking of the rank and file, the everyday person. The author of that essay and virtually every other one like it that I have sampled does not address this.
It is their voices that are largely silent, and their presence that is large invisible. Mass protests, boycotts of businesses whose wealthy owners bankroll militant groups, grass roots political movements aiming to overthrow governments that empower militarism, and the preaching of imams at the local level with support from the governing mosque councils, shura
Or you get an article like this one: http://www.independent.co.uk/... Leadership condemns ISIS....but are there associated marches, rallies, write-in campaigns etc. Are we hearing the same at the local level?