July 27, 2005 [LINK]

War with(in) Islam

Michael Graham, a D.C. radio talk show host who appears on the Eye On Washington panel discussion show on WUSA-TV9, sparked outrage among Muslims by describing the "The problem is not extremism. The problem is Islam. ... We are at war with a terrorist organization named Islam." See Washington Post That kind of rhetoric is going too far, I think, and it may further damage relations between the West and the Islamic world, but it does point out a sad fact: There are too few moderate Muslims speaking out against terrorism, there are too many wealthy Saudis who provide financial support to the intolerant, anti-modern Wahabbist branch of Islam, and there are too many terror-preaching madrassa schools in Pakistan and other poor countries where the vast unemployed population provide easy recruits to jihad. It is much too early to say that we are engaged in war with Islam, but there is no doubt that a war within Islam is already underway.

Perhaps the views of Muslims themselves will be of greater help in understanding this. Irshad Manji, the outspoken Ugandan-born Canadian author of The Trouble with Islam interpreted the London bombings in Time magazine: "When Denial Can Kill." She asserts that by refusing to face up to the fact that the Islamic faith is being used for evil ends, Muslims are passively abetting the terrorists and thereby making their religion weaker: "as long as Muslims live in pretense, we will be affirming that we have something to hide." She has a Web site: muslim-refusenik.com.

In today's Washington Post, Anne Applebaum cautions the public diplomacy campaign toward the Muslim world that Karen Hughes recently began to direct. She calls attention to a report by the Center for Religious Freedom (a part of Freedom House): "Saudi Publications on Hate Ideology Invade American Mosques." Such activities by our nominal "allies" cannot be tolerated forever, and our diplomacy must face up to the prospect of a break in political relations, and possibly economic relations as well. Unthinkable? So is a nuke in Manhattan. In this context, nice gestures such as state visits to Egypt by First Lady Laura Bush will count for little if there is no concrete support for the moderate voices in Islam. Applebaum aptly describes how our current diplomatic practices show such a glaring contradiction between means and ends: "At the moment, the State Department probably spends more money denying visas to moderate Muslims than it does funding magazines for them to write in." If that doesn't change soon, we will have wasted a huge opportunity to follow through on the recent strides toward liberalization and democratization in the Middle East.