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January 11, 2015 11:04 am

Memo from the World’s Moderates to the Muslim World

avatar by Brandon Marlon

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Respect should be everyone's first religion.

O, Believers!

We have to talk. Something’s gotta give.

All you among the Umma are human beings, and like all humans, capable of tremendous good. You are not born as savages, barbarians, terrorists, or mass murderers; hatred is not hardwired within you. Let none suggest otherwise.

Because you are human beings, not monsters, you must take responsibility and hold yourselves to account for the deeds and misdeeds of your faith community. Never allow anyone to dishonor you by infantilizing you, by cynically and condescendingly pretending your culture is ineluctably cruel or your societies hopelessly backward. Evil, wherever it is found, must never get a free pass. Those who misguidedly whitewash heinous acts committed by Muslims are decidedly not doing you any favors. They would keep adults in diapers, and a religion fourteen centuries old in its nonage.

Rather, it’s high time you huddled together, rolled-up your sleeves, and concertedly reckoned with what’s happening in the world at the hands of Muslims and in the name of Islam.

We outsiders know full well that there are many laudable aspects of Islam – faithfulness, prayer, alms-giving, fasting, pilgrimage – but this jihad business has got to go. No ifs, ands, or buts. No less than global harmony is at stake.

The universal jihad is the edification of character and enlightenment of the mind. Let it begin and end there.

In truth, all religious persons must practice two religions, and the first of these must always be Respect. If you do not practice this primary religion, your secondary religion is a meaningless failure.

Like all established religions, you can self-reform; like all cultures, you can base yours upon universal values; like all communities, you can promote coexistence and outreach to nonmembers. You can foster respect and foment healing. All of this lies undoubtedly within your grasp as spiritual individuals and as an established religious group. Use your agency to auto-emancipate yourselves from the hateful and violent imperatives motivating so much of your membership and severing you from your fellow human beings who would much rather interact and coexist with you peaceably.

Coexistence takes two willing parties.

We the moderates of the wider world demand, in the urgent interest of world peace, that you rigorously reform your faith by your ulama re-interpreting scriptural passages from the Qur’an that are hateful and violent in nature and advocate disharmony between Muslims and non-Muslims. Your sanctioned interpreters can revisit these verses with the specific aim of formulating humaner meanings: Islamic jurisconsults of the various schools should set this as their highest priority post-haste. Mitigated readings of the Qur’an should then be espoused in your homes, emphasized in your madrasas, and preached from your mosque pulpits.

You can believe that the Qur’anic message was divine and still acknowledge that its transmission and interpretation were human, therefore fallible.

The evidence proves that Allah created many peoples and allowed various religions to flourish; there is even space for non-believers and doubters in our shared world. Allah saw fit to express life in myriad forms, to fashion beings as male and female (and sometimes transgender), heterosexual and homosexual. Diversity and pluralism are blessings, and need not threaten your own cherished beliefs.

Understand that murder is not martyrdom and terrorism is not freedom-fighting. There is no place in civilization for religious coercion or violence in the name of religion. Those who murder in the name of one religion give a bad name to all religions.

A modest proposal.

You Muslims rightly have the freedom to worship as you wish and the right to believe whatever you would. But there are common ground rules – patently non-negotiable – which we all have to abide by:

All freedoms come with limits. All rights come with responsibilities. Speaking of one without the other is like pretending coins have only one side.

To be sure, incitement for its own sake is childish and pathetic; no one should wake up, get out of bed, and decide to inflame communities to which he or she does not belong for lack of anything better to do on any given day. Enraging others by thoughtlessly offending their religious sensibilities does not add anything constructive or productive to the world. Yet reacting with mass murder to any such jejune provocations exceeds all recognizable norms and mores of civilized behavior. Instead, draw your own cartoons, write your own articles, demonstrate, rally, march, protest, boycott, or engage in civil disobedience. There are plenty of peaceful ways to advance diverse views in public fora.

Dear Muslims, the world needs your positive contributions to the human mosaic. We are enriched by your al-Kindis, al-Rabis, al-Farabis, Ibn Sinas, al-Ghazalis, Ibn Rushds, Firdosis, Khayyams, Rumis, and Hafizes. We are impoverished by your Arafats, Yassins, Haniyehs, Mashaals, Nasrallahs, Khomeinis, Khameneis, Bin Ladens, al-Zawahiris, and al-Baghdadis.

In medieval times, Islam preserved ancient knowledge and led the world in many areas including philosophy, medicine, and literature. In modern times, why should Islam be the scourge of civilization, noxious in the nostrils of the world? There are far, far too many among your ranks who wish to eternally remain in the harsh brutality of 7th Century Arabia, but the world dwells in the reality of this our 21st century and wishes to move forward. This is not a clash of civilizations, but of civilization and barbarism, humanity and inhumanity, those who would be progressive (in the best sense) and those who would be primitive (in the worst sense).

How long will you engage in despicable bloodshed or else conspicuously remain mute as your coreligionists do so? Your atrocities are unspeakable and your silence deafening. Tacit approval of – if not overt support for – diabolical massacres perpetrated by your fellow Muslims is as repugnant and unconscionable as actively terrorizing innocents. If there are currently 1.6 billion Muslims, then the vast majority of you – en masse! – must pack all the maidans of the Muslim world and cram all the plazas of global capitals to denounce and deplore the incessant irruptions and gruesome horrors wrought by your fellows. The decades of hiding your heads in mental sand dunes must come to an end.

Where are the Muslim mobs when most needed???

Believers, know that it is not what you believe within yourselves, but how you act toward others, that defines you. Loving G-d is most convincingly evinced through interpersonal ethics.

You are inarguably an important part of the human family. You are human beings created in the divine image. For the love of Allah, act like it.

Peace be upon you…and upon all who share the world with you!

N.B. Egyptian President Al-Sisi at Al-Azhar: We Must Revolutionize Our Religion

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  • Moshe Akiva

    Mr. Brandon Marlon touched upon the basic problem of Islam but failed to explore it. That basic problem is the total lack of respect for other religions.

    With verses like Koran 9:73, 47:4, 9:123, 9:19, 9:20 one cannot really expect the Muslims to respect any other religion or thought. (And there are many more verses that ask for intolerance.)

    It is not a wonder that Muslims found great friends in socialists and communists in the West, for they are both very intolerant of other ideas and they are both trying to destroy Western freedom.

    • Julian Clovelley

      A post like your one Moshe leaves me wondering if you have a clue about the meaning of the words you use.

      To this confusion you seem you add the confusing of two issues – an attitude to islam and an attitude to what you view as “socialism”

      The main issue in this article is a courageous call for religious self regulation. You seem to suggest in your second paragraph that you do not see that as possible

      Both Judaism and Christianity for the most part learnt of its necessity long ago. The real matter causing violence in the world today is the question not of the right to believe but the right not to.. So long as that “right” of disbelief does not exist then for many people religion flies in the face of reason and leaves them as potential murder victims

      Belief isn’t chosen ever, it is always motivated by deeper considerations than simple choice. Assertion seems to be what Islam is demanding but that isn’t belief – and if assertion is all you have in your followers then in truth your hands are empty. Assertion is not related to conviction and is often a defensive response to bullying

      There are many examples of this in Christianity – It is not so long ago that it was dangerous to be seen not to believe the required and approved doctrine, which might include something as simple as the orbit of planets.

      I am reminded of the compliant attitude satirised in “Brideshead Revisited” by Evelyn Waugh as the priest recounts his attempts to coach a potential convert:

      “Yesterday I asked him whether Our Lord had more than one nature. He said: ‘Just as many as you say, Father.’

      Then again I asked him: ‘Supposing the Pope looked up and saw a cloud and said ‘It’s going to rain’, would that be bound to happen?’ ‘Oh, yes, Father.’ ‘But supposing it didn’t?’ He thought a moment and said, “I suppose it would be sort of raining spiritually, only we were too sinful to see it.'”

  • Peter

    The Creator has a name, it isn’t G-d or Hashem or the A–ah. The Elohim of Israel has a name. He created all things and eagerly prepares to return to the people who know Him, the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. There are many gods, Torah clearly teaches this. But, there is one God over all and He is echad. His message for you and I is: return to _me_.

  • Paul

    This lovely, thoughtful article completely misses the point.It is persuasive to persons sharing the same value system as the writer – and such persons don’t need the sermon. The writer mistakenly assumes this value system is shared by everyone, including all moslems, whom he is addressing.
    The Western culture embraces the Judeo-Christian moral ethic, with justice as the supreme value and guilt at the other end of the spectrum. The moslem moral ethic spans between pride as the ultimate virtue, and shame as the ultimate bad. There is no real meeting place between these two systems, and it is pointless to try make a moral judgement of the actions of a person who believes in a different moral system. A western mind will not understand the actions of a moslem who places pride above all else, and who has no consideration for justice as a factor affecting his decisions. Western minds will view such actions as evil BECAUSE they are not based on justice.
    This difference may be well illustrated by the following true example: About 2 years ago an editorial article appeared in the press in a West Bank newspaper, criticizing a man who had slit the throat of his six-year-old daughter because she was suspected of having being raped. It turns out that the suspicion was unfounded, and he had murdered his daughter by mistake. The criticism was only that he had not made sure his daughter was really raped before killing her. Naturally, if she HAD been raped, she SHOULD be killed – according to their system. If you had asked this father if he thought it was JUST to kill the victim he may have thought about it and said it was NOT just. If you asked him what he felt at the time he slit his daughters throat, he would probably have said he felt unspeakable anguish. And if you asked WHY he did it, he would have explained that his family honor left him no choice, and that justice had nothing to do with the decision. This is not being EVIL, it is a DIFFERENT mind-set. To western eyes, who seek JUSTICE above other things – this would appear as the height of evil – because it is unjust.
    When US troops entered Iraq they found pictures on buildings celebrating the Sept 11 tragedy. For the Iraqis this was a matter of great pride – moslems had struck hard at the world’s biggest power, whose superiority was a source of shame to them. The fact that there was no justice anywhere in this behavior was not an issue – for them. The point is, the problem is not only a RELIGIOUS matter, but also a CULTURAL matter.

  • Ivan Gur-Arie

    Wonderful piece. However, as a born cynic I have to ask a is tghe author of this still alive or is his head on someone;s trophy shelf? IF real then this person must be a dreamer who sees himself driving the tides backward. Undoubtedly there are many Muslims who are truly wonderful people, but they have either remained silent or like the writer of this piece have arrived after the horse left the barn door while the door was open. No sense in closing it.

  • Krumby

    The problem is that Islam is not a rational religion, it’s a religion of passion. If we expect the Muslms to “reinterpret” problematic verses then we’d be asking them to exercise their intellect and that’s something that is entirely foreign to the mentality of a vast majority of Muslims. It would be easier to ask a duck to sprint the 100 yard dash. Also, if Muslims would take a good careful INTELLECTUAL inspection of their religion they’d end up throwing it away. Neither the “moderate” Muslim nor the “radical” Muslim can afford to deal with it in an intellectual frame of mind. So asking them to reinterpret passages that non-Muslims feel is problematic is a nonstarter. Particularly when the extreme pleasure of POWER comes from demanding the whole world submit to them. We’ll have to come up with something far better. We can’t politely ask them to put down the sword,becasue people who enjoy murdering aren’t swayed by polite requests. We must find their psychological weak-point, and every culture has a weak-point. The Arabs found the psychological weak-point of Jews and have been exploiting it for decades. Now it’s time we turn the tables and find and use that weak-point against them. It must be something that will deny them entry into paradise because the pay-off of 72 virgins for all eternity is really what motivates individual terrorists.

  • Musa Alhassan M

    A beautiful educative write-up these killers are on their own may Almighty guide them and protect us from them

  • Robert B Geller

    Problem is that you are simply preaching to the choir. Your worlds will never be heard by those who need to hear them. Even if they are heard, nothing will change. Perhaps, we are the ones who do not understand when we keep believing that the “vast Majority” of Muslims are peace-loving……………., etc. Perhaps the vast majority of Muslims are simply quiet participants. Remember that after 9-11, the streets of many Muslim countries were overcrowded by “moderate” Muslims yelling death to the Americans while giving candy to their children. In reality, the vast majority of Americans and other Western civilizations need to wake up to the reality of the world. There is no majority or minority of Muslims anymore. Everyday, people die of atrocities and horrific crimes caused by more and more Muslims. IF it makes you feel more comfortable at night, continue to believe that most are moderates. However, one day you will need to wake up when you see the streets of your communities lined with moderate Muslims, yelling “Allah is Great!”

  • Kent

    Best thing i ever have read for a very long time

  • Larry Butchins

    Excellent piece: this is a must read.

  • Eddie

    Mr. Marlon,

    I share your sentiments, but there are two levels at which more research and thought are necessary:

    1. Does Islam accept as universal the values on which your statement is based? If not, then expect to be ignored.

    2. If it does, what do “moderate” Muslims do about the non-moderates who will seek to kill *them*?

    Both hurdles must be passed before the reformation of Islam can begin.

    See also: Islam Will Not Have Its Own ‘Reformation’ by Nick Danforth

  • ML

    Shame on you! There are many Muslims who speak out against terror. It’s very sad that people who write pieces like this dishonor HaShem by pointing fingers at a religion and judging a religion solely by its extremists. Judaism is not without extremists and you know full well that to kill someone’s soul is worse than killing their body. You practice on’aat devarim, lashon hara, and chillul Hashem. This op-ed should have never been published. This is why it’s difficult for peace to exist in this world. Those that practice terror are not true Muslims and if you bothered to educate yourself instead of listening to hateful rhetoric you would realize this. How sad.

    • Israel Isaiah

      Are you deranged? You practice derangement convincingly. Give your kopp a shake, wingnut!

      • the op-ed should never have been published? do you understand what an op-ed it? Op stands for opinion.

        There are many muslims who speak out against terror? Are there? How many is many when you have 2.2 billion members?

        Ask any muslim, any muslim at all, if Hamas is a terrorist organization….

        Im guessing you yourself would say they werent as well.

    • ML

      I’m tired of people like you that create a fictional world fashioned out of peripheral fringe thoughts that have almost no bearing on the main message being conveyed. There is absolutely nothing that you wrote in defence of some supposed position that contradicts what the author was saying. In other words, he, TOO, agrees that many Muslims speak out against terror, his message however goes deeper, albeit seemingly a little too deep for you.

      • Israel isaiah

        Wow. You do utter incoherence well. Must have missed a pill dose. Yasher koach, “ML”!

  • Great article. Past time peace loving Muslims en mass to stand up and speak up opposing the Islamic terrorism.

  • Excellent! Needs to be reprinted in many languages (esp. Arabic) and in the popular press worldwide. Otherwise, it dies here; such a shame that would be.

  • carol

    I like the writer’s sentiments, but jihad, 109 verses of violence and more of hatred, which abrogated the earlier peaceful ones are extremely unlikely to help produce a reformation.

    The vast majority of the ulema and umma believe they are on a roll, with little standing in the way of the complete defeat of the West and rest of the world, as they are called to do.

    Appealing to some inherent inner goodness of Muslims will maybe have an effect on a small minority, as violence, jihad, totalitarianism are all prescribed by the Qur’an, and are considered highly praiseworthy, with martyred jihadis guaranteed to enter Paradise.

    • i believe the word “love” is mentioned in the quran 5 or 6 times. The word “doom” or “doomed” is mentioned hundreds of times.