Memo from the World’s Moderates to the Muslim World
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.
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.
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.
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!