Monday, January 09, 2006

Moderation call sparks tension in Islam

Culture: The fact this is even a debate is an embarrassment.

".....Two years ago, Jasser and a few like-minded Muslims in Arizona founded the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. This Phoenix organization was one of the first created by Muslims to promote a tolerant form of Islam compatible with a secular, democratic nation. The leaders of the new organizations say the established national Islamic groups promote a political strain of Islam that creates sympathy for the extremists - a charge the national groups deny. "Until we as Muslims admit we have some illness in our religion that needs to be cured, we won't go anywhere," said Ali Homsi, a civil engineer who joined the Phoenix organization's board. Daniel Pipes, executive director of Philadelphia's Middle East Forum and a foe of radical Islam, says the new voices are shifting the debate within the faith. "I see the emergence of these new groups as vital to present an alternative view to Muslims," said Pipes, who last year helped create a think tank opposed to militant Islamists, the Center for Islamic Pluralism, in Washington. The struggle in Phoenix is typical of the worldwide battle among Muslims over their faith. In the Middle East, the battle is waged on television, where several miniseries are presenting radical Islam for the first time in an unflattering light. ...."There is a civil war going on within Islam," Jasser said. The leaders of the new organizations acknowledge that their ranks are small. When Jasser's group put together a Muslim antiterrorism march, about 400 people showed up. The majority were non-Muslims. But the new groups have gained some legitimacy. Their calls on Muslims to alienate terrorists have resonated particularly with non-Muslims. Jasser was invited to write a column for the Arizona Republic in Phoenix. "Zuhdi seems to be that moderate Muslim voice that people have been waiting to hear," said Phil Boas, the Republic's assistant editorial-page editor. The reformists are also getting the ear of Washington's leaders. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last spring named Kamal Nawash, president of the Washington-based Free Muslim Coalition Against Terrorism, to a delegation that attended an international conference in Spain on intolerance. "We grew very quickly and were recognized by the administration," said Nawash, a lawyer.
Jasser viewpoint has made him the Muslim Uncle Tom to others who feel that actually saying there is something wrong within the Islamic community is a bad thing.
"....Nevertheless, Muslims are under great pressure to take sides with other Muslims. "For a believing Muslim, asking what if anything went wrong with the Islamic faith is an uncomfortable question," Islamic scholar Khaled Abou El Fadl writes in his book, "The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam From the Extremists." "A Muslim cannot help but feel that he or she is somehow playing into the hands of Islam's enemies." Indeed, Hooper said criticism from Muslims such as Jasser was "providing others with an opportunity to advance an agenda that is hostile to the American Muslim community." Marwan Ahmad, publisher of the Muslim Voice newspaper in Phoenix, said Jasser was putting his allegiance to the dominant culture ahead of his faith. Last month, his newspaper printed a cartoon depicting Jasser as the Arizona Republic's attack dog, mauling other Muslims. "Jasser is saying what they want to hear, and they publish it," he said. "I can tell you from history in this country, with African Americans and Japanese, that there are always small groups that want to associate with the dominant group and stand against their own," Ahmad said. "Eventually, the people who stand for their own will win, and the small group doesn't have any respect in the end." Jasser bristles at the suggestion that he is pandering. "So is their point that I'm contriving this, that I'm lying about my religious beliefs?" he said. "These are beliefs I've held since I was a youth."
Read the whole article, a lot more to Jasser than just this fight. But this is the main angle of the article. People like Marwan Ahmad annoy me because they believe questioning the hijacking of the faith and pointing out something is not right is treason. Its the "Yeah, we know something is wrong, but I'll be damned if I let other groups on it too to get satisfaction from it" syndrome. Keeping it in house hasn't worked and made the situation worse. Good luck to Jasser and others.

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