Thursday, May 20, 2004

Time for moderate Muslims to speak up

A friend suggested I read this and post it on the blog. Good call, Timo. It's an open letter written by Judea Pearl, father of journalist Daniel Pearl, savagely murdered by Islamic terrorists in Pakistan for being an American and a Jew. The letter is written on the occasion of the murder of Nick Berg, and is addressed to the world's Muslims. Read:

I am not directing this letter to the followers of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is thought to have beheaded Nicholas Berg, or to Osama bin Laden. Rather, I am speaking to those who can win the minds of the young and faithful to the side of hope: intellectual leaders who pride themselves on peace and modernity, and clerics, imams and mullahs who have been voicing concern over the hijacking of Islam by a minority of anti-Islamic extremists. You now have the opportunity to bestow honor on your faith and pride on your children.

I beseech you to join the courageous Muslims who have denounced, in unambiguous language, not only the killing of Nicholas Berg, but the growing practice of killing innocent human beings as a means of communicating grievances, irrespective of how valid or urgent the grievance.

No civilized society can survive the intensity of modern conflicts unless such killings are repelled back to the realm of the inconceivable.

As a father of a person who experienced the horrors of captivity, I can personally feel the anguish of the parents of the Iraqi prisoners who were abused in the Abu Ghraib prison. I nevertheless appeal to you, intellectual leaders of the Muslim community, to unilaterally refrain from joining the cycle of accusation of "who treated who worse" and help transform it into a contest of pride: "whose role models are more humane."

This transformation can become a reality if condemnations of last week's horrors are not left to political leaders but become a public outcry at the grassroots level.

Pearl also makes an appeal to Islamic clerics to speak out and condemn such practices as barbaric. Some Muslims take it a step further and call for an Islamic reformation. Obviously, the former would precede the latter, but I am not hopeful that either will happen soon. Most Islamic schools teach the kind of extremism that leads to violence rather than moderation and tolerance. This is true also of most mosques, including those in the UK and the US as well as the holiest of all mosques in Mecca.

I hear the same story from Muslims from the Balkans, from Central Asia, and all over the world. Local, more tolerant, Islamic traditions are being destroyed by money from Saudi Arabia. You know, leftists get pretty worked up about rich and evil multinational corporations homogenizing other cultures into oblivion, but I haven't heard a lot of complaints about the Islamic equivalent of globalization.

But, on the bright side, there are many Iraqi bloggers who have denounced this barbarity. You know, I can't help but think that it's a good thing to have at least one Arab Muslim country where people can say what they think. Thank goodness for the free marketplace of ideas, where the truth will eventually prevail.


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