Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Moderation: A Time for Reassessment

Readers of this blog will not be new to this kind of discussion, but there are times when it is good to step back and take a larger view and see if, maybe, things have really changed. The news of the last week or two has definitely been such a time. In the last few days, I sent a version of the text below to a selected group of friends, Muslims, and other countryfolk. I think it is now time to share it on the blog, as well.

It does seem like we are at a time when some folks are asking anew to hear the silent majority of the Muslim world speak. But as we keep saying, the problem is not whether anyone is speaking, but whether anyone is listening. So let us, for a moment, assume that the folks that don't usually listen to moderation, either because it doesn't make for good TV and sound bites or for other reasons, are now listening. And I might start sounding like a broken record, but I do mean both within and from outside the global Muslim community.

So here goes:

A lot of readers will not need much of an introduction to who I am. But some things bear repeating. One of the first names that comes up when things like what I am thinking and saying come up is that of Irshad Manji. Some readers will know that I am not a fan of Irshad Manji. When her name comes up, I usually refer folks to the following:
http://ifaqeer.blogspot.com/2005/05/irshad-manji-progressive-muslim.html

And I am definitely not on the payroll of Daniel Pipes.

But I am in an odd mood. I guess I have the cartoon controversy and the explosion that, in my humble opinion, started in Samarra on my mind. For background on what I have been saying about that, see: http://ifaqeer.blogspot.com/2006/02/cartoon-controvesyand-new-tet.html and http://ifaqeer.blogspot.com/2006/02/blast-at-shrine.html .

On the other hand, one very interesting thing to watch is a 1 hour documentary from the BBC about British Muslims: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/panorama/4727513.stm .

And here's a comment from Lebanon:
http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_ID=10&article_ID=22084&categ_id=5 . (To my Muslim brethren: in case you're thinking this guy's part of Daniel Pipes' team, read his comment on the cartoon controversy: http://www.reason.com/links/links022306.shtml)

But frankly, I doubt we are yet equipped here in the US to enagage with the issue in any way that does not involve most Muslims screaming "Anti-Muslim Nazis!" and all others--most particularly the press--screaming, or seeming like they are screaming, "All Muslims are Murderous Fanatics".

Where do we go from here? I don't know. But it does seem like some more folks, especially within the community, have been startled out of denial about the power, depth and breadth of the influence of "theo-cons"/"neo-cons" on our local communities, and about where we're headed. Of course, in terms of alternative voices, besides Irshad Manji, there are the Progressives, who seem to be doing good work to develop a progressive alternative. But a progressive is a progressive; a progressive is not a moderate. We need voices from the right and from the left; but if we don't get real about recognizing what is what, we don't have a chance of really providing an alternative and getting through to the average, common Muslim and changing how they engage with the 21st Century. Some of what I mean in that regard came up in the discussion on WNYC earlier this morning. (See: http://ifaqeer.blogspot.com/2006/02/ifaqeer-on-wnyc-new-york-public-radio.html)

I am not saying I have a solution right here, right now. (Like some others I could mention.) I am just saying that I don't see any solutions on the table right now that will, on the one hand, solve the problems facing the world right now in terms of making the world a safer, saner place, and most importantly, be embraced by the 1 billion plus Muslim population in the world. At least not anything that's visible in the press, on the grapevine, or otherwise in the mainstream. I am saying that what we might have in the present moment might, just might, be an opportunity to start a conversation that gets us to such a solution.

Let's talk.

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1 comment:

rmis said...

I heard your discussion on WNYC this past week and was delighted to hear your sensible comments on the compatability of Islam with humanism and democracy. For those of us outside the Muslim community, it is hard to gauge how prevalent is your point of you among Muslims, as opposed to the Islamist world view. Certainly, the impression one gets is that a significant part of the Muslim world is in favor of the Islamist agenda.

I was puzzled by the vociferous objection to the Danish cartoon that received the most attention., the one showing the turban as an expkosive device. One, I did not see any reference that would indicate it was the prophet. Two, it seemed to voice a widespread, if arguable concern - that Islam is seen by many as tolerant, if not outright supportive, of violence. One may argue the point, but it was not a gratuitous insult, but rather a satiric politcal commentary. Unfortunately, the reaction, in much of the world, seemed to validate the cartoons point of view.

On one level, I was pleased that the cartoon was not widely reproduced in the US. It seemed counterproductive to inflame the situation further. However, on another level, it worried me. Normally, US media love controversy. I have to feel that intimidation, not just prudent judgement, was a factor in withholding the cartoons. My fear is that the Islamists, having successfully intimidated much of the Muslim world, are now expanding that tactic to the rest of the world.

I often wonder why we don't hear more moderate Muslim voices. Is it the media's penchant for pursuing the most dramatic voices? Are there fewer moderate Muslims than I would expect, or are the moderates afraid to speak out against the extremists? I hear of fatwas against the Rushdies and Manjis of the world, but not against the Bin Ladens and Zarqawis.

I don't mean to be overly critical, but these are issues that I find puzzling and/or alarming. Any insight you could provide would be illuminating.