Coming on the heels of Archbishop Desmond Tutu's recent call for the media to take a more moderate approach to Islam when describing acts of terrorism (see 'Muslim and Christian Terrorism'), Tony Blair's own call for a moderation of views towards Muslims, at the same time that he called upon Muslim moderates to take a more prominent role in leading the Muslim world, is spot on.
Tony Blair marked an Interfaith Conference organised by Cambridge University with a call for "continued dialogue" between Muslim and non-Muslim communities and representatives. The Prime Minister's speech was an effort to discredit what he argued were crude media portrayals of Muslims as dangerous extremists.
Blair argued that the "authentic voice" of Islam was one of "moderation and modernity", as expressed by scholars and religious leaders within "various schools" of Islamic thought. [...]
Blair's speech also came under attack for its emphasis on so-called "moderate" Islam. Michael Ipgrave, the Archdeacon of Southwark and former national interfaith advisor to the Church of England, warned that such a term implies that religion is simply a lifestyle preference rather than an incredibly powerful force.
He added that Muslims and other religious adherents are caught in a bind of "double loyalty", both to their faith and to their government, with "moderation" simply meaning according precedence to the latter.
Shaukat Aziz, the Pakistani Prime Minister, agreed with Blair, arguing in favour of moderation and tolerance in the face of the "multiple forces of tension" in "today's interconnected world".
Holding moderation as the ideal outward behaviour to be aspired to by a 'true' Muslim, both Aziz and Blair stressed the importance of the production of "responsible citizens", following, in Blair's terms, a "calm" Islam.
Conference rapporteur and Professor of History and Religious Studies at Pennsylvania State University, Philip Jenkins, stressed to delegates that countering extremism need not require treating religious issues with rational detachment but that it could be effectuated by means of a religiously motivated sense of morality.
Aref Nayed, former Visiting Fellow at Cambridge's Faculty of Divinity echoed Jenkins's claim, highlighting the stress placed within Islamic belief on God's indiscriminate compassion.
It's clear from Aziz's statement that he recognizes that moderating internal forces need to be applied within the Muslim world in order to calm the extremists -- in effect, pulling them back towards the 'true Islam' center. As I said in the earlier Tutu post linked above, it is imperative that westerners moderate our own views towards Islam and Muslims, and tone down the hateful rhetoric from our Christian, religious -extremist far right -- just as the moderates within the Muslim world need to tone down and calm the hateful extremists within their community.
This effort is emblematic of a "blue" approach to combating terrorism - Step One: stop letting our own religious Christian fanatics terrorize moderate Islam. Examples continue below:
The following words, if they were aimed at the Christian world and spoken by Islamic extremists, would cause that person to be labeled as a 'Terrorist.'
Doesn't the same label of 'Terrorist' apply to these speakers as well?
"We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."
--Columnist Ann Coulter, September 2001
"We're not attacking Islam but Islam has attacked us. The God of Islam is not the same God. He's not the son of God of the Christian or Judeo-Christian faith. It's a different God, and I believe it [Islam] is a very evil and wicked religion."
--Franklin Graham, November 2001
"[Muhammad was] a demon-possessed pedophile."
--Rev. Jerry Vines, former president, Southern Baptist Convention, June 2002
"And I will tell you Allah is not Jehovah, either. Jehovah's not going to turn you into a terrorist that'll try to bomb people and take the lives of thousands and thousands of people."
--Rev. Jerry Vines, June 2002
"I think it might be a good idea to get them [Muslims] on some sort of hobby other than slaughtering infidels."
--Columnist Ann Coulter, interview with Katie Couric, June 2002
"The Muslim population is going down!.We are on God's side. This is not a war between Arabs and Jews. It's a war between God and the devil."
--Televangelist Benny Hinn, July 2002
"I think it's [terrorism's] more mainstream. And it's not just a handful of extremists. If you buy the Qur'an, read it for yourself, and it's in there."
--Franklin Graham, on "Hannity & Colmes", August 2002
"I believe the Qur'an teaches violence. It doesn't teach peace, it teaches violence."
--Franklin Graham, Beliefnet interview, August 2002
"This man [Muhammad] was an absolute wild-eyed fanatic. He was a robber and a brigand."
--Pat Robertson, on "Hannity & Colmes", September 2002
"I think Mohammed was a terrorist."
--Jerry Falwell, October 6, CBS 60 Minutes
"I like our President but he's dead wrong when he says Islam or the Quran is a book of love and peace. Mr. President, that has got to be the most asinine, idiotic, ridiculous, utterly ludicrous statement that I've ever heard in my life.
"...You know what we ought to do? We ought to take every single Muslim student in every college in this nation and ship them back to where they came from. And we ought to tell every other Muslim living in this nation, if you say one word, you're gone. You're gone."
--Jimmy Swaggart, Jimmy Swaggart Ministries, November 10, 2002
The religious right in America leveraged their innate hatred of Muslims into a national, election-winning referendum called the Global War on Terror - a war that has been implemented through acts of terrorism against - as well as in behalf - of the American people.
If we're going to expect the nation of Islam to exert pressure from within to moderate the hate-driven actions of the extremists who attempt to represent and drive policy for their nation, it's high time for us to be doing our part right here at home.
It's time to moderate our own religious bigots; those extremists who have the microphone, and those extremists who hold sway from the pulpit, and start moderating the forces of hate within America.
Moderating President Bush by applying pressure on the administration to practice diplomacy for a change was a start. It's now time for the Democrats to lead by example, and to stop letting the right in America use hammers of hate -- to fight hate.
When it comes to moderating the Islamic extremism in Pakistan, the government of Pakistan is a target-rich environment:
"We deplore the decision of the British government to knight him," announced a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman. The lower house of parliament unanimously passed a government-backed resolution calling Rushdie a "blasphemer." Most extraordinarily, Pakistan's minister of religious affairs, Mohammed Ijaz ul-Haq, endorsed suicide bombing against the United Kingdom. "If someone exploded a bomb on his body, he would be right to do so unless the British government apologizes and withdraws the 'sir' title."
Ijaz ul-Haq later added that "If someone commits suicide bombing to protect the honor of the Prophet Muhammad, his act is justified."
A trade union offered a $160,000 reward to anyone who beheads Rushdie.
IRAN'S SPEAKER of parliament, Gholamali Haddadadel, threatened that Muslims "will not leave this imprudent and shameless act without response."
Such reactions from on-high spurred Islamists to the streets in many cities, including London's, burning effigies of Rushdie and Queen Elizabeth and chanting slogans such as "Death to Rushdie! Death to the queen!"
...and now the good news:
Fortunately, some Muslims decried these reactions. Canadian writer Irshad Manji noted that the Pakistani government had nothing to say about "assaults on fellow believers" in Kabul and Baghdad, where Islamist terrorism killed" countless Muslims. "I am offended that amid the internecine carnage, a professed atheist named Salman Rushdie tops the to-do list."
WE are the majority in America, not the right. THEY no longer speak for the United States, and there is no reason why we have to wait two more years, until after we kick the Republicans out of the White House, for us to moderate the Christian extremist views that are no longer representative of the majority of America voters.
If President Bush can claim Executive Privilege and extend protect himself on the public servant side of our democracy, then it is time for We The People to claim our Citizen Privilege, and remind President Bush and Vice-President Cheney who the hell they're working for.
Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!