Islam, the world's fastest-growing religion, preaches tolerance, non-violence and respect for human life. But a struggle for the soul of Islam is under way, one that poses challenges for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
The editors should have asked themselves why, if they were able to find these teachings so easily in Islam, do these teachings so consistently elude the members of Al-Qaeda, and Hamas, and Hizballah, and Jemaah Islamiyah, and all the many other Islamic radical groups around the world.
Take, for example, this excerpt from a lecture from Iran available now at an Islamic website, explaining the marvelous Qur'anic verse of tolerance "there is no compulsion in religion" (Sura 2:256) and some related verses. (Thanks to Nancy Block).
There is no place for the use of compulsion in religion, no one must be obliged to accept the religion of Islam. . . . Whoever wants to believe will believe, and whoever wants to be a kafir [unbeliever] will be a kafir. So this verse has also stated that faith and rejection, iman and kufr, can only be chosen by oneself, they cannot be forced upon one by others. So Islam does not say that others must be forced into Islam; that if they become Muslims, well and good, and if they do not, they are to be killed, that the choice is theirs. Islam says that whoever wants to believe will believe, and whoever does not want to, will not.
The Trib continues on to portray religious teachers of this kind as (of course) a tiny minority of extremists:
Radical elements of the religion, bent on attacking America and its allies, use Islam and the notion of holy war to justify assaults by suicide bombers who believe a ride on a Jerusalem bus will buy them a trip to paradise.
The radicals who stoke the fires of violence aren't many. But their influence extends far beyond their numbers. They form a magnetic field of militancy that threatens to pull the entire religion rightward.
"Rightward"? There is no logic or consistency in calling people like Osama bin Laden "right-wing" -- unless the editors operate according to the philosophy of "Left Good. Right Bad."
Mainstream Muslim leaders insist they don't back their radical brethren. Nowhere in the Koran, Islam's holy book, these leaders say, is there any justification for the pageantry of terror that plays out in headlines nearly every day.
No single interpretation of the Qur'an is authoritative. The problem is that radical Muslims do quote the Qur'an copiously to justify themselves. See Onward Muslim Soldiers for many examples. For another from Chechnya, see here. For the moderates to insist that there is nothing in the Qur'an to justify what the radicals do ignores mountains of evidence to the contrary -- and does nothing to stop the radicals.