This is just the thing I have been calling for for years: for Muslims to devote their efforts to convincing not gullible non-Muslims, but their fellow Muslims, that Islam teaches peace. This is the fundamental problem that shows the bankruptcy of most claims by American Muslim groups to Islamic moderation: their evidence that Islam teaches peace is easily refuted by the jihadists, such that while it may reassure Westerners it will do nothing to convince jihadists to lay down their arms. For pointing this out I have been vilified, marginalized, and called everything in the book, but now that it’s in the New York Times, it’s politically correct to note it.
In any case, here again, as in many earlier articles of this kind, self-proclaimed moderate Muslims promise to do this, but they don’t explain how it can be done. They don’t offer even one example of how they plan to convince jihad-inclined Muslims that they should forsake their AK-47s for prayer and spiritual improvement. They do not acknowledge that the jihadists are working from a broad theological and legal tradition within Islam, and they give no hint of how they propose to confront and discredit this tradition.
What’s more, there are reasonable suspicions about some of people named in this article — notably Salam Al-Maryati of MPAC and Khaled Abou El Fadl. The fact that such men are accepted without question as authorities by the Times, and that this article also approvingly mentions CAIR’s bogus fatwa, is just more indication of what a deep fix we’re in: everywhere, on both the Left and the Right, wishes have replaced facts, and pretending things are so makes them so. I wish this article were not more of the same. But I think that very likely it is.
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, American Muslim leaders insisted that the terrorism had nothing to do with Islam. They cited Central Intelligence Agency reports showing that Latin Americans were responsible for more terrorist incidents than Muslims. They blamed Israel or American foreign policy, and their organizations focused on campaigns to convince non-Muslim Americans that Islam was a religion of peace.
Nearly four years after the attacks, American Muslim leaders are changing their message. They are rolling out campaigns to persuade American Muslims – especially the young – to beware of preachers peddling extremism and terrorism. They say that terrorism is a poison infecting Islam and that moderate Muslims should take responsibility to root it out.
“Before, people thought, ‘We have nothing to do with the terrorism, our religion is clear and it should be obvious to everyone else,’ ” said Salam al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, based in Los Angeles.
The turning point was the terrorist bombings in London, said more than a dozen Muslim leaders interviewed for this article. Unlike the Sept. 11 attacks and most other terrorist incidents around the world, the London bombings were done by Muslims raised, educated and living in Britain, and willing to kill fellow Britons in the name of Islam.
“Now, we can’t afford to be bystanders anymore, we have to be involved in constructive intervention,” Mr. al-Marayati said. “So we’re doing it collectively, speaking out with one voice and now telling our children that they have to get it right, they can’t be confused and can’t give any credence to anybody who comes to them and says there is room for violence.”…
But the London bombings were “a shocking realization that within the Western world there could be Muslim youth who could be indoctrinated, and in spite of their upbringing, their birth and years of living in the West, that they could be vulnerable to this kind of thing,” said Sayyid M. Syeed, secretary general of the Islamic Society of North America, an umbrella group based in Plainfield, Ind.
Dr. Syeed said that although American Muslims were more integrated and prosperous than Muslims in Britain or France, it was possible terrorists could find recruits here.
So this year at the Islamic Society’s annual convention, which starts Friday in Chicago and is expected to draw 40,000 people, organizers will mount a new campaign against terrorism and extremism, with posters and pamphlets designed for use in mosques and Islamic schools.
The materials, Dr. Syeed said, will provide a theological rebuttal to Muslim extremists who cite the Koran and Islamic texts to justify violence. “It has become very critical that these things need to be spelled out thoroughly and become part of our day-to-day discussion,” he said.
A fatwa, or religious edict, against extremism and terrorism released by a group of North American Muslim scholars in July has been signed by representatives of more than 250 mosques and Islamic centers. The Council on American-Islamic Affairs is running public affairs spots on television and radio with the slogan “Not in the Name of Islam.” One chapter says it put up a billboard next to the Florida Turnpike saying, “Islam Condemns Terrorism.”
The slogans themselves are not new. Within a few hours of the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, 10 American Muslim groups released statements decrying the attacks, and many groups have routinely denounced subsequent attacks around the world.
What has changed is the intended audience. Before, Muslim leaders said they had wanted to reach non-Muslims with the message that terrorism was un-Islamic. They still do, but now they say the more urgent need is to reach other Muslims.
In a Friday sermon a few weeks after the bombings in London, Dr. Maher Hathout told the crowd at the Islamic Center of Southern California, which he helped found, “It is our responsibility – young and old, parents, sons and daughters, teachers and students, leaders and activists, to rally together to plug the holes through which the distorting predators pass through and push the substances that kill brain cells and fill hearts with despair and hate.”
But some Muslim leaders said more than a shift in rhetoric was needed. Sermons, pamphlets and posters are not sufficient, said Akbar S. Ahmed, a former Pakistani ambassador to England and a professor of international relations at American University in Washington, D.C.
“They have to rethink the syllabi in religious schools, in teacher training programs, in what they’re teaching the kids,” Mr. Ahmed said….
Extremist Muslims from abroad used to give speeches at American mosques, said Khaled Abou el-Fadl, an Islamic jurist and professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles. Now some mosques’ boards are requiring visiting lecturers to get board permission before giving speeches.
“Mosque leaders are realizing that they could be liable,” said Mr. Abou el-Fadl, author of “The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists.” “With some radical imams arrested and placed in deportation proceedings, that has definitely had a rather chilling effect on a lot of other people.”
“There’s a transformation going on” among American Muslims, he said. “The essential transformation that is taking place is a significantly lower degree of tolerance for irresponsible political diatribes.”
Some of it may be rhetoric, Mr. Abou el-Fadl said, “but you would never have heard this rhetoric just a couple of years ago.”
OK. Now we need to hear, and see, much, much more than this.