Such pictures as this one in Newsweek are akin to the performances of the Muslim women, usually Pakistanis, who come to elementary schools to “talk about Islam.” They bring pretty postcards of mosques and a prayer rug that can be turned Meccawards, and are eager to share information about “family-centered” Islam. Everything concentrates on the trivial (for Infidels) rituals of worship: Shehada, zakat, salat, hajj, and especially Ramadan, which allows for all kinds of wide-eyed wonder at the depth of feeling which Muslims must have to stick to a daytime fast for a whole month.
And then of course the discussion can be all about not only what good things there are to eat at the break-fast Iftar dinner, but how various are those things — because, you see, “Islam is not monolithic.”
Add to this a few phrases about how Islam is one of the “three great abrahamic faiths,” that Jesus and Moses are “revered in Islam” (well, not quite, but respected, as long as they are understood to be the Muslim Jesus, and the Muslim Moses, part of a long line of prophets who were not quite the real thing, until the real thing, Muhammad, came along). There may also be a quoting of 5.32 without 5.33 (Bush has done it, Blair has done it, every Muslim apologist and non-Muslim apologist for Islam has done it), and of course, the usual citing of “there is no compulsion in religion” (2.256) without any discussion of what that phrase must mean. Such discussion could venture into uncomfortable realms, given that under Muslim rule the treatment of non-Muslims is one of official humiliation, degradation, and physical insecurity, such that over time many, to escape this fate, converted to Islam. In other words, they were forcibly converted not by the sword, but by the need for more secure, less unpleasant and imperilled lives.
The only people who can testify with confidence as to how Muslims, in this setting or that, believe the phrase “there shall be no compulsion in religion” is to be interpreted, are ex-Muslims. Such people, who grew up in Islam, who are familiar with the — to non-Muslims — absolutely flabbergasting ability of Muslims to present a constant stream of amiable apologetics based on the arts of obfuscation, distraction, misstatement, and seemingly innocent incomprehension, whenever such is deemed necessary to protect the faith from non-Muslim inquiry or investigation. And they do this even as, within the umma, they take quite a different position. Ex-Muslims know exactly how to pinpoint the taqiyya/kitman. It is an element in which, having been made to swim in it all their lives, they are most successful at identifying. One trusts Ibn Warraq, Ali Sina, Azam Kamguian, and a thousand, ten thousand, hundred thousand other ex-Muslims. One also trusts those, such as Habib Malik, who have grown up in societies that are half-Muslim and have, all their lives, been on the receiving end of Muslim “tolerance” and Muslim apologetics.
The very word “tolerance” should always be silently replaced by the word “dhimmitude.” Western-style “tolerance” does not exist for non-Muslims in Muslim societies. Nowhere.
The picture in Newsweek does not tell us what is in the mind of the hijabbed girl, nor in the minds of her family members. How does she think of her non-Muslim classmates? What does she think when she studies — does she study? — the American Constitution, or the history of the United States, and finds out the principles of the legal and political institutions that Americans have formed, and that for several hundred years have been formed by them?
This is what those pictures, or that Show-and-Tell about Ramadan (a heartwarming subject for all those “Islam in America” stories in the press and radio and television) do not tell: what is in the mental baggage, what is being transmitted, what is deeply believed in.
And if that were known — and it could be known, simply by reading and re-reading those texts, and studying, and re-studying, the history of the treatment of non-Muslims, which has remained remarkably consistent whatever variants in food and dress (that’s what “Islam is not monolithic” mainly comes down to) may exist among Believers.
That is what is wrong with the press coverage — that in Newsweek, and that in The Bandar Beacon, and everywhere.
Attention is paid to the outward show and the smooth, transparently (to those who know something) misleading apologetics.
A permanent problem.