Thursday, February 26, 2015

Muslims do speak out. Are you listening?

A few weeks ago a letter writer to the Reader stated that “ALL Muslims” must speak out.  He stated this over and over again.

Should others claim that “ALL Christians” must speak out about slavery, lynchings, or discrimination?  In an ideal world maybe “ALL” whoever would speak about crimes committed by some of their “co-religionists”, but we live in a complex world where people’s abilities and wishes vary.

Many Christians didn’t speak out about slavery or lynchings out of fear for themselves and their families.  Many Christians didn’t speak out because they were far removed from where these crimes were being committed.  Many Christians didn’t speak out because they had other concerns that were more immediate to them.

Are not many Muslims in similar situations?  Are those in areas controlled by the Islamic State or by dictators going to speak out against injustice and be killed, imprisoned, or tortured for their opposition?  Are those far from these awful situations going to spend all their time speaking out against injustice instead of going to work or caring for their families?

Well, if you have several news sources you will find that many Muslims are speaking out.  The Duluth News Tribune of Sunday, February 22 had a story headlined “Norway’s Muslims form protective human ring around synagogue”.  This was in reaction to a Danish Muslim killing two people at a synagogue in Copenhagen; the synagogue was holding an event to promote free speech.  The Star Tribune has published several stories about the concern of Muslim parents that their children are being seduced to join ISIS.

Remember that one of the first people killed in the Charlie Hebdo attack was a Muslim police officer.  Remember that in the attack on the Kosher grocery one of the people who led some people out was a Muslim employee.

Remember that Salman Rushdie, author of “The Satanic Verses”, condemned to death by Ayatollah Khomeini for blasphemy, is still speaking out against injustice.

Remember that Egypt struck back against ISIS in Libya because of brutal beheading of Coptic Christians, Christians who were Egyptian citizens.

Note that Mustafa Akyol, a Turkish journalist and Muslim, has been writing about the need for toleration by Muslims for the New York Times.  You can find two of his latest columns at and  See also his TED talk at

He also wrote Islam without Extremism, A Muslim Case for Liberty.  Here are two notable quotes from his book.

“In all these cases, the Muslims who reacted with anger and violence probably were sincere in their zeal to defend their faith. Yet, alas, the practical result of their actions was to vindicate the very accusation brought against them—that Islam is an intolerant and aggressive religion. So, if they really want to change that negative perception about their religion, they must begin by changing their course of action.” p. 252

“Beyond the Hadith literature, a response to blasphemy that is more compatible with the liberal standards of the modern world actually comes from the Qur’an. The Muslim scripture not only lacks any suggestion of earthly punishment for blasphemy, it also advises a nonviolent response: ‘When you hear God’s revelations disbelieved in and mocked at, do not sit with them until they enter into some other discourse; surely then you would be like them.’” p. 254

My notes for this column include many more quotes about the tension among various Islamic schools of thought.  I’ll try to summarize some of the highlights.

After the death of Muhammad, politicians dictated Islamic thought.  They interpreted it to increase their power rather than to increase the welfare of the people.  Sounds like something that has happened and is happening in Christendom.

A tool to increase political power were the Hadiths, “a collection of literature that claims to communicate the Sunna (tradition) of the Prophet Muhammad.”  Many of them are contradictory to the Qur’an and to each other.  Unfortunately, a number of historic events squelched the more liberal schools of Islamic jurisprudence and strengthened the more illiberal school.

“In 1258, the Mongols sacked Baghdad–then the most vibrant and polished city of Islamdom, if not the world.”  The Mongols were so destructive that “that the river turned black for the ink for days on end”, ink from all the documents the Mongols destroyed.

Other invasions followed that weakened liberal Islamic thought and strengthened conservative thought.

Turkey allied itself with Germany in the early 20th century as a counter to its old rival, Russia.  Poor choice!  The defeat of Germany led to the breakup of the Ottoman Empire.  The Allies slowly broke the Empire into pieces and installed leaders they chose.  This continues today with the West trying to decide who should be rulers of these pieces.  These actions certainly aren’t Christian: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

A second invasion was of oil men.  Keep the flow of oil in our control and keep local leaders who support us in control.  This strengthened those who supported Wahhabism, a very strict form of Islam that Akyol calls more of the desert than of Muhammad.

But beware, it can happen here in the hands of those who call themselves Christians.  Jacques Berlinerblau warns in How to Be Secular: A Call to Arms for Religious Freedom that the “Revivalists” who claim that the United States is and has been a Christian nation really don’t want a pluralistic Christianity, but a Christianity as they interpret it.  They ignore that the Founders were concerned with any given Protestant sect taking control and limiting the freedom of other sects.