There is a gross mistake being made day after day in the Western and Israeli media. Over and over again, we are led falsely to believe that “radical Islam” is in fact Islam today in our region and in the world.

I would like to argue that this purposeful distortion only serves to perpetuate the so-called “clash of civilizations” theory, whereby the “good guys” are “the West” (including America and Israel) and the “bad guys” are the Muslims of the world who in their supposed religious extremism deserve to be destroyed.

The day after the murder of the American Ambassador in Libya — supposedly a response to a film against the prophet Muhammad but really just an outburst of anti-Americanism — I received the following announcement from the Cordoba Initiative, led by Imam Feisal Rauf in New York:

We at the Cordoba Initiative mourn the loss of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, and other members of the US Libyan diplomatic mission in this act of senseless killing in Libya, and in no uncertain words, condemn this heinous crime.

 

We have a message to these people who claim to have done this in the name of Islam: First, the Quran is very explicit: no bearer of burdens shall be made to bear another’s burden (6:164); and whoever kills an innocent person is as if he has killed all of humankind (5:32). Second, Islam is a religion of law, not of lawlessness. No person has the right to be plaintiff, judge and executioner. It is therefore the obligation of the Libyan government to track down the criminals and bring them to justice…

 

We must amplify the voices of moderation and strengthen the moderates who stand for justice and peaceful coexistence.

Rauf, the author of many books and articles, is one of the most outspoken moderate Muslims in the United States and in the world. But he is not alone.

Imam Feisal Rauf (photo credit: CC BY-SA World Economic Forum, Flickr)

Imam Feisal Rauf (photo credit: CC BY-SA World Economic Forum, Flickr)

In order to let the world know that there are indeed moderate Muslims also in Israel/Palestine  who condemn this murder, I talked to Prof. Mohammed Dajani, founder and chairperson of Wasatia, an organization in Jerusalem that promotes “the middle way” of tolerance, mutual understanding and peaceful coexistence in our city and our region.

I asked Professor Dajani two questions and received two sharp and insightful answers:

How would you explain the extreme and violent reactions to the anti-prophet film made by a weird individual in the USA?

His response:

The strong reaction by Muslim masses to the anti-prophet film made by a Christian Coptic in the USA is being viewed by Muslims as part of the clash of civilizations scenario where Muslim masses perceive their faith is under attack by the other, namely Christians and Jews. In Muslim culture, to ridicule a major symbol of the religion, such as burning the Holy Quran or ridiculing the Prophet, is not viewed as falling within the boundaries of freedom of speech but as an abuse of the freedom of speech. In Muslim culture as well as in democratic culture, your right of self-expression stops when it clashes with the rights of the others, and as such it does not include ridiculing the faith of others.

Would you say that killing the American ambassador in Libya is against the teachings of Islam?

His response:

All acts of killing and murder are against the teachings of Islam…. The violence that took place in Benghazi is not part of religion or Islam but is part of radicalism and extremism. Thus we need to promote the teaching of moderation and balance within our communities.

Yes, there are indeed moderate Muslim who do speak out. But they don’t make the news much because mainstream news loves extremists, and by giving them so much publicity, the media makes the average person think that extremists represent the masses of their religion. With their extensive coverage and wild headlines, I feel that they foment violence and hatred, leaving most people to think wrongly that most Muslims (or most Israelis or most religious Jews or whoever) only encourage and foster violence and killing. This, of course, is a gross lie and a mass distortion.

I will be writing more about moderate Muslims in the weeks ahead. Their voices need to be acknowledged and applauded. If the mainstream media won’t do it, at least we can try to do it in the blogosphere.

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