Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Where Are the Moderate Muslims?

We are still just getting a clearer picture of yesterday’s attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed US ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three of his staff.  A similar angry, armed mob also attacked the US Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, which resulted in more general destruction, injury, vandalism and demonstrations of Muslim extremist hatred for America.  What we have not seen, as usual, nor are we likely to see, is a swell of protest against these actions from moderate Muslims – not in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia, or most important, Muslim-Americans.  Why not?  Where are the Moderate Muslims?

I do not condone the sentiments and often the behavior of those who are Muslim-phobic in this country, and I fully understand that most Muslims worldwide are not extremists engaging in or supporting of terrorism and political violence.  But it becomes increasingly irritating to not see this larger Muslim World stand up to the extremists – the violent, ignorant, bullies – in their ranks.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.  He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

These most recent incidents were apparently set off by an obscure, amateur video that is extremely anti-Islam and, of course, deeply insulting to the Prophet Mohammad.  And as stupid as it may seem to us, the extremists believed the video was a blockbuster Hollywood movie that was going to be released to coincide with the 11th anniversary of the September 11th attacks.

According to today’s New York Times:

“The trailer was uploaded to YouTube by Sam Bacile, whom The Wall Street Journal Web site identified as a 52-year old Israeli-American real estate developer in California.  He told the Web site he had raised $5 million from 100 Jewish donors to make the film.  ‘Islam is a cancer,’  Mr. Bacile was quoted as saying.

“The video gained international attention when a Florida pastor began promoting it along with his own proclamation of Sept. 11 as ‘International Judge Muhammad Day.’  In a statement on Tuesday, the pastor, Terry Jones of Gainesville, Fla., called the film ‘an American production, not designed to attack Muslims but to show the destructive ideology of Islam’ and said it ‘further reveals in a satirical fashion the life of Muhammad’.”

Lest you’ve forgotten, it was Mr. Jones who, a while back, thought threatening to burn a copy of the Koran would be helpful in fighting terrorism and strengthening positive relationships between the US and Muslim nations.

I don’t want to devote too much space to noting that in today’s impossible 24-hour news and politics pace of life and governing, it is regrettable that Gov. Mitt “Foreign Policy is a Distraction” Romney felt both obliged and entitled to immediately criticize the President’s initial response.  After all, in the middle of The Campaign, everything is fair political game for a kick in the balls.  “America First,” indeed.

For the record, Obama’s “objectionable” statement was as follows: “While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.”

No, I want to concentrate on the fact that contemporary, moderate, ordinary-folks-just-like-you-and-me-Muslims have never collectively done anything to disparage the brethren who are making them look bad and are doing nothing to make the world better – in general or for Muslims in particular – with their violence, hatred and, frankly, a complete lack of sense of humor about themselves and what they believe in.

If you really believe in what you say you believe in – whatever that may be – you don’t get crazy every time someone writes a book or draws a cartoon or makes a movie that offends you.  You let it roll off your back at the least, and peacefully protest about it at the most.  And it would also have been nice, in this instance, if the protesters had given the US some slack, given our support of the Arab Spring and our efforts to avert a Libyan genocide.

To his political detriment, President Obama has consistently tried to walk a fine line between improving relations and communication with the Muslim World and maintaining a consistently supportive policy with Israel.  For his efforts, he’s been accused by the radical American Right of being a Muslim; and rejected, even reviled, by American Jews for not doing enough for Israel.  Instead, Obama and the US have been attacked by Muslim extremists who have no understanding of a culture in which ideas are expressed that are not shared by government, religious leaders, or the populace at large.

If the vast majority of Muslims just want to live their lives and practice their religion in peace, they must show some collective gumption and stand up for sanity and order.  If they don’t, the extremists will make it even worse for them, as well as incur reprisals that would otherwise be unnecessary; it will be a self-fulfilled prophecy, realized in large part by those who stood by and did nothing.


Anonymous said...

As you may recall, in 2003 the United States launched an unprovoked military assault on Iraq, a Muslim nation. 600,000+ people were slaughtered, countless more maimed and wounded. In the process, our government engaged in an officially sanctioned program of torture, in clear violation of both the Geneva Conventions and the International Prohibition Against Torture. The perpetrators of this monstrous crime (Bush-Cheney) were rewarded with another term in office by the American people. Given this recent history, I don't think we're in a particularly good position to be wagging the finger of guilt at moderate Muslims for failing to confront the extremists within their own ranks.

MizB said...

Dear Anonymous -- I'm sorry you didn't have enough faith in your views to identify yourself in some way. However, I agree with what you said up to "Given this recent history..."

As an American who loves her country, I also have no problem owning up to the fact that our history as a nation is deeply flawed, to say the least. From the genocide of Native Americans to Slavery & Jim Crow to the incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII to our abuse and mistreatment of virtually every immigrant population that has ever come here to decades of Colonial/Imperial behavior in Africa and Central/South America, we have a lot of blood on our hands -- and I'm not forgetting the brutal and unnecessary wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

However, we as a nation and as a planet in numerous kinds of turmoil and peril, can either build a future based on the abuses of the past, or, make a serious effort to alter our behavior and shape a sane and healthier future.

And that "we" includes the moderates of the Muslim World who are not speaking out against the brutality of their own past, as well as the violence and ignorance of the present. If they wish to emulate the practices of the 12th century, keep alive ancient wounds, and disregard the global behavior and social mores of the 21st century, I guess that's their business.

But when Muslim extremists carry on like violent, primitive vigilantes and blame our government not for our actual misdeeds but for the statements/actions of individuals, we have a right to protest -- and to question why Moderate Muslims don't do the same.

Jeanne Browne (MizB)