This most interesting article appeared on the Wall Street Journal's opinion page today.
Islam's Silent Majority White Americans unlearned hatred. So must Muslims. BY ROBERT ASGHAR
Friday, August 9, 2002 12:01 a.m. EDT
Innocents are killed in Murree, Pakistan, at a school that I visited from time to time as a teenager. Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl loses his life in Karachi, a town that was once my home. And an Islamabad church is attacked, just a few miles away from another previous home. In each incident, the name of Allah is invoked. The question is then asked once again: Is Islam a religion of peace?
Many Muslims are peaceful, and I was raised in one such family. However, it's quite clear that they are by and large not the hosts of the party, but rather bashful guests. For the sake of their faith--and for the sake of a world that Islam professes to care about--the time has come for them to step forward, take control of their assembly, and kick out those who preach a more violent version of the faith.
My family's story intersects in odd ways with the narrative being played out globally. While recognizing the demands of self-defense and just war, I have a pacifistic streak; that streak did not seem to be accommodated within Islam, so I affiliated with another religion, much to the chagrin of my family.
Here is where they began setting a good example for their faith. Many such families toss out apostates in the best-case scenario and often do much more--a Kurdish immigrant in Sweden killed his adult daughter in January for defying their heritage. But my family made peace with my decision and kept me in the fold.
When it came to light after Sept. 11 that Pakistani madrassas had nourished a culture of hatred, my father used a significant amount of his life savings to build new schools in his mud-hut hometown village--schools that would offer a liberal education and inculcate an anti-extremist approach to civil life and offer economic opportunity to marginalized youths.
Such acts come at the risk of inflaming the passions of radicals. People like my father will need the support and protection of like-minded moderates. Most Muslims are in fact both moderate and cowardly, but perhaps understandably so; they are buffeted by bullying forces unlike anything we know. American agnostics who dislike saying the Pledge of Allegiance, like spoiled princesses who feel a pea under a stack of mattresses, have no idea how good they have it.
The bullying limits opposition to nothing more than snide mutterings among progressives cowering at dinner parties in Pakistan, Palestine or Saudi Arabia. Far be it from them to challenge extremism publicly, however--it's not worth the fight or the trouble, in their minds.
But now their very civilization is at stake--and so is that of the West. It's time to put one's money where one's prayers are. The rest of the world is looking on with puzzlement and fear, wondering where the heart of Islam lies. In all likelihood, the outcry against Islam will grow deafening in coming months and years. This will polarize moderate Muslims: Either they will feel under attack and align themselves fully with their fundamentalist cousins, or they will become radical moderates, fighting for the honor of Islam against these backward cousins. The former scenario would be a disaster for the planet.
Here, one can learn from white Americans. Fifty years ago, racist views were tolerated, even encouraged by mainstream society. The Marge Schotts of our nation used to get away with their rantings, thanks to the tepid response of most white citizens; but now, such bigots are ostracized with devastating swiftness. Sure, you can be a racist--but you'd better keep it under wraps if you plan on working in this town again.
Let that be a lesson for Muslims. Too many people have been thrown out of Muslim families for being insufficiently fundamentalist. Start throwing out sons and daughters for being insufficiently peaceful. Too many Muslims are more bothered by competing forms of monotheism than by demonic forces rumbling in their own camp. Too many hundreds of millions of Muslims can tolerate, rationalize and even promote violence. All this must change, and change now.
Granted, the language of the Koran can seem aggressive and belligerent to some ears. But let the graceful image of Prophet Mohammed, depicted by scholars such as Huston Smith, become the normative one for Muslims and Westerners alike. The prophet was long-suffering and merciful toward Meccan authorities who had abused him during his ministry. Let a Palestinian child meditate on that. Let Muslims tolerate no lower standard of civic life, and divorce all those who would object.
The five million Muslims who call the United States home are the best candidates to step forward and set this standard. Doing so would give Islam an authentic claim as a religion of peace.
Mr. Asghar is a Los Angeles-based editor of management and leadership books.
It seems to me that this perceptive article finds many parallels within the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses today, as follows:
1. The comment about peaceful Muslims being, not "hosts," but "bashful guests." There are many fine individuals amidst the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses, but it would seem that, unfortunately, they are relegated to the role of "bashful guests" when it comes to matters of policy and procedure.
2. How "apostates" are viewed and dealt with.
3. The fact that "progressives" often "cower" because the deck seems to be stacked against any who would step forward and try to fight the culture, thus they feel it is "not worth the fight or the trouble."
4. Finally, one could say that " Granted, the language of the [Bible] can seem aggressive and belligerent to some ears." However, if one carefully reviews, and honestly evaluates the life and example of our Lord Jesus Christ, one finds a personality which was far from "aggressive and belligerent." If, indeed, he is our model (1 Pe 2:21), then let's start allowing his personality and disposition to reflect in all we do. Can his model not be the "normative" one for examplary Jehovah's Witnesses?