There has been much made of recent reports that roughly half of Americans have an unfavorable view of Islam. And as usual, there are those who will try to claim that Muslims really aren’t all that bad, and that Sharia is just set of nice, abstract principles which are all about the protection of life, family, education, religion, property, and human dignity. And on the other side, we have people pointing out that using Sharias as justification, there are countries which are stoning women and chopping off poor people’s hands and then forbidding Muslims from arguing about whether such things are just.
Worst yet, some of the more public “moderate Muslims”, such as Iman Rauf, refuse to criticize organizations such as Hamas, on the ground that he is a “bridge builder”, and it wouldn’t help to criticize Hamas’s terrorist activities as being anti-Isalmic. OK, so let’s grant for the sake of argument the claims that Shariah really is far more than just criminal sanctions, but mainly about exhorting people to live a moral life, and that of the 1,081 pages of the two-volume Arabic text which Sherman A. Jackson (the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Michigan) used to study Shariah, only 60 pages were devoted to criminal sanctions (i.e., the stoning and the cutting off of hands), and only 19 were devoted to Jihad. Let’s even further grant the claims made by Humaira Awais Shahid that most Muslims reject “Political Islam” and are not even arabs. OK. But that case, wouldn’t there be more Imans publically disavowing the people who advocate terrorism and suicide bombs as not being Islamic? Not all of them are bridge-builders, are they? And if so, some of them might be better deployed towards saying what Islam is not, and saying that perhaps people who espouse those beliefs are being profoundly unIslamic — and saying this loudly outside of their Mosques.
Oh, I understand that many Muslims feel that they shouldn’t be asked to repudiate the sins of “a few crazy terrorists”; just as all Christians shouldn’t be held accountable for disturbed crazy rants of a small-time “pastor” from Gainsville, Florida. But at the same time, it seems to me that Islamic leaders should be eager to say, loudly, that what is being done in the name of their religion in Iran and Nigeria is wrong, and to denounce it. Maybe, some would say, that they are doing that and the media isn’t paying attention to them. Well, the Media is surely paying attention to people like Iman Rauf, and he refuses to denounce Hamas! I would gently suggest to those Islamic leaders who feel that they and their faith haven’t been given a fair shake, to hire a better PR agency; and make sure that active denunciations of that which they claim does not represent true Islam is shouted from the rooftops; published in press releases; made in press conferences. And actively denounce your fellow Muslims that you feel are shaming your religion, instead of complaining about American Islamophobia. Trying to pretend that there is absolutely no truth in why Americans might be afraid of terrorists who have been hiding under the mantle of your religion is not going to help your cause.
There may be truth in the fact that many Americans don’t know as much as they should about Islam and Shariah. And there may be truth that American unswerving support of Israel, despite the fact that they acted in profound and unjust ways against the Palestinians, is not only morally and ethically wrong, but has hurt American interests. I certainly believe that to be to true; I am no friend to fundamentalists of any stripe, whether they are Christian, Jewish, or Islamic; and I think the Jewish fundamentalists have almost completely taken over the Israeli political discourse. But all of that is irrelevant if the goal is reduce people’e negative views towards Islam. And in any case, if you really believe that attacking innocents, and coercing religion by threatening Muslims who have fallen away from their faith with the death penalty is wrong, then it’s wrong regardless of whether those innocents happened to vote for politicians who have been influenced by way too much money from AIPAC. So instead of trying to lecture Americans about their uncritical support of Israel, why not just stand witness to the fact that killing innocents is wrong, and that people who do that are not Islamic, no matter what they claim or how impressive their turban might happen to be? And maybe it might be a good idea to speak out against those who would lend support, whether moral, or financial or logistical, to people who do these unIslamic things in the name of Islam? And it may not be enough to say it once; it needs to be said again and again. Which is why it’s important to hire a good PR agency.