Sunday, April 09, 2006

Where Are the Muslim Moderates?

Clifford May says they are afraid to speak:

They are out there, I suspect; in larger numbers than we might be led to believe. But if most are silent and fearful of speaking out, can you blame them? The vast majority of Arabs and Muslims live in countries ruled by illiberal and oppressive regimes. And in the few relatively free countries – Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia – there is no protection from the long arm of Militant Islamism. Indeed, even in Europe it can be dangerous to challenge religious fascism. And last year, Shaker Elsayed, leader of Dar al-Hijrah, one of the largest mosques in the U.S., told American Muslims: "The call to reform Islam is an alien call."

If we in the West ever want to have allies in Arab and Muslim countries, we'll need to start supporting moderates -- and stop empowering their oppressors. Most immediately, it would be useful if American ambassadors in Muslim countries would welcome dissidents to their offices as they do cabinet ministers. And perhaps Columbia University President Lee Bollinger – whose “primary teaching and scholarly interests are focused on free speech and First Amendment issues” -- might recognize how his institution has been compromised and at least express concern.

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