The Spell of Islamophobia and Moderate Muslims

The Spell of Islamophobia and Moderate Muslims

Eboo Patel wrote a good article for On Faith of the Washington Post about Islamophobia. His main point is this: whenever he or other so-called moderate Muslims speak out about terrorism, condemn it, and preach a peaceful form of Islam (by pointing out that Islam has a peaceful tradition and a theology that encourages religious pluralism), non-Muslims have only two questions for them. “Why don’t Muslims condemn terrorism?” And, “Where are the moderate Muslim voices?”

This also happened when he appeared on a radio show. He spoke for over 30 minutes “about many of my Muslim heroes, scholars and activists like Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and Imam Zaid Shakir who have articulated visions of a world where people from different backgrounds come together in positive ways. I described my book, Acts of Faith, which tells my story of how the discovery of my Muslim identity inspired me to start the Interfaith Youth Core.”

Then someone called in. “Why don’t Muslims condemn terrorism? And where are the moderate Muslim voices?” this person asked Eboo.

Another caller said: “I was raised a Catholic and we were taught love and acceptance. You were raised a Muslim … and you were taught hatred which leads to violence.”

Eboo’s reaction:

I answered each question pretty directly. I effectively said there are many moderate Muslim voices. You just heard one of them – mine – speak for about thirty minutes. Instead of continuing to ask that question, please tell your friends about me. I cited several other such voices.

I expanded on many of the points that I had made in the initial conversation with Marty Moss-Coane – that the dominant ethos of Islam tends towards compassion and pluralism, values that Islam shares with other traditions.

So, he was friendly and answered their questions. But, inside his head he was frustrated. He wondered: “Don’t you feel a little embarrassed revealing that level of ignorance and bigotry on Public Radio? Do you know nothing more about the religion of one-fifth of humankind for over 1000 years but the violent bits? Isn’t that a little like knowing nothing more about the United States Constitution than the clause which states black people only count as three-fifths of a human being.”

He didn’t say that, of course, but he thought it.

And, I think, he’s exactly right. I too notice that whenever Muslims condemn terrorism and preach a peaceful and tolerant version of Islam, they are – quite simply – ignored. In the blogosphere we have Ali Eteraz. A ‘moderate Muslim’ who writes about Islam almost constantly. Yet, conservative bloggers constantly ask “where are the so-called moderates?”

Well, how about Ali?

How about Eboo?

Eboo points out that there’s a long list of Muslim leaders who “have very publicly condemned terrorism.” In that regard, it’s also important to check out the “Not in the name of Islam” campaign. At this moment, more than 700,000 Muslims have signed it.

Why are these Muslims ignored?

As far as I can tell, there’s only one reason. People don’t care. People don’t care about ‘moderate Muslims.’ It’s much easier to believe that all Muslims support terrorism. That Islam is bad. That Islam is evil. That Islam is inherently violent. It’s just so much easier to think like this, and to give in to the prejudices existing in Western countries for many centuries, than it is to think for oneself and to understand Islam’s rich, tolerant and peaceful history and tradition.

They want an enemy, a very clear enemy, they don’t want nuance, because that makes life much more simple.