Looking for Muslim Moderates in the Wrong Places
Mirza A. Beg, July 17, 2007
Mirza A. Beg, July 17, 2007
Moderate! It used to be a very nice word. Essentially it described a person who considers all sides of issues to makes a thoughtful, balanced, informed and humane judgment - as opposed to an extremist.
In the current political climate in the United States, the word moderate has been corrupted to become a propaganda buzz word of the right wing extremists and pseudo-moderates, the solid base of the Bush administration. Pretending their own moderation, they use it to smear Islam, as in “they are looking for moderate Muslims to speak up.”
A pastor of a large church, I have known briefly, vehemently used the word moderate in a discussion recently. He went on to longingly preach the imminent Armageddon and the crucial need of expulsion of the Palestinians from the Holy Land, to make it happen. I gingerly asked about the fate of the Jews of Israel in the aftermath of the second coming? He side stepped the question and veered into the inevitability of the Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists; in short order, all non Christians (avoiding to name Jews), going to hell.
He preached fire and brimstone from the book of revelation, and the necessity to support Bush. It did not matter to him if millions of innocent Iraqis are killed; after all it is war of annihilation. After a while I asked, what do the Gospels, the essence of Jesus’ message have to say about this theology. He again changed the subject.
While painting this dire scenario, this paragon of religious virtue asked the question often asked by the talking heads on the FOX news network or Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), “Why don’t moderate Muslims speak out against extremism?”
This phrase is hurled as a truism, supposedly a winning volley. I drew his attention to the huge university library and the city libraries housing thousands of books on Islam, most written by Western scholars, and scores written by and about the moderate Muslims. He rejected the suggestion with a curt remark, “He has the real truth. He does not need to read books about fake religions.”
No wonder, people like him, who draw information exclusively from FOX or CBN news or from the propaganda web-sites on the Internet can not find moderate Muslims.
Fortunately I have many Christian friends, including many very contemplative pastors, with whom I have had hours of introspective discussions. Though he does not represent Christianity to me, sadly he does represent the views of about 25 to 30%, right-wing Armageddon-seeking (war mongering) Christians, a solid base of the Bush presidency. They are a huge chunk of the American polity with loud voices. They are heard loud and clear among their counterparts in the Muslim world, who just like this pastor can not find a moderate Christian.
A combination of titillating news about the latest sex scandal and the hard-core Bush doctrinal agenda has helped the FOX News to the top of the viewer share, yielding rich economic dividends. Chasing the almighty viewer-share ratings, other major cable outlets such as CNN and CNBC have been trying hard to emulate FOX.
The failure of the popular media to inform the electorate has injured the political process. Although most Americans have belatedly realized the horrible folly of the immoral invasion of Iraq based on lies by the Bush Administration. They are unable to force a change of course towards sanity. A strong minority of the 25 to 30% Armageddon-seeking Christians, helped by an apathetic titillation-seeking polity, aided the Republican Party to win majorities in the Congress for the first six years of Bush administration. Republicans in congress acted as a rubber stamp for the Bush follies. Though the Democrats won last November with a slim majority in the Congress, with the threat of veto from Bush, the Republicans have blocked all efforts towards a change in course.
Those really looking for moderate Muslims or moderate anything have no problem finding them. Most Americans, including religious Christians do not have a problem finding moderate Muslims. MENSA (International Organization of highly intelligent people with IQs in 98 percentile) at its annual gathering at Birmingham, Alabama, in July had no problem finding moderate Muslim speakers. Many Churches, Public Radio or Public Broadcasting Network have had no problem finding moderate Muslims from all walks of life.
It is the popular cable networks and extremists Christian columnists who just can not locate them. They are not looking for Muslims who strongly disagree with the extremists, such as Talibans and the Al Qaida; they are looking for those who should support the Bush doctrine of supremacy, invasion of countries without any restraint in an endless war, as in the Presidents words, “Those not with us are against us.”
The extremists are indeed a threat to the world peace. They preach exactly the same ideologies from the opposite sides. Armed with half-truths they use the other side as an effective tool to recruit followers. They have a symbiotic relationship – Right-wing Christians obsessed with Armageddon trying to control the most powerful state, against the Taliban-style Muslims pining for a mis-perceived caliphate looking for a state.
Both sides are an insult to the religions they supposedly hold dear and in whose name they advance their murderous agenda. It indeed is a failure of the moderates on all sides if they do not join hands and redouble their efforts in defeating the murderous supremacist ideologies within their own religions.