I tried to write this yesterday, only to discover that what I really know about Islam is pretty limited. What I wanted to say, in essence, is that we need to accept Muslims as legitimate seekers of spiritual fulfillment in life if we expect to be accepted ourselves. In the U.S., since September 11, 2001, I’ve heard and read lots of comments suggesting we’re having a hard time doing that.
And there have been, without a doubt, complications that threaten our ability to live and let live, on religious terms. I recall conversations and discussions shortly after the terrible U.S. attacks, in which Americans and other Westerners invited “mainstream” Muslims to repudiate and condemn what Osama bin Laden and his troops did to us. I also recall that some of those non-radical Muslims were a bit reluctant to categorically reject the religiously-inspired violence perpetrated by radical, fundamentalists. Looking back, I have to think that holding all Muslims responsible for the acts of a vicious few is a little like condemning an entire ethnic group because one individual goes astray. The point here is that, as religious persons, Muslims are likely to be as varied in their thinking as a roomful of Christians or Buddhists or Unitarian-Universalists.
I would like to recommend an op-ed piece I ran across in the Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/01/08/islam-preaches-tolerance-of-critics-no-matter-what-the-charlie-hebdo-attackers-believe/). It’s written by a graduate student at the Institute for Social Justice at Australian Catholic University. His name is Ali Mamouri. The title he or the paper applied to his thoughts–Islam preaches tolerance of critics, no matter what the Charlie Hebdo attackers believe–was encouraging to me. The rest of the piece, in which he traces the rise of violent, intolerant responses from a certain segment of the Muslim faithful, was very helpful. I will resist summarizing the piece here. But I will say that his suggestion that radical Islamist violence may have, at least in part, grown out of “destructive imperialist interventions” by Western powers (the U.S. involvement in the Middle East is only the latest iteration of violence, preceded by the Inquisition, the Crusades, and other atrocities committed in the name of the Deity) makes sense to me.
I cannot accept the violence perpetrated by radical, fundamentalist Muslims against the rest of the world as legitimate expressions of religious indignation. I cannot accept the violence perpetrated against so many people, many of them Muslim today, by my nation and its allies around the world in the name of religion or freedom or justice. I can accept, and long for, a mutual tolerance among Muslim and non-Muslim (as Ali Mamouri’s article would seem to tacitly propose) that could reduce the mutual hatred that now obscures any effort to discover a way we can all live and pray and love in peace.