What accounts for this weakness? And what is a reflexively tolerant, post-multicultural Westerner to make of it? Our dauntless leaders may repeat that the Islamist threat has nothing do with Islam, but, frankly, their mantra is getting a little ridiculous. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Amir Taheri, an Iranian author and journalist, recently declared that "to claim the attacks had nothing to do with Islam amounts to a whitewash." It's also, he wrote, a "disservice to Muslims, who need to cast a critical glance at the way their faith is taught, lived and practiced."
Taheri, frank as he was, did not offer how-to specifics. But with reporters mining Islam for information previously limited to specialists, it's clear how important this call for Islamic reform really is. As the horrors of our Taliban enemy have become common knowledge, we also learn, for example, that a similar strain of Islam, Wahabbism, is practiced and exported by our so-called ally Saudi Arabia. Examining a textbook for one of five compulsory religion classes for Saudi 10th-graders, The New York Times quoted a lesson regarding whom "good Muslims" should befriend. "After examining a number of scriptures which warn of the dangers of having Christian and Jewish friends, the lesson concludes: `It is compulsory for the Muslims to be loyal to each other and to consider infidels their enemy.'"
This comes straight from the Quran. "O believers," the Quran says (Sura 5, Verse 50), "do not hold Jews and Christians as your allies. They are the allies of one another; and anyone who makes them his friends is surely one of them." As historian Paul Johnson noted in National Review, such "canonical commands" -- along with "slay the idolaters wheresoever you find them" (Sura 9, Verse 5) -- "cannot be explained away or softened by modern theological exegesis, because there is no such science in Islam." Johnson goes on to explain that contrary to the evolving nature of both Christianity and Judaism, Islam has never undergone any update, reformation or enlightenment since its inception in the seventh century. "Islam," he wrote, "remains a religion of the Dark Ages. The seventh-century Quran is still taught as the immutable word of God, any teaching of which is literally true. In other words, mainstream Islam is essentially akin to the most extreme form of Biblical fundamentalism."
This stagnation is a key to the problem. The solution, however, is beyond the grasp of non-Muslims. This most critical, internal challenge falls to those Muslims around the world who desire to live and worship in peace.
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