Before 9/11, most Americans looked at Islam as no different than any of the world's other great religions. But since that terrible day, Americans have read countless stories about crazed riots over damaged Qurans, terrorists who've murdered people in the name of Allah and violent threats over Muhammad cartoons. Quite understandably, this has caused people to become considerably more wary of Islam.
Is that fair to all the good and decent Muslims out there? No, it isn't.
But, let's also stop ignoring the obvious fact that the Islamic faith has a large, radical and violent contingent that the world's other great religions don't have. Oh, but what about the Crusades? Well it's true that the Crusades were bloody, violent and directly connected to the Christian faith. However, the last crusade ended more than 700 years ago. That same sort of fanaticism has largely died out in Christianity while it's still alive and kicking in Islam.
Anyone who can't admit that is lying to himself and everyone else.
That being said, the vast majority of Muslims are not radicals and probably like Jihadism even less than we do if only because they're more likely to be victims of it than other people. While we certainly can and should expect moderate Muslims to condemn radical Islam, it's also worth remembering that many non-Muslims are so frightened of Islam that they won't criticize radicals. Imagine how much more terrifying it must be to condemn Jihadists when you may semi-regularly run into people who think that way in your neighborhood or mosque.
All that being said, we tend to spend a lot of time talking past each other on this issue. Some people wrongly condemn all Muslims. Some Muslims treat criticism of radicals as an attack on all of Islam. Other people are so politically correct that they're afraid to address the issue at all.
So, let's shoulder past both political correctness and "Islamophobia" and have a real discussion about "moderate Muslims." We do hear the phrase "moderate Muslim" tossed around a lot; so isn't it about time that someone actually takes a crack at defining what it means?
As a non-Muslim, I consider someone to be a "moderate Muslim" if he....
1) ...Opposes terrorist attacks on civilians the world over.
2) ...Doesn't believe that damaging a Quran or a Muhammad cartoon is a legitimate reason to behave in a violent fashion.
3) ...Believes people have a right to leave the Islamic faith in peace without having to face legal repercussions or violence.
4) ...Rejects wife beating, forced marriages, clitorectomies and violence towards women.
5) ...Thinks women have just as much of a right to be educated as men, should be able to leave the house without a male relative and should be allowed to FREELY CHOOSE whether or not they want to wear a Burqa or Hijab.
6) ...Rejects anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and genocide against Israel.
7) ...Is against Sharia, which is a primitive, barbaric code that is pro wife-beating, pro-rape, anti-free speech, homophobic and entirely incompatible with civilized behavior.
Certainly, we could easily add more things to this list, but this seems like a good starting point because these are almost unarguable. If you're an Al-Qaeda fan, believe in murdering people over a cartoon, want to knife people who leave Islam, are fine with wife beating, think little girls shouldn't have a right to an education, want to finish what Hitler started in Israel or want to drag the whole world back to the dark ages with Sharia, it's hard to argue that you are in any way, shape or form a "moderate." Yet, there are probably more than 100 million Muslims across the world who fit some or all of those descriptions -- and if anything, that estimate is low.
It's time to start calling these radicals what they are, while separating them out from truly "moderate Muslims." Christians don't get offended when someone slams Fred Phelps and his wacky God Hates F@gs clan or a Christian nut job who murders an abortion doctor because it's understood that those freaks are way outside the mainstream of Christianity. It's time for everyone to do the same sort of thing with Islam so that good and decent Muslims aren't lumped in with these radical Jihadists whom we can never trust, accept or treat as anything other than rabid dogs.