Last Monday on the Fox hit "24", President Wayne Palmer made the point that American Muslims are our best allies in this war against Islamic terrorism. He’s right, but you wouldn’t know it listening to the callers on my show last week. I’m still disturbed by the volume of criticism I got–especially from Christians–for merely suggesting something that seems so obvious to so many of us: that we are not at war against the religion of Islam, we are at war against radical Muslims.
Callers insisted I was wrong, repeating over and over again things like, "there is no such thing as moderate Islam, there are only moderate Muslims who don’t really understand Islam," that "real Islam, and therefore real Muslims, seek world domination, a 7th century caliphate under universal sharia law," and finally, that "a true Muslim believes all non-Muslims must either convert or die."
Could they be right? What would counter-evidence look like to defeat these claims? Let me offer a few suggestions.
1) There are tens of millions of Muslims and Christians (and Jews) who have lived peaceably alongside one another for centuries, and who still do today in many parts of the world. Is each Muslim secretly harboring the desire to blow up the local café? Does every Christian believe their Muslim neighbor is at war with him? Of course not. After all, it wasn’t Jews and Christians who were targeted on 911, or in London, Madrid, Bali, or Jakarta. It was simply civilians. Further-more, even if you grant the premise "we are at war with Islam," I must ask, “Who is the 'we?'"
2) Who is in a better position to explain the "true" teachings of Islam, a Muslim or a non-Muslim? Expecting a Mus-lim to defer to my interpretation of his religion is as sensible as me deferring to his interpretation of Christianity. Better to criticize the behavior of the practitioners of a religion than the religion itself. The "my religion is better than your relig-ion" contest can only lead to a cemented stalemate. Better to ask things like, "How has your religion made you a better person?" Or, "What are you willing to do to win converts to your religion?" This elevates the discourse to the realm of the natural moral law. Jesus taught you can always tell a tree by its fruit. Better to judge actions than to divine motives.
3) Moreover, since religions don’t war against one another people do, we’ve got to find out who speaks for what re-ligion to determine if "we are at war with Islam." The Pope may speak for Catholics, but who speaks for Protestants, for Jews, or for Muslims, since none of these have hierarchical authority structures? Hence, the disparate views even among members of the same religion. Tell me, what is the "Christian" view of same-sex marriage, abortion, the war in Iraq, or of global warming? There isn’t just one. There are many conflicting views because there are many conflicting Christians–each claiming to have the "true" or "real" or "right" view of the Bible, Jesus’ teaching, and God’s heart. (Me included.) Could it not be the same in Islam?
4) If "we are at war with Islam,” then what would victory look like? The "defeat" of Islam? Would this mean every Muslim would be given the option to "convert or die?" Now who’s the radical? Certainly, victory must include the defeat of the Islamofascist ideology in all of its strains, in the very same ways the Nazi and Imperial Japanese ideologies were defeated a generation ago. But, there must also be the lifting up of what we’re calling "moderate Muslims," who believe they are following the true spirit of the teachings of Mohammed and the Koran. These are perhaps our best allies against the radical Islamists seeking world domination in the name of their religion. I want to do all I can to strengthen their voice.
5) Living proof that "we" are not at war with all Muslims are the Muslims who are part of that "we." Take, for exam-ple, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser who is founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (www.aifdemocracy.org), an organization committed to "demonstrating the synergy of American democracy and its founding principles with the religion of Islam." Jasser is a former U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander in the Medical Corps, who now lives in Phoenix where he is in private practice specializing in internal medicine and nuclear cardiology. Jasser believes one can be a Muslim who loves Allah, who can follow the teachings of Mohammed and, at the same time, be an American who loves his country, who can swear allegiance to defend our Constitution unto death, and who believes in the principles of the Declaration of Inde-pendence. He is living proof of each of these. Are we at war with this good doctor who is seeking a reformation within Islam? Does he not know his Koran sufficiently? Does he not understand sharia law or the true meaning of jihad? Yes, he knows these things. Dr. Jasser is just one of millions of American-loving Muslims, each living proof my critics are wrong.
6) Lastly, of the many things it means to be an American, it certainly means that you will fight for the political right of your neighbor to be theologically wrong–that’s the Constitution. An American believes that you can be any religion–or no religion–that you choose, as long as you don’t try to legitimize an immoral act in the name of your religion, such as polygamy, temple prostitution, or illicit drug use. Our Founders believed it best to be a Christian people with a secular form of government, and this hybrid is in large part evidence of the genius of this experiment in self-government. It is a testimony of our greatness that we would fight to protect the right of Muslims to worship freely in America.
Let’s make the distinction from now on: We are not at war with Islam, but at war with radicals doing evil in the name of Islam.