The topic in "Standing Up..." here is Islam and what we can understand of it in the world today.
More specifically, this topic began as the problem of the superficially "missing" moderate Muslims. It's a common American prejudice nowadays that no one can be Muslim AND be a decent person at the same time; that the religious primacy of God and the Quran universally subverts Reason in Muslims and converts them all into passive or active supporters of Radical Muslim terror. This isn't true, per se, but there have been more than enough murders committed in the name of Islam by fanatics and punks that the notion keeps presenting itself.
But it behooves us to get "relative" about it. (Yes, one can "get relative" without becoming a moron. But if you're a dyed-in-the-wool absolutist anti-relativist for whom the world is always morally black and white, where only "we" are good and all others are bad, then you can just ignore what follows.) While an exception may disprove the absoluteness of a rule, the exception is NOT the rule: the real world is infinitely complex and composed of endless Individuals. Only bigots accept and apply pejorative "rules" to the exclusion of facts.
My little investigation into the topic of moderate Muslims seems to show me (so far) four political and religious classes of Muslims:
- Atheists who are, technically, 'Muslim' (like the many technical Christians and Jews and so on);
- Moral Believers, people who are Muslim but judge others as people and not by labels;
- Overly Devout folks who are extra-religious or even fundamentalist Muslims who are, nonetheless, horrified and saddened by Radical Islamic terror; and -
- of course - the Radical (Fundamentalist) Muslims who either support or perform acts of terror.
I expect the same sorts of division apply to any group of a collective religious or political identity. My point is that American and other reactionaries fail to appreciate the variance in Muslim attitudes and conditions, and instead lump every Muslim in the same trash bin with the Radical Muslims. (The American Left makes the same mistake with Republicans and Christians and so on.) They justify this by the murderous extent of Radical Islam's terror-movement, and its inhuman proclamations. But the excesses of a few are still not the customs of the many.
There are lots of modern Muslims who, in their own lives, can integrate God, the Quran, AND human decency, just as there are such people in any religious group. We can pin a violent past (or present) on any of these other groups as well, whether Puritanical Christians, Communists, CEO's and "working men", Populists, et cetera; but that doesn't automatically make all the members of such groups murderers and rapists.
I want to mention one author who speaks to the whole question of the "missing" moderates: Ranya Tabari Idliby, author of two books:
- The Faith Club: A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew - Three Women Search for Understanding (ISBN 978-0743290487)
- Burqas, Baseball, and Apple Pie: Being Muslim in America (ISBN 978-0-230-34184-5)
I am reading the second of these. Ranya is decidedly Muslim; but she is also decidedly American. She is heroic enough to condemn the murderers and criminals who slaughter and claim it as a service to God; and she is reasoning enough to have a commitment to Freedom and Goodwill - which makes her like a lot of un-sung decent Muslim folk who have not been interviewed or printed or otherwise published. I hope to get back and sum up more of what I get from her book later.
So, again, for people who think they're People of Good Will, don't condemn all Muslims for the actions of a few angry, crazy macho-types; but do read Ranya's book - very timely reading for all of us non-Muslims (Stoic, Baptist, Atheist, Catholic, Buddhist, whatever).