You mentioned that it would be better to write a searing criticism of Islam than to draw the cartoons. Well, many people have done just that, and are in hiding for it, for the same reason the Danish cartoonists are currently in hiding. Salmund Rushdie is the most well-known of these people, despite the fact that his “criticism” was a fictional novel. Other examples include Robert Spencer, a Christian of Middle Eastern descent, and Bat Ye’or, an Egyptian born Jew who lived under Islamic oppression in Egypt for many years. Both people are Arabic-literate historians who have spent the better parts of their lives studying and writing about Islam. They live in undisclosed locations in the United States and Switzerland. I could give you many other examples, but I think you get the idea. Even if tens of thousands aren’t rioting in the streets and burning down embassies, those who openly criticize Islam and are discovered doing it invariably go into hiding, or, like Hirsi Ali of the Netherlands parliament, must be surrounded by police guard at all times. The most amazing and frustrating part of all this is that liberal commentators continue to write of the golden tolerance of Islam.
The problem is not with Muslims. The problem is with Islam. What I mean is that while most Muslims are peaceful, good, ordinary people who have no desire to take any part in a jihad, jihad itselfs remains an integral part of the religion. Sure the term jihad has several meanings, including the spiritual struggle against sin, trying to convert others to Islam, etc., but it has always also held the meaning of holy war. Just think of how Islam spread in the seventh and eighth centuries. Muhammed was not the pacifist that Jesus was. Plenty of Jews in Jesus’ time wanted badly to rebel against the Romans, and many saw the Messiah as a warlord who would help them to throw off the yoke of Roman oppression. Jesus opposed violence and did not want to see any armed rebellion. Muhammed, on the other hand, was not remotely a pacifist. Muslims start their calendar with the time that Muhammed was exiled from Mecca, from where he went to Medina, eventually taking over the city. He did wage war against the Meccans, in fact he authorized 27 jihads and directly took part in 18 of them. He believed in spreading Islam by whatever means necessary, and by the time of his death he was the ruler of all of Arabia, and most of the pagan tribes had been converted to Islam. His successors, particularly the first four, continued his mission and sent out armies from India to Portugal. Within one hundred years of the rise of Islam, almost 2/3 of all Christian lands were under Muslim rule, hundreds of pagan religions were extinguished, and the Christians and Jews living under Islamic rule were subjected to all the cruelties of dhimmitude.
Of course the Koran has plenty of passages that call on Muslims to be peaceful and live in harmony with their neighbors. But it also has passages that tell Muslims to “fight with them until there is no more persecution and religion should be only for Allah” (Koran 8:39). But I’m not interested in specific passages so much as I am the history of Islamic warfare and theological interpretation. What alarms so many of us who have studied Islam is that there has never been any disenfranchisement by any major Muslim group of jihad as holy war. There is not one madhab (school of thought within Islam) that has stated jihad as a means of spreading Islam and Muslim rule is disenfranchised. Sure some groups have denounced the killing of innocents, but not jihad in and of itself. So when I say that the problem is Islam and not Muslims, what I mean is that as long as the more violent and intolerant aspects of Islam continue to be part of the religion, then eventually somebody is going to read the scriptures close enough to figure out that they need to go on a jihad and create an Islamic superstate. The masses of peaceful Muslims are suspectible to becoming rapidly politicized and drawn into the fray, because there exists no feasible alternative within Islam, no major Islamic group diametrically opposed to jihad.[/quote]
These same problems occurred in Christianity. It took cooler heads to prevail in Europe during the Enlightenment. Do you not think that cooler heads can prevail in the Muslim world?
Perhaps there could have been a more moderate view of Islam by Muslims now if there had been less meddling by the West in the Middle East in the last century. And I mean that by: How the West divvied up land and in so doing divided ethnic groups. How the West has propped up oppressive regimes and removed popular governments (for oil). How the West played both sides of the Iran-Iraq war. And of course how the West supported the creation of Israel at the expense of the Palestinians.
Or perhaps not.
Also remember we are not too far removed from World Wars I and II and that should remind us all that the West isn’t necessarily any more civilized.
So rather than demonize each other, we should work together and separately to remove the extremists on both sides who are fueling this so-called clash of cultures.