Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Israpundit: freemuslims.org Speaks Out

By Andrew L. Jaffee; netwmd.com

People from all walks of life keep asking me the same question: “Are there moderate Muslims?”
I know myself that there are, but… Many of the moderates are faced with intimidation by militant Muslims (“Islamists”). Muslims also have to contend with their own old cultural habits, hateful religious leaders, a bigoted press, and schools that teach hatred and homicide bombings. As usual, just as things seem the darkest, I happen upon something that brightens my spirit -- at least a little. Last week, FOXNews mentioned the organization “Free Muslim Coalition Against Terrorism” (FMCAT). I immediately went to their website, and was surprised at what I found.

When posed with the “Are there moderate Muslims?” question, I often react as eminent Middle East expert Daniel Pipes taught me:

…I dutifully provide lists of names and organizations, then confess that they [moderate Muslims] are largely fractured, isolated, intimidated, and ineffectual.

The press has done a disservice to moderate Muslims by editing news about terrorism and pumping up Islamists as "mainstream." While moderate Muslims are rare, I'm hopeful when they do raise a voice of reason. I don’t want to celebrate too soon -- boy, have I been burned in the past -- but let’s start out taking FMCAT at face value.

What struck me most about the Free Muslim Coalition’s website was their headline story, “We are so Sorry for 9-11.” This isn’t an admission of collective guilt, nor is it a whitewash of Muslim involvement in 9/11. Rather, it is a well-written rebuttal of the Muslim victim mentality and blame-game that is all too prevalent nowadays:

After September 11, many in the Muslim world chose denial and hallucination rather than face up to the sad fact that Muslims perpetrated the 9-11 terrorist acts and that we have an enormous problem with extremism and support for terrorism. Many Muslims, including religious leaders, and “intellectuals” blamed 9-11 on a Jewish conspiracy and went as far as fabricating a tale that 4000 Jews did not show up for work in the World Trade Center on 9-11. Yet others blamed 9-11 on an American right wing conspiracy or the U.S. Government which allegedly wanted an excuse to invade Iraq and “steal” Iraqi oil.

After numerous admissions of guilt by Bin Laden and numerous corroborating admissions by captured top level Al-Qaida operatives, we wonder, does the Muslim leadership have the dignity and courage to apologize for 9-11? If not 9-11, will we apologize for the murder of school children in Russia? If not Russia, will we apologize for the train bombings in Madrid, Spain? If not Spain, will we apologize for suicide bombings in buses, restaurants and other public places? If not suicide bombings, will we apologize for the barbaric beheadings of human beings? If not beheadings, will we apologize for the rape and murder of thousands of innocent people in Darfour? If not Darfour, will we apologize for the blowing up of two Russian planes by Muslim women? What will we apologize for? What will it take for Muslims to realize that those who commit mass murder in the name of Islam are not just a few fringe elements? What will it take for Muslims to realize that we are facing a crisis that is more deadly than the Aids epidemic? What will it take for Muslims to realize that there is a large evil movement that is turning what was a peaceful religion into a cult?

Will Muslims wake up before it is too late? Or will we continue blaming the Jews and an imaginary Jewish conspiracy? The blaming of all Muslim problems on Jews is a cancer that is destroying Muslim society from within and it must stop.

The author, Kamal Nawash, president of FMCAT, advocates some concrete steps Muslims can take before “it is too late:”

Muslims must look inward and put a stop to many of our religious leaders who spend most of their sermons teaching hatred, intolerance and violent jihad. We should not be afraid to admit that as Muslims we have a problem with violent extremism. We should not be afraid to admit that so many of our religious leaders belong behind bars and not behind a pulpit. Only moderate Muslims can challenge and defeat extremist Muslims. We can no longer afford to be silent. If we remain silent to the extremism within our community then we should not expect anyone to listen to us when we complain of stereotyping and discrimination by non-Muslims; we should not be surprised when the world treats all of us as terrorists; we should not be surprised when we are profiled at airports. Simply put, not only do Muslims need to join the war against terror, we need to take the lead in this war.

As to apologizing, we will no longer wait for our religious leaders and “intellectuals” to do the right thing. Instead, we will start by apologizing for 9-11. We are so sorry that 3000 people were murdered in our name. We will never forget the sight of people jumping from two of the highest buildings in the world hoping against hope that if they moved their arms fast enough that they may fly and survive a certain death from burning. We are sorry for blaming 9-11 on a Jewish or right wing conspiracy. We are so sorry for the murder of more than three hundred school children and adults in Russia. We are so sorry for the murder of train passengers in Spain. We are so sorry for all the victims of suicide bombings. We are so sorry for the beheadings, abductions, rapes, violent Jihad and all the atrocities committed by Muslims around the world. We are so sorry for a religious education that raised killers rather than train people to do good in the world. We are sorry that we did not take the time to teach our children tolerance and respect for other people. We are so sorry for not rising up against the dictators who have ruled the Muslim world for decades. We are so sorry for allowing corruption to spread so fast and so deep in the Muslim world that many of our youth lost hope. We are so sorry for allowing our religious leaders to relegate women to the status of forth class citizens at best and sub-humans at worse.

The Free Muslim Coalition is headquartered in -- where else – the good old USA (Washington, DC). The group will be physically safer in the U.S. It will enjoy protection from anti-free-speech zealots like those in the Canadian government. Unfortunately, Nawash’s words will be considered blasphemy even by many American Muslims as Islamists have “taken over 80 percent of the mosques” in the United States. Nonetheless, FMCAT is here and takes many “controversial” (i.e., sensible) positions.

FMCAT rejects the Islamist party line requiring strict adherence to the Koran and universal/forced conversion of the world’s populace to Islam:

The Free Muslim Coalition Against Terrorism does not seek to change the tenets of the religion. However, the Coalition believes that the Koran only provides general principals of governance which leaves the faithful with substantial flexibility to modernize popular Muslim practices and beliefs.

The Coalition seeks to encourage discussion among Muslims about every aspect of their religion as it applies to modern times. The unwillingness of the Muslim religious establishment to consider modernizing the faith has relegated most Muslims to third world status and in many instances to a medieval existence.

Those who seek change are often afraid to speak out because of the aggressive and violent nature of those Muslims who reject change. The silence of peaceful Muslims has resulted in the hijacking of Islam by extremists and terrorists. This must change.

FMCAT “believes that there can NEVER be a justification for terrorism,” instead of hocking the usual “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” mantra. The Free Muslim Coalition believes that democracy and economic development will be the cure for terrorism:

…that if more people in the Middle East were given an opportunity to play a role in their governance then they will be less likely to resort to terrorism as a means to effect political change. ...

Equal access to economic opportunities for all people regardless of ethnicity, gender, marital status or religion is a democratic value that should be nurtured in the Muslim world as well as in Muslim communities in the West. The Coalition integrates the value of economic equality into our message in order to stop terrorism by destroying its base of support.

The Free Muslim Coalition rejects Islamist anti-Jewish rhetoric (“Don't Blame the ‘Jews’”) and implicitly supports Israel's right to exist. Because of FMCAT's positive view of democracy and capitalism, I would venture to believe that they've noticed how the Israelis, with a tiny population of 6.5 million, have built a $122 billion economy [1] -- only 2.46% of which is U.S. aid. But FMCAT goes soft on the problem of Palestinian terrorism. They do state that Muslim terrorist groups have cynically used the Palestinian/Israeli conflict to justify terrorism. While they don’t explicitly equate Israel’s democracy with the terrorist chaos that rules Palestinians, FMCAT’s proposed solutions to the conflict are half-hearted at best. For example, the Free Muslim Coalition states,

We understand why President Bush does not want to work with Yasser Arafat. However, President Bush’s refusal to work with Arafat does not mean we should do nothing. The United States can work with the Palestinian Prime Minister instead. If Arafat fires the Prime Minister, the United States should work with the prime minister that replaces him. …

Hundreds of innocent Palestinians and Israelis have been killed. The Killing of innocent civilians must stop. At the end of the day, the Palestinians and Israelis want freedom and peace. The Palestinians and Israelis want normal lives, want to be employed, want their children to become engineers, doctors and lawyers and we should do everything we can to help them achieve this goals.

While rejecting Arafat is a good thing, advocating negotiations with his front-men is useless. We all know what happened to the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) first prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas. He was fired because he tried to limit some of Arafat’s absolute power. Arafat and his PA are in too deep with the terrorists. FMCAT’s conclusion about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict is just feel-good fluff. If they’d done their homework, FMCAT would remember that Israel tried to negotiate with the Arabs in 1918, 1949, 1967, 1968, 1974, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1993, and 2000, and gave up territory for peace in 1957, 1974, 1975, 1982, 1988, 1994, 1995, and 1998. If FMCAT really is a “Coalition Against Terrorism,” it should explicitly call for the destruction of all Palestinian terrorist groups and the removal of Arafat as PA president.

Will FMCAT have staying power? The group already has reported that its members have been threatened for straying from the Islamist party line. Is FMCAT for real? I hope so. I haven’t had enough time to follow the group, but I will and shall regularly report on their activities. FMCAT has 9 local chapters in the U.S., and one office in New Zealand. Their website collects reports on “Muslim extremism or support for terrorism.” They also have a newsletter (see their homepage).