Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Moderate Muslims Speak Out, Again

Various sources, including Andrew "I Can't Find Any Moderate Muslims" Sullivan, are linking to a statement from, gasp!, moderate Muslims about the cartoon crisis. Here's a snippet:
To counter [Islamism], we must assure universal rights to oppressed or discriminated people. We reject cultural relativism, which consists in accepting that men and women of Muslim culture should be deprived of the right to equality, freedom and secular values in the name of respect for cultures and traditions. We refuse to renounce our critical spirit out of fear of being accused of "Islamophobia", an unfortunate concept which confuses criticism of Islam as a religion with stigmatisation of its believers.
The document was signed by a number of Muslim writers, including Taslima Nasreen, Salman Rushdie and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The statement is right on target, asserting the right to secularism, which is just as important as religious freedom. Muslims, like anyone else, should be free from discrimination and oppression, whether by horrible regimes in the Middle East or by xenophobic Westerners.

The authors mention "Islamophobia" and draw a distinction between criticizing Islam and stigmatizing its adherents. Sadly, so many commentators from the West were so quick to back up the free-speech rights of the European press that they ended up violating this very distinction. The willingness of so many people to paint all Muslims as terrorists while at the same time never questioning the motives of any of the groups in favor of the cartoons (like the neo-fascist BNP in Britain) points to another important distinction: a "critical spirit" without critical faculties can be a dangerous thing.

Moderate Muslims are a new discovery for Sullivan (he highlighted another one yesterday) who, as recently as Feb. 10, was coming uncomfortably close to advocating ethnic cleansing and concentration camps for Europe's Muslims. It's never too late, I suppose. I just hope his definition of a "moderate" Muslim doesn't simply translate into a "secular" one.

To those out there who keep asking where the moderates are, they're here, they're speaking out, and maybe you should pay attention for a change. As I wrote yesterday, the moderate Muslims aren't hard to find, unless your rhetorical point is better made by pretending they don't exist.
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