Commentators who have never cracked open the Koran authoritatively declare Islam a religion of peace. But these pundits are not the self-appointed experts Salam Al-Marayati has in mind when he writes sarcastically, "American talk show hosts, columnists and political leaders seem lately to have become experts on Islam, the Arabic language, South Asian politics and Islamic law."
Writing in Wednesday's Los Angeles Times, Al-Marayati, the executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, objects to non-Muslims, ignorant of Islam, who define it as a "violent faith." Presumably he doesn't mind if non-Muslims, equally ignorant of Islam, define it as a peaceful one.
But what if Muslims themselves define Islam as violent? Does he object to that? After all, powerful Muslim clerics schooled in the Koran have reached the same conclusion as the non-experts Al-Marayati criticizes: Islam authorizes violent jihad against the infidel. Are these Koranic experts wrong? Are they Muslim heretics? Or are the Muslim heretics those who would explain away the Koran's call for jihad?
Most Muslim clerics say that militant Islam is orthodox Islam. Are they wrong? To say Islam is nonmilitant is to say that most Muslims don't understand their own faith. Herein lies a form of Western arrogance Muslims should consider the most offensive. The chatter about "reforming Islam" is nothing more than a liberal exhortation for Muslims to abandon their religion. By "reforming Islam," liberal westerners mean taking Islam out of Islam and replacing it with liberalism.
Many of the same people who call Islam a religion of peace also call for a reform of Islam. Which raises the question: Why does it need to be reformed if it is peaceful? What they are really saying then is, "Islam should be a religion of peace and we will make it so." Liberals seek to remake Islam in their own image, just as they have been trying to pressure Catholicism and traditional Judaism into exchanging their doctrines for political correctness.
Al-Marayati, even as he denies Islam's militancy, inadvertently acknowledges it. He complains that when "Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz praises those he calls 'moderate' Muslims, that in itself marginalizes the people he is promoting." In other words, the orthodox Muslim world frowns upon "moderate" Muslims. They see moderate Muslims as phony Muslims who are surrendering Islamic orthodoxy for worldly gain. Al-Marayati wants "progressive Muslims to be listened to in the Muslim world," implying that that world isn't progressive and won't listen to them if they are perceived as apostates to the faith. Don't call us moderate or we won't be taken seriously, is a curious request to make if one is arguing that Islam isn't militant.
Al-Marayati ends up arguing that America lacks moderation. "When people like former South Africa President Nelson Mandela declare that the United States is a threat to world peace, when Europeans and Canadians have unfavorable attitudes toward the U.S., then moderation is not just a Muslim problem," he writes. He also argues that Islam isn't violent and then argues that all religions are violent: "violence inspired by religious ideology is timeless and afflicts everyone: why not address the issue across the board? Ireland and the former Yugoslavia come to mind."
The issue isn't addressed across the board because most of the world's terrorism is coming from the Islamic world. It would be easier to define Islam as a religion of peace if terrorists who have taken the name Muhammad weren't blowing people up. And if Muslim authorities don't define Islam as a religion of peace, why should westerners? They are only repeating the doctrinal pronouncements about jihad that come from the religious experts of Al-Marayati's faith.