Muslims Are Losing Ground

Salmon Rushdie may have been the first to flee the wrath of angry Islamic hardliners but now whole nations are on the alert. It is an easy thing to hide one man but nations are another matter. World reaction is followed by world opinion and depending on how much dust has to settle, following close behind is worldwide action. That action has been everything from hunting down major terrorists and dangerous extremists to digging for the root causes for all this anti anything that isn’t Muslim.

Immediately after 9-11 President Bush sought to encourage Americans and warn the perpetrators of the attack in New York. We rallied around his comments with ears fully opened and hearts still burning with grief. Almost un-noticed in the melee of words and emotions he also said, that we knew the Muslim religion was a peaceful religion. Do we really know that? Up to that propitious moment in our history we knew pretty close to nothing about the Islamic faith. Since those remarks were made there has been a rush to correct our general lack of knowledge about Islam. So what do we know now?

The first person to cast doubt on the peaceful religion remark was Franklin Graham the son of evangelist Rev Billy Graham. He simply pointed us to the Quran where it can be seen in black and white that the cost of not converting to Islam could be our lives. The first reaction to Graham’s divulgement was a little shy of a good old tar and feathering. Since then we have poured over the newly offered enlightenments put forth by authors, preachers, news people and others. Graham has been vindicated, our president has been a good deal less vociferous on the peaceful religion idea, and we have had a non stop crash course on the entire subject via the shock network from, Indonesia, Spain and London.

College freshman still argue that more wars have been fought and more lives have been lost to religion than for any other reason. Only a little more learning and they eventually stop sounding that obviously exaggerated claim. Most of the lives lost in war had to do with territory, politics, fascism and all the other reasons on a long list of which religion is but one. But how many converts are won as a result of religious wars and bigotry? Why can’t the Muslims take a hint from this? How many people really wanted to be Catholics during the Papal inquisitions? How many got converted to Christianity because of the crusades? How about a modestly conservative, very few if any, for a fair answer?

About as much time as it takes to get a college degree has passed since 9-11 and Americans have been immersed in both its details and its concomitant effects. We have all figuratively earned our degree in the effects of terrorism. We have had our education bolstered with remedial courses from the subways of Spain to the underground of London. If we have learned nothing else we can at least say with surety that Islam is not a peaceful religion. It assuages us little to be reminded so often that there are extremist Muslims and moderate Muslims, when we know their guide book puts forth a mandate to take the extreme.That information leaves us with only two lousy choices. One is to be ever watchful of the extreme Muslims and the other is to hope the moderate Muslims don’t get to serious about the Quran’s extremes.

Perhaps a better question is what have Muslims learned? Has the slaughter of unsuspecting, un-armed and un-prepared people added any converts to Islam? Has it caused anyone to rush to join their ranks? The world consensus may be hard to accurately measure but it seems safe to say that not many are taking the bait.

We still live in a world where people don’t like being blown up for holding an opposing view or for not being inclined to become adherents to one religion or another. I think that is why we call it civilization. Most people like to come slowly to their conclusions about God. Most folks still prefer spiritual experiences rather than human coercion. Most people would prefer a gentle Jesus to a poisoning Jim Jones. Even the cults have sense enough to feign love to the unsuspecting to lure them into their folds. What nation or what culture has ever been found to eagerly accept a religion that thinks blowing people up is pleasing to God? Why don’t Muslims see they are doing more to harm their cause than time and forgiveness may ever be able to repair?

The Rottweiler Pope, the Danish Cartoon, and Muslim Moderates

It’s now a couple of weeks after the pope made his speech. A few days ago I listened to an interview with Clinton (former American president, in case anyone has forgotten). His view on the pope’s remarks and the Danish cartoon: they make it more difficult for Muslims moderates.

I thought about Clinton’s evaluation (he’s not someone I dismiss casually). And my thinking brought me to remembering what I’d heard about the impact of the Danish cartoon on Danish Muslims. According to that report, the discussions sparked by the cartoon moved the Muslim community forward by at least three centuries – because before that, the Muslim views were not challenged and until that happened, they could not be changed.

So have the Danish cartoon and the pope’s remarks hurt or helped Muslim moderates?

First, the cartoon and the remarks are not one and the same.

The Danish cartoon (to these nonMuslim eyes anyway) is a small mild portrayal of a grizzly truth – the use of the Muslim prophet as justification for bombings and other violence against innocent civilians, including Muslims. The pope’s remarks are more blunt and directly confrontational: violence done in the name of religion is against the nature of god. He was called a Rottweiler long before he made these remarks. His remarks – deliberately forceful, provocative – did bring to mind the image of a Rottweiler. Big teeth. A strong bite. One often has to be careful around Rottweilers.

That brings me to a question. Why did the Danish cartoon spark greater protest?

Well, a cartoonist is a more vulnerable target, doesn’t have the authority of a huge organized religion behind him. Also, the cartoon came first. Plus, there is the question of whether anyone can make an image of the prophet. Masses of Muslims acted in outrage that anyone dared to make such an image – and totally ignored the message of the cartoon. (The offended chose to ignore that there are numerous other images of their prophet, against which they have not protested, and that the violence done in the name of the prophet creates a very vivid image in people’s minds.)

But I still haven’t answered my own question. Have the cartoon and the pope’s remarks hurt or helped Muslim moderates.

My guess is they’ve helped. Someone had to do this work. The Danish cartoonist and the pope have drawn a lot of fire and anger away from Muslim moderates. More of them may actually have gotten more courage to speak out. Plus moderates may have moved further in their thinking in response to the cartoon, the pope’s remarks, and all the discussion this has generated. In fact, another guess I have is that there are more Muslim moderates than before. (That remains to be seen.)

So far I have no evidence – but I do know that Christians have become increasingly moderate over time, as the Christian fundamentalists have been challenged over and over.

Of course irate fundamentalists (Christian and Muslim) may be ever more allergic to the moderates. But at least in Canada, the very conservative Christians are much more moderate than a generation ago. A similar shift may take a couple of decades in the Muslim world, but that’s what I see happening.


In the short run, what would I see?

“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” – so said Shakespeare, or perhaps it was some other famous British writer. I think the comment popped into my mind becuse people who are losing may get ever more angry. It doesn’t mean they will win, or that they should win. A spurned woman doesn’t increase her chances of winning back her beloved if she rages. On the contrary. And eventually a lot of spurned people learn.

I’m back to a central point. The more that people around the world do to break the shell of Muslim self-righteousness, the better.

So for now at least, based on my own assessment and knowledge, I will disagree with Clinton, though our goal is the same – the success of Muslim moderates.



“It is a fact readily acknowledged, that for humans, an idea is much more powerful than a fact.” I don’t know who said that – but I remember how those words struck me when I read them. One idea: just as ideas can close our minds, they can open them to new worlds and visions. Ideas pull things togheter or keep them apart. They help us organize experiences, help us make sense of things – or block us from making sense of things. So I hope you got something from what I’ve written. Comments and further thoughts welcome.


For more thiinking of the rage of the righteous – how it works and how one might counter it – there’s much more on my site:


Questions. Why so much Muslim rage at a Danish cartoon? Why so much rage in people in general? Narcissism. Hate. Illusions. The Idea Emporium – facts, ideas, conclusions. Plus stupid opinions exposed – such as the opinion that all opinons are equal.