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What should Muslims do?

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A Muslim girl from Pakistan writes an "Open Letter to Newt Gingrich". A cynic would read it as an apologia for Islam, or snicker that her U.S. college taught her to play the victim. Nevertheless, I think the letter reflects a genuine emotional even if it is largely ignorant. Many other Muslims believe their interpretation of Islam is peaceful. They worry about being stereotyped. However, they also surely realize that the root of the problem is not those who do the stereotyping (thought these people should desist), but the people who repeatedly demonstrate the stereotype.

I do not think every Muslim must be vocal about this issue. Each individual can make that personal choice. However, when someone writes an article like this one: criticizing people who stereotype, honesty demands that they acknowledge the larger context, at least briefly. Instead, this article is an epitome of how moderate Muslims talk past their audience.

Some sects in Islam focus on individual virtue, and an individual relationship with "God", with no intent to enforce their will on others.  I personally know many Muslims who are more like Orthodox Jews in their adherence to religion in the personal sphere. They have a strong work-ethic and a trader mentality to the greater world. 

I don’t doubt that imams and youth groups in these mosques speak against radicalism and terrorism. However, I think this will be mostly ineffective unless one attacks the underlying issue: the intermingling of mosque and state. Yes, the Quran has a place where it says not to force religion on people; and some sects run with that. However, there’s no denying that a majority of Muslim-majority countries intermingle the mosque and state. In other words: they enforce Islam by point of the sword. 

If the establishment in some Muslim country accepts that religion can be enforced by law (which is true in all the middle-eastern countries, in Pakistan, and in most of the Magreb) some people will take this to the next logical step: which is ISIS and terrorism. Even secular Turkey is slipping back to that mode.  

I sympathize with Muslims who are stereotyped, but I cannot sympathize with a Muslim who complains about the stereotyping without at least mentioning that they are against the Muslim governments that force religion on people. Note too, that many of these are democratic: Turkey is, Egypt would be more religious if voters had their way, Pakistan is the same. 

If a Muslim wants to speak to non-Muslims to push a more secular version of Islam, and to complain about stereotyping, I’d like to see them acknowledge that their own countrymen are their primary enemies. I can understand someone saying “I have enough traditional religionists at home trying to force me to do things; please don’t add to my problems by mistaking me for them”. But, to simply talk about the peaceful sects of Islam without mentioning the majority traditionalists is to  play victim. As an argument, it does not address the issues of your opposition; instead it simply ignores them. Completely ineffective, except to your own cheer-leaders.

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