Talking to Muslims certainly doesn’t hurt. But we should also talk to non-Muslims who live in Muslim majority regions. And from Nigeria, to Yemen, to Syria, to Indonesia, I’ve worked with many over the years who have their own opinion about being the minority in a Muslim majority region. Truth be told, their accounts typically sound more like this, than this.
I think it’s fair to say Pope Francis hasn’t glossed over the evils of Islamic extremism. But like many today, it seems he doesn’t go beyond that, and wishes to focus on the positives once the worst elements of terror are condemned. As if there is nothing in between.
That’s a little like saying but for the Gulags, the rest of the USSR was pretty good. Or to put it another way: But for the lynchings, the rest of the pre-Civil Rights South wasn’t half bad. See how that rings a bit hollow?
I’ve noticed for those Christians I know who grew up within Muslim majorities, that sort of pontificating about the Islamic world sounds about the same. Not that they agree with far right wing takes on Islam. As the Syrian businessman at my wife’s church points out, many of their friends from back home are Muslim. He just believes it takes more than an either/or understanding of the region.
I’m reminded of tales told by black servicemen from WWII. I seldom hear them spout hatred or bitterness against their fellow servicemen. In fact, even while they speak of the segregation and discrimination, they’ll often reference friends who were white, or fellow servicemen who did them well. They even speak of their patriotism and love they had for their country. But they’re also prepared to be honest about the discrimination and racism of that time period.
Perhaps that’s a better approach to the Islam question. Admit that there are problems beyond terrorism in the Islamic world. That also could help make sense of Muslims saying things that don’t seem terrorist, but appear to be a bit disconcerting nonetheless.