Wanted: A Muslim voice for sanity

Blog Madrid BombingHere is one of the most terrifying stories I have read this year, a feature by Elaine Sciolino of The New York Times that ran under the headline “From Tapes, a Chilling Voice of Islamic Radicalism in Europe.”

There is no ghost in this story. The raw religious fervor of the alleged terrorist profiled is pushed right out front for all to see.

That is, in fact, the point of this story linked to the aftermath of the 3/11 Madrid bombings (photo). Sciolino opens with Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed screaming “Go to hell, enemy of God!” while watching the beheading of Nicholas Berg and things stay pretty raw after that.

An Italian police report on Ahmed’s activities:

… (Charges) that he used cassette tapes, cellphones, CD’s and computers as recruitment tools, highlighting how the Internet potentially can transform any living room into a radical madrasa. The report says he downloaded hundreds of audio and video files of sermons, communiqués, poetry, songs, martyrs’ testimony, Koranic readings and scenes of battle and suicide bombings from Chechnya, Afghanistan, the Israeli-occupied territories, Lebanon, Bosnia, Kashmir and Iraq.

A onetime house painter who was able to take on new identities, hopscotch across Europe and dodge the police who had him on their watch lists, Mr. Ahmed is believed to have links to radicals in France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Saudi Arabia. The police report calls him a recruiter of suicide bombers for Iraq and at least one other terrorist operation, probably in Europe. For the Italians, Mr. Ahmed is emblematic of the new enemy in their midst.

There are fits of the rawest anti-Semitism you can imagine, and guest appearances online by a Saudi sheik: “In one question-and-answer session with a Saudi sheik who is asked what suicide operations against Jews are allowed under Islamic law, the sheik responds that Jews are ‘vile and despicable beings, full of defects and wickedness.’ God, he added, ‘has ordered us to wage war against them.’”

OK, so what is wrong with the story? The religion angle is there, after all.

I honestly wanted to hear this material discussed by voices on the other side of the Muslim world, as well as by the European experts and prosecutors. This is a case where the story offers a blunt, one-sided presentation of the most radical version possible of Islam and there is no real attempt to show this vile poison in any other context.

I think moderate Muslims have a right to be heard in a story of this kind. The Islamists are blowing up moderate Muslims as well as Jews and Christians. I wanted to hear a centrist Muslim expert or two have a chance to tear apart this rhetoric.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • http://shushan37.blogspot.com/ Salar

    ahh but an extremist media isn’t fond of moderates either. Given a large enough voice, moderates might revive the old public understanding that real faith in a just God in a citzenry makes for an ethical society…

  • http://agrumer.livejournal.com/ Avram

    Here, this link to get past the registration wall.

  • What?

    Is tmatt under the impression that there is a “true” Islam that is pacific, non-antisemitic, and can be defined apart from its adherents, past and present? What exactly would be the point of a “Moderate Muslim” tearing apart up a suicidal nutjob’s rhetoric? Is that supposed to persuade existing and prospective suicidal nuts they are wrong?

    “Moderate” Muslim is a poorly descriptive and insulting term that usually means a Muslim who is willing to accept the arrangement of the liberal order: believe ewhat you will; keep it to yourself; bow to the state gods first; separate and unequal publican and private spheres; etc.

    Orthodox Christians, irrespective of their politics, increasingly realize they cannot properly accept this arrangement. Nor can a Muslim.

    If “moderate Muslims” are defined simply as those who metaphorize all the violent and martial aspects of Islam–people who are not interested in warring with infidels–that does not work either. Superifically it sounds good to the average moron–violence…baaad! (Except in movies, video games, and defense of my person.) But look at it from a different angle: at a time of crisis and conflict within a predominantly Christian America–in the mid nineteenth century–who were the moderates? Who were the radical militant Christianists?

    Would an example of those be Nothern appeasers who would have let aggressively expansionist slavers spread? Would another example be secessionist pro-slavery Southerners who wanted to be left alone and free from “foreign” encroachments and controls as opposed to militant abolitionists who supported civil war to save the union or to end slavery? John Brown was a hero–or was he?

    When people feel stepped on and alienated–alienated because they fear and resist assimilation to something foreign–they react. It is fight or flight. That is the only truth to be concerned with in understanding these situations. Appeals to “reason” and arguments over the “true” meaning of the Bible or the Koran or Mickey Mouse are irrelevant; that is just an impossible attempt to negotiate a settlement by less violent means–a symbolically deferred conflict through a proxy authority that everyone is *supposed* to accept. But once significant numbers of people have realized that they cannot settle or compromise, then they will fight, and once there is fighting, the talking time is over except for fools who put their world in peril.

    That is where we are at. Eventually “Radical Islamists” will inflict enough damage to wholly destroy the delusions of liberality, tolerance and grace that impel so many to deny the truth of these rather obvious points.

  • http://auspiciousdragon.com/ holmegm

    >I think moderate Muslims have a right to be heard
    >in a story of this kind.

    I guess they’d have to loudly and forthrightly speak up, wouldn’t they? This story seems to be more about what people actually say, not about what they say when a reporter calls them.