moderates please stand up?
The recent headline news of an Afghan man facing the death penalty for
converting to Christianity raises an important question in the process
of spreading democracy to the Middle East. If Islam is a “peaceful
religion,” to quote President Bush, and extremism is an aberration,
where are all of the moderate Muslims?
Certainly under the Taliban, who hold a hard line view of “Shar’ia,” the
civil application of religious law, the bloody history of religious
intolerance was not surprising. But with a new, supposedly-democratic
system, the specter of capital punishment for “apostasy,” the conversion
away from Islam, shocked the world.
However, such drastic penalties are not uncommon in Muslim countries.
Death is legal punishment for apostasy, heresy or blasphemy in Sudan,
Mauritania, Qatar, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and, of course, Iran. Egypt has
laws against “creating sectarian strife” and “insulting Islam.” As
recent as 2003, Egyptian police arrested and sometimes tortured 22
converts and their cohorts. In Pakistan, whom America depends on heavily
in the war against terrorism, blasphemy is reason enough to legally slay
Daring to disagree with Islam can be a very dangerous proposition. Just
ask anyone at a Danish embassy in a Muslim country.
Dr. Paul Marshall, a senior fellow at Freedom House’s Center for
Religious Freedom, recently wrote, “Abdul Rahman’s plight is merely the
tip of the iceberg. Like the violence over the Danish cartoons of
Muhammad, or the Ayatollah Khomeini’s demand that Salman Rushdie be
killed for blasphemy, it reveals a systematic, worldwide attempt by
Islamists to imprison, kill, or otherwise silence anyone who challenges
After witnessing decades of radical hatred, vengeance, retaliation and
intolerance, many Christians do not believe that moderation exists in
Islam. Yet it’s not what Christians or other non-Muslims believe that
ultimately matters. It’s solely up to the Muslim community to determine
if they can live peacefully with people of other faiths.
Silence on the part of “moderate” Muslims – those who believe in freedom
of thought and religious expression – could be explained by the fact
that persecution of dissenters of strident Islam does not stop with
“infidels.” The streets of many Muslim countries run red with Sunni and
Shiite blood as the two factions of Islam carry out their “justice” upon
Any outside intervention to stop the bloodbath is dismissed as “Western
interference.” But if we really live in a worldwide community, such
rigid interpretation of the Koran must bend. If such a compromise is
forbidden by the Imams and Mullahs controlling a significant segment of
the population, then we are in for a long and tragic cultural war.
It’s time for all free nations to call the Islamic leaders of the world
to account for their beliefs concerning those they consider infidels or
apostates. Do they believe, as Mohammed reportedly said shortly before
his death, that Jews and Christians must perish? Will they continue to
perpetrate unspeakable violence within their own ranks?
As I pointed out in my book
The Absolutes: Freedom's Only Hope,
Muslims in the United States expect protection, acceptance, and
tolerance while enjoying the freedom and privilege, yet Muslim countries
offer no such benefits within their borders. This intolerant behavior
and attitude must change, and change soon!
Western leaders can encourage (or coerce, depending on your viewpoint)
Muslim countries to uphold and protect basic human rights, including
freedom of religion, but their efforts can only go so far. It is up to
moderate Muslims, if they exist, to stand up to the hardliners in their
own ranks and prove that there is an alternative to those who readily
wield swords to impose their will.
Author: James Robison
Word Count: 602
About the author: James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE
Outreach International, an international humanitarian aid ministry; host
of the television program, Life
Today; and author of The
Media Contact: Randy Robison, editor at jamesrobison.net
Photo available upon request. Reprint rights granted with attribution for
complete, unedited article. Revisions allowed only with approval.