Searching for Moderate Islam


Would the 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 an individual.

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 their ideology.”

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 each other.

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 Absolutes.

Media Contact: Randy Robison, editor at

Photo available upon request. Reprint rights granted with attribution for complete, unedited article. Revisions allowed only with approval.



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