“Moderates” in “Religion”

Mansoor Ijaz, an American-born Muslim from a Pakistani family writes about the failures of some of his fellow Muslims in the LA Times. He mentions two “truths,” one directed at Muslims, one at the West.

The first truth is that most Muslim ideologues are hypocrites. What has Osama bin Laden done for the victims of the 2004 tsunami or the shattered families who lost everything in the Pakistani earthquake last year? He did not build one school, offer one loaf of bread or pay for one vaccination. And yet he, not the devout Muslim doctors from California and Iowa who repair broken limbs and lives in the snowy peaks of Kashmir, speaks the loudest for what Muslims allegedly stand for. He has succeeded in presenting himself as the defender of Islam’s poor, and the Western media has taken his jihadist message all the way to the bank.

The hypocrisy only starts there. Muslims and Arabs have done pitifully little to help improve the capacity of the Palestinian people to be good neighbors to their Israeli brethren. Take the money spent by any Middle Eastern royal family at a London hotel or Geneva resort during one month and you could build enough schools and medical clinics to take care of 1,000 Palestinian children for a year. Yet rather than educate and feed Palestinian and Muslim children so they may learn to settle differences through dialogue and debate, instead of by throwing rocks and wearing bombs, the Muslim “haves” put on a few telethons to raise paltry sums for the “have nots” to alleviate the guilt over their palatial gilded cages.

It sounds to me like this Muslim has goals for the Middle East that would be worthwhile to all the inhabitants. The main thing I’d like to comment on is the second truth.

The second truth — one that the West needs to come to grips with — is that there is no such human persona as a “moderate Muslim.” You either believe in the oneness of God or you don’t. You either believe in the teachings of his prophet or you don’t. You either learn those teachings and apply them to the circumstances of life in the country you have chosen to live in, or you shouldn’t live there.

The “moderate” Muslim seems alot like some “moderate” Christians. Their beliefs tend to be more shaped by modernity than by the historic faith. Fitting in with modernity – usually that means a particular conception of naturalistic scientism and an emotivist account of morality. As a Christian who counts orthodoxy and orthopraxy as necessary and healthy for faith and life, I find that I have something in common with the “non-moderate” Muslim.

When it comes to particulars – what is it God has done, what God desires of us – we Christians and Muslims differ greatly. But we differ as Christians and Muslims, not just sharing commonalities as moderns.

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