Thursday, September 30, 2010

Speaking Up for Moderation

Here is a snippet from a speech by Malaysia's Prime Minister, Najib Tun Razak, given at the UN. I've bolded the key bit:
While harnessing our efforts to promote international peace and harmony we are concerned with the increasing trend in some parts of the world to perpetuate or even fuel Islamophobia. Attempts to demonize Islam offend the one and a half billion adherents of the religion. It intensifies the divide between the broad Muslim world and the West. The real issue is not between Muslims and non-Muslims but between the moderates and extremists of all religions, be it Islam, Christianity or Judaism. Across all religions we have inadvertently allowed the ugly voices of the periphery to drown out the many voices of reason and common sense. I therefore urge us to embark on building a “Global Movement of the Moderates” from all faiths who are committed to work together to combat and marginalize extremists who have held the world hostage with their bigotry and bias. We must, and I repeat, we must urgently reclaim the centre and the moral high ground that has been usurped from us. We must choose moderation over extremism. We must choose negotiations over confrontation. We must choose to work together and not against each other. And we must give this effort utmost priority for time is not on our side.
For a long time I've been calling for moderate Muslims to speak up. It is good to hear these voices. But I'm disappointed by how hard it has been to get them to speak up.

Meanwhile, I'm reading Martin Gilbert's book In Ishmael's House that reviews the history of Jews in Moslem lands. It is a good reminder of how uneven the history of Moslem lands has been, i.e. good followed by bad in a never-ending cycle. There is no sense of "progress" or "enlightenment". That's what I really want to see. These words of Najib Tun Razak need to be followed up by actions, consistent actions, by moderates everywhere.

The great lesson of the European religious wars of the early modern era was tolerance, i.e. to separate state and religion and require that the various religious groups tolerate each other and suppressing the extremists who were unwilling to accept other viewpoints.

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