"This has nothing to do with Islam," British Prime Minister Tony Blair recently told a delegation of Muslims at a meeting at 10 Downing Street, referring to the Sept. 11 attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Mr. Blair was echoing a view, popular both in Europe and the U.S., that it is impolite, not to say impolitic, to subject Islam to any criticism. Yet to claim that the attacks had nothing to do with Islam amounts to a whitewash. It is not only disingenuous but also a disservice to Muslims, who need to cast a critical glance at the way their faith is taught, lived and practiced.
Even worse, the refusal to subject Islam to rational analysis is a recipe for further fanaticism.
There is more. All but one of the world's remaining military regimes are in Muslim countries. With the exception of Turkey and Bangladesh, there are no real elections in any Muslim country. Of the current 30 active conflicts in the world no fewer than 28 concern Muslim governments and/or communities. Two-thirds of the world's political prisoners are held in Muslim countries, which also carry out 80% of all executions each year.
The Muslim world today is full of bigotry, fanaticism, hypocrisy and plain ignorance--all of which create a breeding ground for criminals like bin Laden. *The principal victims of these criminals are Muslims, who are prevented from developing a modern political culture without which they cannot reform their societies and rebuild their economies.*
What I am saying is Not meant as critique of Islam as a belief system; that's an issue for theologians, and people should be free to believe whatever they like. What is needed is a critique of Islam as an existential reality. The Sept. 11 tragedies should trigger a rethink of the way Muslims live Islam. We should start with condemning those attacks without "ifs" and "buts." Sadly, the way we Muslims live Islam today is a far cry from the way our ancestors lived it in the golden age when Islam was a builder of civilization, not a force for repression, terror and destruction.