Calling for Muslims to Reject Violence
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Commentator Irshad Manji is a Muslim woman who frequently calls for reform in the Islamic faith. Yesterday's terrorist attack in London has her asking her fellow Muslims to take an honest look at the text of the Koran.
As a reform-minded Muslim, I've been scouring Web sites for how the clerics of my faith are responding to the London bombings. Here's the good news: I see heartfelt condolences for the victims and angry condemnation of the criminals. And then the bad news: Some of the imams are still in denial, not about the fact that Islamist terrorism exists nor about how easily religion can be perverted, but about how the Koran, Islam's holy book and the guiding book of my own life, is being exploited to support terror. Too many imams would rather deny that the Koran plays any role in this mess.
One example comes from a press release issued by a prominent Muslim cleric in New York City. I know him. He's a gentle, decent guy, a new-generation type who emphasizes multifaith dialogue. To top it off, he just came home from a conference about moderate Islam in Jordan, where he played a major role. And yet, in his official response to the London bombings, this cleric sanitizes the Koran. He says it teaches us, and I quote, "Whoever kills a human being, it is as if he has killed all mankind." Not quite. There's more to that passage. The full verse reads, `Whoever kills a human being, except as punishment for murder or other villainy in the land, shall be regarded as having killed all mankind.' `Except as punishment for murder or other villainy in the land'--those words are easily deployed by militant Muslims to fuel their rampages. That includes the London rampage. The group claiming responsibility cited Iraq as its primary motive. To them, the bootprints of US soldiers in Iraqi soil surely amounts to murder and villainy in the land.
Of course, that doesn't make them right. Terrorists have never needed an Iraq debacle to carry out their missions. What exactly was the Iraq of 1993 when Islamic radicals tried to blow up the World Trade Center? Or of 2000 when the USS Cole was attacked? That assault came after the US saved thousands of Muslims in Bosnia. So I'm certainly not buying the religious rationale of the terrorists. And I'm relieved that more and more imams are rejecting their claims, too. The next step is for moderate Muslims to join moderate Jews and Christians in acknowledging the nasty side of all our texts, the so-called sins of scripture, as the Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Spong recently described the Bible. Let us be honest with each other, even as we're struggling to be fair with each other.
NORRIS: Irshad Manji is the author of "The Trouble With Islam Today." She lives in Toronto.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.