A recent article I read forced me into a long and thoughtful reassessment of my ideas, and experiences to date with the Islamic religion.  I thought it might be interesting to share these thoughts in the hope of furthering the discussion, and perhaps expressing a set of conclusions that will ring true for someone other than myself.  This is explicitly not intended as an incendiary message or a provocation, it's mostly what I think, rather than what I feel, and I'm more than willing to have my opinions swayed by the weight of factual and logically reasoned discussion.  

If you think I'm wrong, don't settle for the cheap shot, write it up. Let me know why and how I've strayed off the path of logic.  Explain why I'm wrong, but use facts and specific examples and above all rationality.   


Even a cursory look at Islamic fundamentalism today reveals some surprising contradictions and apparent hypocrisies that are difficult to reconcile:

  • Islam is constantly touted as the religion of peace, and yet fundamentalist Islam is responsible for much of the mayhem inflicted on the world at the moment.  Historically, Islam has been in a nearly constant state of war with; the governments attempting to rule the societies in which it exists, with its neighboring states in those cases in which it has ruled via fundamentalist theocracies, and at war with itself in the form of bloody and enduring hatreds and brutal feuds between its numerous sects.  Examples of this range from the extermination of the Jews of Khaybar in 629, called by the Quran, " a glorious victory" (48:1) to Saladin's original conquest of Jerusalem and most recently the long and brutal war between Iran and Iraq.
  • Islam is touted as inclusive and tolerant, and yet every modern expression of the violent Islamic Jihad has specifically targeted Jews, Christians, or both, as ideal targets.  Since the fall of the Sultanate in 1622, marking the end of the Ottoman empire, and the subsequent rise of Qutbist ideology in the mid 1900's, violence and hostility against modernity and western culture has been a significant theme in Islam.
  • Islam claims to venerate women, and yet in the most fundamentalist Islamic societies, women aren't even allowed a rudimentary education. The daily lives of muslim women the world over are repressed and constrained beyond what any modern western society would tolerate. This true in many dominantly Muslim countries including Saudia Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan to name a few.
  • Islam has been portrayed as a religion that encourages self-inquiry and yet it is one of the few faiths in the history of humankind that is commonly interpreted as allowing, and even encouraging, a true believer to commit suicide as a religious act of faith.  There is scholarly debate about the meaning of the word jihad, but it's clear that the interpretation by fundamentalist Islamists both allows and encourages the use of homicide bombing as a religious expression.  I'm not a religious scholar, so I would only quote this comment from Richard Connerney, a professor of philosophy at Iona College:
    "Perhaps the best way to sum up the hawkish attitude of the Quran is to note that the Penguin edition of the Quran contains over 40 entries for "war," and no entries for "peace." 
  • Islam is proclaimed to be tolerant, but at least in its current evolution, it refuses to support any form of reconciliation between muslims and Israel short of the complete destruction of Israel and the Israeli people. From its inception during the unification of the tribes of Arabia into a military force strong enough to overthrow the last vestiges of the Byzantine Empire and the Persians in the Levant, Islamic religion, politics and law have been unseparable.  The Muslim political state, with Muhammad at its head predates the writing of the Hadith (the life of Muhammad) and the Quran. Islamic culture rejects modernity and secular rule and is therefore eternally in conflict with it. To quote Bernard Lewis's excellent New Yorker article on the subject, "For the early Muslims, the leader of Christendom, the Christian equivalent of the Muslim caliph, was the Byzantine emperor in Constantinople.  Later, his place was taken by the Holy Roman Emperor in Vienna, and his in turn by the new rulers of the West.  Each of these, in his time was the principal adversary of the jihad."
  • Islam supposedly embraces a quest for knowledge, and yet the Quran is the only book offered in the Islamic madrasas schools of Pakistan, Saudia Arabia, UAE, Syria, etc.  The syllabus at these schools includes a strong focus on hatred of America and the Jews.  To quote the New York Time's Pulitizer Prize winning journalist Thomas Friedman, 
    "On the way to Peshawar I stopped to visit the Darul Uloom Haqqania, the biggest madrasa, or Islamic school, in Pakistan, with 2,800 live-in students, all studying the Koran and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad with the hope of becoming mullahs, or spiritual leaders.  I was allowed to sit in on a class with young boys, who sat on the floor, practicing their rote learning of the Koran from holy texts perched on wooden holders.  This was the core of their studies.  Most will never be exposed to critical thinking or modern subjects... It was disquieting because their almost entirely religious curriculum was designed by the Mogul emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir who died in 1707.  There was one shelf of science books in the library, largely from the 1920's."
  • Islam is treated by Muslims as a single entity demanding their loyality, and yet it has no Pope or High Church to speak authoritatively on its behalf.  Its self-proclaimed spokesmen include such demonstrably evil individuals as Osama bin Laden, and  Mullah Omar.  Saddam Hussein repeatedly invoked Allah and the teachings of Islam in support of his regime in his recent interview with Dan Rather clearly giving the impression that he had, "God on his side." Beyond these heinous individuals, we are left with the apparently disconnected opinions of a million mullahs preaching to the Arab street in behalf of Islam.  These men may not represent Islam to the majority of Muslims, but they are the only ones being heard.  

The list goes on and on.  I would hope that these statements are considered on their own merits rather than interpreted as an attack on Islam. I'd feel similarly towards any other totalitarian belief system inflicting misery and hatred on the world.  I'm not even attempting to judge Islam as a religion, only pointing out that Islam is acting like an extremely bad actor in the modern world.  I honestly believe I'd be ashamed to be a Muslim at the moment because no one among them seems to speak out against these outrages.  Moderate Muslims that do speak out against the extremities of Islamic fundamentalism have been brutally persecuted by their religious governments.

The response by fundamentalist Muslims to the issues raised above is typically a bellicose and high volume rant on the many evils of America and Americans and globalization and Israel and capitalism and most of the rest of western civilization.  None of which have anything to do with whether Islamic fundamentalism is a deeply flawed and problematic belief.  It just sounds powerfully righteous when you string it together and deflects the argument. The world has heard very little from moderate Muslims, besides a understandable plea for protection against western backlash. That plea has been heard and respected for the most part and very few instances of reprisals have occurred.

Suppose you assume for a moment that there's no America?  How many of the problems Islamic fundamentalism rails against would still remain?  I'd claim that virtually all of them would remain, because Islamic fundamentalists aren't really at war with America, or even Israel, they are at war with western civilization itself.  Is the rest of the world is prepared to stand back and watch fundamentalist Muslims massacre the Israelis, and assume complete control of Israel, then overthrow the secular governments of every other country in the Middle East, to install fundamentalist Islamic theocracies? If not, then we're all in for trouble eventually, even without America to blame it on.

On the other hand, suppose for a moment that there's no Islam? Nobody has to be killed or maimed, or even uprooted from their homes.  Assume the Islamic faith itself just disappeared and all the true believers just stopped believing.  Many of the world's most intractable problems would suddenly become manageable.  To use the example above,  the Israelis and the Palestinians would quickly cut the land-for-peace deal that they were so close to before the last "holy" jihad destroyed all hope for peace. They'd get it done and move on. The basic Israeli demand is not to live next door to a culture that is sworn to annihilate them. In a world without Islamic fundamentalism that would be possible to achieve.  Muslims and Jews were living together for centuries prior to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and they could do so again.  A similar example is the conflict between Pakistan and India over Kashmir.  The Hindus and the Muslims lived there together in peace for generations prior to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. They could do so again. 

Suppose you assume for a second that there is no God, and all religions are completely false, and this world is all we've got, and one life is all the longer we've got it for?  Absent an inherently unprovable faith in the veracity of the Quran, Islam makes no sense whatsoever. Absent that unprovable faith, Islam is just another cruel totalitarian government.

When I think of Islamic fundamentalism, I am reminded of the beauty I once perceived in the purest philosophical essence of socialism, and the lifetime of disappointment that I have experienced as I watched wave after failed wave of real world totalitarian Communist atrocities.  I think modern Islam might be a little like that, beautiful in its unsullied spirit, but nightmarish in reality.


My thanks to mr100percent for the response to this writeup. It is well researched, skillfully presented and, obviously, heartfelt.  More importantly, it expands and illuminates the discussion by presenting an alternate viewpoint.  I especially appreciate and respect his perspective as a practicing Muslim because that perspective is invaluable in helping us to really understand these issues. That said however, I believe, his arguments are compelling without being convincing. 

The crux of the response seems to revolve around the following points:

  1. Islam has been around for a long time and was, for much of its existence a model of enlightened spirituality. Islam's association with terrorism is a relatively recent development that has been driven by political forces rather than theological concerns.
  2. There are many moderate Muslims that do not approve of the actions the fundamentalists who support terrorism, the oppression of women, homicide bombings, the destruction of Israel, etc.
  3. That there is a huge discrepancy between the teachings of traditional Islam and the extreme practices that are highlighted in my write up.
  4. That Islam isn't inherently bad, it's just that, "a few bad apples" are getting all the attention and other religions such as Christianity have also been responsible for atrocities over the course of history.

 I find some merit in each of these arguments, but I think on balance that they deny the reality of what Islam has come to represent in the world today. More importantly these points highlight the very paradoxes that I've attempted to highlight. 

Islam was once a beacon of spiritual light for the entire world to admire, but that's not the case any longer. Islam has been hijacked in a sense by the radical fundamentalist element and is increasingly feared and marginalized in the western world. The Islamic television station Al Jazeera, and the Islamist newspapers such as Al-Medina or Al-Riyadh, constantly broadcast one sided propaganda designed to inflame the Islamic community against the west. The Islamic Jihad promises an endless stream of "holy martyrs," who will be rewarded in Paradise for their suicide on behalf of the intifada. These people may not speak for Islam, but, for all practical purposes, they are the only ones representing Islam who are talking.

Islam appears to be having a very difficult time making a successful transition to a modern secular world.  If Muslims want to reclaim the deep and admirable morality on which their religion is founded,  they must show some strong and effective leadership to reclaim their religion from the fundamentalist Islamic terrorists who currently represent it to the world.

Moderate Muslims may represent a majority and they may reject the extremists, and the cruel and mediaeval practices mandated in Islamic theocracies like Iran. But how would anyone know it?  Where is the outrage of these moderate Muslims?  What sign is there of their burning desire to recapture their traditional Islamic values from the fundamentalists?  What practical and efficacious steps have they taken towards that end? 

I entreat moderate Muslims like mr100percent to stand up and be counted among those who are against terrorism, in any cause, and who won't tolerate it in their mosque.  The Catholics are taking steps to clean up their problems, why shouldn't the world expect Islam to do the same?

Highlighting the deep divide between high-minded Islamic theory and the more sordid reality, consider a quote from a sermon presented by Sheik Ibrahim Mudeiris on the Palestinian TV station 15 May 2005:

"The day will come when we will rule America. The day will come when we will rule Britain and the entire world - except for the Jews. The Jews will not enjoy a life of tranquillity under our rule because they are treacherous by nature, as they have been throughout history. The day will come when everything will be relieved of the Jews - even the stones and trees which were harmed by them. Listen to the Prophet Muhammad, who tells you about the evil end that awaits Jews. The stones and trees will want the Muslims to finish off every Jew."

mr100percent assures us that Islam doesn't support these atrocities (homicide bombing, repression of women, intolerance, etc.). But we see these things perpetrated with alarming regularity by Muslims, in the name of Islam.  That is the paradox.


Reference Sources

Richard D. Connerney, Islam: Religion of the Sword, Salon.com 11 October 2001

Bernard Lewis, The Revolt of Islam, New Yorker Novermber 19, 2001

Thomas Friedman, In Pakistan, It's Jihad 101, New York Times, 13 November 2001

David Brooks, Bashing Newsweek, New York Times, 19 May 2005

I disagree. However, I like the fact that you invited discussion, lets see what I can do:

First, I recommend you read what the terms "Jihad" and "Fundamentalist" mean. What you implied them to be and what their actual definitions are don't match up.

Now, let me go to Islam's defense:

  • "Islam is constantly touted as the religion of peace, and yet fundamentalist Islam is responsible for much of the mayhem inflicted on the world at the moment."

    Well, actually South America has had the highest incidence of terrorism for a while now, followed by Western Europe. Rebels, drug cartels, and government corruption are causing all sorts of problems there, but I wouldn't blame Christianity (the dominant religion of the continent). Therefore the majority of terrorism is not related to the Middle East, Muslims, or Arabs.1 They're just in the media spotlight at the moment. Also, terrorism is on the decline, 2002 had 44% less deaths by terrorism(all types & groups) than 2001.

  • "Historically, Islam has been in a nearly constant state of war with; the governments attempting to rule the societies in which it exists, with its neighboring states in those cases in which it has ruled via fundamentalist theocracies, and at war with itself in the form of bloody and enduring hatreds and brutal feuds between its numerous sects."

    Historically, that's quite wrong. The Islam brought by Muhammad started its real growth in the 7th century, spreading from Saudi Arabia. For centuries an Islamic empire flourished in the Middle East, the peak of civilization at the time. They were at the forefront of science and medicine and mathematics.2 They permitted freedom of religion, gave money to the construction of churches and synagogues, and allowed equal treatment of muslims and non-Muslims under the law. Free public universities were opened, attended by non-Muslims as well as Muslims. The Moors controlled southern Spain for 700 years, and their Islamic state provided protection to Christians and Jews under the law. It is known today as the Golden Age of Judaism since they were treated better there than anywhere else in the world at the time.3 It ended when Ferdinand and Isabella reconquered the land and expelled and killed the Jews and Muslims there, it was the Spanish Inquisition.

    For a really good example of how Islam has NOT spread by war, look at Indonesia. It is home to over 200 million Muslims; the largest Muslim population in the world, yet no Muslim armies ever set foot there. Islam spread there through both contact with traders and Islamic missionaries. Nobody believe there was coercion there. Look at India, they have had long periods in their history of rule under Muslims, but India is 85% Hindu today. It's a pretty unanimous consensus among the historians that there was never any forced mass conversion, for the most part of history they let the Hindus be.

    Islam is 1400 years old. The violent fundamentalism you speak of is not even a century old. The reactionary Wahhabist movement, which plenty of people blame as the the real problem, only spread to Arabia in the early 1800's, and is tied into the dictatorship in control. Iran's theocracy is only recent; brought about in 1979 as a result of a popular revolution supported by the people. The terrorism we have been seeing lately is partially in response to the dictatorial governments in place in many of these countries today. Go read some of Osama Bin Laden's interviews before 2001, for years he complained about how the holy cities and his country is under "occupation." At the same time, there have been no "brutal feuds" among sects. Sunnis and Shias for the most part have been getting along quite peacefully.

  • "Islam is touted as inclusive and tolerant, and yet every modern expression of the violent Islamic Jihad has specifically targeted Jews, Christians, or both, as ideal targets."

    That's not true. First, Muslims are commanded to respect and tolerate "People of the Book" which means fellow monotheists like Christians and Jews. Not only is forced conversion absolutely forbidden4, but Muhammad is reported to have said "Whoever kills a Christian or Jew will not even smell the fragrance of Paradise."5 Failing that, let's look at the statements of terrorists. Osama Bin Laden wrote in his purported declaration of war to attack the US, not because they're Christian, but for political reasons involving Israel/Palestine and US military bases in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Ayman al-Zawahiri's organization, al-Jihad al-Islami, had tried very hard to overthrow the Egyptian government and kept failing. Al-Zawahiri thought it was because of US backing for Egypt. They believed that the US' backing also allows Israel to be aggressive and dominant in the Middle east, and backs Saudi Arabia's royal family, both charges that hold true. Al-Qaeda was attempting to push the United States out of the Middle East so that Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Saudi Arabia would become more vulnerable to overthrow, without a superpower nation giving them support.

  • "Islam claims to venerate women, and yet in the most fundamentalist Islamic societies, women aren't even allowed a rudimentary education. The daily lives of muslim women the world over are repressed and constrained beyond what any modern western society would tolerate."

    Yes, there are some serious problems in certain countries involving the rights of women. You're probably making reference to the monarchy in Saudi Arabia, where women are forbidden from driving and discouraged from education. That is entirely un-Islamic and there are many many Muslims worldwide who criticize them for such strict rules which can't be justified by Islam. It's a cultural problem and religion can be the solution. Islam requires that women must be educated as well as men and that women are guaranteed natural rights as well as men. Women have rights as individuals, they can vote, own and run businesses, divorce their husband of their own free will, and get a share of inheritance. Reactionary governments such as Saudi Arabia follow more of Wahhabism than Islam, which is also what the Taliban mixed with Deobandism to justify repressing women. They're not following Islam correctly, and one of the reasons Osama Bin Laden hates the USA is because the US has backed the monarchy, whereas if there wasn't American military might keeping them in power, they would probably be overthrown. Other Muslim countries aren't like that; for example, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh is a woman. Women are supposed to be given honor and respect in Islam, and Islam's actual rules towards women do not contradict modern western society. If you don't believe me, it's a fact that twice as many women convert (revert) to Islam than men, especially in "Westernized" countries like the US and France.

  • "Islam is been claimed as a religion that encourages self-inquiry and yet it is one of the few faiths in the history of humankind that is commonly interpreted as allowing, and even encouraging, a true believer to commit suicide as a religious act of faith."

    Islam does NOT allow that. The Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar University, considered by many to be the highest authority for Sunni Islam, condemned suicide bombings as a hellworthy sin.6 Islam considers anyone who kills an innocent person as killing the whole of humanity, according to the Quran. Other prominent scholars such as Hamza Yusuf have done the same7. Suicide is unanimously considered a hellworthy sin. Murdering innocent people is also a hellworthy sin. Two wrongs don't make a right. And as a Muslim, watching television and hearing how sucide bombing killed women and children really upsets me, its enough to make me cry.

  • "Islam is proclaimed to be tolerant, but at least in its current evolution, it refuses to support any form of reconciliation between muslims and Israel short of the complete destruction of Israel and the Israeli people."

    The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a political struggle, with religious overtones. There are PLENTY of Muslim moderates out there, and it is ridiculous to say that the worldwide religion of Islam refuses peace. I should also point out that there are Palestinian supporters who aren't Muslim, including Christians and Jews (Jews for Palestine, Jews Against the Occupation, etc). The Palestinian Christians aren't very supportive of Israel either. Islam is an extremely diverse religion, and saying that the entire religion in general wants that is absurd. There are millions of Muslims living there, and it is plainly stupid to generalize and say that they are all right-wing and can't coexist with Israel. Both sides have left and right-wing advocates, and if you show me a Palestinian quote that says "get rid of all Israelis" I can also show you a quote from an Israeli government official that says "drive out the Arabs." Most of the millions of people on both sides, in both countries, are willing to coexist. Israel has a very large Arab minority, and I'm sure they don't want their homes destroyed. The two-state idea is popular among the majorities. Not only that, but the Qur'an says that if one side offers genuine peace, then they are commanded by God to stop fighting. Making the argument that Islam wants no peace aside from the destruction of Israel is like saying that Judaism wants no peace aside from the complete destruction of Palestine. Incorrect.

  • "Islam supposedly embraces a quest for knowledge, and yet the Qur'an is the only book offered in the Islamic madrassas schools of Pakistan, Saudia Arabia, UAE, Syria, etc. The syllabus at these schools includes a strong focus on hatred of America and the Jews."

    Factually incorrect. Islam is not only based on the Qur'an, but also on the Sunnah as well as their interpretations and the opinions of the various scholars who made the five schools of thought. Each of these iterms comprises several volumes. You're saying they only learn one book when in actuality there's a whole encyclopedia to teach. Even your own source refutes that idea, saying "The Koran AND the teachings of Muhammad(pbuh);" Definitely not one book. While Madrassas teach things in an Islamic context (it's just another Parochial school really), they do teach other things like literature and sciences. Not only that, but they teach Islamic history, and plenty of it. There's also a great deal of works by Islamic scholars to read. A person does not enroll in one of these schools for years just to learn one book, Islam encompasses all things. The Islamic schools, at least in the US and Indonesia (the ones I've heard from students about), give a well-rounded education, one student wrote "We have everything just like other public schools have - math, science, English, history. We may have other classes like Islamic studies and Arabic classes." Why don't you ask Yaqub0r, he goes to afternoon classes at a madrassa, just like a college. The one closest to me offers science, history, and math classes, its like a private high school and the state allows an equivalent diploma. I believe Pakistan and other countries also provide public education to complement the education given in a madrassa, assuming the school itself doesn't offer it. Islam DOES embrace a quest for knowledge, since wonders of nature and science and the universe all prove God's existance and help people prosper. Literacy is seen as a commandment. Some madrassas probably contain anti-American sentiment (for a number of actions such as the war on Iraq, the US' unconditional support of Israel, and US invasion of Afghanistan), but they're not out to teach hatred of Jews or Judaism. Their beef is with the Israeli government and its conflict with Palestinians. Anti-Americanism is not in the textbooks there, and not part of the curriculum. If you think about it, shouldn't people be condemning Jerry Falwell's Liberty University? Last I heard, they teach intolerance of Islam, homosexuals, Darwinism, etc. Why focus on the Muslims? I think its a subtle reason, because you and I know what Christians are truly like, but Muslims are still relatively unknown to many Americans and Europeans. I also know of American madrassas like the one run by Hamza Yusuf, where he teaches traditional Islam and has unimpeachable pro-America credentials. I know US military veterans who teach his classes.

  • "Islam is treated by Muslims as a single entity demanding their loyality, and yet it has no Pope or High Church to speak authoritatively on its behalf. Its spokesmen include such demonstrably evil individuals as Osama bin Laden, and Saddam Hussein, as well as the apparently disconnected opinions of a million mullahs."

    They do NOT speak for Islam. It would be more accurate to refer to those people as self-appointed spokespeople, and dubious ones at that. Osama Bin Laden has been condemned by Muslims internationally8. The terrorist attacks attributed to him were condemned.9. He was condemned even before 2001. His superior, Taliban leader Mullah Omar, issued a statement in 1998 saying that Bin Laden was unqualified to issue fatwas or otherwise speak for Islam.10 The statements he did make were disproven by scholars of a higher rank and degree of study than him.11 Saddam Hussein, who ran a completely secular Iraq, is unfit to speak for Islam, and nobody has made any claim that he speaks for Islam any more than Adolph Hitler spoke for Christianity. Sure, he says things like "God willing" in his speeches, but he's basically paying lip service to Islam while he drinks alcohol at home with mistresses. In fact, he oppressed Muslims for decades. You're referring to a man who made it policy to execute people who prayed at the mosque too often, as it was a threat to his secular Ba'ath regime. Saddam Hussein sent out a videotape around August 15, 2001 calling on the Shiite clergy to declare jihad against the Americans (despite the fact that he's brutally oppressed and slaughtered the Shias in his country for decades). All of the major Shiite clerics, in Iraq and outside, rejected and derided the idea. Sunni leaders all over the world publicly condemned his actions and have done so for some time. You're only seeing infamous people from US/European news and think of them as "spokesmen." I'm much more inclined to listen to Siraj Wahaj, Anwar Al-Awlaki, Dr. Israr Ahmad, Hamza Yusuf, or even Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) who, while prominent do-gooders, don't generate headlines in the mainstream press here.

    Now, in regards to Islam's authority system, for the time being it's decentralized like Judaism. People can spend years in religious studies, and are given titles like sheikh or mufti or mullah. Shiites have a system of ayatollahs while the Sunnis don't have a leader. Instead, things proceed only if the vast majority of the scholars are in agreement. That means if one sheikh rules it's permissible to fight against Israel, it's not valid unless the majority of the scholars support the ruling. We don't have a caliph, nor an Islamic state (though the Shias have Iran), so we have no central authority, nobody can order the Ummah around.

Beyond that, the rest of your writeup gets sort of mean. "Inflicts misery and hatred on the world"? Save it for a religion that sponsored The Crusades.

Islam isn't bad, it's just that you've only seen one side to it. Untold millions of Good Muslims are all over this planet, but you only hear about the one or two bad apples. Catholics griped over the same thing when scandals involving priests caused only negative coverage of the Vatican and some say Catholicism itself. I myself am a Muslim, and what the extremists do sicken me. I know better than to blame my religion for what was committed, because I have about as much in common with them as I do with Jack the Ripper (thanks Jaez for the allusion). Islam rejects violence except as a last resort and for self defense. Completely. Totally.

You're not going to hear about good Muslims in the news, because they are humble low-keyed folks doing their thing; attending the mosque, working hard and giving charity, running soup kitchens, attending to their families, and teaching people.

You as well as President Bush say that Islam has been "hijacked." The religion hasn't been hijacked in the sense that "terrorists seized the podium at the mosque", but your perception of the religion has been hijacked. The stereotypes and preconceptions you hold of Islam have been dramatically slanted to only the negative. I'm saying that the weekly sermon for world peace and unity hasn't changed, but how YOU think of Islam (and Muslims) has been ruined.

I happen to be an American too. Islam is compatible with most of Western Civilization; ie. freedoms, science, representative democracy. Sure there's criticism of Bush supporting Ariel Sharon and not Yasser Arafat or the US's foreign policy in general, but nothing irrational.

=b= wrote "Islam appears to be having a very difficult time making a successful transition to a modern secular world." What gives you that idea, besides US-based news? Have you experienced the government systems outside the US, in the Muslim world? Do you know that Muslims in the US are promising to vote in record numbers in the 2004 US elections? Do you know how many imams and scholars in the US and UK are supporting participation in the "secular" communities that you and I live in today? Look at Egypt, they're Muslim but doing a fine job of running a modern country. Look at Muslim country Turkey, they've made it so painfully secular that female government workers are getting fired for wearing headscarves. I think you mean democracy, since I think secularism is a bad idea (Pluralism might be the term you are looking for). Did you know that Algeria democratically voted for an Islamic party by a clear uncontestable majority, and the secularists got so upset that a coup happened?

"Where is the outrage of these moderate Muslims?  What sign is there of their burning desire to recapture their traditional Islamic values from the fundamentalists?  What practical and efficacious steps have they taken towards that end?" Well, where are YOU looking? I work and keep company with muslims every day, and I see it so ubiquitously. You have to look, since its not a breaking news story that you will see on television. The outrage of muslims against terrorism is nothing new.

Bishop Fulton Sheen once wrote that "few Americans hate the Catholic Church, but millions hate what they mistakenly think is the Catholic Church." That is the same with Islam; people go by generalizations and stereotypes and plain misinformation. A long time ago I once disliked Islam, but when I confronted a Muslim with my qualms and beefs, it turned out that Islam was nothing what I had imagined it to be. I hated what I thought was Islam; the real Islam was and still is striving to destroy the things I once thought it supported; terrorism, oppression, and hatred. There are a huge number of Muslims who are standing up against terrorism and injustice. Look at Islamic websites like Islam.org and read books like "Taking back Islam." They'll show you what so many Muslims are really saying. It turns out they have been saying it for decades and yet they never got noticed by the non-Muslims until 9/11.

Rereading your w/u, =b=, I think your mistake is that you base your opinions of Islam on its stereotypes and generalizations. A few well-publicized cases of something bad does not mean it's an epidemic. Thanks to world news and the internet, one report of a bad muslim circulates. As a result, you don't hear of my neighborhood mosque opening up a soup kitchen to feed the homeless, you instead hear of the Taliban member who beheaded his wife. People are sure quick to denounce Islam, sharia, and Muslims, but did it ever occur to you to ask a real Muslim what he thinks of them? I could be closed-minded and say that so-and-so are evil (Liberals, French, Iraqis, etc) but unless you try to talk to them and try to understand their perspective/reasons/motivations, you'll never truly understand.

=b= pulled out a quote by a Sheikh who, by the out-of-context quote, sounds anti-semitic. He tries to use the quote to cast blame on the religion. I can tell you that in America, right-wing Americans (should I label them Christians?) burned Qurans and announced they supported the torture of Muslims and disregarding human rights. Typical Americans shrug them off as part of the lunatic fringe and not part of American culture or Christianity, oblivious to the fact that outside America, it perpetuates the negative stereotypes. Muslims and Americans are both stereotyped, and since I'm both, it hurts to see both sides oblivious.

Bibliography:
1. http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/pgtrpt/ (Formerly at: http://www.state.gov/www/global/terrorism/ )
http://www.khilafah.com/home/category.php?DocumentID=2430&TagID=1
2. http://www.muslimheritage.com/
3. http://research.haifa.ac.il/~focus/1999-spring/f08.html
4. http://islamicity.com/MOSQUE/ARABICSCRIPT/AYAT/2/2_256.htm
5. Hadith volume of Sahih bukhari
6. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/1690624.stm
7. http://www.crescentlife.com/heal%20the%20world/terrorists_are_mass_murderers_not_martyrs.htm
8. http://www.islam-online.net/English/Views/2001/10/article3.shtml
9. http://www.muhajabah.com/otherscondemn.htm http://groups.colgate.edu/aarislam/response.htm
10. http://europe.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2001/trade.center/islam/fatwa.html
11. http://www.understanding-islam.com/related/text.asp?type=question&qid=1007

I read =b= wu which I have to say irritated me at first, but then I saw it was well written and indeed an important topic to discuss. I proceeded to learn that he too views Islam through the window of all the negative stereotypes that have become all too prevalent in todays society. I don't blame him for that line of thinking, since like the majority of people he is deriving his conclusions about Islam 'The religion' through the deviated actions of a number of so called Muslims that have encaptured the whole world media it would seem.

Quick note - Just for the record, I'd like to point out that a Muslim is an individual who strives their whole life to surrender their own will (i.e. their desires, compulsions etc.) as best they can to the will of God. Therefore if someone does an action that is against the Qur'an and or Sunnah (whether it be in the name of Islam or not), then that action is an act of Sin, and needless to say Un-Islamic.

Anyway to continue, I then went on to read the wu by mr100percent who very astutely answered =b= wu point for point, and who might I add is a convert to Islam himself, so on his part there is no better or greater advertisement (for want of a better word) that he can give to the goodness of this beatutiful Deen (religion).

However, =b= responded to mr100percents wu by what it seems to me, almost ignoring the essence of what mr100percent is conveying, so I'd like to further clarify on some of =b= comments with all due respect..

  • "The reality of what Islam has come to represent in the world today.."

  • The actual reality of what Islam represents remains unchanged since the beginning of Islam, but it will not be found on CNN or BBC or Al-Jazeera etc. The reality of what Islam represents is found exclusively in the Qur'an and Sunnah. If you choose not to look at the source then that choice is yours, don't blame Islam for it!?

    Actually I'd like to further expand on this point if I may, from =b='s wu it can be seen that he seems to know what the religion represents which I shall list again so there is no ambiguity -
  • Peace
  • Tolerance
  • Inclusiveness
  • Venerating women
  • self-inquisition
  • Encourages seeking knowledge
  • But he chooses not to find out why? or where these traits are derived from?, but instead overlooks them to judge the whole of Islam by the action of those people who discredit it.

    I also feel the need to again re-itterate a point that mr100percent made which is as follows - It would be wrong of us to judge Christianity by the Actions of Adolf Hitler, and it would be wrong of us to judge Judaism by the actions of Ariel Sharon and similarly it is wrong of us to judge Islam by the preachings of Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein.. However, it would be correct to judge Christianity by the Bible, and it would be correct to judge Judaism by the Torah, and similarly it is correct to judge Islam by the Qur'an.

    Now in =b='s defence I am compelled to say that, why would he want to even begin to enquire about Islam when there are many Muslims themselves who have no aspiration to even read and understand the Qur'an, let alone live by it? the only sincere response I can give to that, is to say that the Muslims that have not attempted to understand the Qur'an are losing out on something phenomenal, and to the enquisitive non-muslim, I would say that it is the only religion that I can think of that does not contradict science, even right up to the theory of the Big Bang, now doesn't that make you even a little bit curious?

    To further continue to defragment and respond to the other queries posed in =b= response -

  • "Fundamentalists who support terrorism"

  • The word Fundamentalist is used in a derogatory fashion quite alot in the response given by =b=, the above is just one I've chosen to make my point which is as follows -
    Now what does the aforementioned phrase really mean here?.. to my understanding what is being implied is that, if you are an Islamic fundamentalist then you are a terrorist, or at the very least you are someone to be feared. Now take a break here and think about what the word fundamentalist actually means (or better still go read the node, I have a wu there expressing my own opinions). I sat down one day long and hard thinking about it, but to cut a long story short and at the risk of repeating myself, I arrived at the conclusion that I would consider myself as somewhat of an Islamic Fundamentalist, but not in the way =b= would percieve me I should imagine, I'm an open-minded fundamentalist as all practicing muslims should be.

  • "Islams association with "Terrorism".."

  • I will respond to that by approximately quoting a well known hadith within Islamic teachings which says words to the effect of 'If you kill one innocent person, then it is as if you have killed the whole of humanity'. So now there's the authentic Islamic viewpoint on the matter of terrorism, it doesn't matter what anyone else say's or does because THAT is what Islam says.

  • "Oppression of women in Islam"

  • There is really nothing further from the truth.. Islam liberated women!
    Aside from the fact that mr100percent has already stated, that the majority of Muslim converts are women, I would like to further expand on this point and question, How many of today's feminists supposedly fighting against oppression and subjugation of women, would disagree that women should be viewed of as equals of men? That female infanticide for any reason, be it social or economic is evil? That in theological terms, women should be viewed as equal with men in the sight of God, and be rewarded equally for their virtues? That as wives, they are entitled to mutual consultation in the affairs of their families? That they should be allowed to possess assets and have a right to their own business and incomes? That they should be entitled to inherit from their parents, husbands and other relatives? That they should be allowed to live freely without the fear of being molested or raped? That they should be free from the danger of sexual harassment and should not be portrayed merely as sex-objects or as objects of male desires? That the honour of their bodies be protected from pornographic portrayals? That their suffering in childbirth should be recognised, appreciated and rewarded?...
    For all these basic rights and more, women of all colours creeds and social status have had to fight tooth and nail. It is only Islam that has promoted women's rights from the very outset. Islam granted them liberation from the evils of inequality, hundreds of years, before the word "liberation" became fashionable.

  • "Suicide bombings"

  • To take your own life is against Islam and one of the gravest sins, because the Qur'an teaches that a persons life is not his own to take, and it's as simple as that... regardless to what anyone else says or does. Again this is the Islamic viewpoint. Although if people wish to ignore this and view Islam through the actions of the suicide bombers then whose fault is that? I don't rightly know, but I do know Islam is not blame worthy of such occurences.

  • "The destruction of Israel"

  • Let me say the following very carefully, 'Muslims do not want the destruction of Israel' (as far as I know), although I can not deny that there is alot of animosity between Muslims and zionists, and let's not now pretend it's one sided if you please. Muslims as well as non-muslims are outraged by the manner in which the zionist regime built-up Israel, leaving in its wake the extreme oppression of the Palestinian people who are having to bear the brunt of a humanitarian crisis. But the outrage of some of the Palestinian people is being expressed in an un-Islamic manner i.e. Suicide bombings etc. All that the Muslims worldwide want, is for the Muslims and the Jews to live in Peace and harmony with each other (surely there must have been a time when they used to!?), and personally I don't care what the country is called, so long as there is equality between the two nations and one person is not seen as a lesser human being than another. Maybe that line of thinking is knaivity on my part, but I don't understand why it's just not that simple?. My neighbour is Jewish, and I am a practicing muslim, nevertheless we get on ever so well, I don't fully understand why everyone can't live with each other like that!?.. Like I said, maybe I am knaive of the political history, but if knowing that history will make me resent an otherwise decent human being, then I'm not sure if I want to know...

  • "Where is the outrage of moderate muslims.." (against extremism)

  • When the 9/11 incident occurred, the scholars of Saudi and other Islamic figure heads condemned the act using Islamic proofs from the Qur'an and Sunnah (which is how I remembered the hadith I mentioned earlier). To be extreme is to leave the boundaries of Islam.

  • "(Why don't Muslims) Recapture their traditional Islamic values from the fundamentalists? What practical and efficacious steps have they taken towards that end?"

  • Again there is that old cliched word 'Fundamentalist' that is so easy to use, but not so easy to define, so I'm going to assume =b= means terrorist whenever he says fundamentalist. So to rephrase, how can we Muslims recapture our Islamic values from the terrorists, and what steps have we taken towards that? People, come on now open your eyes, the terrorists have not ensnared or entrapped Islam. Let me make a quick analogy here, if you have a fear of heights then the only way to conquer that fear is to face it, so surely the only way to conquer Islamophobia would be to find out what it's really all about through authentic sources!

  • "Islam appears to be having a very difficult time making a successful transition to a modern secular world."

  • Unlike all other religions that I can think of, Islam is the only religion that is free from such 'Transitions', the literal source is the same now word for word as it was 1400+ years ago. I find it ironically amusing that there are people who think this, perhaps they are not aware of the fact that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world today, where as other prominent world religions are dormant or on the decline, and all this is occurring despite ALL the negative publicity. The only phrase that comes to my mind when I think about this fact is SubhanAllah! (All praise and glory belongs to God).

  • "I entreat moderate Muslims like mr100percent to stand up and be counted among those who are against terrorism, in any cause, and who won't tolerate it in their mosque."

  • I'm sorry but this bit made me laugh, is it only in Mosques that terrorism should not be tolerated? and do you think it is only people of Islamic faith that have entered into the evils of terrorism? Come on now =b=, give it some more thought, and then look a little closer to home in your 'modern secular world'.

    So finally to conclude, there are no actual paradoxes, but only percieved ones in Islam. Since Islam is all about worshipping God and turning that worship into a way of life as detailed within the Qur'an and Sunnah, no more and no less.


    Bibliography -
    ISLAM the choice of thinking women - by Ismail Adam Patel


    My response to typo's comments:

    • You're right there are some Muslims who commit horrendous deeds in the name of Islam that are totally Un-Islamic. However, it is not upto you or I to then say that they should not be regarded as Muslims if they have taken the Shahada. It is more correct Islamically to regard them as sinful Muslims, whose opinions on Islam should be disregarded. To further explain what I'm trying to say I'll use a simple analogy - Jack the Ripper acted like an animal, but does that stop him from being a Human being?, and the answer is no, although his actions were in-human, he was still one of us, as much as we might hate the fact.

    • I also agree that without a shadow of a doubt there is much ignorance within the Muslim world. But this is not a surprise since authentic hadith (contained in Sahih al-Bukhari) informs us that the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) stated:
      "This ummah will split into 73 sects, and only one of those sects will be on the path of truth, and they are the ones who will hold fast to the Qur'an and my Sunnah."
      So right from the start, Islamically it was known by the earliest Muslims, that Islam came into the world as a stranger and it will also leave the world as a stranger just before Yaum Al-Qiyamah (The day when all mankind will be bought to account for that which they did on earth).

    • Again you are correct in noting that when I speak of Islam, I speak of the religion and not the (real, supposed or self-proclaimed) followers of it. There is a Reason for this apart from what I've stated above, and that is -
      Islam creates a Muslim, but Muslims can not create Islam, and there is good and bad in ALL people...

    Lastly, thanks for your useful comments, I hope that has further clarified my own wu.

    Usually, I try to steer clear of conversations concerning religions as they are often inclined to turn into completely pointless, heated, trench warfare where no side is willing to back up, admit their own misunderstandings or the validity of the justified arguments of the opposing side. This topic, however, made me feel compelled to share my thoughts and opinions on the matter.

    For the record: I am a Lutheran Christian in the books, although my views are much closer to Buddhism and Zen philosophy.

    Comments to what =b= wrote

    "Islam is constantly touted as the religion of peace, and yet fundamentalist Islam is responsible for much of the mayhem inflicted on the world at the moment."

    Please, do keep the religion, the people practising it and the extremists claiming to act on it, separate. It's not Islam that is responsible for any mayhem inflicted anywhere in the world, it's the un-Islamic extremist terrorists who are to blame here.

    "Since the fall of the Sultanate in 1622, -- violence and hostility against modernity and western culture has been a significant theme in Islam."

    Again, it's not in Islam, it's in the heads of the extremists and extremist leaders and because of the terrorist actions these people have taken, it's also in the headlines of the media.

    "The daily lives of muslim women the world over are repressed and constrained beyond what any modern western society would tolerate."

    Sources? References? That is a very harsh claim incriminating the entire (male) Muslim community. Imho, generalizations of this magnitude should never be presented without very tangible and cogent references. I'm not arguing against the claim wholly, though, as there are countries with severe problems regarding the rights of women. It's just the generalization that I'm criticizing, as it's untrue.

    "Islam is been claimed as a religion that encourages self-inquiry and yet it is one of the few faiths in the history of humankind that is commonly interpreted as allowing, and even encouraging, a true believer to commit suicide as a religious act of faith."

    The keyword here being interpreted. Interpretations don't, necessarily, have anything to do with what or how a message was meant. Meanings can - purposely or accidentally - be altered while still remaining true.

    "Islam refuses to support any form of reconciliation between muslims and Israel short of the complete destruction of Israel and the Israeli people."

    Is it really Islam and Muslims as a whole that want this, or just (some of) the current political and/or religious extremist leaders? References? I would be inclined to believe that claim if it was made by ten respected Muslim scientists/philosophers/leaders/researchers, separately, but coming from a single non-Muslim source the weight of the grain of salt I'm taking that with is more than I can carry.

    "Islam supposedly embraces a quest for knowledge, and yet the Quran is the only book offered in the Islamic madrasas schools of Pakistan, Saudia Arabia, UAE, Syria, etc. The syllabus at these schools includes a strong focus on hatred of America and the Jews.

    Once again, a wild claim without references. The quote from Thomas Friedman in =b='s writeup says nothing to back this claim up; on the contrary, it seems to affirm the quest for (religious and/or historical) knowledge.

    "Islam is treated by Muslims as a single entity demanding their loyality, and yet it has no Pope or High Church to speak authoritatively on its behalf. Its self-proclaimed spokesmen include such demonstrably evil individuals as Osama bin Laden, and Mullah Omar. Saddam Hussein repeatedly invoked Allah and the teachings of Islam in support of his regime in his recent interview with Dan Rather clearly giving the impression that he had, "God on his side.""

    A self-proclamation does not make one anything in any situation. Not without a strong support from the people that person claims to speak for. Of course, Osama bin Laden has a lot of supporters, but he does not speak for the entire community. A humoristic analogy would be your stereotypical "Ruler of the World" in a mental asylum. Sure, there may be few loyal subjects within the mental asylum's walls, but that hardly gives the person any real power over anything outside.

    "I'd feel similarly towards any other totalitarian belief system inflicting misery and hatred on the world."

    Uh oh. The load of over-generalization and (media-inflicted?) prejudice in this sentence forced me to take a break off the computer so I wouldn't reply with something nasty I would later regret. Please, do try to expand the picture and see beyond what the local media states in their absolute truth manner. One side can never give more than one half of the full picture, and regrettably often only a small fraction of it... and even that often wildly toned and exaggerated.

    "I honestly believe I'd be ashamed to be a Muslim at the moment because no one among them seems to speak out against these outrages."

    More likely, they just don't get their voices heard, because it's uninteresting and doesn't sell. People whining about how bad this and that system is was old news even before the newspapers were invented. Unfortunately. Plus, of course, there is the point about persecution =b= made. Though, once again, that has nothing to do with Islam as religion or Muslims as a whole - only those extremist leaders who wish to maintain their position and believe (or at least want to imply they believe) they interpret the writings correctly.

    As a sidenote, a newspaper reporter interviewed in the movie "Bowling for columbine" said that if there are two news-worthy events going on at the same time, one being pollution and the other being a guy with a gun, they always, with no exceptions, go with the gun. This partly reflects the way media sells for money and because of that goes for stories that sell, but more than that, it reflects the way people are - reading about somebody else's misery can make you feel better about yourself.

    "Many of the world's most intractable problems would suddenly become manageable."

    ...such as the thinning of the ozone layer, global warming and other ecological problems, famine, disease outbreaks and epidemics and the very unbalanced distribution of wealth around the world? I find it extremely difficult to believe they would have anything to do with Islam, or that they would lose to terrorism in significance. I don't want to sound sarcastic, but that claim is simply ridiculous and totally unfounded.

    "I think on balance that they deny the reality of what Islam has come to represent in the world today."

    Despite the fact that I am largely repeating myself in regard with my comments to these points, I would change this to: "...that they deny the reality of how media has come to represent Islam for the actions of a small group of extremists in the world today."

    "Islam has been hijacked in a sense by the radical fundamentalist element and is increasingly feared and marginalized in the western world."

    This I can almost fully agree with. Its (Islam's) reputation and public image have been hijacked by those extremists and - largely thanks to their actions - by the media.

    "The Islamic television station Al Jazeera, and the Islamist newspapers such as Al-Medina or Al-Riyadh, constantly broadcast one sided propaganda designed to inflame the Islamic community against the west."

    This may be true, but once again you have to look at the bigger picture: TV-stations and newspapers in the west do the exact same thing towards Islam and others - there is blame on both sides.

    "If Muslims want to reclaim the deep and admirable morality on which their religion is founded, they must show some strong and effective leadership to reclaim their religion from the fundamentalist Islamic terrorists who currently represent it to the world."

    This, I can agree with.

    Comments to what j2 wrote

    "Most Islamic fundamentalists profess to subscribe to the basic tenets of the faith (or five pillars of Islam) and the search for paradoxes in Islam would logically have to begin here."

    Just a note, not to criticize the quote above, but to explain why that (getting the information from the source) is not so often done: The loudest opposition and claims of absolute knowledge often come from the sources with least real knowledge or the interest, courage or even capabilities to pursue it. Regardless of the subject. "It isn't pollution that's harming the environment. It's the impurities in our air and water that are doing it." -- Vice President Dan Quayle. A real expert at work; a stunning performance.

    Comments to what rk2001 wrote

    "there are many Muslims themselves who have no aspiration to even read and understand the Qur'an, let alone live by it"

    Exactly. Some of these people will invariably execute horrendous deeds "in the name of Islam" while their actions are totally un-Islamic.

    "To take your own life is against Islam and one of the gravest sins, because the Qur'an teaches that a persons life is not his own to take, and it's as simple as that... regardless to what anyone else says or does. Again this is the Islamic viewpoint. Although if people wish to ignore this and view Islam through the actions of the suicide bombers then whose fault is that?"

    My answer to this comes in a couple of words: ignorance and fear. It's much easier and safer to just believe what the local media tells than it is to go to the trouble of going straight to the source - what one might find out could be completely opposed to the predominant views and prejudices and one would be forced to admit they were wrong and change their views. People are afraid of change, to much higher extent than most are even aware of. A reknowned Swedish therapist and author of several best-selling books on psychology, Tommy Hellsten, says the following (freely translated by myself) in his book "Saat sen mistä luovut - elämän paradoksit" (You get what you give up - the paradoxes of life, only available in Finnish and Swedish at the time of writing, unfortunately): "Change only comes about at the point where it would be more painful for the person not to change than it is to go through the actual process of changing".

    A short summary of my main points (regarding my whole writeup and not as a comment to any of the writers quoted)

    • When you speak of Islam, you speak of the religion, not the (real, supposed or self-proclaimed) followers of it.
    • There is a huge difference between ideas and their interpretations. You can not blame the religion or the community as a whole for the individual extremist actions executed because of falseful interpretations of the holy texts whether it be directly by the extremists or indirectly in the form of getting orders from seemingly religious extremist leaders (seemingly, because religious beliefs are a very easy target to abuse and be hypocritic about).
    • Media is biased, it only represents and reveals selected bits and pieces of the issues at hand and does so in a way that suits the motives of the management of that particular medium (be it a newspaper, a magazine or a radio station). Never trust a newspaper (or any single source of information for that matter) to give you the whole, objective, picture. They don't. They can't. It's virtually impossible (and would, generally, be way too much trouble compared to the benefits). Thus, if you want to be sure you get the right information, always question the interpretations of claimed motives and messages if they're not direct, full quotes straight from the source. Full, because the meanings can be changed completely if parts are left out (on a sidenote, this is what statistics (in practise) are all about: telling the truth selectively in order to alter meanings without lying). The alteration can also happen involuntarily (read seeya's excellent writeup No one can know what you want unless you tell them about "complete communication" to get a good picture of how and why).

    One note that I made - which has to be said in order to better understand what and how =b= writes - is that all the references and sources quoted are American: Richard Connerney from Iona College (I must admit his note about entries for war and peace in the Koran is very interesting and raises questions if it's true), Bernard Lewis' article in the New Yorker, Thomas Friedman from the New York Times; there are no quotes from Iranian, Saudi-Arabian or Pakistanese newspapers (which is understandable) that might shed some light on the opposing views.

    A small reply to rk2001's comments on my writeup:

    As I am no expert on Islam and am not a practising Muslim myself, my comment on that the terrorists acting "in the name of Islam" (and/or Allah) should not even be regarded as Muslim was based solely on what I was taught in school and what I found in a dictionary - that the term "Muslim" refers to (and only to) an adherent of Islam, a person pertaining to the religion, law, or civilization of Islam (hmm, now that I read it again, those un-Islamic Muslims naturally fall under the last of those three categories and, thus removed the sentence you criticized).

    HongPong says: "i would add that like Islam, Judaism and Protestant Christianity have no pope-like authorities. Also I'd say be cautious of Bernard Lewis as he's sort of Bush's bitch. Thomas Friedman is mostly a positive guy but sometimes a tad chauvinistic. If you are looking for arab perspectives try Al-Ahram Weekly, palestinechronicle.com, arabnews.com, electronicintifada.net. cheers! also i'd say that al-jazeera is usually fairly balanced compared with the US media.. jazeera's threshold of journalistic integrity is typically much higher than the usual American dreck."

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