I believe we are meant to be comforted by the words of Raheel Raza and Tarek Fatah, writing in today's Ottawa Citizen, wherein they present themselves as moderate Muslims who decry the decision build what will be called the Cordoba Mosque in the vicinity of the 9/11 attack in New York City. While many people are probably happy to see criticism of this provocation from "moderate Muslims," I have to point out a couple problems I have with their premise.
Early in their article the authors ask, "So what gives Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf of the "Cordoba Initiative" and his cohorts the misplaced idea that they will increase tolerance for Muslims by brazenly displaying their own intolerance in this case?"
The answer is that Imam Feisal isn't the least bit interested in increasing tolerance, and it's disingenuous to suggest that he is. Just about everyone else engaged in this debate knows that Imam Feisal has made statements in Arabic media that make it clear that inspiring religious tolerance is not one of his goals. Why are not our authors aware of this? I believe they are.
It's just as it's disingenuous for our authors to pretend that the Koran's command to "Be considerate when you debate with the People of the Book" isn't superseded by later commands to never make friends with unbelievers, ("People of the Book" or otherwise) to offer them the chance to convert and if they refuse, to kill or enslave them. If Mr. Raza and Mr. Fatah have chosen to disregard those commands, I will be the first to commend them, but I cannot congratulate them for spreading the fiction that that they don't exist.
The authors also tell us that, "If Rauf is serious about building bridges, then he could have dedicated space in this so-called community centre to a church and synagogue, but he did not." This is where their attempt at moderation becomes farce. Nobody who is serious about their monolithic religion would consider the possibility of dedicating some of their space to practitioners of other religions. No one who knows anything about Islam would believe that this would, even for a moment, be a serious consideration. The assertion is laughable, and calls into question whether our authors are really what they claim to be. Yes, they are presenting themselves as critics of Imam Feisal's extremism, but their portrayal of moderation rings so false to me, that I cannot believe that is where they are truly coming from. Do they really expect us to believe that there is a version of Islam that is so tolerant that would countenance sharing worship space? I don't buy it.
Disagree with me? Consider the authors' translation of the word Arabic word fitna, which they refer to as the spreading of mischief, in particular among the non-Muslim community. This translation is a good deal less than accurate. Fitna refers not to Muslims causing mischief among nonbelievers, but very specifically to Muslims sewing sedition within the ranks of Islam. Muslims are forbidden from spreading dissent and mischief amongst themselves; there is no prohibition whatsoever against them doing it among unbelievers.
The authors also assure us that the "Koran implores Muslims to speak the truth, even if it hurts the one who utters the truth." Ironically, they are again not being truthful in their translation. The Koran insists that Muslims deal honestly with each other, but it places no requirements upon Muslims to be truthful with unbelievers. A lie, when told to an infidel, is not a lie.
In a happier world, there would be such a thing as moderate Islam. In this world, however, the only way Islam can present itself as moderate is to deny essential elements of its nature, and to lie about its doctrine.