With great interest and sadness, I read the article “Moderate Muslims need to speak up” ( The Jakarta Post, Sept. 5 ) about the book entitled Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedom Worldwide by the senior fellow at the Hudson Institute Center for Religious Freedom in Washington DC.
In his talk or interview, Paul Marshall touched upon many important issues but in a very unprofessional or un-academic manner. For example, he said that: “More Muslim authorities in recent years are suggesting that sharia laws should be enforced on non-Muslims in non-Muslim countries”.
I live in Europe, work with Muslim minorities and know that this is a false and generalizing statement. I would also like to know why your journalist did not ask Marshall to name those Muslim authorities, the name of the countries they come from and which non-Muslim countries have demanded the enforcement of sharia.
To just sling such a serious charge without any documentation is deplorable and does no service to his credibility or for the integration of Muslim communities in non-Muslim states. Besides, there is no such thing as sharia “laws”. Sharia is a set of moral guiding principles, which are always open to interpretation and have no enforcement mechanism except in three Muslim countries out of 60 plus.
Then Marshall says: “The role of moderate Muslims is key and more important than anything else”.
To divide Muslims into moderate, militant, radicals and terrorists is again way beyond the realm of scholarship. Marshall should be aware that such terminology is a populist discourse and first started by the neo-con lobby in the US. The followers of Islam are Muslims and 95 percent are peaceful practitioners of the religion of Islam while a tiny minority is intolerant of minorities and non-Muslims. They are indeed misguided but let us not divide Islam and Muslims into Western-devised, and in my opinion Islamophobic, categories.
The sad part of the article is that many Muslim scholars and researchers, who should know better, are also adopting such biased terminology.
Ahmad Syafii Ma’arif’s statement “If Islam is led by the moderate, the enlightened people, then I think Islam can compete with any nation,” is a clear example of my worries. How can he, being a Muslim expert, compare his religion Islam, which is a universal entity, to any nation, which is a description of a group of people living in a nation state?
As far as speaking up against extremism and violence committed by some Muslims, many voices from Muslim communities are raised at regular intervals. Unfortunately, the western press does not bring the message of peace to the public because it has an agenda to demonize Islam and not present it as a peaceful religion.