The Huffington Post's "Religion" section has been ablaze with articles pushing one singular message in the wake of the Boston bombings last week: That not all American Muslims are terrorists and extremists and that terrorists and extremists don't represent American Muslims. Here are some examples just so you know that I am not exaggerating.
The fact that they feel that this is something their readership needs to be reminded about is pretty freaking sad enough, but it really can't be said enough that most American Muslims don't think it's okay to blow up eight-year-old kids for the crime of watching the Boston Marathon.
The trouble is it sounds like the Huffington Post editors think that Muslims condemning the bombings of their fellow Americans (and helping foil plots in Canada) is praiseworthy and amazing, which I don't. I see repulsion at terrorism to be the barest minimum that any community should display. I don't hold Muslims to a lower standard than Christians or Jews. If there was a Jewish American that committed a crime in the name of Judaism, would the Huffington Post think it is newsworthy that American Jews condemned him? Certainly not.
So now I want to ask: What is the next step to combat Islamic extremism in America? You see, 21% of American Muslims think that there is a great deal or a fair amount of support for extremism in their community. 61% of them are concerned about the rise of Islamic extremism and 48% think their leaders have not done enough to combat it. So although the vast majority of American Muslims are on the same page when it comes to blowing up innocent people (or at least their fellow Americans) I want to know what work has been done in other areas.
Now I am pro-Israel so I can't help but see that issue as a good frame of reference for who is "moderate" and who is not. What I see are (some) American Muslims screaming at and assaulting Jewish and pro-Israel students on campus. Muslim student groups bring radical speakers to campus and spread anti-Semitism. I see American Muslims breaking the law to intimidate people they don't like into silence. And that doesn't even begin to describe the same situation on campus in other countries (not that I would expect American Muslims to necessarily care about that). Nor does it relate to other issues like gay people, the "expected behavior" of women or the role of religion in society.
Don't get me wrong: I'm not expecting the American Muslim community to become pro-Israel or to not be pro-Palestinian. What I am saying is that the Israel issue is a good acid test of what makes someone "moderate." It's kind of like Jeff Foxworthy's "redneck" jokes: If you think that blowing up an 8-year-old kid in Boston is wrong, but blowing up an 8-year-old kid in Tel Aviv is justified because of "stolen Palestinian land," you might not be as much of a moderate Muslim as you think you are.
What I am asking American Muslims to do is behave like I would expect Americans to be: not be violent, not be racist, not spread hatred, and not physically and verbally intimidate people that you don't agree with. About any political issue. As the University of Manitoba recently realized: most student groups don't exist to spread hatred of other people and aren't known for their violent and/or illegal behavior. But the Muslim Student Association has had that reputation for a long time.
Let me summarize by saying: American Muslims standing with Americans against terrorism is a good start. But terrorism is not the only form that extremist Islam takes. Hopefully the whole American community will be able to stand together on other issues as well.