Following every Islamist terror attack on a Western soft target, like the recent one in Brussels, we hear the same refrain from certain corners: “Why won’t Muslims stand up to Islamic extremism?” The rhetorical question is meant to imply its own answer: that Islam is unavoidably a religion of violence which impels its adherents to at least sanction terrorism, if not partake in it.
But the argument contains a false premise. Plenty of Muslims are standing up to Islamic extremism, both in word and deed. In fact, it is Muslims who are doing all the heavy lifting in this regard, while the chief contribution of the self-righteous Western powers has been to add to their burden.
First of all, Muslims have opposed extremism ideologically. This goes for Muslim leaders, including top clerics and such groups as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the 50-million strong Nahdlatul Ulama (NU).
It also goes for the general Muslim populace. The 2008 book Who Speaks for Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think was, according to its publisher Gallup, “…based on six years of research and more than 50,000 interviews representing 1.3 billion Muslims who reside in more than 35 nations that are predominantly Muslim or have sizable Muslim populations. Representing more than 90% of the world’s Muslim community, it makes this poll the largest, most comprehensive study of its kind.” Gallup itemized several of the study’s conclusions, including the following:
“* Muslims and Americans are equally likely to reject attacks on civilians as morally unjustifiable.
* Large majorities of Muslims would guarantee free speech if it were up to them to write a new constitution AND they say religious leaders should have no direct role in drafting that constitution.
* When asked about their dreams for the future, Muslims say they want better jobs and security, not conflict and violence.”