"Muslims Speak Out" Gives Voice to All the Wrong People
As I indicated at the Campus Watch blog last Friday, the Washington Post/Newsweek blog On Faith is currently hosting an "online dialogue" in conjunction with Georgetown University titled "Muslims Speak Out." And Georgetown religion, international affairs, and Islamic studies professor John Esposito will be one of the panelists.
Esposito, as my colleague, Campus Watch director Winfield Myers, elaborated on in a subsequent blog post, is one of many apologists for radical Islam in the field of Middle East studies. That he has been asked to take part in a discussion on "religion, terrorism and human rights" in the Muslim world - surely a topic of great importance in this day and age - hardly inspires confidence in the proceedings.
Making matters worse, the overall list of panelists in "Muslims Speak Out" reads like a who's-who of anti-American, anti-Israel, pro-Islamist (in some cases) ideologues. In other words, it's guaranteed not to accomplish anything of substance, except to continue whitewashing the true problem at hand.
In addition to former president Jimmy Carter, who hardly represents an unbiased voice on the Middle East, and Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison, recently noted for his conspiratorial comments on the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the panel will include Oxford University Islamic studies professor Tariq Ramadan, who, as Paul Berman’s recent article in The New Republic makes clear, is hardly the "moderate" he’s made out to be.
Taking things a step further, On Faith organizers seem to have gone out of their way to include participants with blatantly Islamist sympathies. Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, a top Shiite cleric and the former "spiritual adviser" to the terrorist group Hezbollah, appears to be one of them.
Then there’s Sheikh Rashid Rashid al-Ghannoushi, who, as the announcement for "Muslims Speak Out" proudly puts it, is the "exiled leader of Tunisia's Islamist opposition movement…[and is] widely considered an Islamic radical in his native country." Perhaps that’s because, as noted in a MEMRI.org translation, Al-Ghannoushi issued a fatwa in 2004 "permitting the killing of Muslim intellectuals as being apostates" as well as "all civilians in Israel."
Dr. Mustafa Ceric, the Grand Mufti of Bosnia, is another problematic participant. Journalist and author Stephen Schwartz has documented his movement towards Wahhabism in recent years.
There’s little doubt as to what kind of views on "dialogue," either within the Muslim world or between Muslims and the West, will be exhibited by such participants. It's just unfortunate that among the Muslim clerics and thinkers that On Faith organizers sought to include, they couldn't find time for people like M. Zuhdi Jasser of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, Stephen Schwartz of the Center for Islamic Pluralism (as noted above), Irshad Manji, or one of many other brave souls out there bucking conformity. Not to mention experts in the field who don't just provide a sounding board for the usual platitudes, but actually seek to address the root causes (in the true sense of the term) of terrorism and its ideological component, Islamism. But alas, it seems the blinders are to remain firmly and willingly in place.
In the press release for "Muslims Speak Out, Washington Post reporter and On Faith moderator Sally Quinn said that it "marks the first time a major American news outlet has brought together so many Muslim leaders to ask their views on hot-button topics." It’s just too bad they’re asking all the wrong people.
Update: Rep. Keith Ellison was listed in the initial announcement for "Muslims Speak Out," but does not appear at the On Faith page devoted to the event. Could it be that his inflammatory comments about 9/11 caused organizers to drop him?