I occasionally get Emails and comments from non-Arab people asking what they can do to help. Generally there isn’t much that can be done by outsiders as it’s my belief that sustainable change is only change that happens from within. However in areas where West collides with East there are things that can be done to either hurt moderate Muslims or help us.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an area that has a lot of impact on the growth and recruitment of terrorist Islamic movements. This is a previous post on how young Saudis come to hate the West as a result of it.
Now with the Park51 Mosque, things have come to a head. This is an area where you can help. To lump Islam as one single ideology and 23% of the world population as terrorists is a grave mistake. To fight Islam in general is the single best backing position for the West to take in aiding fundamental Islamists. When you don’t support people like Imam Rauf and Tariq Ramadan, then in effect you are supporting people like Osama Bin Laden.
When outsiders lump Islam into this one narrow interpretation that must be fought, they are playing their part on Osama Bin Laden’s world stage. Fundamental Islamists, from the nonviolent to terrorists all use the same effective argument to recruit Muslim laypeople. It goes along the lines of “see, see they hate us. They want to wipe us off the face of the Earth. Where is their freedom and democracy?”
They use as examples for this argument America’s support for Israel, the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan and discrimination against Muslims in western countries. The opposition to and cancellation of Park 51 looks like a future addition to the list alongside the burning of the Qurans in Florida.
Put yourself in the shoes of someone born in a Muslim country who only speaks the language of that country and who has never been anywhere besides that country. Your religious leader, your school teacher or any other person you might have reason to be drawn to tells you about the Palestinian plight illustrated with photos of maimed children and refugee camps. He then talks to you about the innocent civilians killed indiscriminately by American tanks and bombs. Iraqi women raped by American soldiers. He shows you pictures from Abu Ghraib. He talks to you about how Americans hate Muslims and illustrates about how thousands of Americans opposed the building of a mosque and how an American priest is going to burn the Quran. How would you feel?
Do Americans really want to feed into that argument? Islam is the second largest religion in the world, second only to Christianity. It’s not going away, you either help moderate Muslims or you feed into the fundamentalists’ view of the world. Who do you want to be proven wrong?