On October 31st gunmen burst into Baghdad’s Our Lady of Salvation church during Sunday mass and opened fire killing two priests and 48 parishioners. The murderers belong to the al-Qaeda linked terrorist group called Islamic State of Iraq that has declared jihad against Iraq’s Christian population.
This is one of an on-going series of attacks on Iraqi Christians by Iraqi Muslims. Hundreds of thousands (the Catholic Church puts the number at one million) Iraqi Christians have fled to other countries to avoid being murdered at the hands of Islamic fanatics. And make no mistake these are Islamic fanatics; fanatics fuelled by their version of Islam. They are not attacking foreigners, but fellow Iraqis. Their hatred is not fueled by America policies or Israeli occupation of the Palestine. It is fuelled by a belief that Muslims must kill Christians.
Islam has a Muslim problem. The problem with Islam is Muslims who have signed on to a radical, violent, murderous faith that, while violating the deepest principles of Islam, continues to masquerade as Islam, and does so successfully.
Islam lacks a pope who can speak for the religion. And at the moment there is no Reform Islamic movement that can work to bring Islam into the 21st century as Reform Judaism has done for Jews. The kind of academic study of scripture and religion commonplace in so many Christian and Jewish seminaries is largely absent in the Islamic world. There is no quest for the historical Muhammad as there is the historical Jesus. Islam seems to know only competing orthodoxies when it desperately needs liberal reform.
There are factions within Judaism and Christianity that refuse to have anything to do with modernity, let alone postmodernity. And some among them are violent. But these groups are not engaged in wholesale slaughter of innocents. No matter how strongly I oppose the settler movement in Israel and condemn the violence that often defines it, there is no moral equivalency.
This is not religion’s problem; this is Islam’s problem. Only Muslims can solve it. And while no Muslims have asked my advice, I would suggest that someone convene a world council of imams who could make clear to Muslims and nonMuslims alike just what it is Islam stands for, and that would condemn unequivocally the insanity and violence that is perverting the message of Islam. I would also like to see wealthy Muslim visionaries fund
young American Muslims seeking to create a new kind of Islam that embraces science, secular scholarship, critical thinking, and nonviolence even as it affirms the prophetic message of Islam and upholds the beauty and genius of Islamic civilization. Without it I worry that Muslims are doomed to wage a civil war of Muslim against Muslim that will take thousands of nonMuslims down with them.