Sunday, January 22, 2006

Moderate Islam

From Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby, a story about a Muslim who is a voice for reason and moderation in the Islamic world.
“I HAVE been called ‘Chrislam’ because I am so close to Christians,” Abdurrahman Wahid is saying. “When I was criticized by a certain Muslim preacher for not being harsh enough against the ‘kaffir’ [infidels] — for being too close to Jews and Christians — I told him to read the Koran again. Because when the Koran speaks of ‘infidels,’ it means idolaters,” not monotheists.

With 200 million residents, Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim nation, and Wahid — popularly known as Gus Dur — was not only its first democratically elected president but the longtime chairman of its largest Muslim organization, the 35 million-member Nadhlatul Ulama. A revered religious scholar who studied in Cairo and Baghdad, Wahid is a longtime champion of a moderate, progressive, and nonpolitical Islam. As a result, he has frequently clashed with militant fundamentalists whose growing influence, fueled by Arab/Wahhabi oil money, is undermining Indonesia’s traditional religious pluralism.
While Islamic extremism dominates the headlines, the great majority of Muslims continue to live their lives as devout, moderate and sensible people. While they may have some attitudes that differ from a majority of Americans (hostility to Israel, for example) and aren’t politically correct on issues of gender and sexuality, they are a source of hope in the war against Islamic Fascism.

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