In Europe and likely here in the United States the coming months are sure to be difficult times for Muslims. The murders in Paris will only exacerbate an already tense social, cultural and political climate of mistrust in Europe as anti-immigrant movements gain momentum and public opinion polls point to growing anti-Muslim views. This wave of anti-Muslim attitudes will grow right here in this country. The values of tolerance and freedom of religion, key foundations of a democratic and open society in the United States, will surely be tested and probably compromised.
Already the drumbeat of inflamatory commentary is hitting the airwaves as the seeds of mistrust are being planted. Former New York mayor Rudy Guiliani has called for police to be present within mosques to monitor the comments of local imans and the oft-times liberal voice, Bill Maher, has charged that most Muslims secretly support the murders of the Paris editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo as justified because of their satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. Sadly, the jump from tolerance to mistrust is short.
These are times when cooler heads and courageous leadership need to be at center stage, not just in the political arena but among reform-minded Muslims. Our leaders cannot fall prey to the inevitable suspicion and discrimination that will accompany the anti-Muslim trend here in the United States. This country continues to be a beacon of hope for those people who live differently, worship differently, and dress differently, but that tolerance and freedom could easily be dismissed as we head toward a country where security trumps openness and diversity.
But Muslims here in the United States also need to push more vigorously for a world-wide reform of Islam. Muslims are indeed a peace-loving people, but their religion has been hijacked by extremist religious leaders, violent terrorists, and delusional and hate filled warriors who want to force a brand of Islam in the Middle East that is severe and repellant. The ” silent majority” of Muslims must openly and vigorously reject these hijackers of true Islam not just in the Middle East but right here in our midst. Islam is not a violent religion but it is being directed too often by those who embrace violence in the name of Allah.
Is is indeed not easy being a Muslim in the western world these days, but if the hijackers are to be stopped both the US political establishment and the “silent majority” must act quickly to protect our traditions of tolerance and religious freedom.