I have to confess that much of the rhetoric from the right on Muslims in America has crossed a line that I find uncomfortable. Much of this is centered around the controversies of the mosque proposed a few blocks away from ground zero.
One problem is that Muslims are rarely portrayed in the media except in instances of terrorism or other forms of confrontation. The danger is to assume that Muslims have no moderate base at all. I would guess that Muslims would find it indignant to have to defend their faith from the acts of extremists, just as Catholics would reject being labeled by the antics of Mel Gibson or the Jews by the words of Meir Kahane ( of the Jewish Defense League).
On the Zakaria GPS show on CNN today (8/15/2010), Fareed Zakaria interviewed Irshad Manji and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Fareed is a Muslim who questioned Ali as to what extent the radicals were a fringe element. Fareed believes that the vast majority of Muslims are solid American citizens with American values.
But the interesting exchange was between Manji and Ali. Ali has rejected Islam totally and accepted Christianity. Manji, who is a very progressive feminist remains devout to her Muslim faith yet does not hesitate to chastise Muslim moderates for not being more aggressive in holding the more radical elements more accountable.
The interview has not yet been posted on the Zakaria GPS site, but hopefully it soon will be.
What we should be careful to avoid is painting all Muslims as a monolithic group with a single voice. Just as with Christians and Jews there is diversity within the Muslim ranks. Many Muslims came to this country to escape the more intolerant strains of their religion from abroad.
Fareed is correct that we would be wiser to encourage the more moderate elements than to remain adversarial with the entire religion. He explains his position in this video where he voices his support for the Mosque.