Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
Since the tragic events of September 11, 2001, we have countless experts in the West, in almost every news media, on Islam and terrorism, who seem to be speaking for or about the 1.6 billion Muslims of the world?
Does each and every Western expert, articulate and eloquent that most of them are, speak for the Muslims?
Every politician in the West today has strong views about Islam or at least radical Islam and Islamism, especially the Presidential candidates like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Do they speak for the Muslims?
There are at least 70 sects among the Muslims, each claiming to possess, greater truth than the others. Does anyone of them speak for all the Muslim sects?
There are a few dozen Muslim countries. Does the most liberal or the most militant speak for them all?
There are a dozen terrorist group, in almost every so called Muslim country, ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Boko Haram, Al Shabab and their splinter groups. Do they speak for the Muslims? The Western Islamophobes, both the right wing and the left wing, will have us believe that they and only they speak for the Muslims. So, these hawkish experts can do all the hate-mongering in the Western countries to advance their nefarious political agenda.
Yesterday a splinter group of Taliban killed more than 70 in Lahore and injured more than 200, mostly Christians on their holy day of Easter. What a shameful act! But, do they speak for all the Muslims?
If we let them speak for all the Muslims then all Muslims are terrorists, by guilt by association. But, this would be strange logic. As if all white men are racists because some are or every Catholic priest is a pedophile, because some are. We do not need this kind of distortion in our thinking in this age of enlightenment.
I believe, each and every Muslim speaks for himself or herself. If others are going to speak for them then it would be as if the Muslims do not have religious freedom and do not have the right to profess their faith.
Pew Research Center tells us precisely, what proportion of the Muslims support or condone terrorism, in each country:
We do not need to deny any Muslim his or her God given right to speak for himself or herself and polls and demographics provide us an easy and honest way of hearing each and every one of them.
The above slide shows that the Muslims in the countries, which have seen some positive Western influence, a very large majority, 82-95% is against the menace of terrorism. The evidence is clear and need not be embellished or misquoted.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides for religious freedom of each and every citizen of our global village, including the 1.6 billion Muslims. Article 18 states:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
If we do not let a group represent themselves and let others define them, then it is as if we are taking freedom of religion from those, who loose their own representation.
Translated into day to day lingo, the Islamophobes and ‘the experts’ on national television do not speak for the 1.6 billion Muslims.
The 1.6 billion Muslims speak for themselves.
What do the Muslims say about democracy and religious freedom? Let us have each and every one of them speak.
Most Muslims around the world express support for democracy, and most say it is a good thing when others are very free to practice their religion. At the same time, many Muslims want religious leaders to have at least some influence in political matters.
Given a choice between a leader with a strong hand or a democratic system of government, most Muslims choose democracy. Regional medians of roughly six-in-ten or more support democracy in sub-Saharan Africa (72%), Southeast Asia (64%) and Southern and Eastern Europe (58%), while slightly fewer agree in the Middle East and North Africa (55%) and Central Asia (52%). Muslims in South Asia are the most skeptical of democratic government (a median of 45% say they support democracy).
A majority of Muslims in most countries surveyed say they are “very free” to practice their religion. The only countries where fewer than half of Muslims say they are very free to practice their faith are Iraq (48%), Egypt (46%) and Uzbekistan (39%).
The survey also asked Muslims whether people of other faiths in their country are very free, somewhat free, not too free or not at all free to practice their religion; a follow-up question asked Muslims whether they consider this “a good thing” or “a bad thing.” In 31 of the 38 countries where the question was asked, majorities of Muslims say people of other faiths can practice their religion very freely. And of those who share this assessment, overwhelming majorities consider it a good thing. This includes median percentages of more than nine-in-ten in South Asia (97%), Southern and Eastern Europe (95%), sub-Saharan Africa (94%), Southeast Asia (93%) and Central Asia (92%). In the Middle East-North Africa region, nearly as many (85%) share this view.
The Muslims living in the West are generally more liberal than those living in the so called Muslim countries.
In 2011, the Pew Research Center conducted its second nationally representative survey of Muslims in the United States. When that survey is compared with the global survey of Muslims, some key differences emerge between U.S. Muslims and Muslims in other countries. In general, American Muslims are more at ease in the contemporary world. About six-in-ten Muslims living in the U.S. (63%) say there is no tension between being religiously devout and living in a modern society, compared with a median of 54% of Muslims worldwide. American Muslims also are more likely than Muslims in other parts of the world to say that many religions can lead to eternal salvation (56% vs. global median of 18%). Additionally, U.S. Muslims are much less likely than Muslims worldwide to say that all or most of their close friends are Muslim (48% vs. global median of 95%).
Muslims in the U.S. are about as likely as Muslims in other countries to view science and religion as fully compatible. In the U.S., 59% of Muslims say there generally is not a conflict between science and religion, compared with a median of 54% globally among Muslims. However, American Muslims are somewhat less likely to believe in evolution than are Muslims in other parts of the world (45% vs. global median of 53%). Indeed, when it comes to evolution, U.S. Muslims are closer to U.S. Christians (46% of whom say they believe in evolution) than they are to fellow Muslims elsewhere in the world.
American Muslims are even more likely than Muslims in other countries to firmly reject violence in the name of Islam. In the U.S., about eight-in-ten Muslims (81%) say that suicide bombing and similar acts targeting civilians are never justified. Across the globe, a median of roughly seven-in-ten Muslims (72%) agrees. (For more details on how U.S. Muslims compare with Muslims worldwide, see Appendix A: U.S. Muslims — Views on Religion and Society in a Global Context.)
We can let each and every 1.6 billion Muslims speak in the form of polls like Pew Research Center has done over the years. As these polls are done, updated and analyzed, these can become very powerful tools for the 1.6 billion Muslims and non-Muslims to talk to each other also and gradually bring each and every one of them to the cherished values of secularism, religious freedom and human rights, in the 21st century, for peaceful coexistence in our global village.
In the final analysis, every Muslim speaks for him or herself.
Whoever represents them precisely and sympathetically speaks for them.
Pew Research Center speaks for them as long as it polls them objectively. The Muslim Times speaks for them as long as it covers all ordinary 1.6 billion of them with sympathy and empathy.