Remarkably though, the streets of Paris and London – which thronged with anger at Israel during the Gaza War of 2014 – are quiet. No major Islamic organization has summoned its followers in the West to rally against ISIS. The silence of the Muslim street is deafening.
Some people have interpreted this silence as evidence of latent Muslim sympathies towards their jihadist coreligionists in Syria and Iraq. Yet before we rush to label millions of Muslim believers in the West as a jihadist fifth column, we should step back and realize the reason for Muslim silence.
The reason for this silence is that ISIS for all its wretched crimes cannot be said to act against the normative teachings of Islam. The majority of moderate Muslims may feel sincere revulsion at the tactics employed by ISIS. However, burning enemies alive, throwing down homosexuals from buildings and enslaving the daughters of unbelievers is in line with the actions which Muhammad and some of his followers enjoined during the 7th century of the Common Era.
Moderate Muslims are thus torn between the just and magnanimous spirit they attribute to their faith and the realization that ISIS is following the letter of Islamic jurisprudence. So far, moderate Muslims have thought and acted as if the underpinnings of their faith did not need revision in the light of Islamist atrocities. Yet the former attitude should no longer be accepted by non-Muslims.
It is no longer acceptable that Muslim leaders condemn ISIS one day and praise Sharia law on the morrow. It is no longer acceptable that Muhammad be held as the supreme paragon of human virtue while the cruel actions he committed or commanded are embellished. It is no longer acceptable that moderate Muslims take pride in all that is meritorious in their religion without taking responsibility for combating its sinister side.
Apologists for Muslims will argue that Jews and Christians also believe in a book that preaches the stoning of witches and homosexuals. This is true. But it is a truth 300 years out-of-date. The same people who condemn Christians for having tolerated the Salem witch trials should be at the forefront in demanding that Muslims reform their religion. To claim that respect for cultural diversity should trump the values embodied by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is immoral.
It is equally immoral to excuse silence. As long as Western societies fail to realize that an unreformed Islam is incompatible with Western civilization, young Muslims in the West will be vulnerable to identity crises. These problems arise from the dissonance between what is taught in Western schools and the worldview preached in mosques. These problems will not be addressed by financing integration programs more generously, nor by shuttling imams to inter-religious dialogues, and not even by giving equal status to Muslim symbols and Muslim festivities in the West.
The root of the problem can only be addressed by demanding from all religious and communal leaders in the West acceptance of the primacy of secular law, condemnation of all violence in the name of God and respect for criticism of religious figures – each of which is essential to elevate society’s ethical standards above medieval benchmarks.
The reform of Islam cannot be initiated by non-Muslims. However it can be catalyzed by non-Muslims, making it clear to moderate Muslims that sticking one’s head in the sand is no longer an option.