Muslims often wonder why so many non-Muslims are “baffled, angered, and even frightened” by those who follow the Koran, said The New York Times in an editorial. But last week, when Sudan and Saudi Arabia showed the world the “barbaric” face of sharia law, Westerners had a right to wonder: What is wrong with Islam? In Sudan, a 54-year-old British schoolteacher, Gillian Gibbons, was sentenced by Sudan’s genocidal government to six months in jail or 40 lashes for blaspheming the Prophet. Her crime? She allowed her 7-year-old students to name a teddy bear Mohammed. In Khartoum, a mob of hundreds called for her death. Gibbons was released and sent home to Britain only because of expressions of outrage from Western governments. In Saudi Arabia, a 20-year-old victim of a gang rape was sentenced to be whipped 90 times. An Islamic court ruled that the girl, identified only as “the Qatif Girl,” had dishonored her religion by being alone with a man. When she appealed, a vengeful court punitively added more than 100 lashes to her sentence, as well as six months of additional jail time.
These “stupefying” incidents merely confirm what the civilized world realized on Sept. 11, said Joseph Loconte in The Weekly Standard. Much of the Islamic world is stuck in a state of medieval barbarism. With their seventh-century worldview, Muslim rulers—and the millions who follow them—cannot conceive of individual freedom, women’s rights, political dissent, or religious tolerance. “The disease of jihadi Islam is becoming harder to ignore with each passing outbreak.” Most of us don’t want to believe that the faith of Mohammed is inherently fanatical, said Investor’s Business Daily. But given the evidence, “is it any wonder almost half of Americans believe Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence against nonbelievers?”
As a Muslim, “I take slanderous knocks against my religion very seriously,” said Rummana Hussain in the Chicago Sun-Times. There is no excuse, for example, for cartoons that depict all Muslims as terrorists or insult our Prophet. But I cannot defend Sudan’s and Saudi Arabia’s stupid, narrow-minded impositions of sharia on innocent women, which only provide “more ammunition for anti-Muslim bigots.” Whenever “fringe Muslims commit an act of violence, the rest of us are left picking up the pieces defending our faith.” Unfortunately, the “fringe” now holds the upper hand, said Hussein Ibish in the Chicago Tribune. The Islam that stones adulterers and homosexuals, and murders its critics, is a recent phenomenon—not the faith I knew as a boy growing up in the Middle East. There, my faith has been “shorn of spirituality and religion, reduced to a vulgar and often vicious punitive code.” Fortunately, many of those who condemned the unjust treatment of Gibbons and the Qatif Girl were Muslims themselves. If Islam is to reform itself, this internal debate must continue.
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It’s not just Muslims who have to speak out, said Michael Den Tandt in the Calgary Sun. We Westerners also have to stop shying away from condemning barbarism perpetrated in the name of religion. Because we are pledged to respect all cultures and faiths, we remain “demurely silent” whenever foreigners abuse women, repress dissent, and contemptuously reject modernity and reason. But silence in the face of these outrages only emboldens those who practice them. The “brutal strain of Islam” we saw last week in Saudi Arabia and Sudan is like Christianity at the time of Galileo—primitive, dangerous, and intolerable. “It’s time more of us said that, loudly, clearly, and without flinching.”
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