Note that the title of this post says "Islam and fear", not Islamism. Fulford, in the link above, finally makes an excellent point exposing how some so-called "moderate" Muslims make use of the murderous violence of their more extreme co-believers:
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is responsible for the building [the Ground Zero mosque], moved the issue to a more ominous level when he said on television on Wednesday night the results will be dire if the controversy causes the centre to be located elsewhere.
“The headlines in the Muslim world will be that Islam is under attack,” Rauf predicted.
He said it would threaten U.S. troops and otherwise undermine U.S. security.
“This crisis could become much bigger than the Danish cartoon crisis,” he warned.
About two-thirds of Americans, according to a Washington Post-ABC poll, oppose building a mosque near Ground Zero. Rauf believes fear of violence should change the public’s attitude.
No one argues he is an Islamist, but he’s clearly playing Islamist violence as a political card.
It feels like a test case. If that threat silences opposition this time, the number of future uses of the same strategy is infinite. Rauf says his goal is to build a bridge among faiths but in this case his strategy sounds more like coercion:
“National security now hinges on how we negotiate this,” he said.
Burning books in Gainesville is ugly and mean-spirited but no more than that; Rauf is trying something more serious, eliminating free discussion by threatening violence.Fulford is exactly right, and if before people had viewed the issue as a test of their tolerance and open-mindedness, they should now view it as a test of their courage and resolve not to be cowed by the rage-boys and worse of Islam. It's not just national security that "now hinges on how we negotiate this" -- national character does as well.
And to his great credit and courage, Fulford goes on to raise questions about the very nature of Islam in the modern world:
In the climate that was created by 9/11 the fear of Islamophobia has created another threat, more serious in the long run: It inhibits the serious discussion of Islam.
Of all the great religions, Islam is unique in believing it should not be analyzed or criticized. The key point is the divine nature of the Koran. Because Muslims believe it is unalterably holy, any discussion of it is an affront.
In this sense Islam remains medieval. In 15th-century Europe, before Martin Luther, criticism of the Gospels and the Christian church was forbidden. In the year 2010 Islam still maintains that principle.
The Koran has never been scrutinized in the way the Bible has been studied since the 17th century. Ibn Warraq, a brilliant, Muslim-raised scholar whose books bring standard scholarly principles to the Koran, finds it necessary to travel with security guards.
Why should both practitioners and scholars not argue about Islam with the same frankness we bring to other world religions? Islamist violence subverts free speech and threatens to eliminate it altogether.
For the same reason, the possibility of separating religion from politics rarely gets even cursory discussion in the Islamic world.
Much in our life has changed since 9/11, as a visit to any airport in the world will demonstrate. But in the timorous way we think about Islam, far too much remains just as it was when we saw planes fly into the Twin Towers.Note that this is not denying the reality, nor the great preponderance, of genuinely moderate Muslims -- as opposed to the opportunistically so, like Rauf. It does, however, point out that such moderates live with much greater fear of extremist violence than do even so-called infidels, so much so that the very brave few who dare to raise their voice in criticism must have armed guards to protect their lives. We owe it to these people not just to protect them and help them spread their critique, but also to summon our own nerve and resist our own impulse to stifle and censor ourselves. We owe Islam tolerance and respect, certainly, as we do any widespread belief system -- but we owe it to both ourselves and the brave critics within Islam not to let "tolerance" and "respect" be simply a mask for our fear.