Saturday, March 11, 2006

Islam - "Moderate" Muslims rising up?

Maybe. But they've a long way to go.

In Britain, a group called Progressive British Muslims, which was founded last year, has come out in support of the rights of newspapers to publish the controversial cartoons. Separately, Saira Khan, a Muslim businesswoman who was a runner-up in the United Kingdom's version of "The Apprentice," attacked violent protesters saying, "If you live in this country, there are democratic ways to behave. ... As far as I am concerned, the extremists need to leave this country."

Sounds good.

Last month, a handful of Danish Muslims founded a group called Democratic Muslims. The organization quickly grew to more than 700 members, attracted by its promotion of democracy, freedom of speech, and the need to keep politics and religion separate.

It also argues that Muslims should be free to live as they choose -- even if that means drinking, falling in love with non-Muslims and not going to the mosque.

"We want to use this group to tell ordinary Danes that we are also Danes first and foremost," said Fathi El Abed, a spokesman for Democratic Muslims. "We want to say that we are democratic just like you -- the only thing different is that we come from a Muslim background."


Naser Khader, 42, a Syrian-born liberal politician who heads the group, said the time to avert an explosion is running out, as Islamic radicals and Danish anti-immigration parties become ever stronger and more suspicious of each other. On his Web site,, Khader has posted what he calls "The Ten Commandments of Democracy."

The first commandment reads: "We must all separate politics and religion, and we must never place religion above the laws of democracy." The sixth commandment calls on fellow Muslims to "show respect for the freedom of expression, (including) of those with whom we disagree the most."

Even better. But how will Mulims square all this with the Koran?

Indeed the self-styled moderates and progressives may have a steep hill to climb. According to a Sunday Telegraph poll taken in Britain last month, 40 percent of Muslims surveyed said they favored the application of Shariah law in heavily Muslim-populated areas of the country. Although 99 percent condemned the July bombings, one-fifth of those surveyed said they sympathized with the feelings and motives of the bombers.

The only way they can is to reform Islam.

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