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King Abdullah of Jordan.
News and Opinion 

The Voices Of Non-Extremist Islam

-- Micah Halpern

I strongly believe that the only voices capable of challenging extremist Islam are the voices of non-extremist Islam. I strongly believe that the only pressure extremist Islam will succumb to is pressure exerted by non-extremist Islam.

I strongly believe that the-non Muslim world must step back and gently encourage non-extremist Islam to stand up to their extremist Islamic brothers.

The overwhelming majority of the Muslim world is not extremist --- neither is it moderate, it is mainstream, mainstream Islam. Until now, in modern history, mainstream Islam has remained a very silent majority. By virtue of their silence and inaction the majority Muslim world has allowed the extremist world to hijack Islam. But now, stealthily, slowly, mainstream Islam and mainstream leaders within the Arab world are beginning to speak up, to stand up, to take a stance against extremist politics, rhetoric and actions. We are starting to see important, indigenous movement against Islamic extremists. We are witness to the first steps towards the redemption of Islam.

What do I mean? Here are several examples:

EGYPT recently convicted and sentenced a simple soldier to six months in prison for refusing to take up his post as a guard outside the Israeli embassy in Cairo. The incident has now been made public, covered in the Egyptian press.

At another time this request would have gone unchallenged. This time the guard was publicly charged and held up as an example. It is a significant step for Egypt, a country that as recently as a year and a half ago aired a multi-part modern Egyptian made-for-TV movie of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and aired one segment while United States President George Bush was in Egypt at a Summit.

More significant than the fact that the soldier was imprisoned is that the Egyptian press has now published the story. The press in Egypt is government controlled. Nothing makes it into the Egyptian press unless it fits into the larger political philosophical gestalt of the government. In printing this story the government of Egypt is signaling the citizens of Egypt, alerting them to a new reality. Israel is an ally, not an enemy. Egypt is a member of the greater international community, Egypt is adapting to the attitudes of that international community, the government of Egypt is striving to better the future of Egypt's citizens. And - Egypt is not afraid to make a public statement and take a public stance contrary to the basic belief system of extremist Islam.

MUSLIM FOREIGN MINISTERS convened a meeting in Pakistan. Two foreign ministers were glaringly off the list of invitees. The foreign minister of Iran and the foreign minister of Syria were dissed, specifically not invited to meet with their colleagues.

At the meeting the attending foreign ministers clearly articulated a new political stance. They demanded that the Hamas-led Palestinian government honor international demands regarding Israel. They demanded that Hamas recognize Israel’s right to exist, that they fight terror and that they respect previous treaties with Israel. This meeting of Muslim foreign ministers was a precursor to the upcoming meeting of the Organization of Muslim Countries. The foreign ministers of non-extremist Islamic nations showed that they were not afraid to make a public statement and take a public stance contrary to the basic belief system of extremist Islam.

THE ARAB QUARTET is emerging and it is a strong and unified voice and active player in the Islamic world. Egypt, Saudi Arabia Jordan and the United Arab Emirates are the four most significant Arab players in the Middle East. This new Arab Quartet has announced that the Palestinians must recognize Israel, that recognition of Israel is crucial to future stability in the region.

This is one of the first times in modern Middle East history that major Muslim and Arab leadership has publicly, in the international arena, sided against other Arabs and other Muslims. This is one of the first times that major Muslim and Arab leadership has sided with the West, with the United States and with Israel, over other Arabs and Muslims.

Arab Quartet leadership has no fear of being labeled collaborators, of being called anti-Muslim or anti Arab. They know that they are doing the right thing. The challenge before these leaders now is to convince their respective masses to think and act the right way. They need to convince their masses to accept Israel's right to exist not because the United States and the West demand them to do so but because Israel is a fact on the ground and that fact must be dealt with in a serious, realistic, forward-thinking way. They need to convince their masses that it is okay to disagree with extremist Islam.

It is ironic that while neither Saudi Arabia nor the United Arab Emirates have official relations with Israel they are imploring Hamas to normalize diplomatic relations with Israel. These are leaders who are not afraid to make a public statement and to take a public stance contrary to the basic belief system of extremist Islam.

KING ABDULLAH OF JORDAN was recently interviewed on Israeli news, on Israel's Channel 2. In an interview intended for the Israeli public, the King of Jordan spoke about how important it is for Hamas to accept the terms of the international community. The King of Jordan was not afraid to make a public statement and take a public stance contrary to the basic belief system of extremist Islam.

What does all this mean? What can be learned from these examples?

It means that finally, mainstream leaders of non-extremist Islamic countries are acknowledging the double standard under which the Arab world has been functioning. Pay respect to the Western world in order to obtain economic aid, disregard the West on issues of world politics.

Let us not be fooled. These leaders are standing up not for a philosophical, democratic reason. They are standing up for a practical, self-serving, self-motivated reason. But they are standing up and they are speaking out. These leaders know that their society is a risk from within by homegrown extremists. They know that their countries gain strength and courage from extremists across the Arab and Muslim world. They know that the influences of extremist Islam will eat them up alive - personally and culturally. They know that the time has come to put extremist Islam down.

And they are not afraid.

Micah D. Halpern is a columnist and a social and political commentator. He is the author of What You Need To Know About: Terror. He maintains The Micah Report.

Copyright 2007 Micah Halpern. Reprinted courtesy of The Micah Report.

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