If only 1/10th of 1 percent of the world's 1.6 billion Muslims are terrorists, that is 1.6 million killers acting in Allah's name. Moderate Muslims and non-Muslims are natural and necessary allies in this existential struggle for tolerance and freedom.
President Obama, visiting Indonesia, noted that the world's largest Muslim country is a model of tolerance and moderation. But here at home, controversies over the so-called ground zero mosque and the Florida pastor who threatened to burn the Quran have spurred a new exchange of recriminations: Muslims tolerate extremism; non-Muslims suffer from Islamophobia.
American Muslims are uniquely positioned to lead an honest conversation and bridge the growing divide – if they will accept the challenge. Tarnishing all Muslims as terrorists is unjust and counterproductive – but so is accusing sincerely concerned Americans of doing that.
Non-Muslims may not fully grasp the theological and political distinctions between Islam and Islamism, but they legitimately ask their Muslim fellow citizens just what the connection is between Islam and those who murder in its name.
Non-Muslim Americans know that most Muslims in this country live the same peaceful, law-abiding lives, enjoy the same rights, and deserve the same respect as other citizens.
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