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March 24, 2005

Is moderate Islam the answer in the War on Terror?

Kamal Nawash, President of The Free Muslims Against Terrorism, doesn't think so. He came tonight to speak at the University of Virginia, and he is disappointed with the way Islam views terrorists. Nawash, a native born Palestinian, grew up as most people in the US might, expected to respect people of all cultures and beliefs. Today, he is angered by the theocracy of the Middle Eastern states, and is working with other Muslims in this organization from the United States, Canada, Egypt, and New Zealand.

Now, mind you, I do not agree with everything stated by this group, but they are a force that I believe is truly striving for resolution of the extremist viewpoints that exist in the theocratic states in the Middle East. While Nawash clarified that he has his issues with Israel, he believes that the PLO could do a lot more to resolving issues there. They stress not blaming Jews for their issues (as many, Muslims and non-Muslims alike do), and want to be able to peacefully coincide with the Israelis.

He made a few points in particular that I will briefly cover.
- He noted the history of Muslims being very progressive earlier than most societies, including viewing women as equals and allowing all Muslims to make personal decisions in their beliefs rather than being forced by the state. This has been replaced by extreme levels of control on the populace.
- A government should not be run by religion, be it Islamic, Christian, Jewish, or whatever. This is not to protect the government, but to protect the integrity of the religion. A religion could be grossly misinterpreted and forced on the people by this method, as it is in the Middle East.
- Because Muslims became defensive of the terrorists, rather than shunning them outright, the terrorists are seen as Muslim fanatics, rather than simply fanatics. He believes that Muslims need to completely and unequivocally declare the terrorists as outside the religion.

But, perhaps one of the most interesting ideas he gave involved the state of Israel-Palestine relations. They had for years been attempting to negotiate for individual states, and those talks recently broke down. Nawash believed that this was not the fault of either side, but just a bad strategy. He suggested creating states in the region, making one state, and forming a federal government, which would protect the rights of all living in the country. If both sides could put aside their differences, the people could live anywhere in the region peaceably. While I am a little skeptical of how well this would work, the proposal certainly fascinates me, and might at least deserve serious consideration from both nations.

Normally, I would not plug Muslim groups, but I believe this group is sincere, and if they are successful in their goals, we could potentially see a return of the secular governments from earlier in the 20th century, nations that may again be friends with the United States, and hopefully bring about an end to the widespread problem of terrorism.