By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
I received a call from the Gallup Organization a few nights ago, conducting a poll on various world religions. They asked if I knew the name of the holy book of Islam (the Koran) and the name of the prophet of Islam (Muhammad). But here's the sad part: they asked me if I agreed that Islam is a religion of peace. I thought about it, and said I had to disagree.
The reason I don't think Islam is a religion of peace is that I am not aware of a single Muslim cleric stepping forward to denounce acts of violence committed in the name of Islam. This has happened over and over, and yet the mainstream Muslim leaders—presumably peaceful religious leaders who are not radicals—never step forward to call for an end to murderous rampages and terrorist acts committed in the name of Islam.
Some say it's because unlike say, Catholics or Protestants, Muslims don't have a central leader like the Pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury. The religion is very decentralized, and so there is not central command of church hierarchy. That's fine. But then why doesn't the leader of the most visible mosque here in Washington, D.C.—the one in the middle of embassy row on Massachusetts Avenue—step forward to denounce what happened? Most people in Washington can name the Episcopal Bishop of Washington at the National Cathedral, John Chane, and certainly Cardinal McCarrick was a household name, and not just among Catholics. But I'd bet 9 out of 10 Washingtonians couldn't name the imam at the main Washington, D.C. mosque. I'm sure that's the case in many other towns in the United States.
Mainstream leaders of the Muslim faith need to start a conversation with the American people...on the Internet, on television, in newspapers...and explain what their religion stands for, why Americans should not feel threatened by their mainstream Islam, and how most Muslims are peace-loving people. Right now most Americans don't know what to think about Islam.
It's not racist to talk about the religious beliefs of the alleged shooter at Fort Hood. You cannot choose your race, but you can choose your religion. Islam is a choice. Radical Islam is a choice, too. Discussing those choices is not being racist. Not enough Americans understand the difference between the two. Islam's leaders need to speak out.