Georgetown, where non muslims have to prove how tolerant and compassionate they are.
The “more strongly you are committed to your faith,” emerging church leaderÂ Brian McLarenÂ stated at Georgetown University on November 21, 2013, the “more tolerant and compassionate you are.”Â McLaren’s equivalency among all faiths fit perfectly into the conference “Muslim-Christian Relations in the 21st Century:Â Challenges & Opportunities,” a day-long, one-sided presentation of Islam as a pacific faith unjustly maligned by Christians and others.
Presented by Georgetown’sÂ Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian UnderstandingÂ (ACMCU) on the occasion of its 20thÂ anniversary, the conference has already produced considerable controversy.Â The keynote address by popular British religion writerÂ Karen Armstrong, for example, unconvincingly argued that Al Qaeda’s September 11, 2001, attacks resulted from Muslim grievances inflicted by the West in general and the British Empire in particular.Â Outside of the conference’s estimated 100 attendees at Georgetown’sÂ Copley Hall, Armstrong’s arguments have met with universal revulsion, if comments upon my previously published analysis are any indication (seeÂ hereÂ andÂ here, for example).
A panel moderated by Islam scholarÂ Natana J. DeLong-Bas, meanwhile, preceded Armstrong.Â As a moderator, DeLong-Bas did not have much too say, which was probably just as well, as research has revealed her to the unsuspecting at the conference and elsewhere as anÂ Islamism apologist and 9/11 truther.Â Among other things, she has doubted the role of Osama bin Laden in 9/11 and has praised the “democracy” efforts of Hamas.
Armstrong and DeLong-Bas were perhaps predictable given the tone set at the conference’s morning introduction by ACMCU’s director, theÂ frequent Islamism apologistÂ and internationally renowned Islam scholarÂ John Esposito.Â Along with the “Arab Spring” becoming “potentially the Arab Winter” and “Sunni-Shia sectarianism,” Armstrong’s fellowÂ United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) High Level GroupÂ member Esposito identified the “rise of Islamophobia” as a global issue facing Islam.Â McLaren likewise during the conference’s final panel spoke of Islam substituting for Communism after the Cold War’s end had for many Americans “take[n] away their enemy” and identity “crutch.”
Participants on “The Arab Uprisings, Islamic Movements & the Future of Democracy” panel, meanwhile, seemed mystified by any threat perception within Islam.Â Â Emad Shahin, for example, judged concerns about Islam’s compatibility with democracy a “useless question.”Â According to Shahin, anyone, not just the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), could have “made mistakes” ruling Egypt following the downfall of its dictatorÂ Hosni Mubarak.Â Opponents of deposed Egyptian PresidentMuhammad MorsiÂ from the MB “should have respected the process” and the Arab Spring’s “people power.”
Shahin’s fellow panelist, the late additionÂ Radwan MasmoudiÂ from theÂ Center for the Study of Islam and DemocracyÂ (CSID), also decried the “myth that Islam and democracy are not compatible.”Â As CSID’s president, Masmoudi claimed that his organization had produced hundreds of papers demonstrating that Islamic faith and freedom could coexist, a claim Masmoudi saw borne out in the Arab Spring. “We are going to succeed” with an Islam-democracy combination, Masmoudi confidently predicted.
Like Shahin, Masmoudi considered it “not fair” to judge Egypt’s MB rule a failure in light of the “long process to build democracy” cut short after fewer than two years. While Masmoudi assessed post-Saddam Hussein Iraq as a “mess,” he nonetheless considered Middle East democracy promotion under George W. Bush to have been “great.”Â “Foreign intervention” in Tunisia and Egypt, meanwhile, from Western countries “afraid of democracy” had repeated America’s historic “mistake” of supporting Middle East dictators, “one of the main reasons for extremism.” Â By contrast, “good relations with the Arab and Muslim world demands democracy.”
Fears of countries like Egypt emulating Iran’s theocratic dictatorship received little consideration from Masmoudi.Â Â United States Secretary of State John Kerry’s determinationÂ that Egypt’s “Muslim Brotherhood stole democracy” baffled Masmoudi.Â He correspondingly criticized a supposed American “green light” for the Egyptian military’s July 2013 ouster of Morsi, even thoughÂ most evidence indicates that President Barak Obama opposed Morsi’s removal.