Moderate Muslims Exist After All

While visiting the Chicago area recently, I had a long conversation with my cabbie, a thirtysomething Muslim man who was originally from India. He had been educated in a Catholic school there as a youth and mentioned to me that he was impressed that they never tried to force their beliefs on him, saying rather, “We can present what we believe to you, but ultimately it’s up to you to decide what you believe.” While he has remained Muslim, the example of his Catholic teachers on this point stayed with him.

He was very open to discussions on religion, so we talked back and forth as he drove me across Chicagoland. I finally felt compelled to ask him, “So why is it that so few Muslims seem to speak out against the jihadists who seem to be giving you all a bad name? It would really help if the rest of us knew that you weren’t siding with them.”

He explained what he had done recently in his own local mosque. Apparently, a radical Muslim was trying to bring his views into the mosque for the first time, only to be stopped by my cabbie and a few others who told him plainly that they didn’t want what he was selling. The radical Muslim left and hadn’t been back.

We don’t hear a lot of these stories, perhaps because good news doesn’t sell as well as bad news. But we should encourage those Muslims we meet who are willing to stand up to the bullies in their midst. Such displays of courage could make them fear for the safety of their families, but hopefully they will continue to do so if they like their adopted country.


Arguably there is less tolerance of public display of disorder and more of public display of religion in the US then in Europe. Was the veil really the wisest place to take a stand? Especially when it seems suspiciously like the real affront was giving competition to the government in a state-sponsored school. In America it is possible to be a Moslem and be ignored because there are so many other groups. The "shared public space"{as Nathan Sharanski called it} can be shallow and subject to "chic" but at least it is amiable.
Hearing from moderate Muslims in the US is not surprising. For a Muslim to be even mildly comfortable residing in the US they would have to embrace religious liberty. What would be more compelling is if more Muslim moderates from around the world who have leadership platforms would speak out against their radical brethren.

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