The Crisis within Islam

The Crisis within Islam

Richard W. Bulliet

Why did so few Islamic leaders forthrightly condemn the attacks of September 11? It´s the latest symptom of a crisis of authority that has been building for more than a century--and which now must be resolved.

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Islam is a religion of peace, President George Bush has declared. The imam at the local mosque has likely offered the same assurance, as has your Muslim neighbor or coworker. Yet many in the West remain suspicious that Islam is not at all a peaceful faith, and that the conflict sparked by the September 11 attacks is not just a war against terrorism but a "clash of civilizations."

It´s not hard to understand why. Osama bin Laden, who became the world´s best-known Muslim during the 1990s, declared that there is no path open to a believing Muslim except jihad, or holy war, against the United States. Islamic authorities who refuse to join him, bin Laden said, are betraying the faith. At the same time, the few prominent Muslims who have disowned the terrorism perpetrated in Islam´s name on September 11 and actively affirmed its peaceful character have been drowned out by the silence of the many others who have not, or who have in their confusion failed to condemn unequivocally bin Laden´s acts.

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