The debate over Islam’s role in the fight against extremism continued Sunday morning, as a panel of experts discussed the next steps for religion and free speech.
“There’s no question that there has been a kind of virus that has spread throughout the Muslim world,” said Reza Aslan, a professor at the University of California Riverside, in a panel appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, “a virus of ultra orthodox Puritanism.
Aslan said the source of the extremism of Boko Haram, ISIS, al Qaeda and the Taliban comes from Wahhabism, the state religion of Saudi Arabia. He called the problem “localized,” and one that should be confronted “first and foremost by Muslims themselves.”
Arsalan Iftikhar of the Islamic Monthly also took exception with the notion that Islam as a whole was a problem. “It is important that we do not have this double standard in terms of calling out terrorism,” said Iftikhar.
“I think terrorism that has been co-opted to only apply when brown, Muslim men commit acts of mass murder,” he said, citing the 2011 attack by Anders Brevik, a radical Christian in Norway who killed 77 people.
The debate then shifted to Western news outlets censoring or refusing to publish the cartoons that led to the attack.
“We have to do two things, one we have to uphold standards of civility and decency, but we ought to let the clowns among us say what the clowns do,” the David Brooks of the New York Times said. Brooks continued, saying society is populated by the “adult table,” and the “kiddie table.” “Let the kiddie table have the kiddie table,” he said. “Because sometimes they'll say things that those of us at the adult table need to hear. Don't crack down on them.”
Brooks also noted that there are things the community can do to create a “counter-narrative.”
“I think the best person to look to is Ahmed Merabet,” Aslan continued. “The police officer, the Muslim man who was killed by these terrorists for defending the right of people to caricaturize his religion. That's the model that we need to go forward with.”