Conservatives ask where are the spokesmen for Islam condemning the wanton violence conducted in Islam's name. The fact that there are so few seems to support the idea that Islam itself constructively encourages violence. Of course there is evidence apart from this failure. Examples are the joyous reactions in Arab section of western nations and Arab states alike after 9/11, polling among Muslims, and the text of the Koran itself. But before we add the failure to speak out to this list we should examine the possibility that our own cowardice towards Islam is part of the reason.
Islamic threats of violence have caused complete capitulation by one western institution after another. Sharia is in direct conflict with bedrock western principles, yet many countries and institutions keep yielding in every debate about it. Yale University Press removed cartoons from a book about to be published depicting Mohammad wearing a turban in the shape of a bomb for fear of inciting violence. We constantly hear proposals to institute at least part of Sharia law into western law, and such nonsense has even succeeded in Great Britain. Do you think prisoners at the maximum security facility at Marion Illinois are in control of what they are fed, when they pray, or how guards treat anything related to their faith? They are at Guantanamo. Newspapers throughout Europe and the US often refuse to publish cartoons, books or anything deemed to be offensive to Islam. Yet Robert Mapplethorpe, and "sculptures" using Christian symbols joined with vulgarities like the "piss Christ" are celebrated by the same crowd as examples of artistic freedom (freedom of expression/ speech.)
Freedom of expression is a core western value, and so it should also be extended to the critics of Islam, whether what is said is accurate, bigoted, right, wrong or offensive. Recently Terry Moore burned a Koran and was criticized by the right and left alike. Should not freedom of expression exist for Terry Moore? The reason no such freedom is championed for him is we are afraid.
If fear of reprisals makes Christians and Jews afraid to speak out in support of our most fundamental values, how can we expect Muslims to? They live in a community that makes threats an order of magnitude greater than to non Muslims. Until we stand up and treat Islam like every other institution and stop deferring to it's extreme demands, ones that would be summarily dismissed absent the threat of violence, we will never know how many Muslims agree with us. We are asking of them exponentially more courage than we can muster ourselves. It is about time we lead by example. When we do we can pull back the veil and see who really does share our values.