In what has become “The View Controversy,” last Thursday Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar stormed off the set when Bill O’Reilly commented that Muslims attacked the U.S. on 9/11. The ladies on The View went on to defend their behavior by differentiating between Muslims and extremist Muslims. Bill O’Reilly himself clarified his statements by also differentiating between the two and called out moderate Muslims around the world to call out their extremist brethren and get them to cut it out. Unfortunately, this differentiation made by both sides of this controversy does not exist. Contrary to what O’Reilly would like to believe and what Goldberg and Behar would like to ignore, this is a theological issue.
It is important to acknowledge that there is a difference between the individual Muslim person and the theology of Islam. Indeed there are plenty of examples of good, peace-loving Muslims around the world; however, it is inappropriate to label these good people as “moderate Muslims” because it confuses personhood with belief. It assumes that because there are peace-loving people who happen to be Muslim it must follow that Islam can somehow be a peace-loving religion.
The error of this logic can be demonstrated by the person of Oskar Schindler. Here was a good person who risked his life in order to save Jews from the Nazi furnaces. He was also a member of the Nazi party. To use the logic of O’Reilly, Behar and Goldberg, there must be a good version of Nazi fascism because there were good “moderate” Nazis like Schindler. To say such a thing flies in the face of reality — the Nazis sent millions to concentration camps and made war on Europe because that is what Nazi fascism was all about.
Thus, there are Muslims who are good people, and then there are those Muslims who are willing to carry out the tenets of Islam to their logical conclusion — those who we mistakenly call “extremists.”
Recently, Islamic clerics issued fatwas on breast feeding, one of whom got in trouble for doing so. The reason for the necessity of the fatwas is because of a family that had taken in a male orphan who had grown to manhood in the time of Muhammed. This became a problem, because the wife wanted to be uncovered in her own home and her husband was uncomfortable having a male in the home who wasn’t a blood relation. Muhammed himself issued this solution: the wife was to breast feed the man, because doing so would make them family.
In other words, requiring women to breast feed grown men in order to make them family members is not extreme — it is normative. The fact that clerics are struggling to find ways to make this practical in the 21st century bears this out and is only one example of many behaviors that Islam sees as normative and we mistakenly understand as “extreme.” Violence is another. While there are many good and peace-loving Muslims, there is no such thing as a peaceful Islam.