Who Defines a "Moderate Muslim"?

September 17, 2006

Source: Los Angeles Times


On September 17, 2006 the Los Angeles Times reported, "Who is a moderate Muslim?

Is it Maher Hathout, the Los Angeles Muslim leader who has promoted interfaith relations and women's equality but denounced Israel as a brutal apartheid regime?

Is it Tashbih Sayyed, a journalist based in Alta Loma, Calif., who praises Israel's behavior toward Palestinians as tolerant and criticizes Muslims for corrupting Islam?

The question has come under intense debate since 9/11 as the public struggles to distinguish peaceful Muslims from Al Qaeda terrorists, and is at the heart of two Southern California skirmishes over who represents moderate Islam.

In a dinner scheduled for tonight, the American Jewish Congress plans to honor Sayyed and four others for what it sees as their friendly attitudes toward Israel and courageous efforts to reform Islam.

Gary Ratner, executive director of the Congress' Western region office in Los Angeles, said the tribute is part of the organization's global efforts to reach out to moderate Muslims in Pakistan, Indonesia, Albania and elsewhere, including sponsoring a dinner in New York last year for Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.

'Israel is going to be a fixture in the Mideast,' Ratner said. 'If there is ever going to be peace, there has to be accommodation with Muslims.'

The organization's choice of honorees, however, has offended some Muslims, in part because three of them no longer practice the faith.

In contrast, a different award has offended some Jewish sensibilities: the decision by the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission to honor Hathout as a model of harmonious interfaith relations."