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Secular Muslims Speak Out: Are We Listening?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Muslims often complain that the West only looks their way when there is something negative to say about Islam and its people. This time, they have a point. A most extraordinary event took place earlier this month in St. Petersburg, Fla., and it received only scant attention outside the blogosphere. The Secular Islam Summit brought together some 200 delegates determined to speak their mind about the direction of the Muslim world and to redraw the battle lines of today's overarching ideological conflict. Describing themselves as "secular persons of Muslim societies," and explaining that they are "believers, doubters, and unbelievers," they redefined the battle as "a great struggle, not between the West and Islam, but between the free and the unfree."
Delegates asserted the need to separate "personal faith" from "political doctrine" and they reaffirmed the equality of all people -- including Christians, Jews, Hindus, and non-believers. That sounds tame in Florida, but in some Muslim countries it's downright revolutionary.

The two-dozen speakers who rose to the podium represent a most extraordinary sampling of the sheer courage one can find among passionately moderate Muslims. Many of them live in the shadow of death threats from angry extremists and of Fatwas from religious authorities. Others, who did not make it to the meeting, have already paid with their lives for speaking of the need for reform in the Muslim world. ...

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