The BulletinDecember 31, 2008 | Herb Denenberg
Posted on Wednesday, December 31, 2008 11:48:50 AM by jazusamo
A Small Number Of Fanatics Can Make Billions Of Silent, Peace-Loving People Irrelevant
Here is one of the most important but most neglected lessons of history: The peaceful majority is often irrelevant. Thatâ€™s because the fanatical minority is often in control. That fanatical minority calls the shots and however peaceful, good, or well-meaning that silent majority is, the fanatical minority renders it irrelevant. In other words, the silent majority is rendered irrelevant by virtue of its own silence â€¦ even in the face of a fanatic and terrorist minority.
Now we always hear about the vast majority of peaceful Muslims. But their relative silence lets the fanatical minority run wild and control the impact of Muslims on world affairs.
I found this point polished to perfection in a little gem that has been floating around on the Internet. It has been attributed to more than one author, but the version that seems most complete is by Paul Marok and is entitled â€œWhy the Peaceful Majority is Irrelevant.â€ He says he is a second-generation Canadian whose grandparents fled Czechoslovakia right before the Nazi take over. But the source of this piece is not as important as the powerful and important message it sends.
The author starts by relating the account of what happened to his friendâ€™s family during Hitlerâ€™s Germany: â€œVery few people were true Nazis, but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So the majority just sat back, and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come. My family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories.â€
Then the author says we are again being told by the â€œexpertsâ€ and â€œtalking headsâ€ that Islam is a religion of peace and the vast majority of Muslims just want to live in peace. But then he reaches the key to understanding what this all means:
â€œAlthough this unqualified assertion may be true, it is entirely irrelevant. It is meaningless fluff, meant to make us feel better, and meant to somehow diminish the specter of fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Islam. The fact is, that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment of history. It is the fanatics who march. It is the fanatics who wage any one of 50 shooting wars world wide. It is the fanatics who systematically slaughter Christian or tribal groups throughout Africa and are gradually taking over the entire continent in an Islamic wave. It is the fanatics who bomb, behead, murder, or honor kill. It is the fanatics who take over mosque after mosque. It is the fanatics who zealously spread the stoning and hanging of rape victims and homosexuals. The hard quantifiable fact is, that the â€˜peaceful majorityâ€™ is the â€˜silent majorityâ€™ and it is cowed and extraneous.â€
There are other examples such as the Russian Communists. There the most Russians just wanted to live in peace but the Russian Communists were responsible for the murder of at least 20 million people and probably more. Here again, the peaceful majority was rendered irrelevant by a hardcore of fanatics.
Chinese Communists managed to kill 70 million people, surrounded by a population that by and large was peaceful. The majority of pre-war Japanese wanted to live in peace. But the author finds, â€œYet, Japan murdered and slaughtered its way across South East Asia in an orgy of killing that included the systematic killing of 12 million Chinese civilians; most killed by sword, shovel, and bayonet. And, who can forget Rwanda, which collapsed into butchery. Could it be said that the majority of Rwandans were â€˜peace loving?â€™â€
And the final lesson the author draws from all this is worth quoting fully:
â€œHistory lessons are often simple and blunt, yet for all our powers of reason we often miss the most basic and uncomplicated of points. Peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by the fanatics. Peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their silence. Peace-loving Muslims will become our enemy if they donâ€™t speak up, because like my friend from Germany, they will awake some day and find that the fanatics own them, and the end of the world will have begun. Peace-loving Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Afghans, Iraqis, Pakistanians, Somalis, Nigerians, Algerians, and many others, have died because the peaceful majority did not speak up until it was too late. As for us who watch it all unfold, we must pay attention to the only group that counts, the fanatics who threaten our way of life.â€
Perhaps there is even a broader lesson for all of us: If we are silent in the face of evil or injustice, we, too, become a force for evil and injustice.
This brings us to what we need most urgently: Peaceful Muslims who speak up and protest the doings and the directions of the fanatics, the Islamofascist terrorists, or whatever you want to call them. Those who speak up are so rare that when found they become international celebrities. One such person is Dr. Wafa Sultan, a Syrian-American psychiatrist who lives in California but speaks out against the fanatics.
Dr. Sultan says the world is not seeing a clash of religions or cultures, but something even more fundamental than that. It is a clash between modernity and barbarism, between those who love life and those who love death, between those who want to build and those who want to destroy. She concludes that Islam is destined to lose that battle as long as it maintains its violent, uncivilized, barbaric, and reactionary stance.
She has said, â€œI believe our people are hostages to our own beliefs and teachings â€¦ Knowledge has released me from this backward thinking. Somebody has to help free the Muslim people from these wrong beliefs.â€
Dr. Sultan achieved international fame as a result of a debate on Al-Jazeera TV in which she debated an Egyptian Islamist and a pro-Islamist moderator. She delivered in the debate what would be described in boxing terms as a knock out of both adversaries.
Consider what she said about how a religion should react to criticism:
â€œAll religions and faiths, throughout the history of humanity, have been subject to criticism and affronts. With time, this has helped in their reform and development. Any belief that chops off the heads of the critics is doomed to turn into terrorism and tyranny. This has been the condition of Islam, from its inception to this day. Islam has sentenced [its critics] to prison, and whoever crosses the threshold of that prison meets his death. The Danish cartoons have managed to break down the first brick in the wall of that prison, and to open up a window, through which the sunrays enter, after a lengthy darkness.
â€œThe Danish newspaper exercised its freedom of speech [This refers to the Danish newspaper that published cartoons of Muhammad in 2005, setting off riots and murders all around the Islamic world]. Liberties are the highest thing in the West, and nothing is more important. But if Islam were not the way it is, those cartoons would never have appeared. They did not appear out of the blue, and the cartoonist did not dig them out of his imagination. Rather, they are a reflection of his knowledge â€¦ The reaction of the Muslims, which were characterized by savageness, barbarism, and backwardness, only increased the value of these cartoons, and gave them more importance than they merited, simply because they proved that these cartoons were true, and that the message they were conveying was true.â€
Dr. Sultan believes Islam must be fundamentally reformed, and her devastating criticism certainly reinforces that conclusion: â€œThe Muslim is an irrational creature ruled by instincts. Those teachings have deprived him of his mind, incited his emotions, and reduced him to the level of an inferior creature that cannot control himself or react to events rationally.â€
Dr. Sultan says she started to see the light when she was attending medical school in Syria. Gunmen from the Muslim Brotherhood burst into her class and murdered her professor in front of the class. She said in a published report, â€œThey shot hundreds of bullets into him shouting, â€˜God is great!â€™ At that point, I lost my trust in their god and began to question all our teachings. It was the turning point of my life, and it has led me to the present point. I had to leave. I had to look for another God.â€
She thinks that Muslim women will lead the way to reform. And her account of what happens to girls and women in Islam demonstrates what kind of enemy we face and why reform is so urgent. Dr. Sultan gives this account of an honor killing that took place in the Palestinian Authority:
â€œâ€˜Tonight you dieâ€™, Suad told her daughter, before wrapping a bag tightly around her head. Next she sliced her daughterâ€™s wrist ... ignoring her daughterâ€™s muffled pleas, â€˜No, Mother, No.â€™ After her daughter went limp, Suad struck her in the head with a stick. The killing of her child took 20 minutes. Suad told a visitor through a stream of tears, â€˜She killed me before I killed her. This was the only way to protect my familyâ€™s honor.â€™â€¦This poor teenagerâ€™s sin was being raped by her two older brothers.â€
Then Dr. Sultan tells of the killing of innocents in Saudi Arabia: â€œThe religious police stopped school girls from leaving a blazing building because they werenâ€™t wearing correct Islamic dress â€¦ Young lives were forced to perish barbaricallyâ€¦â€
In all this unspeakable tragedy, Dr. Sultan finds a sliver of hope: â€œOnce we realize the cruelty of an ideology that can harden the heart of a mother, or can consider young lives as expendable, we will be able to find remedies for liberating the women of the Middle East, where countries in different degrees are ruled by the Islamic Shariah.â€
And she offers this advice to Muslims: â€œIf you want to change the course of events, you must re-examine your terrorist teachings. You must recognize and respect the right of others to live. You must teach your children love, peace, coexistence, and productive work. When you do that, the world will respect you, will consider you in a better light, and will draw you in a better light.â€
We need more of the likes of Dr. Sultan, for without such people, a billion peaceful Muslims will be irrelevant in a world facing an existential threat from that small band of fanatics.
Herb Denenberg is a former Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner, Pennsylvania Public Utility Commissioner, and professor at the Wharton School. He is a longtime Philadelphia journalist and consumer advocate. He is also a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of the Sciences. His column appears daily in The Bulletin. You can reach him at email@example.com.