John Esposito

Militant Islam. Can those terms be separated? The “no” camp is led by Bernard Lewis and other conservative scholars who argue the religion is fundamentally opposed to our notions of Western liberalism and human rights (for women, especially). The “yes” camp gets a sympathetic hearing from Georgetown University professor John Esposito, who uses polling to assess the quieter Islamic voices being out-shouted by YouTube imams. (This year’s TV special Who Speaks for Islam? was based on his work.) Now posits what might be called a silent Islamic majority in The Future of Islam (Oxford University Press, $24.95). Instead of Lewis’ clash of civilizations, he sees a gentler washing back and forth between two waves—there may be violence at the frothy edge, but a well of tolerance behind it. His polling data tells him that the vast majority of Muslims deplore the 9/11 attacks. But whether on Fox News or Al Jazeera, those moderate voices tend not to be heard. Still, some of Esposito’s positions give pause. In an op-ed for the Gulf News (in the United Arab Emirates) this summer, he wrote, “Western societies should respect the rights of Muslim women who choose to wear the veil.” In his estimation, tolerance must extend both ways. BRIAN MILLER

Mon., Jan. 4, 7:30 p.m., 2010

 
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