Voice of Reason?

Former crown prince of Jordan, Prince Hassan bin Talal, writing in he London-based Arabic daily, Al-Hayat, on the modern Islamic state:
“Long before the discovery of the New World, Islamic civilization was the world’s melting pot. Before the emergence of the nation-state, the Islamic world was a refuge for those escaping from religious and intellectual discrimination. Islam’s support for scientific discoveries and its respect for the environment were no less significant than its concern for the social order. This was done not by religious coercion, but by education and the teaching of civic duties…”
“A commentary cannot be complete without mentioning the destructive events of September 11, 2001. The respect for the sanctity of life is the cornerstone of the great religions. When certain actions are taken in the name of a political cause, and its perpetrators resort to legitimizing them, these actions should be considered harmful to human dignity. Extremist violent actions like these, for which innocent men, women, and children are the targets and hostages, are absolutely immoral and no modern Islamic state should condone them…”
“Our unique historical experience that relates to religious states shows the benefit of separating church from state for the benefit of all people. We need to distinguish between a religious government that seeks the well-being for all irrespective of their religions and the one which aspires to implement a single religious or secular point of view. Whenever theocracy is mentioned, people the world over, think of Iran. I like to remind them of the European theocracy, known as ‘The Vatican.'”
“Islam respects human diversity. Muslims are not required to impose their beliefs on others, and the Koran is quite specific on this point. Muslims may enter into dialogue with others about the characteristics of all beliefs, but the final judgment remains in the hands of Allah alone, may ‘He Be Blessed and Exalted…'”
“The teachings of Islam support equality and it is incumbent on the Islamic state, whether in its old or modern constellation, to respect the rights of individuals and groups in their faith and citizenship notwithstanding the existence of examples to the contrary. Historical evidence suggests that the Islamic societies, by and large, had practiced these principles. The best evidence is the Constitution of Medina, negotiated by Prophet Mohammed with non-Muslims that guaranteed them their rights and duties, and their right for worship in places of their choice. It is a set of civil rules and an action program for Islamic pluralism. Subsequent rulers established the rights of the millet, [made up primarily of Jewish and Christian minorities as a means to protect the rights of minorities to practice their religion and the application of religious law to their members].”
“The International Declaration of Human Rights has established the principle that ‘all human beings are born equal and have equal rights and dignity.’ This principle is as much as an Islamic principle as it is a universal human rights principle…”

As translated by the indispensible MEMRI.
It is painfully obvious that the United States — and western civilization as a whole — has a great deal at stake in the civil war within Islam between the radical fascists and more moderate voices.
Unfortunately, it has seemed all too often that only one side — the fascists — are actually up for the battle.
I don’t know enough of bin Talal to judge whether he truly means what he says, but it is encouraging nonetheless to see it said. Regardless if the messenger may be tainted, the message is a vital one. It is not enough to simply keep repeating “Islam is religion of peace.” We need support from those within Islam who can reach back into Muslim history and provide a specific and compelling alternative to the barbarism of the fanatics — and in turn, we must support them.
As I’ve argued before, Islam is not a religion of peace; nor is it a religion of war and hatred. It is a complex set of writings, traditions, and schools of thought that are sufficiently complex to allow virtually any set of worldviews to be hung on its framework. (Like, as it turns out, every major religion). Islam is what its adherents make it to be; no more, no less.
The Saudis pour huge amounts of money into funding the spread of the fascist vision of Islam: their support for madrassas of the Wahhabist school is a basic fact of the modern Muslim world.
We need to ensure that an alternative offensive is mounted. Perhaps not directly — the taint of America might be enough to doom such an effort — but however it is done, we must make certain that a modern, open version of Islam is promoted just as vigorously as the Saudi’s spread their hate-filled one.
The military offensives in this war are vital; and Martin had it exactly right when he said yesterday that “we can no longer tolerate tyranny… it is a matter of survival”. There is a long list of regimes that must go; Iraq is only the first of many.
But the real enemy in this war is not Al Qaeda; it is not Iraq. It is fascist Islam itself. And while we can destroy its adherents with military force, we cannot destroy an ideology without presenting an alternative to take its place.
Perhaps bin Talal will be our ally in that effort. But if not him, it must be somebody. Because no matter how many times we say “Islam is a religion of peace”, it won’t be true until those within Islam itself make it true.
Update: Howard Owens points out another Muslim voice willing to speak truth.
Late Update 9/14: Commenter “JB” asks:
Dear Bear: Why do commentators (like you and Daniel Pipes) keep saying that we need to promote moderate Islam? Why should Americans support the promotion of a religion that most of us devoutly reject? Why aren’t we being encouraged to promote Christianity instead? I think there is some unconscious multiculturalism going on here, that leads you to struggle with finding a positive spin on Islam, an immature religion still mired in an ancient theology of warfare and coercion, rather than encouraging a faith that centuries ago evolved beyond that destructive stage.
Well JB, if I had my choice, I’d like to be able to convince everyone in the world to abandon all religion. (Note the word “convince”: not “coerce”). I agree with you that Christianity has, for the most part, shifted into a phase where it does not suffer from the violent perversions Islam currently suffers. (I would say “evolved”, but I’m not entirely sure the path is linear and always growing towards a more benevolent end — Christianity could swing back to barbarism at some point in the future, imho). However, I don’t think we should try to convert the Muslim world to Christianity for the same reason I don’t think we should try to convince them to become atheists: because it just ain’t gonna happen. It’s not realistic at all to say we’re going to encourage all the Muslim nations of the earth to completely abandon their chosen faith. No way, no how: do not pass go, do not collect $200.
It is realistic to hope, however, that they might choose a more moderate, peaceful version of that faith — and therefore, it makes sense to me that we should encourage that path wherever possible.