“Only Muslims should be allowed to teach about Islam,” asserted a Syrian-born barber now living in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Accustomed to servicing Harvard staff and students for years, inquiring about his clients’ academic and professional paths had become second nature to him. Being a Muslim myself, I strongly disagreed with his comment, but under the circumstances — which mainly involved the collision of fine-blades with my scalp — I simply acknowledged his view.
His remarks, however, shed great insight into the eyes of the Arab-Muslim world — or in this case, views held within the United States. Moreover, his insight revealed one of the strongest weapons against ideological extremism: ideological moderation. The only catch is that credible ideological moderation does not come in the form of an American accent; it comes from religious leaders, scholars, and respected figures living in the very societies amongst which terrorists recruit.
In the West, when we discuss issues related to Islam, we turn to an array of Muslim and non-Muslim scholars, government officials, military generals, pundits, and the like, to weigh in with their analysis. In contrast, the Arab-Muslim world fosters a culture which primarily values and respects “home-grown” authority on issues of Islamic history, thought and practice. Given the latter perspective, it is foolish to believe that the United States could wage an ideological battle (and be victorious) across the Atlan…