Today at Acton I attended a lecture by Mustafa Akyol, a writer for the the Turkish Daily News and author of the forthcoming book, The Islamic Case for Freedom. He represents the most hopeful thinking I have heard from Muslims who seek to live peacefully alongside people of all faiths or none. Akyol uncovered some important historical sources of progressive Islamic thought, from the seventh to the twentieth centuries. There are multiple voices of pluralistic and tolerant thought that have been silenced by radicals throughout the centuries. He and I did not agree on every issue, but I have found a real partner for peace, a Muslim who does not want Jews and Christians in dhimmitude and rejects all forms of coercion in matters of religion.
THE issue for peace in the 21st century is creating a world where two missionary religions can live with their deepest differences, fervently carry out their missionary work and affirm rights for others that they want for themselves. Along with Imam Tahir Anwar in San Jose, CA (who I am honored to dialogue with at Apple Computer's Interfaith Panel twice a year), Akyol is a devout Muslim who respects the genius of political liberty in the US Constitution and affirms the importance of entrepreneurship and free market economies. We both agree that a free society is a virtuous society and that the way forward for the Islamic world is not Wahhabi Islamicism, but an embrace of freedom of conscience and opportunity.
Mr. Akyol shows great courage speaking in a devout Christian setting and graciously responding to the critiques and questions which are essential to understanding. A priest from Nigeria, whose parish is under siege by radical Muslims (hundreds of Christians have been killed this year as terrorists seek to impose their perverted version of Sharia Law), challenged Akoyl and all moderate-progressive Muslims to help him find a way to stop the violence. There are no easy answers as the call to "love your enemies and do good to those who persecute you" is heard in the context of wanton violence.
Peace will take courage, dialogue, economic partnerships and small steps of establishing trust. Today was a good day to hope that out of the current turmoil, trust can flourish.