On June 10 the newspaper de Volkskrant published an intriguing essay (translation here) by a "highly educated Dutch Muslim woman" writing under the name Samira al-Onal. She challenges Muslims in the Netherlands to stop demanding special treatment, to reject religiously inspired violence, and to let go of "superiority, sanctimoniousness, and ignorance."
The broadsheet agreed to run the piece pseudonymously due to the author's fear of reprisals for sharing views such as these:
"We find it marvelous that Islam is growing. But there is a growth of blind belief. ... Take the beheading of non-Muslims in Iraq and Pakistan. The so-called heroic deeds are carried out in the name of Allah. What do we do? Do we condemn these? No, we look on silently. We do, however, take to the streets if there is an insulting cartoon in a newspaper and we threaten politicians with death."
"What do we say about ... Iran, where non-Muslims are not allowed to take a university course? About Afghanistan, where non-Muslims are spat at, insulted, and hunted by Taliban-like Muslims? Or about the Netherlands, where non-Muslims are pestered with similar tactics by Muslims and preferably hunted out of the district? Nothing."
"Why do we not take to the street against these and other actions of our fellow believers? Why do we behave without respect in the Netherlands, take few social rules or standards of decency into consideration, and commit senseless violence, while we make much use of medical provisions [and] complain a lot and say that others must take account of us?"
Al-Onal goes on to argue that European Muslims are largely to blame for the distrust, even animosity, directed at them by their neighbors. That also applies to a highly visible manifestation of such unease: the rise of populist politicians like the Netherlands' Geert Wilders, producer of the anti-Koran film Fitna. "He was not just dropped by a stork, was he?" she asks. "If we had given a bit more respect to others, he would never have sprung up."
Assuming that the author is who she claims to be, her letter underscores two important realities. First, moderate Muslims do exist and recognize the need to initiate a reform movement within the Islamic faith. Second, many of those moderates are fearful of openly speaking out against the radicals.
The former is good news for both Muslims and the West; the latter is good news for Islamists.