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After getting over the shock of the sheer horror of 9/11, after mourning the victims of the attacks, American Muslims realized that Osama bin Laden had just taught Americans his version of Islam 101. And because Americans were largely ignorant of this 1400-year-old faith of over a billion people, many believed it. 9/11 taught American Muslims a crucial lesson: if there is a vacuum out there about something important, and you don’t fill it, someone else will.
To their credit, Muslims in America and elsewhere have been very busy since 9/11, as an important new report from the United States Institute of Peace highlights. It states, “Violent extremists are on one edge of the Muslim community, but they are counterbalanced by a growing movement of Muslim peacemakers.”
The report goes on to highlight interfaith peacemaking efforts involving Muslims and partners ranging from the Vatican to the Union for Reform Judaism; the introduction of curriculum in madrassas that teaches interfaith tolerance; and institutions like the Royal Institute for Interfaith Studies and the Aga Khan Development Network that combine the theory and practice of Islamic-inspired peacebuilding.
Most importantly, the report states that such peacemaking efforts are organic to the tradition of Islam itself, and Muslim intellectuals are increasingly articulating these dimensions of Islam both within Muslim circles and beyond them.
May they have a microphone, and an audience.