When tragically violent events occur affecting Muslims, the world is not surprised to hear the United Nations or a Western state offering aid or intervention. Why do we rarely hear Muslims themselves or their governments protesting injustices, oppression, and brutality against kindred Muslimsother than those perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians and Lebanese? Why is the Islamic voice generally silent over the bloodshed in Tajikistan, Algeria, and Afghanistan, the treatment of Albanians in Kosovo, or the destruction of mosques in Chinese Turkistan?
These questions were addressed during a symposium on "Islam and Peace in the 21st Century" held in February at American University in Washington, D.C. Twenty-five Muslim scholars and activists from all parts of the Islamic world focused on issues of force, violence, social change, rethinking tradition, and the need for a global Islamic peace presence.
It is rare that Muslims from differing intellectual and ideological trends come together to address key problems of peaceful change in Islamic societies. The noted Sudanese scholar Dr. Abdullahi Ahmed an-Naim challenged those present, "Stop lamenting! Stop exalting an ideal[ized] Islam! Look for the concrete logistics and mechanics for peace."
His call goes to the heart of why Muslims are not speaking with a unified voice on issues directly affecting the future well-being of Islamic societies. In the words of another participant, Dr. Sohail Hashmi, "Muslims have abrogated their responsibility to act for the common interests of the Islamic community or Ummah"defined as a global community engaged in a moral mission derived from the Quranic revelation and prophetic example.