Should We Have Dialogue with Islamophobes?
Islamophobes in the US are well known through their regular columns, speeches, and talk shows. They include people from all races and ethnic groups as well people of non-Islamic religions. Among them are also those who claim to be former Muslims, as well as Jews, Christians, Hindus, atheists, and liberals. Their arguments are well known and the responses of Muslims are also well-publicized or documented. Perhaps an innovative approach is needed to address the issue as we cannot live in a state of perpetual fear and hostility. Muslims through their organizations, local, regional or national, should invite the well-known critics or Islamophobes for dialogue either directly or through interfaith councils moderated by a neutral person. The agenda of such a dialogue should be well defined and a code of ethics as well prepared. The purpose of the dialogue should be to understand and seek clarifications as well as explain and clarify concerns. Regardless of the outcome, the doors for the dialogue must remain open for the future.
Such an approach might help both the groups to at least disagree with respect and dignity. The accusations against Islam and the clarification given by Muslims are documented, but a face to face dialogue might help both to see the human face of the other. In our civilized world, a dialogue is the only way to understand and clarify alternative positions.
As Muslims, we should not expect all to agree with our theology or religious perspectives. We cannot demand that people should view the world from our angle. All we can hope is that our angle or perspective is better understood by others.
We are not naive to believe that the accusations against Muslims and Islam are the outcome of serious and sincere efforts of others to understand Islam and Muslims. There are those who are acting as agents of other groups who have remained in the background, but there are certainly those who are genuinely concerned about certain issues related to Islam. The door of dialogue must not be closed to anyone as this is the only way forward in our world.
Even if the other party refuses to join us in dialogue, we can at least tell those who are watching the two groups with anxiety and fear that we made efforts to clarify our position. Perhaps this path of dialogue would open new avenues for us and we can play a more proactive role in defining ourselves rather than being defined by others.