I get a lot of forwarded political email, mostly of the sensationalist right wing bent. These are often nonfactual or overly-alarmist, so I take time to point out these mistakes when I can.
I recently received one which was factually correct: Yes, demographic studies are predicting that by sheer force of birthrate (helped a little by immigration), Muslim populations will be in the majority in most European countries in a few short decades.
I disagreed however with the tone of the email, which implied all Muslims are anti-Western extremists who support suicide bombings, building of nukes, and flying planes into buildings. This kind of blind generalization is dangerous.
Just as with Christianity, there are those in the extreme and those
in the middle. There are those who are fundamentalist and those who are secular.
The only real difference is that at this moment in history, the extreme factions of Islam happen to have state power in much of the Middle East. For this reason, we make the assumption that all the people in these countries are in full agreement with their dictators. But in fact, the people are often very unhappy about being oppressed.
Obama alluded to this a couple of months ago in his highly-criticized Cairo speech. At Cairo University, home to many secular-leaning Muslims, he made an appeal to those many people in the middle-stream of the Muslim world. They are unhappy about their situation, unhappy about being ruled in theocracies. And more often victims of extremist bombings than we are, they are unhappy about terrorism. Obama was speaking to them, yet he was criticized by the Right who blamed him for being too "soft", too lenient on a people who supposedly are unanimous in their hatred of the West.
A few short weeks later, we go to see the faces of many Muslim men and women who are completely unlike this mass of thronging evil we'd love to hate. In Iran, millions of people rose up against oppression by President Ahmadinejad and the Supreme Ruler Khamenei. Over the ensuing months, thousands of peaceful protesters were arrested, tortured, and even killed, simply for walking in the streets or publishing unapproved content.
When we are blinded by hate against a generalized concept of Islam, we are aiding those who prefer an extreme form of Islam. We prove to the extremists that the West is adversarial. We prove to them that we do not understand them. We prove to them that we only want violence for them.
We perpetuate the fight, we escalate the violence, we continue give them reasons to hate us as much as we hate them.
If we could instead realize that Muslim people are just people, just like us, with families, hopes, fears, beliefs, misconceptions, and regular lives, then we can meet in the middle with those Muslims who also want to see past their hate to understand us.
The majority of them do not hate us as much you believe. Does a majority Islamic population in Europe mean Europe will have to change? Absolutely. But if you want an Extreme Muslim Europe, you will continue to hate Muslims. What we want is a two-way flow of cultural understanding. We want the non-extreme, moderate Muslims to carry the cultural majority within the Muslim world.
I'd highly recommend reading about the Iranian struggle against their government. It goes on to this day, and they still need our well-wishing and support. I have gained a love for the Iranian people, and a better understanding of Muslims in general. There are many tear-jerking stories of brave people making very courageous acts that are reminiscent of our own country's struggle for freedom. You will find that a majority of Iranian Muslims are not unlike ourselves -- the only difference is they completely lack the freedoms we so enjoy.