No, not the ignorance of Muslim leaders but the ignoring of them. Just recently I had a conversation with someone who is generally pretty aware of the world, certainly far more than the average American. He’s not some gung ho war supporter or a xenophobe at all. But he did say, at one point while discussing radical Islam, that he doesn’t understand why more Muslim leaders had not spoken out against Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda and other radical Muslims who commit violence in the name of their religion. His mundane ignorance of the many statements made by major Islamic leaders on such matters is echoed by what can only be the virulent ignorance of Thomas Friedman, who really must know better. But in the New York Times recently, Friedman says:
How many fatwas — religious edicts — have been issued by the leading bodies of Islam against Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda? Very few.
But in fact, lots and lots of major Islamic leaders all over the world condemned the bombing of the World Trade Center, condemned Bin Laden and Al Qaeda and have condemned the use of terrorism consistently. Juan Cole linked to many such statements more than four years ago and there have been more in the meantime. Charles Kurzman of the University of North Carolina quotes dozens and dozens of them on his website.
My friend’s ignorance is mundane rather than virulent because he is simply unaware of those statements. Once informed of them, he responded the way any rational person would – “Oh, I didn’t know about all those. That’s good, I’m glad to hear about them.” But Friedman, a self-professed expert on the Middle East, should damn well know about them. That list on Cole’s page was compiled specifically in response to an identical claim by Friedman in 2005; it clearly has not registered with him.
The fault here lies with the media, of course. Americans as a whole have a mundane ignorance of this reality because they get the vast majority of their information from the media and the media rarely mentions such things. That omission has a real impact on American opinion, and not for the better.