Among post-modern multiculturalists, it's commonplace to suppose that all cultures are of equal moral worth. Salim Mansur, professor of political science at the University of Western Ontario, emphatically disagrees.
In an illuminating collection of essays entitled Islam's Predicament: Perspectives of a Dissident Muslim, he maintains Islam is afflicted with "a terrible malady," which "reflects the irreparable breakdown of the civilization's centre . . . which at one time in history was co-equal, if not briefly superior, to Christendom."
Paraphrasing William Butler Yeats, Mansur contends that Islam is in the grips of a "rough beast" that has let loose anarchy upon the world. He traces the problem back to the earliest days of Islam, when perverse Muslim rulers renounced the peaceful teachings of the Qu'ran by slaughtering each other in a bloody struggle for political power following the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632.
"The Prophet's immediate family members were the most conspicuous massacre victims," writes Mansur. "Ever since those early blood-lettings, Muslims have been the primary victims of Muslim violence."
That's still all too evident in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. Within the past week, Islamist suicide bombers have killed more than 240 Muslims in three massive blasts -- the first two in Baghdad and the third in Peshawar.
Mansur charges that while Osama bin Laden and the Al-Qaida network are "the modern faces of the beast" set loose in Islam, "Muslim intellectuals and religious leaders such as Tariq Ramadan and Sheikh al-Qaradawi serve the beast as apologists and propagandists." That's disturbing.
Qaradawi is no minor figure. Mansur explains that for Sunni Muslims, he is "the face of institutionalized Islam. He is the closest to what might pass for a titular head of Muslims akin to the Pope. Qaradawi's words, now broadcast by television network al-Jazeera, are taken as authoritative pronouncements of Islam."
In a sermon broadcast earlier this year on that Arabic news network, Qaradawi declared: "Oh Allah, take the Jews, the murderous aggressors. Oh Allah, take this profligate, cunning, arrogant band of people . . . . Oh Allah, do not spare one of them. Oh Allah, count their numbers, and kill them, down to the very last one."
Ramadan is hardly less prominent than Qaradawi. A Swiss-born Arab Muslim academic, he has taught at the University of Fribourg, Oxford University and Erasmus University in Rotterdam. In 2004, he was offered a tenured position at Notre Dame, but could not take up the post because he was barred entry to the United States.