As alarm about the Iranian election and the outrage around the world about what is presumed to be election fraud continues, I struggle to understand how Islam can be used to justify persecution, silencing, and violence. Iran is an Islamic country as are Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and others. Because they are Islamic, the familiar Western idea of separation of Church and State is not only unheeded, it cannot be understood by those who believe that one's spiritual life has to be acknowledged and expressed in family, relationships, work, and community.
The problem in Iran is that Islam has been high-jacked for political gain. Those who voice different perspectives are vilified as anti-Muslim rather than simply people with another voice. Ali Allawi's "Islamic Civilization in Peril" gets to some of the points that are most worth consideration. Most importantly, Allawi's commentary addresses the struggle between modernization and remaining true to the core beliefs of Islam - justice, moderation, respectful accommodation, and the rejection of oppression.
It is critical that Westerners understand what is at the center of Islam and that a dialogue that informs, rather than divides, underscores the public discourse.