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“[T]hose who think Islam is the only religion that gives rise to extremism and carnage need to think again,” writes Clifford D. May, former New York Times foreign correspondent and current president of a policy institute focusing on terrorism.

That’s not his conclusion, however. That’s the set up. Pee Wee Herman once said, “Into every life a big But must fall.” Into most think-pieces, too. Here comes Cliff May’s big ‘but.’

But let’s be clear, Islam is not – as has been repeatedly claimed — a “religion of peace.â€Â? Indeed, the idea is absurd, considering that Islam’s founding prophet also was a warrior — among the most successful in history, establishing an empire ranging from Spain to the South Pacific.

Nor did Osama bin Laden “hijackâ€Â? Islam – any more than Hitler hijacked Germanic culture or Lenin hijacked the Russian ethos. Rather, Hitler and Lenin drew upon the ugliest threads in their nations’ fabrics. So, too, has bin Laden invoked Islam’s most radically xenophobic doctrines to legitimize a vicious assault against all those who refuse to accept his authority, all those he demonizes as “infidels.â€Â?

Today, the overwhelming majority of modern Christians reject such religiously based fanaticism as that represented by the Ku Klux Klan and Timothy McVeigh. Most Jews condemn religious extremists like Meir Kahane.

But while recent polls have found support for suicide bombing declining in most Muslim countries, it is still far from clear that most Muslims unequivocally reject those who murder children in the name of Islam and Islam’s many grievances.

And that will not become clear as long as commentators on Arab television praise the killers of Iraqi civilians. It will not be clear as long as Muslim clerics in the holy city of Mecca continue to call for “jihad� against the West.

The West “doesn’t want us even to say the words ‘Allah’s enemies,â€Â? the Saudi cleric Musa Al-Qarni groused recently on Saudi government television. “They don’t want us to say that the Jews and the Christians are the enemies of the Muslims and the enemies of Islam.â€Â? But, he added: “This is fixed and established in the Koran…â€Â?

[Hat tip, Mudville Gazette]