While some have wrongly blamed all Muslims for Islamist terrorism, members of the D.C. panel said, others have wrongly failed to make any mention of Islam in condemning such acts.
"Too much deflection has been happening on this issue," said Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. Muslims must acknowledge the fact that radical Islam has fueled human rights abuses and must push for a reformation that involves a "separation of mosque and state" with religious pluralism and respect for human rights, he said.
When Islamist extremists commit acts of violence, Muslims must resist the temptation to simply say the extremists "are not Muslims," emphasized Naser Khader, a member of the Parliament in Denmark of the Conservative People's Party. Simply denying that the extremists are true believers excuses the moderates from having to advocate for reform in Islam, he explained.
"We cannot say that the Islamic State are not Muslims. That is what they call themselves," he said. ISIS has a state built on a "jihadist vision of Islam," he said, murdering and enslaving other people "with the Koran in their hands."
"If we the Muslims do not face the problem of violence that links to Islam in our time, how will we ever succeed in ripping Islam out of the hands of these destructive powers and lift our religion into the 21st century?" he asked.
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The rights of women and religious minorities in particular should be central to an Islamic reformation, the panel insisted.
Many Islamists, including ISIS, hold centuries-old standards for women that ignore "progressive changes" that have happened since then, the panelists said. They argued that misogyny is rampant in these Islamist sects, which insist upon segregation of women at mosques and schools and the role of a woman being only to fulfill a man's needs.
Islamist literature is "full of statements" against women's rights, Ispahani said.