Soon after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President George Bush argued that terrorists were perverting the Muslim religion. The president said, "Islam is peace." But that viewpoint is often drowned out today. Extremists claim that they represent Islam. And many Americans have come to question the entire faith, seeing it as violent or oppressive.
Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol makes a case for putting Islam in a different light in his new book, Islam without Extremes. In it, he traces moderation, even liberalism, throughout the history of Islam. And he tells Morning Edition co-host Steve Inskeep that he believes the religion should not be defined by violent extremists.
"There are obviously violent, intolerant Muslims out there, but whether they really represent Muslims or not is a big question," Akyol says. "And my answer is 'No.'"
Akyol argues that a proper reading of Islam makes plenty of room for peace and human rights. And he says that the religion relies too much on outdated interpretations of its texts.
"I think the biggest problem is that Islam was articulated, interpreted, in the Medieval world, by Medieval scholars," Akyol says. "And that interpretation froze at the time."
As for his own views, Akyol says that he is a liberal — in the old sense of the word, meaning that he favors a wide range of freedoms, including freedom of religion.