In the United States, the institutions and practices of democracy seem like second nature to us. And mostly, we are successful at keeping religious faith from trumping the requirements of democracy. After 237 years (and counting) of the successful American experiment of fostering liberty, justice and freedom, we simply forget what skills we have in maintaining this achievement.
When we look at the intolerance and dead certainty exhibited by the most extreme of the Islamists, we can see that they have neither the structures nor the mindsets necessary to imagine or support democracy. To grasp and believe in the notions of pluralism probably requires some combination of experiences, education, modeling and resources that many young Muslims are not getting.
Whether or not Muslims across the world can resolve the difficulties currently afflicting the intersection of their religion, their politics and the status of their nations is probably one of the most important questions of the day. The problem is enormous, and although outsiders can assist, it is going to take Muslims themselves to solve it.
Brian T. Watson is a Salem News columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.