One would hope that the barbaric beheading of American hostage Paul Johnson on Friday by al-Qaida terrorists in Saudi Arabia would result in a flurry of public condemnations of his murderers and statements of outrage by Muslim clerics around the world. If history holds true, most Muslim clerics will remain silent.
Islam is acknowledged as a religion of peace, a tenet of which is the merciful and humane treatment of prisoners. Unfortunately, its leaders so far have been unconvincing as to the importance of that principle to much of the non-Muslim world.
The beheading of Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter, by Islamic militants in Pakistan in 2002, and that of civilian Nick Berg last month in Iraq resulted in little public criticism of their murderers by Islamic holy men. Two other Americans, Kenneth Scroggs and Robert Jacobs, were shot to death at their homes this month in Saudi Arabia.
Those involved in the sadistic killings of Johnson and Berg have subsequently proclaimed on an al-Qaida-linked Web site that the beheadings were done in revenge for the mistreatment by prisoners by Americans at Abu Ghraib prison.
While the abuses inflicted on imprisoned Iraqis by American guards were horrible and dehumanizing, they fell far short of assassination and beheading. But more importantly, the abuses were loudly condemned by Christian leaders, including the pope.
Akbar Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University, and a handful of other American Muslim leaders have publicly condemned the beheading of Berg and cautioned against the deteriorating relationship between Islam and the West.
Up to this point, there has not been a sufficient show of outrage by Muslim clerics. They have a responsibility to speak out and condemn the barbaric behavior of Islamic militants who purposely murder and behead innocents. Their silence only encourages more evil.