Time and again, when Islam has found itself in the news, someone, somewhere, has asked, “…where are the moderate voices of Islam?”

I got a new insight into this last week during a research interview.  My colleagues and I have undertaken a study of how Christians and Muslims think about their faith being represented in the public sphere and in the media.

One of the Muslim informants, a very thoughtful and politically active businesswoman, observed, (and I paraphrase) “…whenever something really hateful and bigoted is said about Islam, I wonder about where the theological leaders of Christianity are.  Shouldn’t they influence the way that academics and political leaders talk about things?”

So, she was essentially asking, “…where are the moderate voices of Christianity?”  It is worth reflecting on the assumptions that underlie her plea.  She assumes that there is some kind of connection between academic theology and the daily discourses of morality in other contexts.  She assumes a role for theological/moral authority in a chain of relations stretching to commonplace discourse in the culture.  I think that most of us would recognize that if there ever was such a link, it has broken down long ago.

Are those of us on the outside of Islam not equally naive about its structures of moral authority and influence?