As Muslims worldwide observe the holy month of Ramadan, we see even more chaos in the Middle East and other parts of the world by Islamic radicals. Yet, we also see a heartening effort to continue reaching out to Muslim communities in Western countries, like Barack Obama's iftar meals. Still, terror networks like al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah continue to destroy cities and ruin lives.
Part of the problem is due to the Western world misunderstanding the nature of these terror groups. They are commonly referred to as Islamic terror networks- implying that Islam somehow condones terror, when anyone even slightly familiar with the religion knows it does nothing of the sort. When such rhetoric is spouted by American and European leaders, it gives radicals a basis for the claim that everything the West does is part of a plan to destroy Islam. Using this rhetoric and basing such claims on them, Islamic radicals can then obtain support among (mainly poor Muslims) by saying it is a Muslim's duty to oppose the so-called 'enemies of Islam'.
It would also help reconciliation efforts if Western leaders were to end military efforts against Muslim countries. And if they were to stop forcing democracy on Muslim countries, a process which has created nothing but failed states worldwide. On that score, the West should realize that theocracy, or monarchy can govern a country just fine, better, perhaps, than democracy in certain places.
Thus, a good beginning is to stop calling terrorists Islamic terror networks. The proper term is radical-Islamic terror networks, as there has to be an understanding that these people are different from regular Muslims, who don't take radical views of the Quran. Additionally, states that successfully integrate other faiths, like Indonesia, should be given due and appropriate recognition, but not to the point that an implication is given that Islam is somehow unfriendly.
The onus now is on the West to continue efforts to understand and accept the Muslim world, not as a reluctant ally, but as a close brother and equal. Similarly, Muslim leaders should not be overly paranoid about the West and be willing to find common ground, especially on sore points like Israel. And, times like Ramadan are excellent opportunities for bonding. Dates, anyone?