Sunday, July 31, 2005

Beyond the Condemnation of Terrorism

London terrorist bombings elicited familiar response: Islamic organizations and Muslim communities in Europe and North America condemned the terrorist attacks and stressed the dissonance between the deplorable acts of the terrorists and the humane principles of Islam. Tony Blair paid tribute to the intrinsically peaceful teaching of Islam and reminded his countrymen that the British Muslims are law-abiding and contributing members of the British society, as he condemned the militant ideology espoused by the terrorists. “We know that these people act in the name of Islam,” Blair stressed, “but we also know that the vast and overwhelming majority of Muslims here and abroad are decent and law abiding people who abhor terrorism every bit as much as we do.”

Pundits of the militant Right found in the London attacks another opportunity to equate Islam with terrorism, to question the sincerity of the Muslim rejection of terrorism, and to incite the public against Islam and Muslims. Given the loud and extensive condemnation of terrorism by Muslims, particularly in North America and Europe, the militant-Right cry has shifted from “why Muslim leaders do not speak out against terrorism?” to “are Muslim leaders sincere in their condemnation of terrorism, or are they doing it to deflect anger and prevent a backlash?”

Clearly, Muslims are genuinely appalled by the brutality of the terrorist acts, and some are going the extra mile to make sure their condemnation is made loud enough, and is repeated enough, so that they can be heard by the deafest of their critics. The Fatwa issued by the Religious Council of North America, and supported by major Muslim organizations, is the latest effort in this regard.

The strong stand taken by American Muslim leaders against indiscriminate violence is a testimony of a remarkable maturity and the clarity of vision in dealing with a complex issue. The loud condemnation of terrorism is important to cut through the anti-Islam rhetorics and to reassure the public that Muslims reject indiscriminate violence and the killing of innocent civilians.

Muslim leaders cannot, however, stop their quest for justice at condemning atrocities committed by few misguided Muslim youth. They must do more to show young Muslims how to turn their moral indignation into a positive force that brings more balance and justice to the world, instead of exploding in anger. Muslim leaders must work more to shed light on the double-standard approach adopted by many western governments and institutions toward Muslims.

This is not only the right thing to do, but the only path to ensuring that Muslim leaders continue to speak for the values and interests of the larger Muslim community and address Muslim concerns. The expression of justice and compassion should not be reserved to atrocities committed by the terrorists against western civilians, but must also address Muslim pain and suffering visited on them by the action of western democracies.

Muslim leaders must do more to expose the harsh reality of many Muslims throughout the world and speak for the Muslim suffering; they must do more to pressure political leaders and leaders of public opinions to address the roots of anger and frustration that breed militancy and give rise to terrorism. The key here is the foreign policy of western powers, particularly the United States, toward Islam and Muslims. Ignoring legitimate grievances and applying double standards in dealing with Muslim societies and issues must stop if the war on terrorism is to bear fruits.

Muslim leaders and organizations have been repeatedly asked to condemn terrorism and repudiate individuals and groups connected with terrorist acts. This is a fair demand and Muslims should respond positively and take unequivocal stand against the violent attacks by angry Muslim radicals against innocent civilians and bystanders. By the same token, Muslim leaders should put similar demands on western leaders, and insist that the same set of standards be applied to all.

It does not help addressing the problem of terrorism when someone like Thomas Friedman put all the blame for terrorism on the Muslim world and feel that the West might be justified for treating every “Muslim living in a Western society” as a suspect and “a potential walking bomb,” and in cracking “down even harder on their own Muslim populations.” Friedman conveniently forgets that Western governments must take responsibility for befriending brutal dictators throughout the Muslim world, and supporting the daily humiliation of Palestinians in occupied Gaza and the West Bank.

It does not help when American leaders press hard to liberate European societies and Christian minorities in western Indonesia and southern Sudan from the yoke of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, but remain passive in the face of authoritarian regimes in the Muslim world, or in the face of the Israeli, the Indian, or the Thai aggression against Muslim populations that live under their control.

Similarly, Muslims do not hear loud condemnation when bigots like Ann Coulter, Daniel Pipes, Franklin Graham, Michael Savage, or Pat Robertson use venom to demonize Islam and Muslims, incite the attacks against both western and eastern Muslims, or openly call for violation of the basic human rights of all Muslims.

Muslim leaders must continue to speak against violence, brutality, and injustice, as they reject terrorism and indiscriminate violence against civilians and demand that the Islamic respect for the sanctity of human life, and the Islamic injunction against the killing of innocents be strictly observed. But this is not enough. Muslim leaders must go beyond the condemnation of terrorism to become more active in exposing the roots of violence, hatred, and terrorism. They must reject exclusivist ideologies that privilege particular religious or ethnic communities whether it takes the form of Jewish, Christian, or Muslim exclusivism.

This article appeared in the following publications:

Asia Times - Hong Kong
Middle East Times - Egypt
Official Wire - New York
India Monitor - UK
Media Monitor Network - CA
The American Muslim - USA
Monster and Critics - UK
American Muslim Perspective - USA
Naseeb Vibes - USA
Washington Times - USA


Dave Lucas said...

Thank-you for such an insightful post! I have referenced/linked to it from a new post today on my blog (HERE).

Anonymous said...

Here the new day of the official prayer, it will be Thursday.

You them true believing, Jewish, Christian, Moslem, show in front of God your desire of living in peace. That your day of official prayer becomes Thursday. Peace is an important thing over all. Who does not want peace, does misleads God.

Look at this petition, and vote !

Anonymous said...

I am an American Muslim and I condemn terrorism by any one.

I am an American Muslim; I do not want to be accused for the crimes of others directly or indirectly. It is not Islam that is cause of terrorism. It is the policies, politics and wars undertaken by governments that are cause of terrorism. Why do the western and Eastern, Muslims and non-Muslims, religious and atheists leaders not speak the truth and stop blaming Muslims and Islam. It is easy and gratifying for their religiosity to blame the weak.

No community has any control over their extremist or criminal minority. It is the individual adult who is responsible for his or her actions. Blaming all Muslims for the crimes of few is victimizing Muslim Community as a whole. Christians, Jews and western governments have found it very effective to take attention away from the terror being perpetrated against civilians by various governments by asking the victims that they need to do more to take the blame for their victimization. Well! This is not the end of history. The history is being recorded, and the deafening silence of the western intellectuals and self-righteous leaders are part of the record for the coming generations to examine. Muslims have been and are too weak to make any notes.

I condemn terrorism.


Mark Anderson

Kerin said...

Obviously we need to keep educating people of the universe about Islam. I was born and raised in America and the first thing I learned as a child was not to react. Not to let others have control over my feelings or let others identify me. We need to keep our chins up, show our self esteem and be a strong light in the world, all of us believers. Terrorism is not Islam, never has been. Just as the Crusades were not true Christianity as Jesus (pbuh) taught. Let us live the Al-Fatiha with all our heart, soul and mind. May all humanity find themselves working together for the good of all.

Anonymous said...

It is not so much American polices but what Muslims think are American policies. .

How can we expect the Muslim world to even truly know US policies when they are so distorted by misinformation by the media who do nothing but lie to help the insurgency so they still have a story. Muslim world is so caught up in self pity and the same cycle of blaming everyone else that even the media takes part in this.

I watched al Jazeera as it reported that American soldiers were slaughtering Iraqi children in al Falluja. Of course if that was true it is haram with no exception, but it was not true! Just a distortion of the facts by an enemy of the Iraqi people-- al-Jazeera. Turns out, later statements from people in al Falluja, said that it was the ansar al islam of Zarqawi that was most brutally treating the residents of Falluja---stealing from them and making the daughters of village men marry mujahideen. And entering their homes and making them hideouts so they can continue their rape of the spirit of the Iraqi people. The first people to blame is the insurgents themselves, they are not insurgents, they are terrorists and not fighting for the true freedom or resistance of the Iraqi people. Why must we continue to justify their crimes by blaming everyone else?

Supporting Middle Eastern dicators for stability in the 90s by America was wrong, and now it is admitting that and moving on towards more progressivism. Yes, American soldiers have done some evil in Iraq--look at Abu Ghraib. But those incidents are very small and not common. If you believe otherwise you are merely molding your perception to fit what makes you most comfortable with your "progessive" outlook.

We need to seriously change what we look to as "progressive" and "liberal."

Anonymous said...

Muslim countries have foreign policies too, and many non-muslims are angry about the foreign policies of muslim countries, yet non-muslims aren't flying planes into buildings in Riyadh or Cairo.

Saudi Arabia spreads wahhabism throughout the world. This evil, hateful idealogy is causing havoc around the world and is responsible for countless conflicts. Egyptian pilots deliberately targeted Biafran villagers during the Nigerian civil war. These are just two examples of Muslim foreign policy. Now, would the victims of these policies be justified in conducting terrorist operations against Muslims?