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American Muslim Community Should Rise to the Occasion
By Moin Moon Khan
Chicago, IL

The recently issued religious edict “fatwa”* by numerous American Islamic organizations may result in a far-reaching impact, depending upon how passionately it is implemented by them.
Since the 9/11 tragedy, several American Muslim organizations have released denunciations against violence in this form. However, the most significant element of this document is the support from the constellation of all the major Muslim organizations * Fiqh Council of North America, Muslim American Society, Council of Islamic Relations (CAIR), Islamic Society of North America, and Muslim Public Affairs Council as well as an endorsement from the local Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago.

By standing up against earlier fatwas issued by Al Qaeda and their supporting outfits, American Muslims are upstaging irresponsible rhetoric being generated outside the United States. In the same sprit, peace-loving American Muslims are developing their own unique identity that will distinguish them from Muslims growing up in Al Qaeda cells elsewhere in the world. This declaration puts American Muslims in direct confrontation against radical Islamists.

Needless to say, immediately following 9/11, American Muslims should have started this battle of rhetoric and ideas. However, it is certainly appropriate to say it is better to be late than never. But, if this condemnation is purely a reaction to the mainstream news media’s criticism that Muslims have not been doing enough to oppose suicide bombings, the effect of this fatwa will evaporate before the next bombings takes place anywhere in North America.

This pronouncement can work as an insurance contract for American Muslims from any future backlash only if they display their disdain against Islamic terrorists as ferociously as Pakistan’s President Pervaiz Musharraf has exhibited.

Like Musharraf, American Muslims have to wage a spiritual battle against Al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist groups. On Fridays, sermons of moderation should reverberate in all the mosques of the United States.

The preaching against infidel, if any, must cease. The culture of negativity needs to be challenged. Seminars on the issue of tolerance, patriotism, excellence, inspiration, and civic duties could help enlighten local Muslims (particularly next generation Muslims) and make them more vigilant to any unscrupulous activities. Muslim organizations can encourage their members to report to their officers of any group that advocates hatred. Islamic institutions could call FBI agents and find out ways how to monitor such wrongful activities or the institutions could develop their own internal policing system. They can also partner with local law enforcement agencies in order to avoid any mistrust. Islamic centers can hold classes on anger management, stress containment, and counseling as they organize free health care diagnostics. They can encourage their patrons to volunteer for local PTAs, fire departments, Fourth of July commissions, zoning boards, planning committees, advisory councils, and numerous other civic organizations.

These activities can prove that there is no umbilical cord between suicide bombers and American Muslims, and can reinforce American Muslims’ claim that they are doing whatever is necessary to do. As a result, it could silence the Islamophobic elements of this country that are certainly fanning hatred against Muslims and alienating a few Muslims who are on the radical fringes. Furthermore, instead of being on the receiving end (by the accusation of being silent and soft against violence), American Muslims can ask Muslim bashers: Are they hearing what Muslims are saying?
In order to establish themselves as a positive element in the United States, American Muslims have to demonstrate their commitment to the safety and security of this country of George Washington, Albert Einstein, and Muhammad Ali is as solidly as any US Marine’s. However, their loyalty to this country (where their children were born and some of their parents are buried) does not result in naďve acceptance of all the US foreign policy objectives and adventures that are generating most of the anti-American sentiments in the Muslims worldwide.

Indeed, there is a dilemma for the majority of Muslims in accepting policies of unilateralism, regime change, and continuous covert and overt, as well as dejure and defacto occupations of Muslim lands on one pretext or another as is happening in Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Chechnya, and Iraq. They believe this is not a war of civilizations or cultures or religions, but, undoubtedly, they perceive it a battle of land, oil, and hegemony and not a benevolent attempt to spread democracy.

But Muslims can also take comfort in the fact that vast majorities of Americans, Britons, and Spaniards as well as various other people of the West do not support the occupation of Muslim lands. They have overwhelmingly sympathized with Muslims’ frustration with the foreign policies of their own Western governments. Major anti-war rallies were held in these countries and not in the capitals of the Muslim World where the so-called Islamic governments suppress them as brutally as the coalition forces that are allegedly wreaking havoc. In recent parliamentary and presidential elections in Britain and the United States, a vast majority of citizens voted for candidates who opposed the Iraq invasion despite the fact that there was a kind of consensus on the Afghanistan incursion. Anti-war candidates lost. But in democracies, people’s mandates are respected. In the civilized world, bullets do not change governments. The strategy of an eye for an eye does not bring desired results for anybody. It simply delays the truce and endangers the peace process. Opposing public policies is a legitimate democratic act, but killing innocent people is immoral, illegitimate, and reprehensible.

Muslims can learn lessons from the people of other faiths on how they have kept their image intact despite setbacks. Admittedly, non-Muslims of the West waged major fratricidal wars against each other on numerous times in the last century that notably include WWI, WWII and the Holocaust, Vietnam and Korean wars, and Bosnian ethnic cleansing. Atomic, chemical, and Hydrogen weapons were developed, sold to others, and used on two cities of Japan and numerous towns all over the world. Non-Muslims colonized most of the world in the name of spreading religion. It’s also true that despite these cataclysmic events, their religions were not called violent or demonized as it is happening with Muslims and Islam.

However, in their defense, Christians and Jews have also invented many medicines that we all use to cure ourselves, developed machineries, technologies, and vehicles, established the League of Nations, United Nations, International Monetary Fund, and European Union, made peace among themselves and helped others to negotiate, created the Internet, explored space, etc. Their academic and scientific contributions are evident from the number of Nobel prizes they have received. Among them were the top inventors, innovators, discoverers, and pioneers in the last two centuries. In combating AIDS, TB, illiteracy, and recently at the time of Tsunami disaster, they have outnumbered all other religions’ records.

Muslims, and particularly Muslims who are living in the West, have to develop similar contrasting levels of excellence and benevolence to downplay the image of radical Islam. Most of the Muslim population went into the 20th century nearly as powerless as they were while entering the 21st century. In the recent G-8 summit, there was not a single Muslim seen on the stage. In the list of 10 prominent industrial countries, no Muslim nation’s name is appearing.

It is easy to get frustrated and disappointed, resulting in radicalization. However, American Muslims, who have tasted and reaped the benefits of a peaceful pluralistic society, should work tirelessly to help produce leaders like Mandela and King. The peers of these men also thought of violence as an alternative but these leaders took a high moral ground. Similarly, the leadership of the American Muslim community should rise to the occasion.

(Moon Khan can be reached at Visit his website at



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