November 19, 2001
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An open letter to U.S. Muslims

By M.A. Muqtedar Khan | Special to the Sentinel
Posted November 18, 2001

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In the name of Allah, the most benevolent and the most merciful. May this memo find you in the shade of Islam, enjoying the mercy, the protection and the grace of Allah.

I am writing this memo to you all with the explicit purpose of inviting you to lead the American Muslim community in soul searching, reflection and reassessment.

What happened on September 11 in New York and Washington, D.C., will forever remain a horrible scar on the history of Islam and humanity. No matter how much we condemn it, and point to the Quran and the Sunnah to argue that Islam forbids the killing of innocent people, the fact remains that the perpetrators of this crime against humanity have indicated that their actions are sanctioned by Islamic values.

The fact that even now several Muslim scholars and thousands of Muslims defend the accused is indicative that not all Muslims believe that the attacks are unIslamic. This is truly sad.

Even if it were true that Israel and the United States are enemies of the Muslim world, I wonder what is preventing them from unleashing their nuclear arsenal against Muslims. If anywhere in your hearts there is any sympathy or understanding with those who committed this act, I invite you to ask yourself this question: "Would Muhammad sanction such an act?"

While encouraging Muslims to struggle against injustice (Al Quran 4:135), Allah also imposes strict rules of engagement. He says in unequivocal terms that to kill an innocent being is like killing entire humanity (Al Quran 5:32). He also encourages Muslims to forgive Jews and Christians if they have committed injustices against us (Al Quran 2:109, 3:159, 5:85).

Muslims, including American Muslims, have been practicing hypocrisy on a grand scale. They protest against the discriminatory practices of Israel but are silent against the discriminatory practices in Muslim states.

In the Gulf region we can see how laws and even salaries are based on ethnic origin. This is racism, but we never hear of Muslims protesting against them at international fora.

The Israeli occupation of Palestine is perhaps central to Muslim grievance against the West. While acknowledging that, I must remind you that Israel treats its one million Arab citizens with greater respect and dignity than most Arab nations treat their citizens. Today Palestinian refugees can settle and become citizens of the United States, but in spite of all the rhetoric of the Arab world and Quranic injunctions (24:22), no Muslim country except Jordan extends this support to them.

While we loudly and consistently condemn Israel for its ill treatment of Palestinians, we are silent when Muslim regimes abuse the rights of Muslims and slaughter thousands of them. Remember Saddam and his use of chemical weapons against Muslims (Kurds)? Remember Pakistani army's excesses against Muslims (Bengalis)? Remember the Mujahideen of Afghanistan and their mutual slaughter?

Have we ever condemned them for their excesses? Have we demanded international intervention or retribution against them? Do you know how the Saudis treat their minority Shiis? Have we protested the violation of their rights? But we all are eager to condemn Israel; not because we care for rights and lives of the Palestinians, we don't. We condemn Israel because we hate "them."

Muslims love to live in the United States but also love to hate it. Many openly claim that the United States is a terrorist state, but they continue to live in it. As an Indian Muslim, I know for sure that nowhere on earth, including India, will I get the same sense of dignity and respect that I have received in the United States. No Muslim country will treat me as well as the United States has. If what happened on Sept. 11 had happened in India, the biggest democracy, thousands of Muslims would have been slaughtered in riots on mere suspicion and there would be another slaughter after confirmation.

But in the United States, bigotry and xenophobia has been kept in check by media and leaders. In many places, hundreds of Americans have gathered around Islamic centers in symbolic gestures of protection and embrace of American Muslims. In many cities, Christian congregations have started wearing hijab to identify with fellow Muslim women. In patience and in tolerance, ordinary Americans have demonstrated their extraordinary virtues.

It is time that we acknowledge that the freedoms we enjoy in the United States are more desirable to us than superficial solidarity with the Muslim world. If you disagree thenprove it by packing your bags and going to whichever Muslim country with which you identify.

If you do not leave and do not acknowledge that you would rather live here than anywhere else, know that you are being hypocritical.

It is time that we faced these hypocritical practices and struggled to transcend them. It is time that American Muslim leaders fought to purify their own lot.

For more than a decade, we have watched as Muslims in the name of Islam have committed violence against other Muslims and other peoples. We have always found a way to reconcile the vast distance between Islamic values and Muslim practices by pointing out to the injustices committed upon Muslims by others. The point, however, is this -- our belief in Islam and commitment to Islamic values is not contingent on the moral conduct of the United States or Israel. And, as Muslims, can we condone such inhuman and senseless waste of life in the name of Islam?

The biggest victims of hate-filled politics as embodied in the actions of several Muslim militias all over the world are Muslims themselves. Hate is the extreme form of intolerance and when individuals and groups succumb to it they can do nothing constructive.

Militias like the Taliban have allowed their hate for the West to override their obligation to pursue the welfare of their people and, as a result, of their actions not only have thousands of innocent people died in America, but thousands of people will die in the Muslim world.

Already, half a million Afghans have had to leave their homes and their country. The war has not yet begun. It will only get worse. Hamas and Islamic Jihad may kill a few Jews, women and children included, with their suicide bombs and temporarily satisfy their lust for Jewish blood, but thousands of Palestinians then pay the price for their actions.

The culture of hate and killing is tearing away at the moral fabric of the Muslim society. We are more focused on "the other" and have completely forgotten our duty to Allah. In pursuit of the inferior jihad we have sacrificed the superior jihad.

Islamic resurgence, the cherished ideals of which pursued the ultimate goal of a universally just and moral society has been hijacked by hate and call for murder and mayhem. If bin Laden were an individual then we would have no problem. But unfortunately bin Laden has become a phenomenon -- a cancer eating away at the morality of our youth, and undermining the spiritual health of our future.

Today the century old Islamic revival is in jeopardy because we have allowed insanity to prevail over our better judgment. Yes, the United States has played a hand in the creation of bin Laden and the Taliban, but it is we who have allowed them to grow and gain such a foothold. It is our duty to police our world. It is our responsibility to prevent people from abusing Islam. It is our job to ensure that Islam is not misrepresented. We should have made sure that what happened on Sept. 11 should never have happened.

It is time the leaders of the American Muslim community woke up and realized that there is more to life than competing with the American Jewish lobby for power over U.S. foreign policy. Islam is not about defeating Jews or conquering Jerusalem. It is about mercy, about virtue, about sacrifice and about duty.

Above all it is the pursuit of moral perfection. Nothing can be further away from moral perfection than the wanton slaughter of thousands of unsuspecting innocent people.

I hope that we will now rededicate our lives and our institutions to the search for harmony, peace and tolerance. Let us be prepared to suffer injustice rather than commit injustices. After all, it is we who carry the divine burden of Islam and not others. We have to be morally better, more forgiving, more sacrificing than others, if we wish to convince the world about the truth of our message. We cannot even be equal to others in virtue; we must excel.

The worst exhibition of Islam happened on our turf. We must take first responsibility to undo the evil it has manifest.

This is our mandate, our burden and also our opportunity.

Copyright © 2001, Orlando Sentinel


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