Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|09/15/01 at 11:42:01|
Weekly Mirror International
Like millions of Americans, I spent most of last Tuesday glued to the television in shock, horror and disbelief - during the morning at a local coffee shop I often visit, and throughout the afternoon at a blood bank, along with dozens of others who had felt called to do whatever they could to reach out and help in this moment of national and international crisis. It was a day of grief, sadness and dismay for all of us. And, like so many others, I felt, as an American, personally, viscerally, under attack even though I was a thousand miles away from the scenes of disaster.
As a member of the Muslim community, I felt under attack in a different way. From the moment that I saw the video of the second plane crashing into the World Trade Center tower, there was little doubt in my mind that members of some extremist Muslim group would eventually emerge as the perpetrators of this great crime. As the hours passed, my fears became more and more justified. Even if it turns out that Muslims were not behind this attack, which at this point seems highly unlikely, scenes of Palestinians and Egyptians celebrating made my heart freeze.
Didn't they understand that this was nothing to celebrate? Part of me comprehended their reaction; American made helicopters bombard their villages daily, American made tanks roll through their streets, settlers from the streets of Brooklyn have taken their land, and persecute them and kill them wantonly, and all of it financed by the American government. But it seemed inhuman to celebrate the deaths of so many civilians. And don't they understand that evil in one part of the world does not justify evil in another part? That terrorism does not further their cause, only makes American and world opinion harden against them?
It was not enough that I was under attack as an American, my religion was also under attack. Not from the outside, not by average Americans, or the mass media who were extremely conscientious in their reporting of the possible suspects and in reminding the American public that most Muslims decry such acts of terror. No, my religion was being attacked by men who profess to follow it, by people who present their actions as somehow sanctioned by Islam, and by those who celebrated their acts of violence. I could not escape the bitter irony that people of all faiths in America were calling for patience and understanding towards American Muslims, reminding us all that Islam stands for peace, while our so-called brethren in other countries were committing horrific acts of terror, perverting our religion and calling it the highest of faith.
My first reaction was that I should take off the headscarf that I have worn for fifteen years, because I didn't want in any way to be associated with such people, and like it or not, most people in this society connect the wearing of a scarf with fundamentalist Muslims. My second response was that I could not allow these men to tear my beliefs, or take my conviction away from me. That I could not allow their twisted vision of my religion to define Islam for the world. That I had to stand up and show that the vast majority of Muslims abhor such violence. In the ensuing hours, many of my Muslim friends and associates expressed similar feelings.
"I am not calling myself Muslim anymore," one declared, overcome with emotion, only to recant moments later, exclaiming, "We cannot let them hijack our faith as they hijacked those planes! We cannot let them destroy Islam as they destroyed the World Trade Center towers!" Like the German community that had to come to grips with a Nazi past, like white Americans who have to deal with the ramifications of our treatment of Native Americans and African slaves, so too Muslims have to deal with the angst and responsibility we feel (or at least should feel) that people who profess to follow Islam commit such horrific acts, even though we do not in any way condone what they have done, even though we believe that such acts are completely against Islamic teachings. Simple outrage and statements to the media condemning terrorism and pleading for forbearance such as every major American Muslim organization made in the hours after the attacks are not enough. Even the blood drives that were made at many mosques and Islamic organizations are not enough. Muslim Americans, individually and collectively, must find pro-active, constructive ways to counter this threat from within. One hopes, and assumes, that a great deal of soul-searching, praying, and discussion on just how to do that will occur within the Muslim community during the next weeks and months.
Why, I have had to ask during the past few days, haven't such actions been taken earlier? Why haven't our scholars, our leaders, each and every one of us, come out strongly against declarations such as Osama Bin Laden's famous decrees saying that it is the duty of all Muslims to kill Americans and that there is no difference between military and civilian targets? If we do not take strong stands against such words and the actions inspired by them, if we are complacent in face of what other Muslims say and do, then we are at the very least partly responsible for creating an atmosphere which breeds Islamophobia. At worst, we are complicit in their violence. I would not blame Americans for being angry at Muslims in general, for fearing the scarf wearing woman who walks down the sidewalk beside them, not given what has occurred in the past few days, not given the American Muslim community's near silence with respect to those in our ummah who go too far. And it is not only with regards to violence that we must step up. We must condemn the political corruption of Muslim regimes wherever we find it. We should speak out against the deplorable conditions that many of the world's Muslim women live under. We must confront radicalism, intolerance, and injustice in our own society and no longer refuse to criticize other Muslims simply because they are our brothers in faith. Prophet Muhammad told us to stop evil wherever we see it, with our hands, our tongues or our hearts. He didn't say to stop the evil of non-Muslims alone.
Pamela Taylor has a Masterís degree in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School with a focus on Islam. She writes for various Muslim and non-Muslim newspapers and magazines.
Individual posts do not necessarily reflect the views of Jannah.org, Islam, or all Muslims. All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective owners. Comments are owned by the poster and may not be used without consent of the author.The rest © Jannah.Org